McCauley is the Real Deal

Last weekend I drove to the Southern Adirondacks looking for more magic.  I’m here to report that I did find it, at McCauley Mountain in Old Forge, NY.

Big Chair 1973

From some crazy reason, the mountain has been off my radar. I vaguely remember seeing a sign for McCauley on the drive to Snow Ridge last season. Then last week, the mountain was top of mind with powderhounds in the forum as it was forecast to get a potentially significant lake effect snow.

As it turned out, the intense snow band was tantalizingly close, but just off to the north and only a few inches of snow fell in Old Forge. To me it felt like a low-key and unhurried opportunity to see a new place and expand my understanding of skiing in New York.

Hall chair lift

Google Maps indicated that the 63 mile trip should take 1:20 from our place in North River. I left the cabin before dawn, and as I drove west of Indian Lake, the snow got deeper.

The mountain lies south and east of Route 28. Navigation from the main road is required so follow the turns closely on your GPS. There’s some signage, but not enough to get you there without directions.

McCauley terrain

The base area is very unassuming, with a cozy lodge, a ticket office, and the sweet building that houses the motor assembly for the beautiful vintage Hall Double Chair that powers the mountain.

I bought my ticket and booted up. One thing about arriving so early: you know everyone else around works there. It didn’t take me long to meet the GM Stevie U and Cambo John. It took a little convincing but Steve agreed to show me around.

McCauley view

The mountain advertises 633 feet of vertical while Steve threw out the number “500 something.” None of that matters, as every single foot of that vert is really fun.

The mountain wasn’t fully open, but even so I was entertained all morning and into the afternoon. For starters the liftline run — Helmers — is very steep, bumped and challenging.


When you arrive at the summit and ski off the lift, it’s hard to resist the magnetic pull of Helmers. But make sure you do, at some point. It may seem counter intuitive, but the hound in you should follow Challenger, a green trail, to skiers right.

From there you can drop into the double diamond glade Barkeater or any number of more gradual glades. The farther down you take Challenger, the mellower the pitch. The goodies are all right there, laid out in front of you.

McCauley trees

On top of it all McCauley, run by the town of Webb, has a deep lake to draw from and what looks to be a decent snowmaking budget. Open trails with manmade snow were buried deep.

I never in my life imagined a mountain this small could be so much fun for an expert. Granted I am a teleskier who just turned 58.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive lift ticket, challenging terrain and good snow without a lift line check this place out. I know I’m going to start following the weather for Old Forge more closely.

22 comments on “McCauley is the Real Deal

  1. Hi Harvey, my brother and I grew up on McCauley Mountain in the 70’s, he was known for skiing in the woods on the Nut Trail way back then! Now it looks like a nice wide-open glade. Your blog brought back some great family memories, I’ll find some old photos for you! My best, Jill

  2. My wife will be very upset that you are letting the cat out of the bag. This is her little secret place. Too bad you did not meet the guy who runs the ski shop, you will have to go back.

  3. As the X President of the Polar Bear Ski for over 20 years I am so happy you found our mountain!! What you didn’t know is that Mountain allows the children from the Town of Webb School to ski there for free from K – 12 grade. This mountain also had 2 Olympians and one in the making plus a US Ski Team member! Again glad you found our gem in the Adirondacks… Michele

  4. Michele thanks for your comment. I wasn’t sure exactly what PBSC was but I knew I liked it. NYSkiBlog would like to join the other sponsors on the Polar Bear Ski Club board outside the lodge, if we can afford it.

    Email me? [email protected].

    Yukon, it is Darksideish.

  5. grew up in old forge in the 70’s. learned to ski here .great mountain tons of memories. as jill pointed out Nut trail all the way! ok maybe too old for all the trees whizzing by now…

  6. Great stuff Harv. You captured the essence of McCauley. Lot’s of time to search hidden gems and what makes the mountain unique and special. Local Olympian Louie Ehrensbeck is at his McCauley ski tune shop everyday. As you said, double-diamond glades lie adjacent to easier trails, and those easier trails give early learners access to the top of the mountain. I grew up on McCauley, and used those skills working in the ski industry from Whiteface to Aspen to Argentina. Still maxing out the fun meter on McCauley. Come on back.

  7. Thanks for the updates on McCauley. I had pretty much forgotten about it, being from Albany area. I think I’ll call a bud in New Hartford and make a day of it in next couple weeks.

    Thank you again, and looking forward to any updates on conditions if anyone gets the opportunity to get out soon.

    Timothy D. Byrns
    Clifton Park NY

  8. Nice TR, I skied it for the first time last Wednesday. I left with the same feeling I had the first time I skied Platty, why did I wait so long to ski here? Can’t wait to ski it again with some fresh snow.

  9. Pretty much exactly as you described from my visit.
    A small Mt that rocks even for experts even not fully open.
    So much potential if they get dumped on with lake effect.

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