A Return to Skiing in the Finger Lakes

I remember being a kid. I remember playing in the snow until my lips were blue, my pant legs frozen stiff, and my mom bribing me with hot chocolate to get me to come inside. As I got older though, something changed, because being buried in the snow, and rolling down the wintery slopes until I became a human snowball no longer held the same fascination – and comfort – they did in my childhood. With this change, my winter activities also evolved into more athletic endeavors.  Ice skating, skiing, anything that involved keeping in motion to make the cold more bearable, became my activities of choice, and for decades I still enjoyed winter.

Time passed. Work, kids and age took their toll and my “winter activities” slipped into warming up my car in the morning and the occasional sledding with my kids. But, that glow, that wonderful golden glow that lights up the southern sky in late fall and signals the start of the snow-making season for Bristol Mountain Ski Resort and Hunt Hollow Ski Club, was drawing me – calling me back to ski.

Where to start though? It had been 12 years, 12 long years since I had “hit the slopes.” Although I grew up skiing, the slopes somehow seemed steeper than I remembered, and what was going on with these funny shaped skis? Thank­fully, a friend and incredibly gifted instructor, Barbara Strait of Bristol Mountain, was kind enough to share the following tips with me. Even if you haven’t taken the extended hiatus from the sport, as I had, these tidbits of ski wisdom are sure to make this season’s runs your best yet. As I soon learned from talking with Barb, skiing has changed – for the better!

Tip #1 – Take a lesson. Learn how to take advantage of the new ski technology.  Just like oversized racquets changed the face of tennis, the shaped ski has revolutionized skiing. The slightly larger tips, gracefully arcing inward towards the center of the ski, and then widening again at the rear, suggest additional stability next to its straight-shaped brother, but it wasn’t until Barb (with the help of a miniature shaped-ski prop) turned the ski on its edge and applied a downward force, did I actually see the side cut in the ski translate into the ski gracefully curving in the direction of the downward edge, equating to beautiful sweeping turns with minimal effort from the skier. Not only will taking a lesson help you learn to use your equipment to its utmost advantage, but a ski instructor is an excellent tour guide as well, especially when you’re skiing a new mountain.

Tip #2 – Open up your stance. This was a surprising one for me, although when I considered the physics of this tip, it really made sense. I had grown up with the impression and instruction that a narrower stance was the best way to ski (at least it looked pretty cool).  But, by opening up your stance, not only do you give yourself a wider base of support; you’re also able to use both skis in a turn. In a narrow stance, as you lean into the hill, most of your weight is translated into your uphill ski, exactly what you don’t want to happen.  Widen­ing up your stance allows you to keep pressure on that downhill ski, giving you more control.

Tip #3 – Stand up straighter and keep your head up. Let your skeleton bear the weight of your body. When you lean forward, from the waist, you put much more strain on areas including your back and knees, increasing fatigue. In addition, by keeping your head up you help maintain your balance. Give it a try. Stand up and look straight ahead, and then drop your head forward and look down at the ground, feel the weight of your head pulling you forward, increasing the strain on your shoulders and neck. It’s just so much more comfortable and less stressful to keep that head up, again letting the skeleton of your body take the weight, as it was designed. Plus, keeping your eyes up is safer, which brings us to our last tip.

Tip #4 – Each season review your favorite slope’s safety rules. Most rules (as they typically do in life) fall into two categories: common sense and common courtesy. Rules such as watching for others uphill as you start downhill, or when you enter a new trail, giving those downhill the right of way, keeping a safe distance from fellow skiers and others, ensures that everyone has a safe and fun time skiing.

So, you’re all set to hit the slopes, but where to go? Lucky for us, the Finger Lakes region has several ski re­sorts that appeal to skiers of all abilities. Among them are Hunt Hollow Ski Club and Bristol Mountain Winter Resort.

Imagine having a ski resort virtually to yourself and a handful of your friends. Imagine almost no lift lines, plenty of elbowroom on the slopes, and an attentive staff to assist you with your every ski need. It’s not your imagination – it’s real! With 18 trails that encompass more than 80 acres of skiing delight, Hunt Hollow Ski Club has skiing for everyone. From those who’ve never been on skis, to mogul-loving ski aficionados, everyone will enjoy Hunt Hollow.

