It was one of the best Presidents’ Holiday weeks in a long time, despite ending with a thud on Sunday as damp, dreary, drizzly and foggy conditions rolled through the Northeast. Saturday made up for it though, with bluebird skies to start the name, comfortable temps, no wind and generally great conditions at all ski areas near and far.
With great conditions in the Catskills, I once again headed to the western side of the range and my favorite ski area, Plattekill, near Roxbury. It was 16 in the parking lot at 8 a.m. and the air was dead still. A winch-cat grooming machine was putting the finishing touches on their signature double black diamond trail, Blockbuster. The lifts opened at 8:45 and I started out my first run on the Face trail, which runs down the center of the right hand side of the resort, under the triple chairlift. The slopes on that side of the ski area face southeast, which is actually the worst exposure because it gets direct sun for a longer time during the day.
But, on very cold and blustery winter days, those slopes are a welcome reprieve from the biting winds. The Face is very wide, about 200 feet across with a very steep upper pitch that is rated a single black diamond, but when groomed like it was on Saturday, it can be handled by a strong intermediate by traversing it.
After my warm-up run, I headed over to the real reason I go to Plattekill and that’s the natural snow terrain that runs through the woods on the double chairlift side of the area. Not all the trails were open because of thin cover but there were enough, including Ridge, Twist, Home Run, Drop In and Overlook and the natural snow on those was fine. Despite a full parking when I left, I rode the double chairlift 19 straight times, alone, never waiting.
Since I get to ski anywhere from three to four times a week, I often to see plenty of very good skiers and I also witness skiers right on the cusp of becoming better. They look good when conditions are excellent but when they get on tougher terrain or the conditions are more marginal, their flaws immediately become obvious. I asked my “go-to” skiing pro, Nick Pera, a Level III Professional Ski Instructors of America teacher and trainer at Ski Windham in the northern Catskills if there’s one common issue that he encounters.
Pera told me, “The one common development issue I see a lot is students pushing their tails out to start a turn instead of releasing the ski and committing the body to the new turn, which allows the tail of the ski to follow the tip. On a great ski day, we all feel like heroes, and we should! But, if you push your tails to turn, the shortcomings become evident under at least two conditions; (1) severe hard pack and (2) over a foot of powder. On hard pack you just can’t seem to hold an edge. In deep powder, it feels like you are going to get tossed in every turn.”
Pera continues, “What’s the fix? Generally, if you’re pushing your tails out to start your turn, your hips and upper body are behind your heels. There are a few fixes for that but Al, I’m going to share with you the Holy Grail to fixing this problem and that was passed on down to me through my various encounters with the ski “gods.”
As we head into March and the final leg of the ski and snowboard season, it’s that time when early-purchase, season pass deals start popping up like daffodils and crocuses in spring. The best part of some of these offers is if you’re not currently a pass holder, you will be able to ski or ride free from March 1 until the end of the season. The way this winter is going, with very deep man-made bases at ski areas in our region, you’re looking at being able to ski and snowboard to mid-April at the major resorts like Belleayre and Hunter.
The season pass deals cover a wide range of pricing options that are designed to appeal to different age groups and weekdays versus unlimited passes. Some of the season pass products also include multiple ski resorts like the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority areas that consist of Belleayre, Whiteface and Gore. Then, over in the Berkshires, you have Catamount and its parent, Berkshire East, with a packaged season pass.
The most comprehensive season pass offering in our area is the Peak Pass. Peak Resorts owns Hunter Mountain in the Catskills and their passes can include nine other ski areas throughout the Northeast, including Mount Snow in Southern Vermont, and Crotched, Wildcat and Attitash, all in New Hampshire.