While you’re preparing for both turkey and the ski season, Isaac and I on the blog are reliving the past. Actually not reliving our past, we’re discovering it as neither of us was skiing in the 70s.
In 1971 Plattekill was keeping it real and still the hidden gem we know today. Stan Fischler (sports writer and hockey historian) wrote for New York Magazine: “I’m always amazed to discover that on any given weekend, long, maddening lines snake their way behind the chairlifts not to mention the cafeterias at such snow centers as Belleayre and Great Gorge [now defunct], while a resort like Plattekill, less than an hour past Belleayre [ed. note: it’s 20 minutes…] and with equally challenging terrain, remains a schussing wilderness and a beautiful one at that.”
Fischler lists these unheard of areas “in order of my favorites” starting with Plattekill, then Highmount [sadly also defunct], Catskill Ski Center [many recall as Bobcat in Andes and alas no more] and Noname [some of you know as Bearpen and also defunct, but rumored to be amazing if you can hike in]. His original text is below and the original image that ran in New York Magazine is above:
Plattekill in Roxbury, New York, is a gem, and good skiers have been tight-lipped for years in fear that it would be discovered. It hasn’t yet, and even on the weekends when conditions are ideal a five-minute wait on the lift-line is regarded as long. [ed. note: still true].
Owners Bonnie and Gary Hinkley [who first built the hill. Gary skis there every day it’s open] are a couple of young locals who are on the slopes as often as their customers. Their 3,000 foot “Plattekill Plunge” – with a 970-foot vertical drop—will gratify any expert, [still true] and the intermediate “Ridge Run” is high, wide and negotiable. A popular misconception is that Plattekill is mostly for advanced skiers. [people still think this] In reality it boasts some gentle novice and intermediate dips and a pleasant lodge with brown stain, red trm and Alpine background music [okay, that last detail has changed. The music is mostly of this century, though an ocassional track from the 80s has been played…]
THIS IS HOW I grew up skiing. Dog-eared ca 1972 copies of ski mags. Stacks and stacks of them. Which is to say I didn’t grow up skiing at all but spending my summer vacations in a ski house in Southern Vermont. I didn’t ski. But I read. I dreamed. I stared and studied and longed. I also grew up in Virginia, and my family wasn’t inclined towards winter. Mountains for us were hiking in the summers in Vermont on this little hill that was a ski area. Flash forward a few decades and I am living in the Catskills and I learn to ski. And then discover Plattekill, which is to me like the promised land (the promised land ca 1972—warm lodge, wooden beams, wood stove). I’d been skiing for maybe half a season when I first got there and the parking person said, “Look up there. It just opened. Macker groomed it perfectly.” He waved at the white ribbon of Northface. I had no idea who Macker was, but that the person parking my car said he skied it yesterday and promised it was fantastic, was also a warm welcome to the hill.
(Small aside: a nice thing about learning to ski in this decade is that I didn’t have to ski straight skis ca 72, and hence after a half season of skiing didn’t kill myself on Northface).
Flash forward another 2 years and I’m doing Platty’s blog. After the second post someone emails me, “It reminds me,” he writes, “of this little hill where I learned to ski in Vermont.” That little hill was where I learned to long for skiing.
But had I learned there, I probably wouldn’t be here. (I can play out a zillion alternate realities in my mind: Had my dad taken that job in Kalispell Montana where I’d have skied… Hhad they bought that place that every summer they talked of on that mountain in Vermont, where I’d have skied…. They didn’t. I ended up here and this place that keeps it real—and I still have one dog-eared copy of ski mag that I kidnapped from the vacation home when I was 15… Below images from said issue… Lange. New York. Wayne Wong in infrared.
As promised, I’ve been digging around in the past to get pumped for the season. Platty’s opening day is in sight–it’s October, we’ve got a frost warning, THE PLATTEPALOOZA FALL FESTIVAL is around the corner, and I’ve swapped Summer Ale for IPA.
My 80’s my wish list would have included (besides a time-traveling DeLorean) the chance to meet my ski idols: Scot Schmidt, my Idaho girl Picabo Street, and obviously Glen Plake. I remember first watching The Blizzard of Aaahhs and how blown away I was by Schmidt & Plake’s daring, their ridiculous inventiveness.
Maybe since the technology of that era wasn’t evolving as quickly as they were (most everyone was on the same “shape” of ski) the athletes were forced to develop individual styles in order to evolve. People didn’t have powder skis for deep days, carvers for groomers, twin tips for jibbing. They had skis. There were differences in materials, construction, and price point. But the basic shapes were arguably the same.
And they skied them in ALL conditions.
Although I’d never swap my modern skis for the long straight Rossi’s of the 80s, I’m glad I DID learn on them. Among other things, they taught me to maintain balance in mogul skiing and nasty, cut-up crud. And to appreciate today’s skis that much more.
So yeah, a BIG shout out to snowboarding.
I mean, come on—Schmidt dropped into the vertical extremities of the Alaskan Chugachs, Street crushed the super G at Nagano.
Jason Levinthal, founder of J Skis, just released the HOT DOGGER a total nod to 80’s flash and dash. And I get it—the retro vibe. The loud, garish, IN YOUR FACE ATTITUDE of it, proclaiming—THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BETTER THAN SHREDDING THE MOUNTAIN.
For this season at Platty, let’s embrace the raw, hardcore days of launching into Blockbuster, Plunge, or Freefall on a pair of K2 Extreme 207s, sporting Bollés, an eye-popping neon jacket, a wind-scoured face–and a giant, toothy grin.
Now make sure to send us your old school pictures of keeping it real or post them on Plattekill’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/Plattekill