Closing Day at Hunter 2011

Closing day is a complicated event for most die-hard skiers. Every spring, when people start talking about sunny 70-degree weather, truly passionate skiers have trouble getting excited about it, in April or May, or even June.

Regardless of the weather, closing day always does offer some closure, like an outdoor group therapy session. It’s wishing away the upcoming warm weather, sharing beers with strangers, Chinese downhills to get a last chair before closing, and my personal favorite, cheap tickets.

Hunter was talking about closing April 10th, or possibly hanging on for another week if the rain didn’t hit. The party day was apparently on Saturday, with the annual pond skimming and true blue bird conditions, but most were hoping for another week.

Riding the Six Pack

On Sunday, Greg and I rode the chairs together, our last-minute plans cobbled together when the forecast changed in Brooklyn at 6:30am. We were so glad, we headed up. In a mere six minutes, the new six-pack provided interesting characters to ride with, hip-crushing spectacles to gawk at, and a nice view of all those fantasy cliff drops.

The Blackhead Range

When things are winding down, every run takes on new meaning. Each turn is a crusade for a perfect arc and weight transfer. There’s zen in each lift ride, and everyone is your new friend.

Zipperline along the Cliffs

But this closing was even better than most. We were fortunate to be able to enjoy the steeps on a near 100 percent open Hunter West, and my favorite Meatball Sub (hold the cheese) at any ski area on the continent was still available in the cafeteria.

Shredding the Gnar on Hunter West

It wasn’t the proudest closing day ever. We didn’t have deep powder like they have in Utah or some years in Vermont. We didn’t have a raging Cinco-de-Mayo party with tequila shots and beach volleyball. But I was proud to be a Hunter skier, in the capital of snowmaking and a literal living ski history museum. The coverage was terrific, the corn superlative, and there was enough of the product to think about hiking up to some shadowy trails in June. It’s tough to ask for any more than that, but I’m glad I took a few shots so I can remember how much fun Hunter is on a perfect and empty day.

8 comments on “Closing Day at Hunter 2011

  1. I don’t mind showing my ignorance. What is a Chinese downhill? Thanks in advance for the reply.

  2. Very well written piece. However, I agree with Jamesdeluxe. “Living ski history museum?” Um, that would be Whiteface or Bromley or Mad River Glen. Ride the circa 1947 Single at MRG and ski natural snow down Chute if you want a living ski museum. Hunter is Hunter. Big, loud, cut and slash trail layout, NYC streets as trailnames, and about as subtle as Yankee Stadium during a game against the Red Sox. Not a ski museum.

  3. Hunter is more important than most people think. It might not have the nostalgia that MRG has, or even the iconic profile of Whiteface, but I would argue that it did more to popularize skiing than any other area in the northeast. Because it was started by a Hammerstein son, same family as the popular venue in New York City it drew a special class of celebrities to ski there. But it’s proximity to NY meant that it was close enough that regular joes could taste the high life ski lifestyle in a short drive. It was really democratic in that way. The slutskys that built the trails are also the same ones that built the trails at Plattekill and Bearpen (RIP). They picked up the mountain from Hammerstein after a few seasons and own it to this day. You can’t point at many ski areas that have had the same owners for 50 years. Certainly not Stowe, Killington, etc.

    I have no numbers to prove it, but talking to people of my dad’s generation, it seems that more people learned to ski there than at any other mountain in the area, by far. Finally, as many mountains in the area started dying out, Hunter invested big time in snowmaking, figuring out how to automate it and experimenting with a lot of new technology to cover the hill. Sure, weekends can be a little hectic but I think the lack of appreciation is undeserved. It’s a great spot and a weekday with a little fresh is pure bliss.

  4. Ml, well said, Some people still think Hunter is the same mountain it was in the late 70s early 80s. I remember crushing crowds and and 45min – 1hr lift lines on A lift. All that has changed. Lift lines are more than manageable, even on a busy Saturday. Even the clientele has changed, not so Guido (sp) anymore. If anything you hear more Russian and other Eastern European languages . Every year I see more improvements and a management that really wants to put out the best product possible.

  5. OK, I will confess: I haven’t skied Hunter since 1982. Yes, I remember those 45 minute lift lines, and all the crazy out of control 18 year olds fresh off school buses from downstate. Glad to hear things have significantly improved. I’ll still take Gore, Whiteface, or Belleayre, however.

  6. You’re right, Mr. 70s. Hunter may be close to NYC and has provided many with their first ski experiences, but it is the most unaesthetic ski area in the East. The trails are just blasted out of the mountain, definitely no feng shui, and they’ll never be able to get it. The place has a sterile feel to it. That said, it has some fine steeps that make it worth the trip…. IF you can catch it on a day when the crowds are not around.

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