Saturday, February 26, 2011

Give A Hand To Those Who’ve Got Your Back

Next Saturday March 5 Plattekill’s Ski Patrol are having a benefit dinner. These are the men (and women) in red who work tirelessly on the mountain. They train for hours and are there when you need them. So give them a hand back.

Platty’s patrollers are an all-volunteer department and they pay for all their equipment. Everything from bandages to backboards, sleds, defibrillators and radios. So ante up. Pay out. It’s only $12—for chicken BBQ and Blues Maneuver. Also they’re a 501C3 – which means they’re an official charity, so any donations over and above your ticket price are tax deductible.

Perhaps another reason to turn out on Saturday? The Guinness girls will be serving up some fine Irish stout. There will also be a snowboarding Captain Morgan…

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Time to Make The Donuts

Rather than reading like a Dunkin Donuts ad from the 90s, the title should have a question mark after it. Like: “Where does he find the time to make the donuts?” The he in question is Macker, who, yes, makes donuts for Plattekill. As if it’s not enough that he keeps everything running smoothly and the mountain groomed (particularly after a thaw like last week) he finds the time to deep fry some dough.

And I should say for those who think that Dunkin Donuts (or Krispy Kreme) are the last word in donut-ness, try Macker’s. They’ve got a slight crisp on the outside and flaky inside. Oh, and a light dusting of powdered sugar or cinnamon. When I asked what the deal was with the donuts – meaning how the hell does he manage to cook them and do everything else (I personally have never made them. Anything that requires a deep fryer scares me) he said, “They’re round and have a hole.” And then laughed as if it was all elementary. In truth he’s been making them for years at Plattekill. It was one of his first jobs at the hill.

However, these days he doesn’t eat them. Macker – ever the perfectionist – doesn’t eat sweets – no cake, no ice cream. Only chocolate. It’s his sole sin (food-wise, that is). And if you want to experience the donuts, he’ll be doing them again next weekend for the cafeteria. They’re 3 for $1.50….

Friday, February 18, 2011

Free Skiing

What two words ring better to a skiers ear? Fresh Powder? Possibly... But I'll take free and I've got two ways for you to get it too. 1) "Like" Plattyon FB and if they get 2000 fans by the end of the month, the mountain will do a free day for their fans. (As of posting time they only need 350 more fans...).

2) The Plattekill Trail Map Competition sponsored by our fine fair mountain and WITC... Entry forms are at Plattekill but if you don't happen to be there this weekend (and snow is forecast so why would you not?) you can also email them directly to me. Make sure to include your age and contact info. Best interpretation wins. And as you're pondering just what that might mean, we've posted these pics of Freefall (below – and, my personal fave trail) and Blockbuster above. Block, as many fans know, has 1000 feet straight vert – the most in the Cats.

Thanks to Macker, I can also tell you just how it got its name. The guy with the bulldozer who cut the trail said it was too steep, dangerous and so on. "There's no way anyone can ski that. They’ll break their block." Hence Blockbuster was born. Meanwhile Freefall got its name from Laszlo's mom who won the competition to name it before he'd even bought the mountain.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Take it to the Macker

Macker is the man behind the mountain. He prefers to stay behind the scenes. Preferably behind the wheel of the groomer. “That’s where I get my calm, my peace,” he says. But in a sense, all you need to know about him are his skis. Stockli. They’re Swiss – handmade, the kind of planks a perfectionist goes for.

Macker is a man of few words, exacting standards (witness the Stockli skis. As he puts it, “I don’t get to go out very often so I need to make it count.”) He puts quality over quantity. He also hates the limelight and grimaces for his pictures (it wasn't easy to get him to smile for the one above). This, plus his sparkly baby blues, gives him a Clint Eastwood flintiness.
And, we can thank him for the quality of the snow at Plattekill. He is the sort of guru who knows when to groom and when to hold back – making sure that the goods are never over-used or over-groomed. He knows how to build a base and keep it strong, getting the most of out both manmade and natural snow (which has, this year, been divine).

He started working at the mountain in 1982. He moved to Roxbury and was working construction. “So,” he explains, “in winter work dried up. And, I ended up here.” With no idea that nearly thirty years on he’d still be here, head of ops, guardian of the hill’s lore and also every wire and piece of pipe in the lodge and on the hill. He’s done all the repairs and laid all the lines for the snow guns. He started, though, by running the T-Bar (yes, a T-Bar that took you all the way up North Face – which didn’t yet exist – not even as its first incarnation Barney's Bluff). The next year he came back, made a little snow and started running machines working the lifts and started doing that every winter. