I caught the very end of ski season at Hunter Mountain last weekend, where snow was surviving the warmest weather snow could possible survive in. Despite the fact I was overheated before I’d even started, there was enough snow, or slush really, to make for a fun day and to reassure myself that even after two years of not snowboarding, I can still get on a board and not entirely maim myself.
Hunter Mountain is up in the Catskills, and we boarded the bus in Brooklyn, provided by the fantastic Ovrride which I highly recommend for fellow mountain-less New Yorkers, at an ungodly hour before the sun even showed its face. I had not been snowboarding since I’d move to New York, although I’d gone almost every weekend during the season when I lived in France to alpine stations like Val Thorens, Les 7 Laux, and Deux Alpes. This doesn’t by any way mean that I’m really awesome, so in case you go snowboarding with me and I lodge my board in a mogul or take the slowest turn you’ve ever seen down a scary black slope, don’t be surprised. But I did really miss it, and I missed snow this year in New York. There were only two days of any snow this winter, one oddly in October, and neither really stuck to the ground. I look forward to the days when snow piles up over the city and brings a strange quiet to the streets, and this winter was totally void of them.
Not that there was tons of snow at Hunter Mountain, but enough that a variety of runs were open, although this is the only time I’ve ever gotten stuck in the mud while snowboarding. But at least any falls were gentle ones as you just kind of sank into the mountain. Hunter Mountain is the second highest peak in the Catskill Mountains, a range situated northwest of New York City that is a dissected plateau rather than an actual mountain range (thanks centuries of erosion!). You might know the Catskills from Washington Irving or HP Lovecraft stories (“Rip Van Winkle” and “The Lurking Fear,” respectively), and they are the recording base of the band Mercury Rev, fronted by former Flaming Lip, Jonathan Donahue (see, everything comes back to Oklahoma).
The ski resort itself has been around since the 1950s, and has become known for its expert use of manmade snowmaking. I think they may have just given up on this season, because even in the one day we were there I’d say around 6 inches of the snow melted away, creating little waterfalls over the rocks that were exposed beneath the lift (it would have been a bad day to accidentally drop your phone).
It was exhilarating to feel the cut of a snowboard under my feet after two years, rediscovering the rhythm of carving down a slope, feeling the rush of those moments when muscle overtakes mind into flights down scenic turns, remembering that even if I fall horribly I’ll be okay if I let gravity and not my arms control the fall. There weren’t too many dramatic falls, as we stuck to the long blue slopes that curved down the mountain, but at the beginning of the day when we were unfamiliar with the slopes we somehow missed the turn off for that blue and were faced with the choice of three black slopes. The choice was either long and treacherous, or short and super steep. We were for the quick and terrifying, and of course I spent little of the ride down upright on my board. For the most part, though, it was steady riding.
Of course, I would be the one to find a grave while snowboarding. At the top of the mountain is this curious sight: a memorial to Archer Winsten, who “loved the skiing at Hunter Mountain,” according to his epitaph. I think this is the Archer Winsten who was a movie reviewer for the New York Post (here’s his obituary), but oddly I can’t find any details on the internet. If anyone can fill in the details, please let me know!
Our bus left after the lifts closed and we came back into New York City as the light was fading. Next season I’ll have to make it out to the slopes more, hopefully with more snow! I guess now that March is coming to a close we really are out of luck for snow this year and the harsh glare of summer is fast approaching.