excellent slopes and snow
slopes can a lil crowded in places.
At first i discounted camelback from my list of mountains to visit this winter due to all the negative press on this site, however, after much deliberation i've decided to give it a try since it was close to home (2 hrs from ny). And boy i was glad i did.
For readers, i went 2/6/2010 on a friday. II snowboard and considered myself beginner-intermediate.
First, the staff was super friendly. I went into the booth to buy a camelpass (1/2 price lift, 3rd visit FREE) and was asking the representative lots of questions. she was very helpful and understood why i was hesitant to drop 49 bucks for a pass that i wont use if the mountain sucked. she went out of her way to make sure that if i wasnt satisfied with the mountain, i'd get my money back for the camelcard. Good first impression. I paid $22.50 for a lift ticket with my camelcard.
Next, the slopes cater to every skill level rider - almost. I must say, i can see how a expert will get bored with this mountain after a while. However, if your a beginner to advanced, and looking to improve your skills as a rider, this mountain has all level of green, blue and black to keep you occupied for an entire day. The great part about these courses is that there seems to be enough courses with varying difficulty levels of green, blue and black so a transition from, lets say, green to blue wont be too dramatic once you tried all the greens (minus bunny slopes). When you move up a color you feel challenged, yet at the same time, you know that its doable if you focus - a great feeling to have. Expect steep cliffs, hair pin turns, man made bumps, and sudden dips in later courses. I worked through all the greens from the main lift on the left side of the mountain to the right side, then blue in the same order and by the end of the day i was on blacks.
The most important thing is snow quality. I've been to some terrible mountains where the snow granuals are size of golf balls strewn across the slopes. However, i can tell camelback takes pride in their powder. Every single trail i visited there was evidence that the night prior the snow machines are out and grooming. Talking with the locals that frequent the mountain regularly, i was told that each an alternating trail gets fresh powder every other day. There are no rocks or sticks anywhere near the main slopes. There are some ice patches, but i think thats from snowboards (myself included) just repeatedly pushing snow down the mountain.
They also have a halfpipe (gasp!) and what looks to be a great terrain park with huge jumps, obstacles, and stuff that will make your mother fear for your safety - Good! One of the locals told me you need to pay a small annual fee and watch a safety course video - Bad! The validity of this is yet to be confirmed, though i consider him a reputable source.
The culture of the place is lively and friendly with its character changing throughout the day. Mornings from 9am to 3pm are mostly couples and families. From 4pm onwards, its mostly high school-college aged kids and young adults looking to shred. Everybody is out to have a good time and sparking up conversation with strangers is easy going and spirited.
So, great slopes, great snow, great variety all at a great price. So, what are you waiting for? Not so fast. Couple of cons you should be aware of.
For a weekday it seemed to be a little bit crowded. (I cant imagine it on the weekends...) I had trouble finding my feet at first with all the people whizzing past me, but once i had found em' it was no problem. I was able to navigate through the crowd and still enjoy myself. Expect to keep an eye peeled out for people out in front of you. The crowd dies down, surprisingly, at 2-3PM and there were times at 3:15 i did runs without being able to count the number of people on one hand on the way down.
Also, some of the trails seem a little short and you find yourself at the bottom thinking "only if it were a little longer". It definitely isnt a big mountain, but you will find yourself enjoying exploring the links between trails and once you do this, you will find a route that just resonates with you. In this regard, you get a good run in everytime once you familiarize yourself with the mountain.
Lastly, one of my pet peeves is closed trails. Only a handful of trails, yes, but still. closed trails.
Overall, Camelback was great. Dont listen to the other people and judge for yourself. Hope to see you there.