| For the Times Herald-Record
The relatively tranquil past couple of weeks gave way to a storm on Saturday that produced some rain and mixed precipitation. It was mostly rain in the valleys, snow and mixed precipitation at the higher elevations and all snow at the higher peaks of the Catskills, Berkshires and further north in New York and New England. Arctic air is still trapped in Canada which means we will continue to see moderate winter weather going at least into this coming weekend.
The Victor Constant West Point ski slopes were supposed to make their debut last weekend with the beginner area opening and served by a handle tow but the lift had issues so the opening was postponed. Dave Brzwczy, a coach for the West Point junior alpine ski training program, said the area’s management was starting to make snow on one of the top-to-bottom runs and could open in another week with favorable snowmaking temps.
While some local ski areas have curtailed night skiing and snowboarding due to the COVID pandemic, there are still plenty of options available right in our backyard. Areas offering night skiing include Mount Peter in Warwick, Holiday Mountain in Thompson, Thunder Ridge in Patterson and Campgaw in Ramapo, N.J.
In this COVID environment, skiers and riders are being forced to make reservations in advance and online. We are all finding out the challenges of modern technology when it comes to making those reservations or, when you finally get to your destination that things don’t always go smoothly.
First, there’s the myriad of pricing schemes that you have to go through. Then, you have to make sure you can even get a reservation for the particular day that you would like to ski or ride. The further out on the calendar you go, the more the likelihood that variables such as weather or a personal event or emergency comes into play. Then there is the classic “boo boo” of making a reservation for the wrong day. It happened to me last week when I went to make a reservation at Hunter last Wednesday and instead entered this Wednesday. I found out the hard way when I tried to access the ski slopes and was told that I didn’t have a reservation. The resort happened to be so busy that they had no openings and I had to pack my bags and head home. Fortunately, I’m only 20 minutes away. Ouch!
Another problem with ski area technology are the scanners – they don’t always work the way they are supposed to, leading to incredible frustration. You could wind up doing everything correctly and when a resort staffer goes to scan your electronic season pass or ticket card it comes up with a reading that you don’t exist. In the COVID environment and the super sensitivity of ski area operators to capacity constraints, you are told to go back to the ticket windows to sort out the problem. A $900 season pass or a $125 day ticket buys you no privilege.
Alas, we have the radio frequency identification system that is supposed to make getting on lifts a breeze and also helps ski areas reduce labor costs … except it doesn’t. Place the card in the wrong spot in your clothes, like near your wallet or phone and the scanner will not pick up your ID. You stand there in frustration as 100 people in the lift queue behind you are screaming mad. It takes a technology attendant at the lift to sort out the problem but it usually means pulling you aside as if you just ran a red light.
I went to Holiday Mountain on Sunday. Why, you might ask? If you follow me regularly, you know that I’m allergic to lift lines. I arrived in Holiday’s parking lot at about 8:50 a.m. and the temperature around 30 degrees with a light breeze and overcast skies. I was on the triple chairlift a few minutes after 9 a.m. and did non-stop loops on the three open runs: Manny’s, Benson’s Glade and Roman Candle.
As with every one of my other experiences, the bases were as deep as those at Hunter in the Catskills and the surfaces were groomed to perfection. Because of less skier and snowboarder pressure, conditions stayed very good for much longer into the day and you were even likely to find corduroy on the edges of trails into the early afternoon.
The Holiday ski club was in action with at least five groups of youngsters working with instructors and race coaches across the hill. They had a giant slalom course set up on Roman Candle, the fairly steep and very wide slope alongside the triple chairlift, which provided for great viewing of the kids running gates.
For parents looking to develop their children’s interest in the sport and to really make them very accomplished, I highly recommend getting them enrolled in a program like the one that Holiday offers. Note that you don’t need a 2,000-foot vertical drop to produce great skiers. Holiday has produced championship-level racers of all calibers over the years. Lindsey Vonn, one the greatest female racers of all time, did most of her early development training on a hill similar in size to Holiday Mountain.
Holiday’s ski club program is very reasonably priced as are the area’s day-ticket and season pass pricing. Most sessions are priced at $27 and the highest ticket price I found on its website was $42 for a session that would probably outlast your ability to ski or snowboard for that long. As with all ski areas, reservations have to be made online subject to capacity limits. I also observed very good compliance for social distancing in the lodge when I took breaks.
Think more comfortable weather and SNOW, and happy skiing and riding!