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Schuss-Boom and Schuss-Bust: Fast paced growth and face-plants of Maine skiing 1945-1980

Riding the T-Bar at Pleasant Mountain (now Shawnee Peak) circa 1950. (Photo Courtesy Maine Ski Museum) (click for larger version)
February 25, 2010
These are a few facets of a narrated digital slideshow recently produced by the Ski Museum of Maine. The show, titled "Schuss-Boom and Schuss-Bust: Fast-Paced Growth and Face-Plants of Maine Skiing 1945-1980," will be given at the Alpine Sugar Haus at Shawnee Peak (next to base lodge) at 6:30 p.m. on March 2. Admission is free and the general public is welcome to attend and share their memories of this fascinating period of Maine's skiing heritage.

"Schuss-Boom" is a follow-up to "Down-Mountain and Cross-Country: 140 Years of Skiing in Maine," which was presented last year. Approximately 120 photos have been assembled from the Ski Museum of Maine's own collections and more than 40 other sources.

The photos will depict the many ski areas, both big and small, that sprung up in Maine in the decades following World War II. The first big success story was Pleasant Mountain, which started with a rope tow in 1938, and grew into Maine's top ski area in the 1950s after building the state's first T-bar and first double chairlift. A further boost came in 1959, when Hans Jenni, a Swiss-born European slalom champion, took over the Pleasant Mountain Ski School.

Other successes include Sunday River, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary and Sugarloaf, as well as Saddleback and Big Squaw. Smaller areas that have closed include Ski-W in Fryeburg, Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield and Evergreen Valley in Stoneham-Lovell.

The slideshow also depicts the advance of the winter lifestyle and the growth of A-frame villages and chalet colonies as the skiing paradigm evolved from one-day outings for a handful of adventurous daredevils to weekend and multi-day vacations for family and friends.

Schuss-bust? Three of Maine skiing's biggest setbacks occurred in western Maine during the 1970s and 1980s. Saddleback's ambitious plan to become a major regional resort was stymied for decades by environmental opposition, while a proposal to develop Bigelow Mountain into the "Aspen of the East" was defeated by statewide referendum. But the biggest failure of all was Evergreen Valley, a seven million dollar project that was launched in 1961 and spiraled down into total collapse during the 1980s.

The narrator will be Scott Andrews, a Portland-based ski journalist and museum director who assembled the photos and performed much of the research. Andrews has been an outdoors writer for the past 23 years; his work appears in various Maine and New Hampshire newspapers plus Cross Country Skier, Ski Area Management and Skiing Heritage magazines.

"Skiing is a $350 million business in Maine today and represents a huge chunk of our state's tourist-based economy," says Andrews. "But the start of the ski industry was extremely modest, and skiing's overall growth curve has been interrupted by many setbacks and falls - 'face-plants' in our sport's jargon."

"Schuss-Boom and Schuss-Bust: Fast-Paced Growth and Face-Plants of Maine Skiing 1945-1980" is sponsored by the Ski Maine Association and the Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Club. For more information, call Shawnee Peak at 207-647-8444.

Martin Lord & Osman
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