Royal Mountain: Get Up and Go

In New York, early season conditions can be fickle, to say the least. The first year I moved to Utica, I remember a lake effect storm dumping 2’ of snow on Tug Hill a week before Thanksgiving.

Royal Mountain lift

This year I felt I would be lucky to get any turns in before Christmas. Saturday’s weather was a bust. I got my booster Friday night so I didn’t feel bad wasting Saturday, while it steadily rained. I had no expectation Sunday would be any better, but it was.

I woke up late on Sunday and saw a seemingly benign share on Facebook by ISKINY. Royal mountain was open, freshly groomed and from the picture it looked like loads of base.

I checked the webcams on Royal’s website. They confirmed great coverage and blue bird skies. Like the scene from Home Alone where the family is scrambling to leave on time, I was out.

Royal Mountain chair

Like a true procrastinator, none of my gear was packed and my boards still hung on the wall covered in last year’s mud. Time for a quick pass with base cleaner and then another with the hot wax. After a quick touch up of the edges via gummi stone the boards were ready.

The gear was easier, I had left most of it in the bag from last year. Note to self: Wash the neck gator at the end of the season. I had the car loaded and was out the door in less than an hour, pretty good I think.

Royal was the only mountain open within an hour of me, and after a quick drive down the Thruway I was pulling into the lot. The mountain was surprisingly busy, especially the beginner area alongside the access road. The excitement really hit me when I parked and booted up.

It’s that feeling where every little delay is frustrating, because you just want to get on the snow. When I got out of the car, I asked a snowboarder coming off the hill how it was. “You know it’s pretty great. The sun is out and the snow is good” Ok lets go!

Royal had four top to bottom runs open on Sunday. It was clear they’d made a lot of snow so far, there wasn’t a brown patch on any of the open trails. I started with an easy cruise down Knight. Two things were apparent right away: I was out of shape and the snow conditions were great.

By this time it was 12pm, 34 degrees and the sun was in full effect. The snow was soft and very carve-able. Somewhere between heavy hard pact and corn snow. I was surprised how much snow was on the closed trails and in the trees. Through the rain on Saturday the mountain managed to retain quite a bit of coverage.

With little to no lift line, I lapped all the open trails before a few final laps on Royal’s namesake black diamond. Most of the trail was exposed to the sun which made for especially spring-like turns late in the day. Certainly one way to build leg strength. By 3pm I was shot and rode down to the car. I have missed that leg burn for sure.

I was definitely not expecting to go snowboarding on Sunday, but the season usually sneaks up on me in some way. I’ll definitely be back to Royal when the winter is really on, and the trees are in play. I’ll never complain about a sunny day on a board.

6 comments on “Royal Mountain: Get Up and Go

  1. Glad you got after it. Great write-up and loved the energy of scrambling to get on the hill. I hit Royal for the first time last year and was surprised at how good it was. They really know how to maintain the slopes there. I hope they start opening during at least part of the week at some point. I’m still trying to get the owners on the podcast – if anyone knows the Tennis family, tell them they are welcome any time!

  2. Great post on the most family friendly area within an hour of the Capital District. The skiing and riding benefits from massive snowmaking and the fact that Royal is far enough west to catch Lake Effect snow all of which is groomed on the main trails but left alone in the glades for those who enjoy POW and tree skiing. Come again in Jan/Feb when coverage and temperatures permit full-bore action. All the “activity” on the beginner slope on Sunday was mostly skiing and riding lessons being taught by PSIA/ASSI certified instructors and trainees. And by booting up in the lot you missed the great food and fireside drinks in the bar. The Lodge atmosphere is electric with friendly locals and great views of the Royal.

    Stuart, if Jake Tennis is too busy running everything at Royal and you’d like a podcast comment, tap into Mike Schaefer, Co-Director if the Snowsports School. He is techno savvy and is a dedicated outdoors enthusiast. When time allows he explores back country ski trails especially historic runs like the nearly abandoned Mt Greylock racing course and is looking to “do” the Wright Peak Trail in the McIntyres this season.

  3. Glad you finally got snow Robert! -? Finally got dumped on at Heavenly – at least 3’ or more. Getting 3 days in before Xmas rush.

  4. That view in your post from the top of the Queen never gets old.

    A powder day in Royal’s trees is fantastic! Popping up into the Princess Woods for the first time is a highlight of each season. I always enjoy introducing people to some of our more hidden ways to get off the main trails (look for me at the snowsports school almost every Saturday). You can get bumps on the T-Bar line, on the skiers left of the Challenge, and on the skiers right of the Royal. Even after skiing Royal for so many years, I still can find something new every season.

    And a big advantage of being closed during the week: snowstorm on Tuesday means a powder day on Saturday at Royal!

  5. Can’t wait to meet you for our first trip ever to Royal Mountain…sounds great!!! Nice write up!!!

  6. Royal looks like a great hill and your organizational style sounds familiar. Way to get after it.

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