The Royal Mountain Refill

After all that sweet midweek vacation day powder, I had to work the weekend and rain was in the forecast. My best shot at keeping the stoke alive was grabbing a few laps Saturday morning before work.

I wanted to go somewhere new and uncharted. Early Saturday, I headed east on the Thruway and in an hour I was pulling into Royal Mountain.

If you’ve know of Royal Mountain, then you may also know of Jim Blaise. The hardworking owner of Royal, he kept the mountain alive and adapted however he could. Now 50 years later he’s handed the reins over to his protege Jake Tennis. The Tennis family, by all accounts, will be great owners.

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Willard Mountain: Rising Up

Willard emerges abruptly, erupting out of the flats as you approach on NY Route 40, a prominence amid the meandering farmlands 30 miles north of Albany. The suddenness of it is stunning, delivering the sort of skiing-where-no-skiing-should-be sensation common to approaches to the Midwest ski hills from my youth.

Willard Mountain view

It’s a busy place. Even on a Friday and half an hour before the lifts opened, I followed a bunched line of cars edging along the network of narrow backroads accessing the ski area. In the lodge I waited in a line for my ticket, the first time since Hunter’s opening day. It’s also a friendly place, the woman at the counter thanking me profusely for “coming out and joining us” as she handed me a pair of sticky wicket tickets.

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Gore Mountain: Packed Out Trees

This season, the new normal rewards weekday skiing even more than usual, at least for me. It’s not ticket availability or crowd issues; this year my family needs me more on the weekends.

The result is I’ve had fewer total ski days, with more day trips to Plattekill and reduced overnights at Gore. The skiing has been great this season, so it’s all good.

First tracks on 46er
First on 46er

Still, before this trip I had only five days on my SKI3 Pass, four at Gore and one at Belleayre. With a chance of snow forecast for Tuesday of President’s Week, I planned to ski Gore on Sunday and Monday and Gore or Whiteface on Tuesday.

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