This past Saturday was spring skiing at its absolute finest. The snow was soft, slushy – exactly what you want when the sun is out, the jackets are off, and the beer is on ice. Which it was.
I felt as though I was at someone’s backyard party, complete with an outdoor bbq. With a fantastic ski resort thrown in. The spring vibe was everywhere, t-shirts, sunglasses, and the wide grins of those who know they made the right decision.
I quickly met up with a great group of guys who were kind enough to let me tag along. We immediately hit Freefall which, yes at the top was a bit thin (thank you John for discovering the first line not to take, i.e. the first rock). Once we found our way down twenty or so yards, skier’s left transitioned out into perfectly spaced, soft bumps.
Freefall has such a nice pitch, you could hit them hard, cutting up a wall of snow, or light, quickly bouncing from one to the next. I found myself wanting to cut hard, though the trenches, because digging into soft spring snow is so damn satisfying.
From there it was Plunge, North Face, Upper Face, and eventually, Bumps to Blockbuster… Block was my favorite as it was smooth with about three inches of soft hero-like snow. Being able to lay down carves on that steep of a pitch…. yesssss.
The kind snow that makes you want to play, to goof off. To ski a little faster, to maybe jump a little bigger.
It is a party after all.
Everywhere I looked people were jibbing, carving, slarving….skiing with an almost frantic enthusiasm, desperate to eke out every last second of what has been an incredible season.
Afterward – basking on the sunlit desk, toasting PBRs, and soaking up every last moment.
The experience of Plattekill is the sublime combination of natural terrain, incredible people, and right now - the blessings of a March filled with week after week of perfect snow. Each, a key ingredient…making up the soul of a place.
This past Friday Chris S., Ray, Chris R. and I gathered at the end of the most amazing tree run I’ve ever skied in my life - it was the most amazing skiing I’ve ever experienced, on piste or off.
Before dropping in, as we collected at the top, passed around water, and prepped our gear, I was both nervous and excited - I’d never skied this kind of terrain before. The trees were untouched, the snow was knee deep, as I quickly discovered after stepping out of my skis to rest. Snow fell around us, feathery and light, adding itself to the copious gobs of untracked, delicious powder waiting below.
Chris R. dropped in first, finding a smooth line, traversing across the mountain below. I followed, staying alongside, but also wanting to cut my own path. Chris S. and Ray - the two veterans - came down after, flying past as though it were second nature. Which of course, it was.
From there we leapfrogged down. Beautiful lines through acres of empty forest. No sound but for the swish of skis and shouts of unabated joy. And for once (thanks to Alan’s and Chris’s patience) I managed to keep up.
Nothing but us, the knee-deep powder of raw terrain, and the trees commanding it. One word filled my head – Pure.
It’s how I think of that day; of how I think of Plattekill. Nothing between you and the experience, no extravagant garbage selling you a manufactured experience. Just the mountain. The snow. And, if you are fortunate enough – some great people to show you the way.
Emerging from the trees, we were somewhat overwhelmed. Our faces glowed with an astonishment, as though none of us expected to be as good as it was.
“Well…that didn’t suck,” Ray said.
Nope. It surely didn’t.
Alan is one of those skiers that is good at everything. Rips through crud, bumps, catches smooth airs of natural features, and finds great lines that are an absolute blast to follow.
He has been skiing Plattekill for 20 years, and except for the nursery becoming locker space, he says not much has changed. At least in the ways that count - there are still no lift lines to speak of, the terrain remains the best of any mountain in the area, and it’s still the place he chooses to make the 3 ½ hour drive to from the Jersey shore every weekend.
Last October, we’d cut some great lines through the trees. This past Saturday, I followed him into the woods to get my first taste.
Generally, I suck in the trees. I tend to tense up, lose confidence, and ultimately – balance. I understand the concepts “don’t look at the trees,” “stay light on your feet,” “make quick, technical turns,” but the concepts haven’t 100% found their way to my skiing yet.
To be fair, the snow was thick, on the heavy side and made for some difficult turns, but Alan carved through effortlessly, and I…well, not so much. Luckily for me, he was very patient, helping me see the lines, giving me tips on how to manage it.
Alan seemed to dance through the glades, demonstrating what was possible - inspiring me to improve. The trees are home to some of the best snow, the best terrain. There is NO way I’m giving that up; I’d worked too hard cutting some of those lines.
Plattekill really is a mecca of great skiers and snowboarders. And whether crushing a bump run down Plunge, shredding through the trees, catching air off a natural spine, or laying down smooth carves on piste, someone is always doing it better (than me). When I get the chance to ski with someone I can learn from, I try to soak in as much as I can.
