Dec 04, 2008
Check in with the Pumphouse gang, which gathers at the pumphouse between the Niagra and Victoria steeps to grill venison, swill local brew, and plot runs down ungroomed gems like Upper Cloudspin and Empire.
Because "Huntah" is just two and a half hours from the Long Island Expressway, it swarms with skiers in jeans, leather jackets, and no gloves yelling, "Hey Joey! I'm doin' it!" But the two-summit resort is not all about the urban-rowdy scene. The six expert runs on Hunter West can seem downright deserted. Most of the advanced runs offer at least one steep pitch to let you get up to cruising speed. And man-made snow covers the whole mountain—more than 1,000 guns blow an average of 95 inches a year, rightly justifying the tagline "Snowmaking Capital of the World." Just don't forget the edge tune-up before you go: When the blower pow sloughs off the underlying ice and the leather-coat crew hits the lodge, the skiing gets truly challenging.
Powder Day: Hit the Snowlite Express quad at 8:30 and take four fast laps on Hellgate and Racer's Edge — both are steep, straight, and wide enough for powder-sharing. Then move to the 34-degree pitch of Westway, the widest and steepest shot on the mountain.
Three days later: The hill is blown; head out of bounds.
Must Hit: The crosscut moguls of 33-degree Lower K-27 challenge all but the smoothest skiers.
The Stash: Stick to Annapurna's fringes (or the tight glades that flank it) for the best snow. Just watch out for the rocks on skier's left.
Backcountry Access: Hunter's OB is in state forest and thus legal. Shuffle out the ridge, past the top of Y Lift, to The Ravine. From there it's 1,000 feet down through maple and ash to the return cat track. Or duck out the maintenance road between Upper and Lower K-27: Go farther for steeper turns—but less vert.
Local's Take: "Ski it east to west. The east is really more southeast, so that's where the sun comes up and first softens the snow." —Doug Schmidt, junior race coach.
Weather: Much of the natural precipitation is liquid, so accept the free poncho and just deal with it—there's no ice when it's raining. Temps average 25 degrees from December to early March.
Don't Miss: Enjoy the live bands and watch the wipeouts at the Pond Skimming and Beach Bash, the last weekend of the season.
Apres: The bay windows of the Main Bar, in the base lodge, offer commanding views of the Catskills. On weekends grab a Heineken draught and sushi from the Summit Lounge.
Fuel: The $2.50 egg sandwich at Maggie's Krooked Café, on Main Street in Tannersville, is a much-appreciated Big Apple import. The best java is at the Mostly Coffee Café, a cart in the main lodge. Pancho Villa's serves up burritos the size of Mexico.
Up All Night: The jam bands at Tequillas Tex-Mex on Route 23A (yes, two Ls, no idea why) recall those of your college hangout. At Slopes in Tannersville, clubbers rage to three DJs (brought from NYC) on three different floors till 4 a.m.
Digs: The Mountain Bike Inn (mountain-bikeinn.com) has simple rooms with private baths from $60. The Washington Irving Inn ($125—$155; washingtonirving.com) is a 110-year-old Victorian B&B with afternoon tea.
Elevation: 3,200 feet
Vertical Drop: 1,600 feet
Snowfall: 125 inches
Getting There: Hunter is 132 miles from New York City. Take I-87 north to Exit 20, then route 32 north to 23A west.
Info: 888-486-8376, huntermtn.com