I have started this column so many times. Would it matter to anyone how Park City Mountain Resort of now, was saved and changed in the late '70s? Did the people who worked so well together back then and have since passed away, have special, secret ways of doing business? Did they take those tools with them to their graves? I have no idea. But what I do know...
I met Nick and his wife, Avis, in 1973 when we were both opening stores in a little village of shops in Tahoe City. Their store was a Christmas year-round store and mine was a children's clothing boutique. I heard they were a lovely older couple (they were 50) who had retired from the east coast to the mountains. It was months before I learned Nick had retired from running BVD underwear, Maidenform bras, Botany 500, Wonderknit shirts and the National Shirt Shops. He was the head of the first garment conglomerate in the United States, the Rapid American Corporation. His buddy, Art Linkletter had asked him to help save the business end of a ski resort in California where Art was a board member. Nick flew over Alpine Meadows, looked at the books and without ever stepping foot on the property, bought it. And he turned it into an important success for the ski industry.
His son, Craig, had urged him to learn to ski and Nick did -- at nearly 50. He became the same graceful skier of men his age who had skied all their lives.
Nick was clear about one thing -- he was only in the ski business at this chapter of his life. If he was to buy this package he would sell off everything else to those who wanted to invest in the town, financially and emotionally. Being a company town was exactly what was killing the ski area.
So Nick bought the entire town for around $4 million in cash and re-negotiated some loans. He created a long-term lease for the ski hill with the mining company, which was forced to shut down all its mining operations and only too happy for the income. And then he set about to find the bartender who would buy the building where the bar was... for pennies. Ditto the restaurants and ski shops. These are now iconic legendary names. Back the day they were just kids with dreams. He worked with the city to obtain a federal loan to buy the golf course from him and then for his closing gift, he planted 1,500 trees on that now municipal course.
Nick was from the era when folks kept their promises and when honor was something you valued more than money. So when it was all finished he turned to the man whom he was bailing out and said something along the lines of, "you shouldn't go away empty-handed." And he let him keep all that raw undeveloped land on the other side town. And Edgar Stern concluded his business with Nick Badami, and developed that land into the Deer Valley Ski Resort and all the real estate around it. I moved to Park City during this time in the late '70's.
Nick and his only child, Craig, poured millions of dollars into improving the resort over the years. Nick was the revered chair of the U.S. Ski Team. The Grey Ghost, they called him when his hair turned. And he and Craig led every fundraising campaign in town. Every one. They were the last money in for KPCW going on the air and the first for the Eccles Center. Craig arranged the first World Cup ski race ever in North America and then arranged to repeat it every year thereafter so the resorts (and therefore the town) could open Thanksgiving weekend. Skiing Magazine called Craig "the P.T. Barnum of ski racing." And the events on the hill with rock stars and bleachers and cow bells and fabulous food and wine tents were epic. He was working on the team to bring the Olympics to Park City. Which is why the ski world was shocked and saddened when in 1989, a cargo helicopter Craig was riding in, days after an ESPN televised World Cup race, caught the drag line on the roof of a tech trailer in the parking lot and crashed on the PayDay run. Craig was killed onsite. I was editor of this paper and my job forced me to be there. My friendship made it the hardest story I ever covered.
For the next few years Nick ran the resort but his heart was broken.
He had numerous opportunities to sell to the Germans, the Japanese, other resorts in California (he still had Alpine Meadows at Tahoe) and resorts in Colorado, including Vail. Finally, a trusted friend came to Nick and said he had the perfect buyer... a man and his two sons, not unlike Nick and Craig had been, who were skiers and loved the mountain and would be good stewards of it.
So Nick sold the resort to the Cumming family in the early '90s but he remained an influence there until his death in 2008.
Now, we are at this quagmire of legality and morality and intent and opportunity. And two men, once again, hold those keys. And the town, which has thrived under Nick's model of everyone having a piece of the action and doing what we all do best, is under a cloud of uncertainty about what lies ahead.
Nick was a private man. Understated and elegant and kind. Very, very kind. He would have found an elegant solution. And despite the blogosphere and postings, real or really manufactured, the consistent tenant I hear is ... "Isn't there a way everybody can still win here? Can't we remain three great resorts in one great town? Can't we apologize for a mistake and create a new lease and move forward?"
When his son Craig was killed in that crash and dignitaries -- from Senators to Hall of Fame athletes -- came to his service, I only remembered one phrase from the day. It has become my personal religion. It was from Craig's favorite Grateful Dead song ...the refrain "But are you kind?"
It is time for all the pieces on the corporate chessboards to be put away. The balance of our future lies in answering that question.
It may sound rather simplistic all these 40-years-plus later but we owe it to our past to consider, this very Sunday in the Park...
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.