Ski resorts in the usually snow-challenged northeast have waited 60 years to put hyperbolic terms like “Snowicane” and “the Perfect Storm” to use. It’s hard to blame them for hyping this winter’s blanketing. The mountains near NYC have Colorado-worthy snow, if not mile high peaks, and they want you to know about it.
There’s never been a better time for close-to-home skiing. And by close to home, we don’t mean a four-hour drive to southern Vermont or a two-and-a-half-hour haul to Hunter Mountain. We mean really close to home. As in 47 miles from the George Washington Bridge close. So cancel your trip to Killington and snicker at your friends who are paying top dollar to ski at Vail, you can live the Lindsay Vonn dream in, gasp, New Jersey.
MOUNTAIN CREEK, Vernon, New Jersey
The mood: Outright euphoria over the epic snowfall, mitigated by the hassle of dealing with the epic crowds.
The ski report: Standing at the top of the snow-covered mountain, it’s easy to forget that you’re not in Colorado or Utah. With over two feet of new snow in the last week, 41 trails of groomed powder are open. Half the mountain is devoted to a terrain park (think Winter Olympics half-pipes and ski jumps) that we weren’t brave enough to try. The snow’s definitely on the softer side, so edges can get caught, but this translates into an amazing workout for your quads and core. Mountain Creek’s strength is its assortment of 10 or so challenging intermediate trails, which tend to be less crowded than the beginner trails since this is a “learn to ski” (read, learn to fall) mountain.
The crowd: The Real Housewives of New Jersey go skiing, while their teenage sons snowboard. About sixty percent of the crowd snowboards, and many are lacking in skilz, or just downed two shots of Captain Morgans (at Hex, the sportsbar), meaning you’d better tighten your helmet and watch out.
The facilities: Intrawest, a Canadian company that also has a hand in Colorado’s Steamboat and Vermont’s Stratton, combined two defunct Vernon Valley ski resorts and christened the new resort Mountain Creek in 1998. A fire destroyed the base lodge in 2001 and the temporary white bubble structures remain in place today as the rental center, (fast) food court, and sports bar. Despite the temporary appearance, everything operates efficiently. For example, there were 30 people ahead of us in the ski rental line, but we still had our boots, skis and polls within 20 minutes.
Bottom line: If you’re a New Yorker who wants simply to ski for the day, you can’t do better than Mountain Creek for convenience, and with snow like this you won’t get bored skiing the varied terrain. It’s by far the best, real ski resort within sixty miles of the city. (Campgaw is just 20 miles, but it’s just a bunny hill.)
Room to improve: We’re waiting for a non-smoking policy. The Jersey boys like to smoke while standing in line for the Cabriolet gondola.
Getting there: Vernon, New Jersey is just an hour northwest of New York City. And you don’t need a car to get to the mountain. Hop on a New Jersey transit bus or book a seat on a private coach bus run by Paragon Sports or Emilio’s Ski Shop. Mountain Creek has also teamed up with Zip Car to provide special deals for its members. Click here for all the transit options, as well as driving directions.
Have you ever skied at Mountain Creek? Please share your experience, here!