Like a small-market Major League baseball team hanging tough with the big-city billionaires through grit, determination and fan loyalty, Mohawk Mountain continues to survive, and sometimes thrive. Founded in 1946 by Walt Schoenknecht¿a legendary figure who went on to develop the more glamorous Mount Snow, Vt., with its Japanese dream pools and base-lodge fish tanks¿Mohawk remains a family place. A Schoenknecht family place.
Walt's daughter Carol Lugar is the hands-on president of the area. His 81-year-old widow, Peg, still helps out on weekends. And granddaughter Cassie, a self-assured sixth-grader who finished 11th in GS in her region last winter, assists in the office during her school vacations. Walt passed away in 1987, but his spirit still guides daily operations. At the base lodge entrance, a weathered wooden sign humbly reads, "Please enjoy what we have to offer. ¿Walt Schoenknecht."
Even though it's April 2 and less than two feet of natural snow has fallen over the course of the winter, Mohawk is buzzing with action as I pay a visit. That's not surprising, because today is Good Friday and, by tradition, everybody skis for free. Tomorrow is the area's annual Easter egg hunt, with coupons inside the plastic eggs awarding prizes ranging from a hot dog to a season pass ("There's only one of those," Lugar warns).
What is surprising is the quality of Mohawk's snow. But then, the area has always held a storied spot in the annals of snowmaking. A layer of crushed ice laid during a snow drought in its inaugural season was skiing's first artificial surface, and the first commercial snowmaking system was built at Mohawk. To this day, the area churns out consistently good conditions.
That's important, because its five lifts crank until 10 pm each night (except Sunday), drawing day-trippers from Westchester County, N.Y., and Connecticut's burgeoning Route 7 corridor. "Morning brings the retirees," says Lugar. "At noon, the numerous prep schools¿Kent, Forman and Taft¿come for race training or recreational programs. By late afternoon, our regulars begin dropping by for an hour or two." The better skiers will head to the Boulder Summit Triple and whack away at the moguls that build up on Chute. But even the most timid can ski from the top, meandering along the Ledges/Deer Run combo, which skirts the area boundary.
Mohawk lost some of its "in-the-woods" flavor in 1989, when a freak tornado ripped up its base lodge, knocked down its five lifts and uprooted hundreds of the evergreens Walt grew in his backyard nursery. But thankfully, its signature warmth remains.
Information (860) 672-6100
Snowphone (860) 672-6464
Stats 640 vertical feet, five chairlifts (four doubles, one triple), 24 trails. Longest run: Deer Run (1 mile).
Ticket Prices All-day (8:30 am-6 pm or 1 pm-10 pm) $30; juniors $25; 4-and-under $12.
Good Deal Ski Monday nights for $12.