In a low snow year, Hunter was reporting most of its terrain open. Weather forecasts were calling for a warm and sunny April day in March and I was thinking about Hunter for a day of midweek skiing.
Temperatures ranged from the 40s to the 60s on my ride up, base to summit. The baseball hat and sunglasses were mandatory, but I was comfortable in my light ski pants with shorts underneath, a breathable shirt and a windbreaker.
Normal for midweek, the lifts and trails were empty. Hunter was hosting the annual fireman’s races and there were plenty of firemen on the mountain, some wearing full gear and some wearing shorts only.
It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. It was February and a dead brown stretched across the hills of NY like a widow’s veil. My eyes mourned for winters past and for winters yet to come.
But under my feet it was different. Under my feet were my favorite pair of skis and soft, beautiful snow. Yes by Dickens, this has been the winter of despair. Killington has had less snowfall than New York City. Puffy parkas are languishing in backs of closets alongside wedding dresses and graduation gowns.
But I’m here to quell your fears. Skiing isn’t dead yet. This ski season isn’t dead. I can assure you, for I found meaning in the Catskills this past week at Plattekill and Hunter.
It wasn’t the first day of the season at Plattekill; the words Day 5 were printed on lift tickets. But it was the first time this year that the triple chair delivered skiers to the top, and Laszlo was welcoming all to “opening day.”
I set my alarm for 4am and was on road before five. A text from Mountain Ops the previous day indicated that one top-to-bottom run was likely via Sundown and Lower Face, and riding on Upper Face was still a possibility.
When we arrived guns were running on Upper Face and it was 12 degrees and calm at the base. I started to think it was going to be a gun running day, until I learned that it was an astonishing twenty degrees warmer at the top.