Oak Mountain: One Way or Another

When we were younger, Conor and I would build a jump in the back yard and hit it with our cheap kick in strap snowboards. It’s been a long time since then, but our love for snowboarding lives on. We only had a one opportunity to ride together before year end. On Saturday night, we made plans to ski Oak Mountain after a sweet little storm dropped some new snow on the mountain.

Oak Mountain base area

We were up early for the 3 hour trek from our family homes in the Finger Lakes. The mountain was shining in the sunlight when we pulled in around 9:30. We quickly suited up and walked on to the empty chair. The evergreens were covered in snow and the mountain was underneath a 6-inch blanket.

Before this last snowfall it was 60 degrees and sunny. This meant only one top-to-bottom route was open. No worries though, Conor hadn’t been on a board in a few years and I still needed to build a little stamina.


At the top of the lift we stopped to admire the view of the surrounding mountains and Lake Pleasant. It was particularly stunning on this clear blue sky day. Our first turns down were creamy as the groomer previously worked in the fresh snow to the corduroy. We meandered, stretching our legs and taking wide turns. Each run we increased our pace and intensity.

With little traffic we rode on the quad while joking with the lifties all day. We soon settled into our stride, slashing turns and spraying snow. This one run was a playground, it’s all we needed.

The sides were well in play, we found ourselves floating in the low tide layer and popping back onto the trails on small lips. Owner Matt O’Brien would later tell me they got a solid layer of sleet prior to the snow, making for good ground coverage.

We rode hard until the cold air caught up with us. We stopped for a warm up and I used it as a chance to catch up with Matt. He and his wife Laura head the team running Oak Mountain. He was excited to tell me about doubling their snow making capacity and a new magic carpet in the learning area.

Oak Mountain is generational. Matt is proud of the family-friendly atmosphere and people who continue to return year after year. I thanked Matt for his time, and caught up with Conor for a few more laps.

The new carpet was busy. There were several kids on the learning hill with parents watching from below.

The sun was sparkling off the lake below now as we got off at the top. We soaked it up and took it easy as the days hard riding began to catch up with us. Conor and I both have some rusty metal in our legs. We might be getting old, but our friendship and passion for riding will last a lifetime.

16 comments on “Oak Mountain: One Way or Another

  1. You’re off to a strong start. It’s always interesting how you can make a mountain feel big with just one run open, and when the whole mountain is open later in the season, that one run feels boring. Hope you get lots of turns in next week.

  2. I love it, small but mighty Oak is open top to bottom and half of the Vail empire is banged up a few days before Christmas!!
    Conor love the carhartts, seriously. You would fit right in at Caberfae.
    When we were younger? You boys can’t be more than 30 lol!
    Ok being your from the fingers, how bout a report from Bristol or Kissing B this winter?
    Hey loved Oak as a teen, my mom went to camp of the woods in Speculator in the ‘40s.
    Being the Lake isn’t froze over yet must be glistening!
    Merry Christmas

  3. We should all write a first ski/ride story at a hill/mountain like Robert has…….

    For me, after 76 years of skiing–starting on the hill behind my house in Schenectady — my first commercial skiing was not at Gore, or family owned Skiland just south of North Creek….but at the tender age of 12. Dad has business at Boonville, NY so I tagged along to ski at Turin (Tug Hill). What an experience on my old hickory wooden skis with no metal edges!! Yipes! Everyone was skiing circles around me as I telemarked down the soft snow strewn edges on several runs. Every trail had iced up into moguls by midday, so turning on my wooden slats was hopeless. I struggled on every run in the soft snow along the edges — killing the two hours before being picked up.

    On the way home I told my father the saga of Turin and that I really needed skis with metal edges. He was not to excited about that prospect as most of our family weekend skiing was cross-country–even at the family’s Skiland where all the runs were seldom packed enough to warrant better edging. So I went for several years telemarking my way down all sorts fo hills until I finally got my Northland skis for $35 from Goldstocks. They had metal edges!! Now I was dangerous.

  4. I can’t really remember it but my folks and their friends brought me and my sister to Oak around 1959 or 60. We have a few pictures somewhere in this house. We stayed at my grandparent’s summer cabin at Jenny Lake, hiking in with sleds. That place wasn’t so small to a 5 year old!

  5. So wonderful you and friend could relive the fun you had as kids and continue that friendship and boarding. What a terrific way to celebrate.

  6. My dad brought us (4 of us kids) to Oak Mtn in the 60’s. I brought my kids (3 of them) to Oak in the 80’s and now my grands are all skiers, age 6 to 14 (5 of them) ! Great memories thru the years!

    The O’Briens are doing a terrific job and a great service to the people of Hamilton County / Speculator !

  7. Sorry Robert, saw your reports from Bristol
    Now a real challenge for you “youngins”.
    How bout hiking Princeton Bearpen and boarding down Russ’s trail?
    With your talented write ups/ reports and pics that is one trip report I’d really love to see!

    Love those memories, especially Mr Schaefer’s.

  8. I don’t see any reference in this article to Oak ski area’s location. I don’t as see any NY or Vermont areas with that name.

Leave a Reply

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