We went deep into the snow zone this past weekend. Winter storm Quinn, the second Nor’easter in a week, evened out the playing field for day-trip ski areas. Places like Hunter, Windham, Plattekill and Belleayre, all in the Catskills, “only” got 10-12 inches this time. Meanwhile, Quinn dumped two to three feet on our local areas that received about 8-12 inches from Winter storm Riley a week earlier.
Quinn took a weird path, hit the southerly ski areas with tons of snow, and then swung east to the Taconic range and Berkshires, dropping around two feet on Mohawk, in Connecticut, and Catamount and Butternut, in Massachusetts. Mount Peter in Warwick got two feet, while the Victor Constant Ski Area in West Point and Holiday Mountain near Monticello also got a healthy dump of the natural stuff.
This time the storm wasn’t accompanied by hurricane-force winds and much of the snow fell straight down on the slopes and didn’t get blown into the woods. It was a heavy wet snow at lower elevations but a very dry snow at the upper elevations and further north. The Adirondack and Green Mountain ski areas did not get much from Riley but Quinn did clip a good portion of south and central Vermont. Killington, near Rutland, had picked up a total of 33 inches from a week’s worth of continuous snow.
After a mild and rainy February that had ski-area operators thinking that this season might not last past the middle of March, the massive and ongoing snowfalls have allowed virtually every resort to open 100 percent of their terrain. Hunter, in the northern Catskills, had all but a few trails open and those were in a little-used section of Hunter One, the beginner’s pod of the resort.
I skied at Hunter last week and it was like being out west in the Rockies. Between the rime-encrusted trees on the summits and the deep snowpack on all the trails and in the woods, it felt like being in Vail, Colo. Hunter West, the experts' only section of the mountain, was completely open after it was down to a couple of runs following February’s thaw.
I skied on Friday at Windham, Hunter’s neighbor to the north. Windham is only seven miles from Hunter and is actually larger than Hunter in terms of skiable terrain with a total of 285 acres. The ski area has 11 lifts, including two high-speed detachable quad chairlifts and management just announced that they will be getting a new detachable lift, this time a six-pack that will run parallel to the “A” lift summit chair.
Windham has two summits and the main area, which is on Cave Mountain and is actually 50 feet lower than the 3,050-foot summit of the East Peak. The East Peak has the best green circle novice run in the Catskills. The Wanderer trail is gentle, wide and scenic, with only one modest pitch in it but can easily be handled by accomplished novice skiers.
While Windham also has a number of intermediate and upper intermediate trails, the ski resort also has some of the steepest trails anywhere. Runs like The Wall, Wolverine, Upper Wipeout, Wheelchair and Wedel are super steep, double-black diamond rated. I skied Wedel after it was perfectly groomed and it ranks right up there with K27 at Hunter and Blockbuster at Plattekill.
I headed east on Saturday to one of my favorite ski areas in our region, Catamount, on the New York and Massachusetts border near Hillsdale. For those of you who might not realize and think that Catamount is a good distance away in the southern Berkshires, it takes the same amount of time to get to either Windham or Catamount from exit 21 on the New York State Thruway, and by using the same Route 23 that goes by both resorts.
In typical fashion, Catamount had a nearly full parking lot by mid-morning and I never waited more than a few minutes on any lift line and much of the time hopped right onto a chair.
The area had more than three feet of snow from the recent storms and it was a packed powder Snowbird, Utah, kind of experience. I skied places I never did before, like under the summit Quad or on a defunct trail off of the Mountain View run and into the Birch Glades between the Holiday and Colonel’s Caper slopes. Temperatures were in the upper 20s and it even flurried. I never saw so many smiles on the faces of skiers and snowboarders going down or riding up the chair with me. Also, if you buy a season pass at Catamount now, you get to ski free the rest of this season!
Army skied well at nationals
West Point ski team coach Bob McIntee told me that the Army Black Knights' ski team had a very respectable showing at the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association national championship at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, March 4-11. The championships drew more than 500 athletes from around the country. The Black Knights had a 12th-place team finish in the alpine skiing competition. Army’s team included Sawyer Harkins, Yale Flanagan, Levi Walters, Drew Peringer, Gavin Felch and Andrew Carter competing in giant slalom and slalom, and separately there was freeskier Aidan McCarthy, who finished 19th in the Rail Jam, and 12th in Slopestyle.
Let’s continue doing our snow dances for Ullr, and happy skiing and riding!
Woodstock resident Al Neubert is an expert skier and has been writing professionally about snow sports for more than 30 years. His ski column runs on Thursdays. He can be reached at email@example.com.