By Bob Nesoff
It may have been a mild summer in most parts of the country and predictions of what kind of winter it’s going to be simply prove that most weather reporters are little more than witch doctors who spin a Ouija Board, see where the needle stops and then make a weather prediction.
That information is especially critical to skiers who live in metropolitan and suburban areas far from the high peaks. But by calling the desired ski area, you can get the latest skinny on the weather, conditions, snow pack and other critical information. Usually that info is straight as they don’t want you taking an hours-long drive to find out all you have is either slush of a thin covering.
One of the best ski areas to a metropolitan population is Belleayre Mountain in Highmount, New York. It draws skiers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Belleayre is located within an easy drive of so many urban and suburban centers. With that, it is generally an easier resort with lift lines that move easily and faster than other ski areas.
Belleayre is in a good location for winter weather. It’s in a snowbelt and does not suffer from the mixed malady that ski resorts in the flatlands suffer. Many of them melt, freeze, melt and freeze again offering a surface that is icy and uneven.
That being said, as do most ski resorts, even many out west, they have an extensive snowmaking capability. As soon as the temperature drops to a regular 28 degrees, they start to blow snow. And that keeps up even when nature provides its own powder. The combination of natural and man-made increases the depth of the snow on the trails. Out West that could be several feet deep in resorts that more often than not receive well over 100-innches of snow ever year.
Belleayre calculates that it’s been (as of mid-October) some 213 days since the area closed for the season. A representative for Belleayre commented:
“Not to say that we didn’t enjoy the summer months, there was tons of fun week in and week out. But the whole time, we’d be lying if we didn’t say we were just staring up the mountain at the green-colored slopes, waiting for them to turn white once more.”
As the chill began to settle into the low-ands the snowmakers began the chore of starting a base of man-mad snow. There was a cold-snap offering a 36-hour window of temperatures cold enough to blow powder They fired up the snow guns and began to coat a portion of the available slopes. The weather can’t always be counted on the cooperate and periodically, after the guns were blowing artificial snow, it would warm up and melt what had been laid down.
But there was enough for Belleayre’s regular customers, the season pass holders. The area opened for one day to give them an exclusive start to the season. Holders of the Ski3 (season pass holders) were welcomed to come out and get their mountain legs working again.
The season pass holders were able to enjoy the Hawk Quad lift carrying four skiers at a clip. That was formerly known as Lift #8, leading to expert slopes. Also open were Upper and Lower Seneca and Upper and Lower Peekamoose.
The anticipated full opening to the general public is the day after Thanksgiving (if the snow gods cooperate).
Belleayre offers skiers two lodges, upper and lower. There is a decent offering of “Lodge Food,” nothing gourmet, but tasty and filling. The caveat here is to get into the lodge of your choice early enough for seating and many seem to come off the slopes at the same time.
For those new to the slopes, it is important that you choose one that works for your degree of skill. Green markers indicate the easiest slopes; blue circles denote intermediate runs and black diamonds are for experiences skiers and experts.
If you find yourself on a slope that is beyond your ability, you can do one of two things. Ask the lift operator to stop the lift and let you ride it back down. That should be an option of last resort. You can check the trail markers and see if there are any slopes that meet your ability level or bite the bullet and head down slope. The best way to do that is to ski the slope slowly and from side-to-side, using the entire width of the slope. Then, kick yourself in the pants for not checking the signs before you went uphill.
Also, remember, the color designations are different at most every area. While they denote the level for that particular mountain, a green on one might be the equivalent of a blue on another. Same for blue and black. It is the skier’s responsibility to ski the appropriate level of ability.
While virtually every ski area has a ski school, the one at Belleayre is beyond excellent. Children of virtually any age are handled by professionals who instill the love of skiing to the youngsters. But older people are also given professional treatment of Belleayre’s instructors. A good practice, even for experience down-slopers, is to start for a couple of runs on the greens, just to loosen up. Then go on to the area of choice. Discuss what you can do with your Belleayre instructor and listen to his/her advice. Be smart, don’t take foolish chances and above all don’t become a loose-cannon down hill rocket. That could cause you and others injury.
There are buses, public and charter that can get you to Belleayre. There is ample parking for upper and lower mountain skiers. For those driving, take the New York Thruway to Exit 16. You’ll see the notation for Kingston. Come off slowly and head West on Rote 28 (Mile-marker 91.37). It’s about a half hour drive through some quaint small towns, extensive reservoir systems and some beautiful country.
Enjoy! Be safe.
Photos are courtesy of Belleayre Mountain