Plattekill: Small Mountain Charm indeed
Yesterday (Sunday), Campbell and I finally got out to Plattekill, the “other” Catskills mountain, five miles west of Roxbury, which boasts “Big Mountain Terrain, Small Mountain Charm.” The latter part of that sentence is certainly a fair claim: after battling the crowds at Hunter and Belleayre this last couple of peak-season weekends, it was a joy to drive just an extra twenty minutes further west and be rewarded with a mountain where lodge-side parking is a given, and lift lines non-existent. The Plattekill food was fine, and fairly priced; I liked the look of the wooden, cabin-style bar on the top floor; staff were friendly; somebody handed in my Oakley sunglasses to Guest Services when I dropped them at the end of the day (thanks for doing the right thing, whoever you are); and we got in dirt cheap, thanks to a “$25 if you sign up in advance” one-day experiment that happened to coincide with Friday’s long-overdue 6” of fresh snow.
As for the “Big Mountain Terrain” claim, well, I’ve long heard that Plattekill is a great mountain for post-snow dump expert skiing, and I can see why: it’s shaped something like a bowl, with five black and double-black diamonds each dropping 1100 feet at some pretty drastic angles that even give Hunter’s steeper slopes a run for their money. But Plattekill doesn’t make much snow, and with the last couple of winters showing all the signs of climate change (we’ve still not had a real snowfall – i.e., over a foot’s worth – all year), it’s struggling to maintain business. Friday’s six inches of fresh snow had been so carved out of the ungroomed trails by Sunday morning that Campbell and I had to work extra hard all day to avoid hitting the many scattered rocks. That part was a downer, and nobody I’ve spoken to seems sure how Plattekill can get around this problem: the mountain is only open weekends and holidays, which means they simply don’t do the business to be able to invest in massive snow-making; besides, the lack of crowds (especially of young snowboarders scraping away the fresh snow) is what allows them to rightly claim their “Small Mountain Charm.”
Still, dodging rocks was the only downer; in four hours of sun-soaked bonding, we managed many more runs in much less time than at a seriously-crowded (but still our favorite) Hunter Mountain on Saturday. And though Campbell tends to avoid double-black diamonds, by the time we were through, he’d taken on every single one of them that Plattekill had to offer, his turns seriously improved by all that work avoiding the debris. It’s not Utah. But it’s ever the best way to spend a winter weekend in the Catskills.