Feeder Hills Build Skiing

A recent installment of Stuart Winchester’s Storm Skiing Journal newsletter highlighted the ridiculous window lift ticket prices at many big resorts. The price inflation is even more astounding when compared to the much lower price a skier would pay to ski at these same hills with an Ikon or Epic pass or some other heavily discounted ticket product.

Campgaw
Campgaw

I know that if I skied a few times a year and was asked for $209 when I walked up to the ticket window, I’d be tempted to turn around and leave, no matter how far I’d driven. These prices must make it more difficult for young skiers to stick with the sport.

If I’d had to pay those kind of prices for a day ticket I doubt that I would have stuck with the sport. It’s even less likely that I would have gotten my kids into it. But we don’t have to rely on the big resort conglomerates to recruit future skiers. If we did, skiing might already be dead. The way I see it those big companies are exploiting skiing, not building the sport.

Mount Peter
Mount Peter

Readers of this blog might remember that my family’s favorite little ski hill is Mount Peter in Warwick, NY. This is where my kids learned to ski and learned to be skiers. We had season passes there for a few years but even when we bought day tickets, Mount Peter was affordable. The most you will pay for a day ticket at Mount Peter this year is $63. If you’re trying out skiing for the first time and buy a ticket and rental on a weekend, Mount Peter will give you a lesson for free.

Another great local feeder hill is Thunder Ridge in Patterson, NY. Thunder Ridge has a lot in common with Mount Peter. It’s similar vertical and a bit more acreage. If I lived on that side of the river, it would definitely be my kids’ home mountain. A weekend full day ticket costs $59 and you can get to Patterson by train on Metro North. In the past they have offered discounted train/ski packages. Check their website for updates if this interests you.

night skiing

Even closer to NYC is Campgaw Mountain, in Mahwah, NJ. Campgaw is really small but it’s got heart- and everything else required to teach a youngster to ski. It is so close to the city that on a clear day, you can see the New York skyline from the lift and a weekend ticket is $53. All these hills have lower prices for weekdays and nights; the prices quoted are the highest I could find. Campgaw’s midweek night skiing ticket costs $29.

Lifelong skiers are born at feeder hills. These are small, mostly independent operations usually owned and run by families one generation after another. Feeder hills may not have a lot of vertical or acreage, big hotels or white tablecloth restaurants but they do have ski schools, night skiing and kids’ race programs. These are the things that really count in skiing. Thank god for feeder hills and the families that run them. As skiers, we owe them everything.

27 comments on “Feeder Hills Build Skiing

  1. The best feeder hill and the one I learned on and loved was Bobcat Ski Center in Andes, NY in the Catskills. Best and most unique trails I have ever navigated. Sure miss it and would have loved for my son to appreciate it.

  2. I learned to ski and grew up skiing at Snowy Acres outside of Cobleskill NY. It only had a rope tow and I still have my “gripper.” That was 60 years ago and now I have a 70+ season pass at Gore.

    Thank god for these small places that keep skiing going. The big resorts seem to have little interest in growing the $port.

  3. I grew up skiing at Belleayre Mountain in the fifties. As a kid, a season pass was $30. If we went to Highmount an all-lift ticket was 50 cents.

  4. I grew up at Holiday Mountain in Bridgeville 5 minutes from my house growing up (you can see the chairlift from Route 17…You can take a bus from school to mountain, ski at night…and just create muscle memory by waiting 15 minutes to get up the hill and skiing down in 90 seconds. Many of those I skied with are great skiers today. My next door neighbor (we built ski jumps between our houses) and I brought in extreme ski wear (Club a) out of Finland to Vail and sponsored a number of movies (Blizzard of Aaaahs). It all started from a small mountain. What is disappointing today is there is lack of support (or will) in bringing new skiers to the mountains from urban cities..Holiday Mountain growing up used to have 50 buses on weekends with inner city kids…many first time skiers.

  5. I didn’t grow up skiing a “feeder hill” but sure appreciate them now. There have to be more people than me getting sick of paid parking, $20 burgers, and 45 minute lift lines. Besides, when you ride on a surface lift you get to ski up and down.

  6. Mt. Peter and Thunder Ridge are not high enough to get much snow – most of the feeder hills just cannot survive in todays economy – the costs are just too high. Some of the best ski racers have come from mountains that are only 600 vertical, I agree with you 100%. The sport has never been inexpensive but now out of reach for many. I ski at a mountain in the northern Catskills – and for a family of four it can easily be well over $200.

    At this point gas at my local station is $2..65 a galloon, add tolls and other minor costs it is very expensive. BUT ONCE YOU ARE HOOKED AND ADDICTED SOME HOW YOU DO IT .

  7. For a feeder hill, I can’t recommend Cockaigne enough. I’m a very experienced skier and I love going there. Awesome employees and facilities. It’s on the Chautauqua ridge so it actually gets more snow than Holiday Valley or HoliMont.

