Close to NYC, good snowmaking, helpful staff, lots of trails open
OVERALL: Nice day of skiing for family, especially beginners. Lodge was nearby slopes, easy to watch kids for non-skiing moms. Good community - almost no-one locked up their skis/boards and I did not see/hear of any problems.
CROWDED: It was a school holiday, and the weather just changed for the better, so lots of folks out.
Since moving to DC years ago, I haven't had a chance to do some skiing in the north east. Growing up in NYC, I used to take a day bus from 57th Street up to Cortina Valley (now a part of Hunter) and points north with my buddies every weekend during the season. Skied all kinds of conditions - rain, fog, cold and wonderful sunny days too.
So now my skiing partner is my 11 year old daughter, who is just moving into parallel skiing and is used to only spring skiing in the Mid-Atlantic. We decided to miss a day of visiting family while in NYC and hit the slopes for the fist time this season.
Jumped on a day-bus from the NJ Transit from NYC up to Mountian Creek (Great price and no traffic headaches for me). I used to know it as Vernon Valley. Missed the previous day's single digit temps (too much on the little one) and got a great weather day for early season fun (20's? - felt like 30's).
OK - got there at 9AM and they only had two or three folks working the ticket booths. About fifty people lined up with gear... and more coming. Slow moving. They need to set up a separate window for season pass/three-for's/groups and other specials. And put more folks in those windows! Waited about 15 minutes to get tickets.
For my daughter, the Sugar Slope (beginner's) was enough. Remembering her technique from last season was her goal and the ice under the snow was something new to her. I skied a number of the North Slope trails and found them well groomed, even with the occasional ice patch. Snow-making was continuous and helped to keep the real ice (anyone who skied at Hunter knows what I mean) down to manageable granular. But there were plenty of near misses throughout - folks sitting down in the middle of the trail (boarders) and just crammed up - enjoying the view. Many beginners - but hey - the more the merrier (and it keeps the industry lift ticket prices down).
LOTS of snowboarders... even though there is a terrain park just for them (South Slope); most were beginners. Looking at the racks at the lodge, it was about two to one on snowboards to skis. (SKIERS - sign of the times?) Lifts were crowded, but moved fast once in line. Lots of MC folks lining them up and moving 'em along. Good job!
Overall, I'd go back - even stay the night at the hotel that was right on the mountain and use the outdoor heated pool. Probably on a mid-week day (not a holiday).
And maybe I'll try take a snowboard lesson ;-) !