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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Labrador: Under the Radar

It was ski-on just about all day. There were small crowds, cheap(er) tickets, no reservations required. There was plenty of natural snow, a variety of terrain to choose from, fun low angle trees… three cool old fixed grip chairs and a T bar. I discovered that Labrador Mountain in Truxton, NY is awesome. The only thing I couldn’t figure out is how I’d gone this long without checking the place out.

road to Labrador

When I got home from my first visit there, I decided to do some research. I pulled out a couple of books I have on ski history and was surprised to find no mention of either Labrador Mountain or Truxton, NY. I turned to Wikipedia and was astounded to find that there was no page for Lab.

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Ready for Maple Ski Ridge

I’ve had it with the liftlines. I’ve had it with crowds and icy groomers and high-speed mega-resort hype. So had my daughter. We wanted someplace low-speed and low-key.

Someplace cheap and out of the way and un-intimidating. Someplace where you could glide onto the lift without hovering close to the inconsistently masked skiers.

We found it. Maple Ski Ridge, a 270-vertical-foot hill, is a few miles off the Thruway and 25 miles outside of Albany. It shouldn’t, I thought, be crowded. Outside of local families, I figured most people would head up to West or Gore or south to the Catskills. And if I figured wrong – an adult holiday lift ticket, purchased online in advance — was only $39.

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