  8. All good stuff here, and I agree wholeheartedly with the importance of these smaller, local areas. As a kid I worked as an instructor at Campgaw, and now my kids have learned to ski there. They have night skiing and all sorts of ticket options which makes it very affordable to this day. One thing I don’t agree with is that $63 for a junior, $67 for a weekend ticket at Mt Peter is reasonable. To be honest it’s kind of outrageous, and we’ve practically stopped going there because of it. It’s a great little hill and we’ve have many fun days there, but to drop that kind of cash for a family of four, add in food, a few beers, god forbid you have to rent gear and we’re talking $300 – $400 easy. Unless you have season passes and you’re brown bagging it you’ll go broke in no time.

  9. Still enjoy the feeders from time to time. Let’s face it. Doug Fish nailed it with the Indy Pass. Catering to the occasional or new skiers and all skiers. Why not get a part of the pie rather than nothing. If done right it’s a win win. Gets people to go where normal they might not. Affordability. Giving back to promote the industry. Sliding scale of course. You have to be profitable. Sure the price has gone up. Gone from 44 to over 70 mountains now. It should go up on that alone. Nothing compared to what the big guy are doing. Why cut off the hand that feeds you. But they do it. Time and time again. People pay. We need more people like Doug Fish in the ski industry. Lucky there are still enough decent people promoting the industry. So join a pass that saves you green so you can enjoy this thing we all do that is the ultimate form of freedom of expression. See you on the slopes. PEACE

  10. I must agree with the article and the readers comments. Small ski areas are the future of the big mountain skiing. I learned to ski at Swain and Bristol Mountain along with my children. They attended learning brigades on weekends and school ski clubs in the evening. The cost was relatively inexpensive at the time. I still get my season pass at Bristol and travel was as often as possible. But, now I do see the struggles my daughter and her family dealing with the cost of even small mountain skiing.

  11. Damn straight Brownski. I’ll be honest I must be a sap for these slopes because I got a little weepy reading the last paragraph. My first run was at Big Birch in the late seventies. I went straight down the mountain because I didn’t know how to turn. Luckily the run mellowed out and I was able to stop because I didn’t know how to do that either. It was awesome. Years later I still like to point ‘em. Now it’s called Thunder Ridge and thankfully new kids can have the same experience. These hills are the workhorse of our sport. Thank you for giving them the spotlight they deserve.

  12. $150 season pass ( weekend) or $250 every day at Caberfae here in Michigan.
    Best 485’ vert man made peaks with a family ( Meyers) who has owned and run it over 40 years.
    Gas just jacked to $3.50, just in time for winter driving.

  13. Lots of schools went there are night – too bad it is at a low altitude – fun in the area.

  14. Remember to take lessons from a psia-aasi pro and then you will really enjoy your days on the hill(s).

  15. Well said Brownski, there are some resources to make things more affordable if you know where to look. iSkiNY Passport for 3rd and 4th graders is a great deal. Vt does one for 5th graders as well. I grew up skiing Big Birch, aka big bump, now Thunder Ridge and taught my kids to ski at Mt Peter. Spent more than one day there skiing with NFL gear on to get $10 off lift tickets!!

  16. Out west food chain stores like Wendy’s and supermarkets sell discounted tickets. grew up in westchester and went to concord for first lesson and holiday mt. hated it.
    went to vail- had great lessons and bought good equipment- 38 years later still skiing and teaching at THE ADAPTIVE SPORTS FOUNDATION – BASED IN WINDHAM, NY .

    Have skied Europe – So. America – and virtually all of the resorts in USA and Canada. It is the best way to make life long friends – there any many Veteran programs who can use a ski buddy – many programs in your area just contact your local VA. GIVE BACK YOU SHALL RECEIVER MORE THAN YOU GIVE-SUNSHINE- AND DEEP POWDER- PEACE

  17. Another nice piece of work Brown! I learned at Maple Ski ridge, I was so young I didn’t pay attention to where it was and never went back but it was a great place to start! then we would take a school bus to Willard mountain one day a week. Got a Beast midweek pass and an Epic local as we figure to catch as many storms as possible this winter.

    My cousin used to tell me about Thunder Ridge he lived close enough to ride his atv around there

    Ski hard & have fun!

  18. I learned to ski and grew up skiing at Hickory Hill in Warrensburg, NY. It had a rope tow, T Bar and Poma and there’s no place like it! That was 60 years ago and it is still going strong. Opening this season due to alot of faithful stockholders who put in sweat equity in the fall to get the place in shape for winter. I can’t wait to go back this year.

  19. I’ve written a couple of pieces on this topic at UnofficialAlpine.com, an unofficial ski blog for Alpine Meadows in Lake Tahoe.

    Keep up the great work Brownski!

  20. Feeders indeed. I have a clipping from The Ridgewood News, circa February 1970, that shows our family skiing Campgaw as 6 & 7 year olds.

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