When the Saratoga and North Creek Railway announced that a “Snow Train” would operate this winter, the plan was hailed by many as a big plus for the Gore Mountain Ski Center.
The train could also give a boost to the Hickory Ski Center in Warrensburg.
The Hickory Ski Center is actually about five miles from the village of Warrensburg. It’s much closer to the small town of Thurman, one of the stops on the “Snow Train’s” run.
As the train passes through Thurman, passengers are afforded an excellent view of the Hickory Ski Center, located on one of three small mountains called the “Three Sisters.” For some passengers, this might be their first look at the ski center.
I can imagine some expert skiers riding the train saying, “Wow! Look at those runs. What is that place? I’d like to come back and ski there someday.”
I say expert because, while the Hickory Ski Center has skiing for all abilities, it’s especially noted for its steep trails, bump runs, tree skiing and all-natural snow. Like Mad River in Vermont, with its “Ski It If You Can” bumper stickers, Hickory has its own motto — “Come Ski the Legend.”
“Hickory is a great place to ski, and it offers something that a lot of other mountains maybe used to offer but don’t anymore,” said Hickory marketing and sales manager Jeremiah Greco last weekend. “There’s definitely a great family throwback experience with our classic terrain.”
The Hickory Ski Center dates to the mid-1940s, when it operated as “Hickory Hill” under original owner Hans Winbauer. The area is now owned by some 300 shareholders, but it is open to the public.
The center prides itself as still being old-fashioned in many ways.
For starters, it has no snowmaking, which is a major drawback, in terms of operating days. Without snow guns, the area only averages about 20 ski days a season, and survival hasn’t been easy. Hickory closed in 2005, and reopened for the 2009-2010 season.
Hickory has yet to open this season, but Greco said this weekend is a possibility if the area is able to pick up at least six inches of snow on top of an existing six-inch base. Plans are in the works to have snowmaking in place next season, he said.
Hickory is also the only ski hill in New York state operating completely with surface lifts. Uphill transportation is provided by two Poma lifts, a T-bar and a handle-tow which services a beginner slope. The summit Poma is operating with a new electric motor this season.
Hickory’s 1,200-foot vertical drop is the sixth-largest in New York state. Of its 18 runs and slopes, seven are rated “most difficult,” six are “more difficult” and five are designated as “easier.” The beginner and intermediate runs are groomed, and the expert trails are not, which suits the experts fine.
Given the nature of the terrain, it isn’t surprising that Hickory has become a popular place for Telemark skiers to test their skills. Telemark skiing is an old style using boots that lift of the ski at the heel. Telemark skiers tend to prefer natural snow and steep runs, the deeper and steeper the better.
“Tele-skiing lends itself well to what we offer,” Greco said. “If you go to mountains laid out like ours — Plattekill, Mad River, Magic — they lend themselves to classic skiing styles and they draw a lot of tele-skiers for that reason.”
The ski school at Hickory offers Telemark lessons, and is planning to obtain Telemark rental equipment for those wanting to give it a try.
The area is also hosting its annual Telefest on Saturday, Feb. 11. The event will feature, a “Tour De Trees,” clinics for all abilities, gear demos, tele-racing and an “Apre-Tele-Party” with music.
“The festival has been growing every year,” Greco said.
For snowboarders and free-skiers, Hickory also has a terrain park with a variety of rails, boxes and wall rides.
“We’ve added 12 new rail and box features this year,” Greco said.
“Our surface lifts don’t lend themselves easily to snowboarding, but we have riders that come here regularly, and they have no problem. It’s different than getting on a chairlift, and it just takes some getting used to.”
When Hickory is up and running, the “Snow Train” will drop off skiers at Thurman at about 8:30 a.m. with a pickup in late afternoon.
Greco said a Hickory shuttle will meet the train at the station.
The round-trip train ride from Saratoga to Thurman is $20. A full-day ticket at Hickory is $45 for adults (19-65); $30 for juniors (7-18) and seniors (66-70). Children 6 and younger and 70-plus seniors ski free.
A $64 ski-and-stay package is available with accomodations at the Super 8 Hotel in Warrensburg (train fare not included). The Hickory shuttle will provide trasportation to and from the hotel.
I usually don’t pick up copies of “Herlife” in a doctor’s office, but I did on Wednesday because I spotted a Weibrecht on the cover of the December issue.
It wasn’t Andrew, the Olympic bronze medal Alpine skier from Lake Placid.
It was his mother, Lisa, looking very glamorous in fashionable apre-ski wear right out of St. Moritz.
“Herlife” is a regional magazine aimed at “keeping women connected.”
This issue’s cover story by Ann E. Batenas was all about Scotia native Weibrecht from her early days as a women’s national luge champion to her current life as an innkeeper in Lake Placid. She and husband, Ed, own the Mirror Lake Inn.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: