Mountain Review: Hickory Ski Center
This mountain review is one that comes off the beaten path. It comes from a mountain that, until this year, I never heard of and until I actually saw with my own eyes, never thought existed. It is a place that until last year was not operating and the only tracks you saw down its steeps were from poachers hiking for knee deep powder.
Hickory has the same lodge now that it did in 1948. The fire place is in the same place and the doors swing open the same way. The regulars skiing this mountain are the sons and daughters of the sons and daughters of the sons and daughters who carved these trails out of the mountain side looking for a home some 60 years ago.
This is a destination that has been witness to the evolution of the ski industry to include metal edges, snowboards, and may have even had a role in helping to create the tele-mono board I saw on the slopes last weekend.
Hickory not only has the history, but more importantly, it has the heritage and die hard attitude that makes a ski hill unique.
Poma’s are the only lifts to the peaks here. If you get ambitious you can slap on your skins with the rest of the tele faithful or hitchhike a ride on a snowcat. The terrain you find here wont be groomed, man made, or forgiving. And that’s the way we like it.
Last Saturday was the annual Telefest @ Hickory. The trees were open, welcoming, and steep. It seems no matter where you went, the glades called you with a Rip Van Winkle type of peer pressure. The trails were all bumped up and soft. Not to mention that skier traffic was non existent. So quite simply, it was the perfect ski day. Every run we took had a different personality with their mix of cliffs or trees or fun stuff to ski. Heading up and down the Poma never got old. Every pull of the lever to release the bar provided another boost up the hill. When we got tired there was a warming hut at the peak (complete with back to the future chairs and a wood burning stove) to take some deep breaths and consider skiing the out-of-bounds off the back of the mountain. If those walls could talk… There was plenty of variable terrain to keep us occupied all day – and skiing the same run twice never skied the same way. All you saw were smiles all around and I don’t think I had ever seen such a collective happiness to click in.
In a recent interview I watched with Warren Miller he was asked of all the places he had ever skied, which was his favorite. His response was “where ever you find yourself that day”. That may be because he may has never skied Hickory. Or if he has, he was just trying to be fair to the countless places he was able to hawk some free lifties from.
Back to the lodge at the end of the day was a welcoming break. The big circular fireplace provided enough seating for a bakers dozen or so and the BYO policy was perfect for sharing a local brew with the people who called Hickory home, literally.
The girls I toasted a Saratoga Lager with before we took off told me stories about how they used to shack up in the lodge for the night and roast marshmallows with their Dads. Skiing is supposed to bring about a sense of family and togetherness. Hickory provides just that all the while maintaining a sense of pride that makes it stand alone among all others. Although the nights of Hickory sleepovers are over, the charm, character, and relentlessness of Hickory continues.
If you find yourself searching for a home, look no further than Exit 23 on the Northway. Tucked away in its own time warp you will find Hickory, living on in all of its glory.
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