Ski Day 21: Zelda agreed to handle Neve's lesson at Gore today so I was able to attend Hickory's Telefest ... IF I could find my own ride down to Warrensburg. Jeff Palka of The Gear Source in North Creek, was running a Tele demo and agreed to let me tag along. We wound our way down the back way through Thurman... .
...and arrived around 8 am. We unloaded the truck, and got Jeff set up. We weren't the only shop selling gear. The colorful "Ski Till I Die" boys were there, (not to be confused with the Ski to Die Club) ...
I made my way over to Poma 1. It seemed to be manned, but no one was in line. I asked the liftie if he was ready to go. He popped his head into the shed flicked a switch, and came back out and said... "I am now." I stepped up, took the "stick" and got launched into the days adventure.
Poma 1 serves Hickory's gentler lower mountain terrain, below it's mid-station, but gets steeper above that point. From either of Poma 1's unloading spots you can access Poma 2 which serves the summit. I made my way over to Poma 2 to check out the summit.
Top of Poma 2
I was solo to start, so I stayed on the trails. I hit Winfall first, the steepest trail on the hill.
Everything at the top of Hickory is rated black except Ridge Run, which winds along the eastern shoulder of the mountain. The blue trail had nice corduroy maybe three passes wide...
... and skier's right was left all natural.
I went into the woods, checking out Paul's Peril. Hard for me to say how much snow Hickory has had this season, but it seemed that depths in the woods were equivalent to depths at Gore. Paul's Peril had good coverage over most of the run, and it's really long. I don't think many of the "on the map" tree shots at Gore extend as far. The pitch was perfect for my skills, and I lapped it at least 4 times.
Hickory's weekend operating schedule and low skier traffic, keep the snow really soft. Even in trafficked areas, any kind of a fall left a hole at least a foot deep.
Liftlines, normally the bane of lift-served skiers, are a nice break at Hickory. They provide time to socialize, and rest. This was the longest line I found all day, at the bottom of Poma 2.
From the top of Poma 2, at skier's far left, you come to an interesting grouping of signs. A "Ski Area Boundary Sign" is accompanied by a rope with a sign that implores you to poach.
In the afternoon, you could see an intense squall approaching from the northwest. The wind picked up and a small blizzard came through that lasted maybe 20 minutes.
Ike in "Disconnect"
Rope Tow Bunny Hill
When we got back to the base, the snow stopped and the sun came back out.
I closed out the day by convincing Jeff to abandon his demo and ski.
He led me to the backside and showed me lines he was dreaming about skiing with more snow.
Eventually we came back towards skier's right and made our way down to the snowmobile trail that leads back to the Lodge.
Today's 4th Annual Telefestival was my first time skiing at Hickory and I didn't know exactly what to expect. What I found underfoot was soft snow, well-formed bumps and great terrain. The refrozen precip from last Saturday night was evident, but manageable and almost unnoticeable after a few tracks had been made on a line.
I know the pictures and captions above don't come close to capturing the magic I felt today. There were probably two or three hundred skiers on the hill, but there were no strangers. Everyone spoke to each other like they were old friends. Lifties, who spent the day getting whacked in the arm with flying Poma sticks, really seemed to be having fun. There were eager volunteers helping out in every possible way. And smiles reflected the genuine love that everyone had for our sport and Hickory Ski Center.
Take the time to Ski Hickory. If you really love to ski, you'll love this mountain.
"You just need to go at that shit wide open, hang on, and own it." —Camp
I had to teach a 2 day camp @ Gore, or I would've been there in a heartbeat. I got the report from Harv and McP (Hickory Ski School) this morning (Sunday), and I have to say that I definitely feel like I missed out.
The best part about Tele Skiers is camaraderie, and the best part about a small ski area like Hickory is the cool, friendly vibe. Put them both together and it sounds like it made for a freaking awesome day. Like I said, I'm sorry I missed it, but I feel like there'll be more chances this season to sample the Hickory offerings (March 5th, perhaps?).
Telefest at Hickory was an awesome good time. The energy of the place was magnified 10 fold by all the smiles and good vibes of the people. I am not a telemark skier yet I was welcomed with open arms. You really don't have to be a telemarker to participate at Telefest. The Telemarkers up there are really warm and wonderful people who welcome people to slide with them on whatever gear gives them joy. The only attitude I felt was the "we love to ski at this cool little mountain" attitude.
I started the morning shredding untracked and lightly tracked crust on the steep slopes with Paul and George from Connecticut. Then caught up to Kirby's Tour de Trees and a group of smiling free-heelers, finding Harvey in the pack. We ripped up Paul's Perrill. I loved the Disconnect and the back side. What beautiful glades! I wanted to take the 1pm telemark lesson, but I had taken one run too many with the rippin pinners and barely had time to refuel and hydrate, change my boots and pick up some demo skis from The Source. I missed the organized clinic, but had some great coaches join me on the groomers.
I haven't telemarked in over 3 years, and I was never very good at it, but I was able to get into the groove on the easier trails. I had so much encouragement. Paul and George accompanied me and Mel on the groomers giving us tips and support the whole way.
Harvey didn't mention the T-bar. The Tbar is a much more comfortable ride up than Poma 1, and you can take the T-bar to Poma 2 to get to the top, and unlike the Poma, you can ride with your friend and have a conversation. I hadn't explored the green trails during my last visit, so taking it down a notch was a nice break from the steep trees. It was very cool that Paul and George took the time out from their day to ski with us. We went up to the top of Poma 2 and came down the Ridge Trail just as the snow squall was coming through. I didn't have my goggles, just glasses, so I had some visbility issues.
I had brought a friend with me who wanted to learn to Telemark and has never downhill skied before, only cross-country. She took the telemark lesson with Steve and did really well. Throughout our day we saw her progressing on the green trails with a smile on her face. She seemed to be enjoying the challenge and was doing quite well for her first time on skis.
The Ridge Trail, a partially groomed, blue square, the only intermediate run from the top of the mountain, is fairly narrow with a funky double fall line. During our snow squall run, just a short distance from the top, we found my friend Brenda in over her head. She had just taken off the skis and had resigned to walking down. The 4 of us approached to save her day. We convinced her that skiing down is much easier and safer than walking. George took her under his wing and coached her down the trail. She did well and got down safely, learning a few things along the way. Big thanks to George, Paul, and all the others who helped the newer and less-skilled telemarkers and those who gave the clinics in the morning and afternoon.
A super big thanks and round of applause to Martha and Kirby who did so much of the organizing, and running the show, along with Valerie, Steve, and Jim and the other volunteers.
The whole event was incredibly fun. The meatloaf dinner was delicious and helped absorb the beer. The band rocked until 7pm. Lots of prizes were given away and merriment was made. We spent 11 fun-filled hours at Hickory on Saturday.
I think there are many more visits to Hickory in my future. Even with 3 times as many people there as last week, it was definitely not crowded. More people should visit Hickory to help keep those lifts running. Hickory should not be a secret. It is a gem that can be shared.
I haven't looked at my pictures yet. If there are any good ones, I'll post them tomorrow.