Ski, Ski, Ski Catamount

This winter, I bought season passes for myself and my two sons at Catamount Mountain in Hillsdale, NY. Deciding what pass to buy is never easy but I was confident that we would get our money’s worth this year.

skin setup

In addition to Cat, the pass gives me access to Berkshire East (which I love) and Bosquet (which I’ve never skied).

Even better is the fact that Cat is on the Indy Pass so you can buy an add-on that gives you a couple days each at lots of other northeast resorts like Greek Peak, Magic Mountain and Jay Peak.

And it’s relatively close to home. A typical Catamount day for the Brownski crew starts at the civilized hour of 7 AM, if not later. We might get to the hill around nine or we might just take our time and show up a little later. Sometimes we even stop for breakfast on our way.

Catamount front side

Catamount has night skiing Wednesday through Saturday so even if we show up at noon, we can get a full day of skiing. It’s a fun, laid back place and I have been trying to conform to local norms. I can always use more laid back fun anyway.

You may not know this but last Friday was Lincoln’s Birthday (observed). Not a lot of people get Lincoln’s Birthday off but the guys who drive the trucks for my company belong to a very powerful union. Some times I think they just insist on these days off as a way to flex their collective bargaining muscle. It doesn’t matter. It’s a day off in February when almost everybody else is at work of course I go skiing. Catamount was the choice.

loading the triple chair

I dropped off Dangerboy at school and headed up the Palisades Parkway and across the Bear Mountain Bridge. Through Cold Spring to the Taconic Parkway and then north to the Claverack/Hillsdale exit where I caught Route 23 east to the Massachusetts border. I know the route like the back of my hand. It’s a really pleasant drive.

I decided to do a little uphill before availing myself of the lifts. I wouldn’t call myself an athlete by any means but I’ve been trying to exercise more. Last Friday I reminded myself why this is important. Catamount is not a huge mountain but I wiped myself out skinning up the Massachusetts side.

Catamount skier

Truth be told I gave in before summiting. A good workout and a little bit of practice putting the skins on and off was enough for me. I slid back down to the Meadows triple chair and jumped on for some lift served fun. I didn’t get off at the mid station but waved to the liftie, the same one who seems to work there every day, an eternally cheerful woman who keeps upbeat music blaring from a boom box in the shack. It’s normally classic rock but Friday was Taylor Swift.

From then until I quit, it was pure solo- springlike- groomer- zoomer fun. I took a nice mellow warmup run down Walter’s Way and Esplanade and held onto enough speed to get past the triple’s loading area so I could coast back to the Ridge Quad.

Catamount ski trail

I hopped on the lift with an older couple who were skiing with a group of visiting Butternut employees (the wife is a Mountain Ambassador). I wished them well at the top and headed to turned left off the lift to ski Catapult, one of Catamount’s classic steeps. It was a warm day and the snow was soft. Awesome run.

That’s how the day continued, one fun bomber run after another, with short pleasant lift conversations with strangers in between. The sun was out, the air was warm and the vibe was mellow. It was the perfect solo ski day. I skied everything that was open at least once with a few extra helpings of Catapult and Sidewinder.

East Coast Street Tacos

I popped into the lodge for a quick break around noon thirty and noticed a bunch of racer families suiting up. Lucky kids, I thought to myself, getting out of school early to ski. I stuffed a water and a beer in my anorak’s front pocket and headed back out.

After another couple runs, I was ready to eat. There was a Taco truck positioned below the Quad’s loading area; it had been calling to me like a siren all morning so I finally gave in. I asked the guy running it which menu item would be most convenient to carry up the lift.

Catamount trees

Quesadilla was the answer. A few minutes later, I found myself skating gingerly out to grab a chair with a HUGE chicken and pork quesadilla balanced in my left hand. As I turned to spot the oncoming chair, the Chicken Man skied up next to me.

Catamount skiers will know who I’m talking about. For the rest of you, there’s a guy that skies at Catamount dressed up like a chicken with a bunch of feathers attached to his helmet. Honestly I always thought he looked more like a turkey but I’ve always heard him referred to as chicken man.

Catamount Lodge

The guy is a real hoot. He started by complementing my lunch but didn’t stop there. The lift ride was a blur of wide ranging stream of conscientious. I laughed along and inserted a comment or noise of agreement whenever I could but chicken man didn’t give me many openings.

He covered skiing, deer hunting, the weather, Catamounts lift system, local politics, turkey feathers (I was right), pickup trucks, how to detach the bed from a pickup, and I don’t know what else. Meeting the chicken man was definitely the lift ride of the day.

At the top, I wished him a good day and cruised around the corner to my chosen lunch spot, a little rock near the top shack of another lift line. I sat and ate my delicious lunch, sipped my pocket beer and contemplated the clear blue sky, the warm sun, the meaning of life and the simple joy of mindless, solo ski days.

Later on I made my way over to the Massachusetts side and cruised the mellower trails for awhile. I got off at the mid station to explore some thin covered twiggy glades, just in case they melt put before I get back. Hopefully it snows some more so that doesn’t happen but J guess we’ll see. It was a good day.

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12 comments on “Ski, Ski, Ski Catamount

  1. *Birdman* is his moniker, not chicken man
    Otherwise nice spotlight. Maybe next time ripper will be open !

  2. Brownski, thanks for the write up on Catamount. I was there on Sunday with the family. I was skiing solo for a while and took note of Birdman amongst the crowded Sunday lift lines, ski teams in full force, etc. He also carries and swings a cowbell or maybe just on days that there are ski races?? Somehow on one of my runs I ended up on the chairlift with him. He is exactly as you described. In a few short minutes I knew about the issues with pipes that feed the snow guns, how debris got caught in them and what management needs to do to fix them, along with why he chose longer planks that day, the difference in snow conditions compared to the previous two days, etc. A real education and I hardly got a word in edgewise! And yes, he’s easily 6’4″ or better.

  3. I noticed Catamount hasn’t fully opened this year at all. Did you notice a lot of trail closures? I haven’t gone this year because of that.

    How would you rate vs. Butternut this year?

  4. Catapult was a new trail last time i skied there. I have to get back sometime, hopefully not on a taylor swift day though. Is grunge classic rock now?

  5. OK, I will defer to the masses and accept the Birdman moniker is correct. My bad.

    BL: Is Catamount better than Butternut? Yeah, of course. Thats why I’ve never skied Butternut. It’s true that they’re not fully open but there’s enough to have a full, fun day of skiing for sure.

    ML: No Grunge is not classic rock. Neither is 80s metal, though they both get played on classic rock stations nowadays. Grunge is a sub genre of alternative rock.

    AMM: Yeah, it is a cool title. I think I might start a whole SKI SKI SKI series.

  6. I got to Catamount for the first time last year at the end of the season. Despite the 50 degrees and puddles the coverage was great. Really a good sized mountain, hoping to get back this season.

  7. It’s nice to have that home mountain, even for those of us who like to ramble. Such low pressure to ski the whole thing or get there at the crack of opening. Soft turns on solo days are pretty great.

  8. Stuart, that’s exactly how I feel about it too. Takes away the pressure to get a full day every day or to hold off until it’s fully open or it snows hard or whatever goes into my skiing decisions. When I have time to ski, I ski. Hope you’re doing ok.

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