SO IT WENT from 65 degrees to six inches of pow in 24 hours. On Wednesday I ran six miles in shorts, sun, summer. Thursday I split my desk at 2 to ski 12 runs in the afternoon and I brought the wrong skis. Too narrow. I had the best turns of the season and I took no photos. It was too good to stop. But, I am posting this because it was stunning. And conditions were amazing. (The drive home a tad hairy but by today I'm sure it's fine). The mountain is well set up for this weekend. And if you're over the winter whiplash, the what-season-is-it-now, the if-it's-tuesday-it-must-be-summer kind of weather we've had. Or if you've coined a new name for it, say Sprinter. Wring (anything that combines spring and winter), well, there is now hope.
The strange period of warming and oscilation we've had is coming to an end, and if you want a detailed breakdown of this: read on as the folks at NY Metro Weather explain:
This type of retrograding high latitude block, where blocking moves from Greenland westward into Canada, has been associated with some of the more memorable winter weather periods, and large storms in general, in the Northeast United States.
And, of course, it will snow next weekend. I promise. I'm going away for a week to ski out West. Which is as sure to bring snow as any high latitude blocking from the Barents Sea to Greenland.
Your heart is here—That’s what we heard this Valentine’s Day as a group came to ski at the mountain.
And here this winter, there’s been a lot to love. (Plus check out Dylan and Gavin who've grown up at Platty in the terrain park)... Storms dumping more than we expected, cold nights where we’ve come to turn on the snow guns soon as temps were right. We made snow this week and will again on Friday and Saturday and on into the season… For many ski hills President’s Day is when you stop making snow. Not for us, not as long as the cold holds out…. And there is snow stockpiled around the mountain to make sure the skiing stays great. And also Mother Nature will be lending a hand on Saturday with snow in the forecast… Laszlo (Platty’s owner) has a guess of around 6 inches falling. We're calling it for first chair Sunday morning...
Meanwhile if you want to go to the bar, Magic Hat is doing a tap takeover on Saturday… There will be giveaways and special drinks. Plus Talking Machine play live on Saturday and on Sunday it’s Dave Mason…
SOMETIMES OWNING a ski hill is like farming. Well it’s often farming, snow-making, stockpiling it etc. But, right now that stockpile, those whales, they’re where it’s at. And you can see Platty owner Laszlo Vajtay (below) skiing them on Sunday in the brilliant sunshine. Good news for this weekend? More sunshine. And it’s warm and those whales…
Given Mother Nature’s fine case of whiplash inducing weather those whales are a promise that we will be skiing no matter what she throws at us. Here are a few pics from the weekend, and remember to dial in direct to Ullr. We need snow (though the whales have been saving us)
And on Saturday along with the sunshine is demo day, super awesome Bomber skis (you can get a Basquiat or Keith Haring top sheet, which is perfect for Platty where more than a few art world-oriented curators and artists happen to ski. They also make a ski jacket like a blazer for ye who want to combine work life with ski life). Or, ultra independent Shaggy’s straight out of Michigan (remember before you talk about the Mid West and skiing, the region also produced Lindsay Vonn who hails from the even flatter MN…). They can customize for your flex or just about any other part of your sticks… And there’s Never Summer snowboards…
First the snow. It fell this week. Eight inches. And that is just the natural stuff. The other stuff came from guns, the application of pressure + water and very cold temperatures. All of which makes for a very welcome Friday morning!
Then there’s the phrase “ski the east.” It comes with a bit of bravado or bravery because we know what we can do. Ice/east, they nearly rhyme. And, here in the East we take it that we can take all conditions from rain to bulletproof to even, yes, powder and we have had all this and more this week. This has been a week where you could call the Catskills a four-season resort. That is, all four seasons in one seven-day period. And these seven days have seen many ski hills challenged and sending out apologies and mea culpas to their skiers.
At Platty, it rained too. We can’t hide that. And then the rain turned to something else, something far firmer and harder, but the water, now that might be called a blessing. A deluge one day = full ponds the next. And that translates into very fine, fine snowmaking. Especially since the temps plunged just after.
Now a game of connect the dots has translated into snowmaking on both sides of the mountain and a series of phrases:
Save the Whales becomes now a Whale of a good time.