This members-only ski resort features the second-highest mountain of the western New York ski area, with an 825-foot drop. With a recent $1 million snow-making expansion, slope grooming twice a day, and light ski traffic, this is some of the best snow you’ll find in the Finger Lakes. Even the warm winter of 2001-2002 didn’t stop Hunt Hollow members from enjoying the slopes. These lucky members skied every weekend from Christmas to late March, during a season when the area received very little natural snow.

A 3,100-foot triple chair gets you to the top of the pristinely groomed mountain quickly, or an 800-foot T-Bar gets novice skiers to a gentle slope perfect for the beginner. Add to this a dedicated staff of professional ski instructors and you can see why Hunt Hollow brings out the best in skiers as young as 2-1/2 years of age.

This is the place for families. The club atmosphere means that it is easier and safer for kids to learn how to ski – and even easier for adults to learn to ski too, without the bustling slopes associated with commercial ski resorts. Combine all of that with a 9,600-square-foot lodge, complete with catered home-style meals, a kid’s playroom for when the youngsters need to take a break, a snowboard terrain park, ski camps, racing programs, a full-service rental and service shop with state-of-the-art equipment and professional technicians, and a very affordable membership, and you’ll see that Hunt Hollow has it all.

Nestled between Canandaigua Lake and Honeoye Lake, Bristol Mountain Winter Resort is the flagship resort for ski slopes in the Finger Lakes area. Thirty-two trails cover more than 140 acres of skier heaven, on this 1,200-foot mountain. At 4,500 feet, Bristol’s Milky Way trail is the longest in the region. With immaculately groomed slopes, it’s no wonder why Bristol Mountain is a favorite of skiers from near and far.

Continued improvements at Bristol keep it a forerunner of the industry. With 93 percent of its slopes equipped with high-tech snow-making equipment, Bristol has more ski days and better skiing than ever.

Finger Lakes Region Ski Resorts

Brantling Ski and Snowboard
Sodus • (315) 331-2365

Bristol Mountain
Bristol • (585) 374-2253

Greek Peak
Cortland • (607) 835-6100

Hunt Hollow Ski Club
Naples • (585) 374-8198

Labrador Mountain Ski Area
Truxton • (607) 842-6306

Song Mountain Resort
Tully • (315) 696-5718

Swain Ski Center
Swain • (607) 545-6228

Toggenburg Ski & Snowboard
Fabius • (315) 683-5543

Six lifts, including two quads, help reduce lift lines so you get even more time on the slopes. The Comet Express is their high-speed quad that will get you to the 1,200-foot summit in just over four minutes. The quad is one of the reasons why Bristol is able to transport more than 6,600 skiers and snowboarders per hour.

Bristol Mountain has four ski shops, a state-of-the-art rental center, incredible ski instructors (such as my friend Barb Strait), and two base lodges which serve a variety of fare, ranging from hamburgers and fries to more discriminating international tastes. Bristol also has a full-service daycare, seasonal or daily locker rental, and ski-and-stay packages. One of the most exciting features at Bristol, though, has to be the Summit Demo Center.

The Summit Demo Center is a unique opportunity for skiers to not only see the latest in ski technology, but also to take the latest and greatest out for a spin. All 13 manufacturers, in conjunction with four area ski shops, Ski Magazine and Bristol Mountain, have made this innovative center the best place to try it before you buy the coolest ski gear out there.

With new ski technology creating less fatigue, warmer and more comfortable ski apparel, better snow- making and slope-grooming equipment, and two incredible ski resorts, there’s no excuse not to get out there this winter and enjoy the finest skiing in the region. Whether you’re new to skiing, have been out of the sport for a while, or are an expert skier who gets the most out of each winter, the numerous ski slopes in the Finger Lakes area are sure to fill your winter with skiing enjoyment.

by Kimberly Wylie
Kimberly is a freelance writer from Hemlock. In addition to a rekindled love for skiing, she enjoys scuba diving, boating, and the many other outdoor activities the region holds. She has been blessed with a loving husband and two wonderful children.

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