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Head for the Ski Mountain

With the majestic Appalachian Mountains nearby, one might assume that many locals would flock to the slopes during ski season. Some do. Most don’t, including our team. But since skiing is a sport for all ages — including senior citizens — and abilities, we gave it a go. As novices, we learned valuable lessons, including some hard ones that we’ll share so you can navigate your journey more smoothly.


Hello Hunter


If there’s ever an ideal time for a beginner to try their hand at skiing, one could argue that the tail end of the season might be a good one. Less crowds, for one. More options, for another. We benefited from both on our trip.


We did our research and chose Hunter Mountain in NY for a weekend getaway. The 3-hour drive from the Monmouth/Ocean county border was perfect. Despite the spring 70-degree heat wave the Jersey Shore was experiencing, temps at Hunter Mountain hovered in the 40s and 50s, and even lower.

Sitting fireside at Hunter Mountain with all-terrain Oboz hiking boots.

 

Be forewarned, the microclimate of the mountain this time of year can throw any tourist for a loop — it rained, hailed, snowed, and the sun broke through in the span of 15 minutes while we were on the mountain. The occasional cloudburst did give us a respite to enjoy the warmth of the fireplace and a snack or two at Goldye's restaurant while at the mountain. Lesson learned: it’s ideal to bring packed sandwiches to stash in your jacket or in a locker since the prices at the concession stand can set you back some. A hotdog was $9, and a basic iceberg salad was $19.


Dress for the destination


Since the Catskill mountains are about 20 degrees cooler than the Jersey Shore, it’s essential to dress for the destination. This time of the season, think mild winter and layer up in sweat-wicking clothes that you can remove as you warm up on the trails.


Gear you need


To make life easy, rent your ski gear before you arrive at your destination. Mountain resorts do offer rentals, but they will be the most costly option. Rental shops down the street from the ski mountain are better (there were 2 or 3 rental shops located next to Hunter Mountain), or rent gear from your neighborhood shop, which is the avenue we took. The day before departure, we went to Brave New World, with locations in Little Silver, Point Pleasant Beach, and Toms River, and we were fitted with skis, poles, and boots. For 3 days, it was $130 for two sets. 

Rental and repair shop at Hunter Mountain.

Depending where you ski, the trend is toward the use of helmets. Hunter Mountain requires them, and since Brave New World’s rental didn’t include helmets, we stopped at the nearest ski shop and rented helmets for $30 each. While we were there, we picked up goggles and gloves — also necessities that we didn’t have. 


What to wear


Ski pants are essential to stay dry, but any warm-weather athletic jacket or puffer will do. Remember: It’s more about keeping you warm than making a fashion statement. In other words, avoid the matchy matchy look, and at all costs, forgo the unitard ski outfit. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb, like some did.

Make sure you have your warm weather gear before heading out for the mountain.

Where to stay 


For the ultimate skiing experience, we opted to stay at the Kaatskill Mountain Club at Hunter Mountain. We arrived Friday afternoon to get acclimated. The room was mountain-lodgey with a queen bed, pull-out couch, and kitchenette, but…no fridge. Not even a mini. A call to the front desk confirmed that they don’t even have loaners.


Um. Okay. No perishable food for us. Ugh.


Ski out


After a good night’s rest, we were ready for our Saturday morning ski lesson! The person at the front desk pointed us in the direction of where to go for our lesson, and we could even ski out, if we wanted. Newbies that we were, we opted to walk. 


How far away is the ski lesson meetup? No one asked and no one shared. 


In that quarter-mile walk, we found out the hard way that our boots were not made for walking, especially layered in leggings and wool socks. 


Ay caramba.

 

Lessons for the Beginner


Ski lessons are a must for the first-time skier, and the instructors at Hunter Mountain were top-notch. (You can speed your learning by watching a video or two before your lesson to get an idea of what to expect.) Our instructor shared that we’ll know that we’ve mastered the bunny hill when it becomes boring; then it’s time to take the ski lift. 


The first time on the lift was nerve-wracking, but after the second or third time, you feel like a pro. 

 

At Hunter, the end-of-season trails on the weekend we went had less snow, making the trails narrower, but there was still plenty of space. Sure, a pack of snowboarders blew past us with unstoppable speed, but otherwise, courtesies were followed on the mountain. In other words, skiers followed the rule that the person in front of you has the right of way.   


After our first ski day, it was time to take the long walk back to the lodge. One of us stayed behind with the gear, while the other trudged up the hill to get the car, just in time to see the shuttle dropping off guests. How nice. They DO have a shuttle. 


Needless to say, day one was a challenge with all the walking. Neither of us felt much joy, and we had one more night’s stay and day of skiing. It would have been easy to call it a wrap and go home early, but no. We gave it another go on day two, and we made the right decision. It was fun! We prepared better, wore less layers around our boots, and navigated the slopes like champs. We assured ourselves that this is a sport that one can practice, get better at, and enjoy! Each time you take the ski lift, it gives you time to ponder, breathe in that fresh mountain air, and think about the next run, and for us, the next visit.


The Next Visit


We’d be happy to go back to Hunter Mountain; we’ll just arrive a little more prepared. We’ll be sure to bring a portable fridge next time. We’ll also read up on the resort more and check the amenities offered, aka shuttles!


Come November 2024, we plan to hit the mountains again. Skiing is a life-long sport in the hearty outdoors that we appreciate. Our next lesson will be for the advanced beginner, and we’ll most likely rent skis for the season. The kind folks at Brave New World shared that seasonal rentals are available for under $200, starting in November. That sounds like a good deal to us! 


Until next time, peace!


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