NYSkiBlog has covered Hunter Mountain since 2009, publishing over 40 pieces in that time. But I really haven’t done my part. My last piece was a tribute to the late great Orville Slutzky back in April of 2013.
It’s been too long. This year — with Peak pulling off the largest terrain expansion in New York in over a decade — I hoped to get back to experience the highly anticipated opening of Hunter North.
Management had announced at the end of last week that the day would be December 24th. I was certainly “available” on Christmas Eve, but negotiation was required to get the go-ahead to be late for planned holiday festivities with family.
I texted Katie O’Connor, Hunter’s Director of Marketing, to figure out what it would take to make first chair. She recommended a 7am arrival at the new North Base Area in anticipation of the 8:30 opening. I set an alarm for 3:30am, brewed some coffee and headed north.
I arrived right at 7:00 and booted up in the car, as the only facilities at this time for the new pod are a generous parking lot, a ticket window and a few portajohns. I grabbed my ticket and headed over to wait at the new pedestrian bridge over the creek. I connected with ScottSki, and we settled in.
It was a party atmosphere, if that is even possible, before 8am. There was a tent setup and a vivacious blonde was handing out Hunter North teeshirts and noise makers while Led Zepplin was cranking through a pair of Peaveys. At 8:30 the ribbon was cut and we boarded the Northern Express for the quick ride the top of the pod, just below Belt Parkway.
At the start, only Overlook was open and we skied it three times. Rated intermediate, it reminded me a bit of Gore’s Echo, a solid blue trail with one steep section of headwall that could be rated black at several mountains in the northeast.
While there was a good group for the ribbon cutting, the primary route down on North wasn’t crowded and when we made our way over to the front side I was a little surprised to find all the trails wide open. The wait at the Kaatskill Flyer was maybe two minutes.
We headed over on Belt Parkway and the skiing was really good. My pick of the day was Cliff to Bleeker to Eisenhower, top-to-bottom, soft snow almost all the way to the lift.
We worked our way across the main part of the mountain and all of it skied very well. Loose granular was deep enough to keep your skis up and off anything hard.
Maybe it was a reaction to reduced expectations set by the monsoon that hit us last Friday, but I was a bit giddy. Those runs were my best on 100% manmade snow in quite a while. When we came to Broadway, we were alone. I cranked super wide turns right down the middle, just because I could.
Both Scott and I had Christmas obligations and we called it a day around noon. We made our way back via Hunter West, which skied more like you’d expect, firm but edgeable. Rip’s Return opened sometime during the morning, and we dropped in to finish out our day.
Peak spent $9 million on an 80 acre expansion that will change the way Hunter skis. The new pod both integrates the mountain and at the same time it should help spread things out. North provides another aspect to help skiers find the best snow and if they bury it, turns could last deep into spring.
A less tangible benefit, North makes mountain harder to imagine all at once. For me, it adds to the sense of adventure when you’re riding the lift creating your plan of attack. Game on!