It's said that if you want to grow, surround yourself with people who are superior to you in some way. Plattekill gives anyone PLENTY of opportunity to grow. Home to quite simply some of the most outstanding skiers I’ve ever had the pleasure of skiing with. Coast to coast.
And Alan, he’s one of the best. Makes sense – he’s been skiing Platty for 20 years.
The past two weekends have given us some of best the skiing/riding yet. (I am still grinning from the incredible track-refilling snow of Super Bowl Sunday).
Long weekend coming up. I look forward to my next lesson.
A quick shout out to Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis, Never Summer, Harpoon Ales and Bomber! And an even bigger shout out to the Plattekill crew for battling the warm weather to give us some great snow to ski/ride this past weekend.
What a great demo day.
Companies like these are close to my heart - small, independently-owned and operated, and like Platty – representing a true love of the sport. Or, rather – a lifestyle.
Because that is what it is, isn’t it? It goes beyond just being a sport. Skiing/riding…it’s a way of life, a way of experiencing the mountains, creating memories. The essence of skiing is a real engagement with the outdoors, not just an appreciation for it. You develop a relationship with it, and ultimately, a true respect for it.
My friend (and fellow blogger) Jennifer said that she loved seeing young people take up skiing because she felt that it was as though they were the “social security” of the sport. That the industry would continue to thrive both for us, and for future generations.
I feel the same about small companies, such as those who demoed with us. They are making sure there are new ideas, new innovations – always evolving. And these new industry voices are also our “social security.” Small, independent American companies giving people who love the sport a career built from their passion. A passion you can see in the craftsmanship and design of their work.
This is not only their lifestyle - it’s their livelihood.
Being able to test out and then to speak to the actual artisans who design and craft Shaggy’s skis was such an inspiring experience. You could hear the pride when they explained the materials, and the different models. They weren’t just repping a product – they were sharing their very own creations.
It’s that same feeling of pride and ownership I find at Plattekill. Both on the mountain, and off. Everyone seems to want to share their experience. On the lift, you’ll hear people yelling down, encouraging their friends, their fellow skiers/riders. You can't help but notice a tremendous sense of community and love of the place. A kind of personal attachment to something you feel something is truly special.
I was lucky enough to be able to ski with my friends Jennifer and David (who rip), and even though the open terrain was limited, we skied the hell out of it. The snow was so good, so fun… we just couldn’t stop, and had to literally force ourselves inside for sustenance. “Did someone mention Quesadilla?”
And after, there was a great band in the lodge, even a ski raffle. (I didn’t win, but congrats to the guy who did).
Thank you Platty. Thank you for the lifestyle.
MLK weekend and Plattekill, like all other area resorts, was up against it.
All of that beautiful, heaven-sent snow was being washed away by a very inconsiderate and torrential rainstorm rudely descending on our mountain just as the weekend approached and we were finally thawing from a glacial freeze.
But you can’t keep a good mountain down. As soon as the temps hit freezing the guns were prepped and the fight was on.
Ice crystals hung to literally every branch, making the entire forest look as though it were made of glass. I have to say, it was pretty amazing, and it took a bit of the sting out. A reminder that whether the conditions are perfect, or challenged - these mountains are absolutely beautiful.
As I took a line down Upper Face under the guns, it was all I could do not to laugh as I snaked turns in the fresh snow – snow that was being made in abundance, and had completely transformed the resort from an ice rink the day before. The conditions were getting better by the minute.
How else to toast our favorite mountain?
Psyched for this weekend and all the NEW snow!
Opening weekend at Plattekill, and this past Sunday, I finally made it out. Descending onto Meeker Hollow Road, I was welcomed by a bright, clear morning. Snow still clung to the windswept fields, and to every branch shouldering the road. The conditions seemed great.
Gearing up in the lodge, sunlight beamed in through the massive windows, lighting up the empty bar. There was only a handful of us – quickly getting ready, nodding to one another, eager to kick off a new season.
Finally out, I rode the triple thinking of a first run on Upper Face. They were blowing snow on the side (skier’s left) and there seemed to be good untracked lines along the tree line although there would be some maneuvering through the whales under the guns. I love riding these, before they ice up. These were nicely spaced and created a chute near the trees.
Being newly gunned, the snow was a little heavy, but the pitch was steep enough to push through it (with tight turns, staying forward and square to the fall line.) Once backseat I nearly ate it - that’ll wake you right up when you are so close to the trees/guns.