And A river runs through it= a lot of water in the ponds, which is a lot of snow around the hill.
The other thing to add to those phrases is Save the Mountain—because this weekend will be spring skiing (AKA sunny and warm), and there has now been so much snow made that there will be spare to push around. With any luck Buckle Up will have Blockbuster and it’s 1k+ straight vert in play this weekend too.
With all this spring sunshine coming all we need are Hawaiian shirts and drinks on the deck, because you can live all four seasons in a week here.
Polar bears are super cute, right? And right now they are your spirit animal.
Because Powder + Arctic Blasts = More. Of everything. So a how-to guide to surviving skiing at 0 degrees (or colder. Today is colder. Plus windchills). My tips are two of everything—goggles, handwarmers, base layers…
First the material: wool. It wicks moisture, keeps you warm. And it doesn’t get stinky. It’s my base layer of choice. I love Icebreaker. You can, in a pinch, use a merino sweater from, say, Uniqlo… On top of that is another base layer (this one actually from Uniqlo—HeatTech). Then I go for silk (an old fine knit silk sweater that has rips in it). Please don’t laugh but this is the polar-bear secret—I go for many very thin layers, but that translates to lots of air sealing in the heat. Basically polar bears have hollow-fiber hairs which trap air to provide insulation. So on top of my three thin base layers is another wool sweater –this one thin so no layer is too thick, too heavy, but there’s air between each layer.
[Also a side note. No cotton ever. It gets wet and doesn’t dry, which is why there’s a saying: “cotton kills.” It can cause hypothermia.]
Next: On top the jackets: down (more air, those geese know something) and a windproof shell.
On the legs it’s two again for the base layers. One pair of CWX insulated compression ski tights. I cut them off above the ankle so they don’t get in the way of my boots. Over that a pair of Arcteryx fleece leggings (thick) then a pair of insulated ski pants. I know it’s a lot….
On the feet: wool ski socks as thin as possible and wicking power. On my boots: battery operated boot heaters and a neoprene insulator over the boots that straps around. (Dry Guy Boot Glove…).
Next the head: 2 balaclavas (with helmet liner), one to wear and a spare. Two pairs of goggles (one to wear and one spare). Tuck your balaclave under your goggles to make sure all of your face is covered. Eventually the inside of your goggles will fog. The fog will turn to ice. Don’t try to dry them out. Switch out the goggles and balaclava. On top—a helmet = safe AND warm.
The hands. Forget dexterity. Mittens are your friend. Having your fingers together keeps them warmer. And two Grabber handwarmers. One pair I strap on with rubber bands to my inner wrist (that part where you can see the veins—the warmer warms the blood). The other goes inside the mitten over the back of the hand (more veins, more warming).
This will make you, if not invincible, certainly able to ski the powder that came with this Thursday’s storm.
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.
This year for the Platty blog, there are two of us—Isaac is joining me. He grew up skiing in Idaho (more about that in his first post, coming soon). We met on the triple [chair lift], on Isaac’s first run at the mountain.
Platty’s lifts are great for such things; some of my best friendships have been formed on the double, and Isaac—no different. It was his first time at the hill, and I offered to show him around. It was also clear he could rip. Of course, he can. He grew up in the aforementioned Idaho—also he doesn’t seem to complain about skiing the East…
Talking to him after that first run, his eyes grew wide, and he could see a future of skiing in the Catskills with no lift lines, no people fighting in a lift line, or getting impatient—and also, better snow. That is the promise of Platty—to keep it real, to bring back the old school vibe of skiing, and I saw the same joy I’ve seen in countless others have at the hill. It’s the way someone recounts their first visit to the mountain as if it were the promised land. And, Isaac is also a writer. So now it’s the two of us telling you why we love it here and reporting from the hill. Also he’s braver in the trees than I and a way better skier…
It is also that time of year when I start dreaming of skiing. Actually I start in July, and I think Isaac never stops. I have two classic dreams: skiing puffy powdery bumps on Block (I’m a master in the dream in a way I never am in real life), and then strangely, skiing down a sand dune (it’s a dream after all), like I did once in Qatar. And here a shot of Platty’s opening day last year:
Now as the nights dip down into the 40s this week, it’s also time to get season tickets, check the long-range forecasts for winter (good & cold), and tune up the gear. I will be spending this weekend with a girlfriend, sharpening my skis and watching ski videos. (Her kid has just returned from racing camp in Europe…)
Stella, I love you. Really what else is there to say? There might also be thanks to Laszlo and Macker and the snowmakers for making snow last weekend long after other ski hills have stopped in the run-up to the storm. But, really all there is to say is: Yes! And then list the numbers like: 36 (that is inches…as in, 3 feet). And then there are more, new numbers like 3 or 4…of snow that keeps accumulating (as in feet, not inches, but once you make three feet, who’s to quibble?).
