Most skiers are noted for their skills, energies and innovations in one salient aspect of the sport. Multiply that times three in the case of Walter Stadig, who lived most of his life in the tiny Aroostook County town of Soldier Pond. Stadig first made a name for himself as a manufacturer of skis, milling them from native birch wood.He came by these skills naturally; both grandfather Lars (who was born in Sweden) and father Olaf had made skis.
He was also a competitor. In an era when only young people raced, Stadig proved that skiing is a lifetime activity when he entered and finished the first Bangor-Caribou marathon at the age of 46.
Held in 1936 over a 176-mile course, the four-day race began in downtown Bangor and ended on the streets of Caribou with three intermediate overnight stops along the way. Stadig was one of 12 starters and only five finishers. It was the first race he had ever entered, and Stadig’s pace was relaxed. He used the marathon as an attraction to sell his skis along the route, and once he took a break from the race to shoot a bobcat. His total elapsed time for his fifth-place showing was 43 hours and 23 minutes.
The following year Stadig competed in the second (and last) running of the marathon, finishing sixth with a time of 38 hours and 18 minutes. This race was extensively reported via radio, print and newsreel and represented one of the first times that a Maine skiing event garnered national media attention.
Third, Stadig was an inventor and innovator. Perhaps his greatest contribution to skiing was also his least known. Shortly after World War II, Stadig developed Michaud Hill in Soldier Pond as a ski area, complete with six trails, a lift and a toboggan run. The most remarkable part of the project was designing and building Maine’s first chairlift. This novel, one-of-a-kind aerial conveyance was built very close to the ground, and additional uphill capacity was provided by a rope that trailed each chair. The idea was to double the capacity by hauling a second (standing) skier behind each one who sat in a chair!
Extending his innovations at Michaud Hill, Stadig was involved in developing two additional ski areas in New England. In 1948 he constructed a pair of tandem chairlifts at Thorn Mountain in Jackson, New Hampshire. Thorn Mountain was the largest new ski area in the state built immediately after World War II, and it helped consolidate the town’s reputation as a hub of New England skiing.
Stadig and his son Bennett also helped develop the Blue Hills ski area, just outside Boston, Massachusetts. The three rope tows built by father and son helped involve a new generation of Bay State skiers.
For his three-cornered contribution to our state’s skiing heritage—ski maker, marathon athlete and snowsports innovator—Walter Stadig has earned a place in the Maine Ski Hall of Fame.