Halfway down I heard someone behind and I pulled to the side. A woman whished past, absolutely killing it. Effortless turns, absorption, completely fluid. As if she were carving perfect corduroy and not the chopped, bumped-up, completely UN-smooth UN-forgiving line we were on.
Impressed, I nodded to her. “Beautiful,” she said, grinning.
Yeah. That’s what it is.
On a groomer, in the trees, picking your way down the side of a trail between six-foot rollers, there are always opportunities (if you choose) for Plattekill to challenge, to push you.
Legs burning, I hit the lodge to warm up. And, in what seems to be commonplace at Plattekill - I recognized someone. A man was sitting up with his two young daughters a few tables away. I remembered him from the trail-clearing crew. He introduced himself as Brian, and his two daughters, Ava and Lia.
All three wore the cheerful, wind-nipped faces of a family who had already put in plenty of turns that day. We chatted for a while, and they invited me to take some runs with them. John and his family live in north NJ and rent a place near the mountain every winter, for years they’ve spent their weekends at Plattekill. He told me he wanted his daughters to continue to learn on this mountain, because it constantly challenged them, made them learn to handle any conditions.
From the way they slayed every run I took with them, their dedication to Plattekill paid off. We eventually hit Upper Face, and I barely kept up with them. They even managed a few jumps off the rollers.
When we met at the bottom Brian called out to the man running the lift, “Bob, how’s it going?”
“Living the life,” he replied. “One chair at a time.”
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
Winter is coming. Bad for the people of Westeros. But, (and please excuse me geeking out over Game of Thrones)—thank R’HLLOR. (Again, apologies…but the season only ended a few weeks back, I haven’t fully recovered.)
Okay, so yes—Summer. You had your place. You will always have your place. But even the best beaches, trails and Mojitos just don’t feed my soul like those first turns on SNOW.
And…here we are. Summer is winding down—packing its bags, looking under the bed, the mattress; making certain the closets are cleared out—finally preparing to check out.
I, for one, am ready to move on. Fall is emerging…bringing the promise of cool nights, crisp apples, inching us ever closer to a Plattekill winter.
I’ve been dreaming about skiing for the past three (six?) months. At least once a week it seems. For me, it really never goes away. Always there, like a Golden Retriever running alongside, stick in mouth, reminding you that there is sooo much FUN to be had, if you’ll just shelve this daily grind and FOLLOW ME INTO THE MOUNTAINS!
That voice in the back of your head…causing that weekly (daily?) click on winter videos, pictures, gear sales, all things NOT work-related.
Recently I was at a yard sale (an “actual” one, not created whilst tomahawking down a one too many steeps) and found a 1975 ski poster by Lou Zansky called simply: ON THE SLOPES.
I don’t know what it was about this picture. There are more ski–related graphics than is worth mentioning in any retailer, website, or dorm room. But this one stuck.
Maybe it was how it perfectly captured the 70’s vibe—skis long, straight, planky. Knees locked together, pivoting from the hips—a style that truly was, well, STYLISH.
I grew up skiing in Southeast Idaho, my home mountain was Pebble Creek (just a bit south of Pocatello, for anyone familiar with the area). It was such a cool, unsullied mountain. And VERY steep. I say unsullied (no this is NOT a purposeful GoT reference), because it was a local’s mountain. EVERYONE knew EVERYONE, from the folks running the lifts to the Patrollers to the kitchen staff.
Maybe because it was remote, or because of its smaller size compared to other Idaho/Utah resorts (located just a few hours from Salt Lake), it instilled a tremendous loyalty from us. And gave in return. A place that valued its own, and from this grew a true local culture.
I am sure that any mountain will claim this, and I am sure that to some degree, they all have it. But in all the years I’ve been skiing, Plattekill is the only place that has given me that same “feel.” of where I grew up. The feel of a true HOME mountain. And yeah, it’s the people. (More on that throughout the season).
I’m new to Platty. I’ve lived in the Catskills for the past 8 years after being in NYC since 2001. And I don’t pretend to know the mountain, or the culture, like any of you. But I am thrilled and honored to share my perspective as a newcomer, and I want to share what I see on the hill and spread my excitement about it to as many as I can—while of course preserving short lift lines.
And now, back to that poster.
I was thinking of celebrating the Old School in the run-up to the season. Jen and I are going to exploring the past to get excited about the very-near future—the “keeping it real” of ski history that is Platty’s feel and vibe. We will be posting classic ski videos and images to get you all primed for the new season.
If you’re cool with it, please hang with us while we dig around in the garage a little bit. In the meantime—I keep it real below: Me at 16. I’m the one in the pink goggles. Indeed.