Hickory or Not?

There’s a significant group of skiers out there who’ve had a great day at Hickory. Certainly enough to fill up the ski center after a storm. When you consider the total number of ski days Hickory has operated over the last 10 years, that’s really kind of amazing.

Hickory fire pit

Personally I’ve had six days at Hickory, five of them in winter, all were unforgettable. So yea, people like me, we’re out there.

Many of us wish we had another shot at it. I know I do. If I had known my last Hickory ski day was going to be my last Hickory ski day, by golly, I would have skied harder. Many also understand why Hickory has been closed the last few years.

Said simply, the mountain doesn’t have the uphill capacity to be sustainable. In its current configuration, even in an ideal winter, the ski center can’t serve enough skiers to cover expenses. The upgrades required to make the math work, would be expensive and they would dramatically change the character of Hickory.

Since the ski center was last open in 2015, there has been a group of constituents including owners, local skiers, the Ivy Ski Club, business people, politicians and investors working to answer a question: what kind of financial structure — beyond the traditional model of day tickets, season passes, lessons and rentals — could work to preserve Hickory?

Honey Run skier

Many of those with a long history with the mountain want Hickory to serve a function in the community, with a focus on kids. A few years ago there was discussion of operating the Tbar only, to provide ski lessons for beginners and young children.

This past summer the base lodge was used by Camp Echo Lake and the lawn was used for a fundraising picnic. But what lies ahead?

Recently a group of local businessmen have added their own vision for the property to the conversation. Ideas have included creating a mountain bike park, using the lodge as a snowmobile stop and developing real estate on the backside of the hill. Any and all of it is still on the table.  But some ideas are more firmly in place for the upcoming season.

The Hickory Plan

Hickory can’t survive if we just show up on a Saturday morning, schralp the new snow for a few hours and take off. This is how the hill ran the last few years it was open and it didn’t work.  Skiers can’t expect the owner to continue to operate and cover the losses incurred each year.

Hickory Tbar

The year is a test of something new. The plan involves running the ski center with two distinct financial entities.

The Hickory Legacy Foundation

The first is the Hickory Legacy Foundation. The foundation’s mission will be to provide outdoor and educational programs and services to support healthy lifestyles of regional youth and families, protect and steward the Three Sisters range, and provide historic preservation of the ski area. It will have operational responsibility for the base lodge, T-bar and handle tow as a community based center to serve families and kids. Incorporated as a 501C3 — similar to the Stark Mountain Club at Mad River Glen — it will be structured to accept and direct charitable donations.

The foundation will offer season passes and day tickets for the lower mountain in the winter season and non-lift access to the entire mountain in winter, spring, summer and fall seasons. Local schools will work with the mountain to take advantage of an outdoor education and winter sports program. Local students will get a special discount for lower mountain skiing.

The “Mountain Access Pass” will grant access for hikers, skinners, cross country skiers and snowshoers with the price based on season of use. Mountain Access passholders will have permission to climb the mountain under their own power at anytime. Hickory is installing a self-registration kiosk for day use and Mountain Access passholders. The Mountain Access Pass provides the financial support to keep Hickory ready to operate should conditions make it possible.

Poma 1

On the lower mountain, a tubing slalom has been added next to the handle tow. The tubing slalom, T-bar and handle tow will operate with lighted slopes Wednesday through Friday 2-8pm, Saturday 9-8 and Sunday 9-4, when conditions allow.

The upper lodge room has been equipped with video-conference capability for corporate groups to further support the effort. There will be free wi-fi in the lodge.

The Hickory Historic Preservation License

The second entity is a for profit corporation that will offer the Hickory Historic Preservation License (HPPL). Alpine skiers will have an opportunity to purchase a license for access to the upper mountain lifts and ski trails. License holders will have first access to lift tickets for Poma 1 and Poma 2, should weather permit them to spin. The HPPL provides the additional support to keep Hickory pomas ready to operate if conditions make it possible.

There will be a limited number of licenses sold. It’s likely that each license holder will have access to purchase two guest passes per season. In addition a small number of day tickets will be made available by lottery or first-come-first serverd, if demand from licence holders doesn’t reach lift capacity on a given day.

Upper mountain lifts will operate on weekends and holidays, weather permitting. There is no guarantee that upper or lower mountain lifts will spin, but it is worth noting that all lifts are serviced, operational and will be certified for the upcoming season.

Hickory Ski Center

Tbar, New Mountain Access passholders and Historic Preservation License holders will have permission to travel uphill under their own power at anytime. While it is not finalized, it seems likely that Ridge Run will be the approved uphill route.

The release of final pricing for ski season, off season and yearlong access will come in the next few weeks; it will be posted on skihickory.com.  If you are interested in being a part of Hickory, it’s recommended that you visit the site now and submit your email address for updates.

It’s clearly understood by those moving forward with this plan, that many skiers won’t be inclined to take advantage of this opportunity, with no guarantee of skiing included. But there will be no chance to ski Hickory without some mechanism for covering the two biggest costs, taxes and insurance. For those working hard to make this happen the choice is a stark one: Hickory or not?

