Skiing is a lot of things. It can be glamorous. The surroundings can be five-star. At Beaver Creek in Colorado, it can cost as much as $219 for a single day ticket.
Then there is Dynamite Hill.
When Fred Better returned from World War II, he had an idea for his hometown. He decided to turn over some land his family owned outside of the hamlet of Chestertown to build a recreation park for local residents.
The 10th Mountain Division veteran and avid skier wanted to be sure the park included skiing.
The recreation area opened in 1962, a few months before West Mountain in Queensbury and two years before New York state’s nearby Gore Mountain. It was a cooperative effort of the local Rotary Club and the Town of Chester Highway Department. Local and state government chipped in with $5,000, a bargain even then for the 133-acre site. From the start it featured a rope tow to haul skiers 500 feet uphill so they could slide down the open slope. Bottom to top vertical: 75 feet.
What to call it? The Better family owned the hardware business in town. The new recreation area had been a storage site for supplies they sold to local construction businesses.
Located on New York State Route 8 just a mile west of exit 25 of the Adirondack Northway, the recreation area has operated continuously now for almost 60 years. The rope tow has been upgraded to a rope line with handles. There is ample space for sledding and tubing, and since 1996, there is a covered ice skating surface. In addition, there are cross country and snowshoe trails at the site. There is a warming lodge with indoor bathrooms and a snack bar, too. It has had lights for night skiing since 1968.
And snowmaking! In 2011 Dynamite Hill added a Lenco Snow Wizard to make snow when nature didn’t do the job alone.
FREE TO ALL COMERS
Dynamite Hill started out free of charge to all comers. It remains that way today.
Craig Leggett recalls growing up at Dynamite Hill.
“My mother taught me how to ski there,” he said recently.
Leggett is in his sixth year as supervisor of the Town of Chester, which includes the villages of Chestertown and Pottersville. He is especially attuned to what Dynamite Hill provides to his community.
“Opportunity,” the Chestertown native Leggett said. “In a rural community like ours, there can be limited options. Here, we have reduced the obstacles to be able to participate.”
Is it popular with local residents?
“I’ve never heard anyone question Dynamite Hill,” Leggett said.
The hill is maintained by the Town of Chester Parks and Recreation Department. The town Highway Superintendent Jason Monroe is the snowmaker.
The rain at Christmas curtailed operations earlier this season, but Dynamite Hall has been opened now since mid-January. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 situation has forced cancellation of the annual Crazy Downhill Derby that has been held on Presidents’ Weekend for more than 50 years.
No Rotary Rocket, or Star Trek Space Ship, or Fire Truck sled at Dynamite Hill this winter.
But operating hours remain the same: 3-8 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and every day on school vacation periods. No reservations are needed. At one time there was ski instruction at Dynamite Hill. No more. It is also BYOG — Bring Your Own Gear.
Dynamite Hill isn’t going to be featured in the national ski press or host network coverage of competitions anytime soon. But for a family looking for an inexpensive option for a fun day on the snow, Dynamite Hill is a gold-medal choice.
SKI RACING HIGHLIGHTS
In this pre-Olympic year, all World Cup racing in the U.S. and Canada was canceled, and the competition was moved to Europe.
In recent years, Mikaela Shiffrin has managed to command the full spotlight on American racers and, while she topped the podium this winter in her slalom specialty, she has not dominated the field this winter.
But it has not been a bad year for U.S. racers overall.
Sharing some of the attention have been 25-year-old Breezy Johnson from Idaho, who has three third-place finishes in World Cup downhill races, and 28-year-old Ryan Cochran-Siegle from northern Vermont, who won a Super G World Cup event in Italy earlier this season.
Several others have top-30 finishes that earn them preferred start placement in World Cup races. The 2022 Winter Games right now are set for Beijing in February 2022.
VONN ON TV
No woman ski racer has ever tallied as many World Cup victories at Lindsey Vonn: 82 career wins before she retired from competition in 2019.
Now she is back, sharing her expertise as a television commentator for NBC.
She made her debut on the women’s races in Switzerland last week. Reviews have been favorable.
GORE FULL PRESIDENTS’ WEEK
If you are planning a ski vacation at Gore over the Presidents’ Week Feb. 13-20 and haven’t made reservations yet, keep your fingers crossed that ORDA officials increase capacity limits, or there are to be cancellations.
Currently, the area is sold out every day over the holiday period.
Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].