IF THERE WAS ANY QUESTION as to whether we were getting twitchy and anxious for the snow to fly, the 53 STRONG who showed up the past Saturday to cut / clear glades for this year’s tree skiing MADE IT VERY CLEAR: enough with the Mai Tais and flipflops; sweater-weather, we love you, but our hearts are aching for something even colder, faster. We want the season which haunts our summer dreams and pulls at us, unbearably at times, with the turn of the leaves.

Also – a quick shout out to NYSkiBlog for giving everyone a heads-up on this amazing annual event! Word spread and we had a record turnout!

Whether driven by impatience, excitement, or just plain curiosity, a SMALL ARMY arrived at Plattekill last Saturday.

Armed with 50+ pairs of gloves, saws, axes, machetes, and other bladed implements of destruction we descended upon Plattekill like the last stanchion of civilization facing down a zombie apocalypse.

Boarding the double, making the ascent, viewing the mountain as we will every weekend for 5 (please, please, please) or even (God-willing) 6 months, made the season feel even closer.

Some even pretended to ski off the lift, taking mock turns as they ran down the ramp in their hiking boots.

We split into two groups of about 20 or so and went after it. My group started in the trees just above Northface, accessed by the bike trails off to skier’s right when heading to Overlook. It’s a great intro to tree skiing as it’s fairly a mellow pitch and wide enough to make longer turns if you feel the need. The mantra “if you want to ski it, cut it” AND “cut ‘em low” was repeated as small crews broke off to clear some fantastic lines.

It’ll be a great place to get into the glades with plenty of bailouts and mellow sections for those getting their legs, but also some nice drops for the more aggressive, seeking air-time. Landings and exits all thought-out and cleared with plenty of space to check speed and make last-second adjustments before hitting the next section of woods.

Landings are particularly important to these two already planning a season of GoPro-worthy sessions.

We continued down, cutting new connecting trails between Overlook and Ridge. Fairly aggressive and steep, but rather short and the tree spacing feels very manageable.

The challenge, as it is every year – will be to find them once there is snow cover.

This was the biggest crew by far and everywhere I looked I’d see groups cutting undergrowth, stacking felled trees, seeking out new routes to uncover.

We eventually broke for lunch and met back up at the lodge… sore and thankful for the chance to spend a perfect fall day with friends some of us only get to see during the season, doing what we all love to do.

ROUND TWO – we stayed together and cleared out the sections between Twist, Lower Twist, and Northface. This will be a nice tight line with bailouts to Northface throughout.  Andy, Roman and I cleared some pretty amazing jumps with landings and runouts into the side sections of Northface. They should attract the seriously air-hungry in addition to those who want to quickly duck into the woods for a small kicker and then pop back out to the groomed.

Throughout the day the sound of chainsaws, cutting, and chopping reverberated across the mountain and you just couldn’t help but think that yeah… this is so what it’s about. What Plattekill is about.

With every cleared trail, with every new line, we were forging a new relationship, a new experience with the mountain, putting our own personal stamp on it.

Before lunch, Laszlo pulled over in a mud-covered jeep and asked how it was going. I told him it was easily one of the highlights of the year…the kickoff to the season… and what an incredible gift to be able to create and customize your own skiing experience. “Yeah'” he smiled, “If you want to ski it, cut it yourself.”

Exactly. Thank you.

And THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO CAME OUT.

It was great seeing old friends, and making new ones; I can’t wait to seek out and take these new runs with each of you.