Special thanks to Sue Winbauer Catana for her help with this piece.

21 comments on “Hickory or Not?

  1. It’s nice to see people willing to try to preserve some of these historic ski areas. Mount Greylock Ski Club has continued to operate for decades as a member supported non profit club. Hopefully this model works as well.

  2. Interesting to see how thought out this effort is. No matter how much you love a ski area, it’s tough make the decision to operate when you’ll lose more money if do you open. As we’ve learned through all the Plattekill discussions, owning a ski area, especially an independent one, is almost always a lose/lose proposition so an outside-of-the-box solution like this appears to be the only option left.

    Those are excellent pix.

  3. Thanks for bringing us this amazing news! You know all too well my connection to Hickory. I’ve had hundreds on days there on snow and not. Love to add some more.

  4. Great to see / hear the positive enthusiasm towards this project.
    Just need cooperation from Momma Nature to keep the vibe going.
    I’m all in …⛷

  5. Excellent news, thanks for the post!
    Yes, “Something Awesome is Coming”. Believe,
    let it snow. We can bring back the Mogul Madness hats. 🙂

  6. Thanks for writing on this topic, we are trying to solve this same problem at Big Tupper Ski Area. We hope to get access to the mountain this winter to start clearing trails for winter hiking, snowshoeing, etc. The community of Tupper Lake and surrounding hamlets will benefit immensely from this effort and our goals include a full mtn. rec park! Good luck to Hickory Mtn.

  7. I gotta say, I don’t quite understand. The HLF will offer Mountain Access Passes? And those cover the bottom lifts to teach a kid to ski or skin up? And then the upper area lifts are for Historic Preservation License holders? Any idea how much this stuff will cost?

  8. This is an interesting way to try to keep Hickory going. Thinking that the lifts may turn is pretty exciting. It is vaguely similar to the co-op at Mad River Glen. I guess we will have to see the details on the license. It might be worth it to have first crack at Hickory when it does snow enough to open.

  9. The 50s are never coming back, but buy a Hickory Pass, close your eyes and imagine. And hope you can afford it. And of course, pray for snow. What else?

  10. What a breath of fresh air! I never skied Hickory but we got permission once in the Fall to walk around and check it out when it was closed. Peering through the windows we got to see the round fireplace and imagine the warmth it brought to so many over the years. At the time I was more excited about the possibility of seeing skiers gathered around it again someday than skiing the mountain itself. Now, hopefully we can do both. Mount Greylock Ski Club is like stepping back into time. A treasure enjoyed year round by the truly dedicated. Thankfully, Hickory now gives that same opportunity. Time to dust off the old hickory sticks.

  11. Sign me up, it’s been way too long! Hopefully Mother Nature will do her part. The “old school Hickory folks” will come back, but it might be a tough sell to the general public. Perhaps they should have an Open House at the lodge to explain the new format and showcase the ski area to prospective newcomers, it’s going to have to be marketed properly to make it work. It’s a gem, but nobody is aware of it.

    Not sure what the difference between a lift ticket and a day ticket is, if you are a license holder. Regardless, I would want a season pass.

  12. The pricing structure is a bit complex and it took me a while to understand it. My apologies if it is still unclear.

    Hickory is dependent on natural snow, so there are no guarantees. If it doesn’t snow, there will be no skiing. But TVD is correct, the closest thing you can get to a guarantee is a license. If you want to have the best chance to ski the upper mountain, you should buy a license

    Day tickets will be subject to some kind of lottery or limitation meaning if it snows, and demand is high, you aren’t guaranteed to get one.

    With regard to “marketing” it remains to be seen how much will be needed. The quantity of licenses and tickets will not be a large number. They may sell out without much marketing. Before this piece ran I know of at least 20 skiers who are all in. And the email I have gotten indicates more are interested.

    If you really want to ski Hickory this year, I can’t emphasize this enough: Submit your email address at skihickory.com now, so you’ll be alerted as soon as licenses go on sale. The current target date is 11/25. When you get the email indicating the ticket sales are live, there will be a phone number. Call it with credit card in hand.

  13. Many people from Hickory Hill in the late 60’s and 70’s helped shape my life. I’d just like to say thank you to all those people who watched over myself and brother who spent every weekend at the little family ski area. I’m from Warrensburg and this place was a massive part of my success in life. I learned to ski moguls which lead to pretty good success as a mogul skier. In my last couple years in high-school they got me involved in teaching skiing. Then I went off to North Country Community College to a minor in a ski area management program. My very first year in college I got a job teaching skiing at Whiteface. This was a game changer in my dream of working in the ski industry. I became a full certified ski instructor at Whiteface. A couple days after graduating from Plattsburgh State I moved to Snowbird Ut. The first couple years i was a ski instructor. Then I found myself in a management job in food and beverage for 10 years. After that I got to become a ski rep that was the real dream. At this point I had spent 10 years as a competitive Mtn Bike racer. Which lead to the bicycle industry and so far 23 years in that industry. I really to point to those young years at Hickory Hill creating a love for a sport that drove so much success in life. My love for skiing created here is now shaping my kids life. First, they became ski racers and now Nordic Ski jumpers. My oldest is on the Jr National team and just came back from Lake Placid. Lots of events happening those jumps after a full refurbish. If they could just get Hickory Hill going again I’m sure this place could shape other young lives.

  14. Hi John. I was one of those young boys who chased you and Ted down the hill, and it shaped my life too. 40 years ago this January, I took my first PSIA clinic at Gore after teaching at Hickory while still competing in moguls with you and Ted. I went on to get my level II at Wildcat NH and eventually my Level III at Stowe, Vermont. I taught at Jiminy Peak in Ma, Greek Peak near Cortland, NY, at Stratton, Vt and Bromley Vt. This year I will receive my PSIA Level III 40 year pin. None of this would have happened without my childhood years skiing at Hickory. I cannot wait to ski it again.

  15. Steve, I remember and wow 40 years with PSIA that’s amazing.

    Hickory Hill sure made a great place to grow up. 11 or 12 years ago I skied one day at the mountain with my 5 year and 2 year at the time. Ryder my two year and myself end up on the cover of the Post Star. My gut says that might be how I’m ended my skiing career at Hickory Hill. Snow just isn’t consistent enough for me to probably ever hit a day with enough snow again as I still live in Utah. I actually dream about this place being a Mtn Bike park. Not a lot of Mtn. bike trails in Adirondacks so I think people would pay if it had a good network of single-track and flow trails. I see it without a lift to get people to the top. I imagine it with a low angle easy route up the mountain. Then lots different options for all levels of riders. I also see a rental operation which includes regular bikes and e-bikes. I think we will see Mtn parks with e- bikes instead of lifts as an option as e-bikes get better and better. The e-bike would be the key to getting all levels of riders using the park. Warrensburg could also really use a good tourist attraction. Mountain bikers love camping so I think a camp ground becomes a big part of it.

  16. Great spot. Learned how to ski there. Would ski there again, hopefully some day. It’s one heck of a mountain!

  17. Incredible history. Thanks for sharing your success stories. Hickory has produced so manyzz.. because of its setting, local outlet, camaraderie and community.. second to none. and the weekend work parties.. always reflect on how fun they were..

    If the mountain can establish network of activities to consistently stay open again,, I agree the Kid programs (winter and summer) would be future, help stabilize mountain and create many more success stores for Warrensburg, Warren County, the State and surrounding areas. I’ve always felt this way since my formidable years there late 70’s and 80’s.
    … and have always hoped the mountain would reemerge somehow… occasionally stop by the lot over the years to see if the gate was open, any changes, or signs of snowmaking equipment, knowing that would give Hickory a solid chance at a resurgence.

    What were reasons previous attempts at snowmaking failed.. was it purely dollars and cents?

    I don’t know all the facts, but I believe there was a push in 90’s and the State was going to approve the permit to pull and store water from the Schroon, but it never happened. . Anyone at liberty to say why? Was it purely lack of investment or was there a permit issue?

    Maybe revisit permit requirements..tap into new infrastructure bill? Ha 🙂

    In the meantime, I agree eFatbikes and mountain bike park are the future. Take a look at NiCA scholastic mountain bike programs. They are super Popular now. I bet redevelopment of the trail system wouldn’t be a heavy lift.. trail system is already in place from the old Sit N Bull Ranch next door. Year round activities is the way forward for Hickory to consistently operate again. All in!!

    Think snow!!

  18. In Utah we’re getting close to 3000 kids showing up to a NICA race. A race like this at Hickory Hill would make the economy boom for the weekend. It would even drive traffic a couple weeks ahead of time as people show up to train these courses when possible. Mountain bike parks are growing at a rapid rate on the east coast.

    This park in NH no longer has skiing in fact Mark took the snow making out. It does have a chairlift.

    This one is in California it’s very diverse including a Santa’s Village but this one has no ski lift. You have to ride up the park, people side it would never work being it’s very close to Big bear which has lifts. Actually this place is extremely busy. I did a mountain demo here earlier this year and they sold over 2000 tickets to that demo which was a weekend event.

    It’s easy to dream what it looks like but who has the determination and money to drive it forward?

  19. John I have a client who is interested in making a ski area work for local kids program, adaptive skiers etc.

    When I found an old “stump dump” was for sale and it had the highest elevation in Fairfax at the time I went to the client we drove to the top with the care taker of the property, discussing ideas for a “100 year plan” to pay the costs of running the operations, the idea was to involve L’Auberge Chez Francoi with them having a restaurant and gardens for them to add potential revenue.

    Unfortunately a jewelry store owner purchased the site just a week after he learned of my clients interest, houses will be built there instead.

    That property could have been had for 10 million. My client would be a perfect owner has plenty of funds, one of his recent start ups professional fighters league is really taking off, if this place or anything similar is available let me know, investing in someone else property is not a good option as this requires full control for my client to work his magic..

    Great write up!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *