Ski Tales: Volunteers key to Oak Mountain revival

The village of Speculator has Oak Mountain back up and running this season, thanks to the efforts of
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Ski resorts in the Adirondacks are having one of the best snow seasons in years, and nobody could be happier about that than the people trying to get Oak Mountain back on its feet.

The area, located in Speculator, didn’t operate last season following a number of bad winters, and the owners, Norm and Nancy Germain, put it on the market. No takers, however.

This after a major effort to bring the mountain up to snuff in 2001 by installing a 3,000-foot quad chairlift, a snowmaking system, lighting for night skiing and a tubing park. A new lodge went up the following year, and all this is still in place.

Despite those efforts, according to Speculator Mayor Neil McGovern, the area fell into foreclosure. The village subsequently was granted receivership of the facility, and opted to open the area this season under its management.

Snowmakers, lift operators, groomers, etc., are on the village payroll, the restaurant is being operated as a concession and some 30 volunteers, some from as far away as Utica and Rome, are assisting with promotions and ticket sales.

Mountain manager Tom Germain, son of the owners, said Oak has about 70 paid employees. Four are full-time, with the rest part-time.

In November, more than 60 volunteers turned out to help spruce up the area and get it ready for a Dec. 26 opening.

“Without them, we never would have been able to open on time,” Germain said.

“It’s really been great,” said Barbara Tracy, who is in charge of the volunteer staff. “It’s a community project, and everybody has been so supportive.

“People who have come have said, ‘I learned to ski here, and my kids learned to ski here,’ so we’ve had third-generation skiers.”

Oak Mountain opened in 1947 with a T-bar, rope tows and, of course, no snowmaking. The area is currently open Thursdays through Sundays, plus any school holidays including the Christmas vacation and Presidents’ Week.

“We’ve only missed two days of scheduled operation because of rain,” Tracy said. “Right now, the conditions are fabulous. We’ve gotten a lot of new snow, and

everybody says it’s the best it’s been in years.”

While it was raining and sleeting mid-week in the Capital Region, Oak Mountain was getting snow.

“Right now, we’re having to bucket-load snow away from the windows in the base lodge,” Germain said.

To celebrate Presidents’ Week, a number of events are planned at Oak Mountain.

They include:

u Tonight — A disco/tubing party from 5 p.m. to midnight. A DJ will be in the main lodge from

8 a.m. to midnight. Cost is $12.

u Saturday — Super Ticket Day. Ski, snowboard and tube from

9 a.m. to 10 p.m. $35 for adults, $20 for children (12 and under). A youth side-by-side slalom race for ages

5-18 will be held at 1 p.m., and there is no race fee. There will be a Night Ski

and Tubing Party, with a torch light parade. The festivities will include fireworks, and live entertainment in lodge. Skiing and snowboarding will be held from 4-10 p.m. Tickets are priced at $20 for adults and $10 for children.

u Sunday — Snow sculpture contest with judging at 5 p.m.

u Monday — Family night. Buffet in cafeteria 5-7 p.m. Cost is $10 for adults, $7 for children. Tubing special 4-8 p.m. $10.

Every Sunday at Oak Mountain is “Wacky Hat Day.” The person with the wackiest hat, as judged by a lift attendant, gets a free ticket for another day.

Ski instruction at Oak Mountain is under the direction of Dick Spinks. Group lessons are $16, with private lessons $30. Rentals for skis and snowboards are available.

The area has 14 trails serviced by the quad chair and two T-bars. Normal full-day lift tickets at Oak Mountain are $24 for adults and $18 for children. Four-hour tickets are $18 for adults and $13 for children. Tickets for the tubing hill are $10 for two hours and $15 for four hours.

Nobody knows for sure what will happen at Oak Mountain after this winter. Hopefully, a successful season will entice someone who wants to get into the ski business to purchase the area, and keep it operating for generations to come.

For more information on Oak Mountain, call 548-3606 or visit www.oakmountainski.com.

FIVE FOR 100

Royal Mountain in Caroga Lake will be open Saturday through

Feb. 24 for the Presidents’ Week school vacation. The area is again offering a lift ticket special — ski or ride any five days during that

period for $100. The area is 100 percent open, with new snow and some of the best conditions of the year, according to owner Jim Blaise.

GORE WINNERS

Sharon Vinsic and Dave Vanderzee of the Albany Ski Club were the Class I winners at the Schenectady Wintersports Club giant slalom at Gore Mountain last weekend. Vinsic won with a time of 116.30. Second was Kristen VanHage of the Out of Control Ski Club in 128.14. O.C. skier Beth Huntley was third in 143.31.

Vanderzee’s time was 107.48. His teammate, Dan Dudley, was second with 112.98. OC skier Erik Hancock was third with a time of 114.75.

The first three in other divisions were: Women Class II — Jill Bryce (OC), Maria Lattanzio (OC), Jill Mrozinski (OC); Men Class II — Alex O’Connor (SWC) Steven

Svoboda (OC) Bill Kornrumpf (SWC); Vet women — Mary Beaulac (ASC); Vet men — Mark Pavlus (OC), John Burgess (OC) Barry Maday (ASC); Super Vet women — Anna Dugan (SWC); Super Vet men — Cliff Mark ASC), Tom Weiss (OC), Mike Karl (ASC);

Junior girls — Melanie Scuderi (ASC) Liz Goody (SWC) Jourdan Pignatelli (ASC). Junior boys — Nick Caggianelli (ASC), Christian Weycamp (SWC), Peter Valenti (SWC).

MOTTAU On A ROLL

Tanner Mottau, 14, of Saratoga Springs finished first on Sunday in a Mid-Vermont Council J-III race at the Middlebury Ski Bowl. Mottau is an eighth-grade student at Maple Avenue School. During the winter term, he attends Okemo Mountain School in Ludlow, Vt.

Last Friday, Mottau placed second in super-G at the Vermont State J-III Championships. On Feb. 3, he won a Mid-Vermont Council J-III giant slalom at the Pico Resort. Earlier in the season, Mottau took first place in the Eastern Regional J-III Series super-G at Whiteface Mountain. That event attracted the best skiers ages 13-14 from New York, New England, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

BUSY LAPLAND

The Lapland Lake Nordic ski center in Benson has great snow and a full calendar of events for the coming week. Included are a moonlight snowshoe tour, ladies ski clinic, skiing under lights, a lakeside bonfire and dinner, free backcountry ski and snowshoe tours, a demo day, a barbeque to benefit the ski patrol and two-for-one skiing for school teachers on vacation.

For specific information on these events, visit www.laplandlake.com or call 863-4974.

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