Or, perhaps the proof is in the pictures (or really their absence). The snow was too good to stop and pull out a camera or even a phone. So instead I’ll send you to NY Ski Blog to see Harvey Road’s post. (He always stops for pictures and was riding a fine line through the trees when I last saw him on Wednesday’s Powder Daize).
So to summarize, the snow was too good to describe—too great to stop for photos. Maybe you can imagine the whoops heard from happy skiers going down the hill (they translate to “Stella, I love you!”). And for a small bit of etymology, “Stella” means star in Latin, and every flake of snow does have a tiny bit of cosmic stardust in it. So we can thank our lucky stars (or our Lucky Stellas, and maybe raise a glass of Stella to our storm in the bar afterwards).
There are many places to start talking about Elizabeth Royster-Young: community hero, snowboarding advocate, or Brady Bunch mom. That’s how she describes her blended family—her three kids, two step-kids—they’re family of seven. Or, there’s the woman who works in tech, testing software. Or, there’s the girl from Jersey City who got pregnant at 15 in high school, a teen and single mom. The girl who got pregnant again in college and in grad school. (She jokes about no more schooling). There’s the woman who worried about feeding her kids, taking care of her family, keeping them safe, keeping them together; the woman who lived in a place known for crime and shooting. “…a place where kids can’t go outside and play,” as Elizabeth puts it. It's a place not known for mountains, not fresh air, not snow and definitely not snowboarding.
And, there’s the girl who at 14 went skiing in 8th grade. If you’re tallying the numbers, that’s a year before she had her first child. And, she loved it. “I’d never seen a mountain,” she says, “and I fell on my skis, and this guy on a snowboard helped me up.” She’d also never seen a snowboard. “He told me, ‘Don't’ worry about it. You can’t even handle your skis, so you don’t need to worry about a board.’”
Now, Elizabeth does way more than worry about a board. She rides herself, but more than that, she gets kids who could have been her out on the slopes. That’s where her charity, Shred Love, started in 2009, comes in. Its mission is “Teaching inner city and at-risk youth life lessons and values through snowboarding.” It takes kids who wouldn’t get to go outside, who’ve never seen mountains, who have little experience with snow and gives them places to explore, places to prove themselves with new skills in new realms. It gives them experiences of success. And fun. And, recently at Plattekill—on a Powder Day at that. She brought the group up this winter. Elizabeth says, “Kids who wouldn’t get to leave their community get to learn something new, get to master a skill on the slopes.”
That would be a kid like Armani Rae. “They had the hill to themselves,” Elizabeth explains, “they don’t know how spoiled they are.” But Armani said the mountain was there for her as if it wasn’t simply that she was one of the few on the hill, but as if the mountain were supporting her, teaching her, giving her something more…
Plattekill Mountain Executive Director, Laszlo Vajtay, says, “The mountain is thrilled to able to offer the opportunity for an exclusive, private, mountain usage to an organization like Shred Love who have a special cause and mission is to introduce kids to skiing and/or snowboarding that otherwise would never have that opportunity.”
“Shred Love,” Elizabeth says, “is a way to give back to my community and do it so it’s hands on and not just a donation, where we can really see the impact.” They plan a few trips a year, and the group is a 501(c)(3) charity, so all donations are tax deductible. If you wish to give you can via PayPal, using Shred Love’s email address—email@example.com or their Facebook page. (You can also contact Elizabeth Royster-Young and Shred Love directly at the above email address too).
To donate gently used gear (snowboard boots, helmets, goggles, snowboards, bindings, etc.), donors can mail it to: Shred Love, PO Box 3378, Bayonne, NJ, 07002. Donors in the Jersey City/Bayonne/NYC area can arrange for a pick up, if they'd wish.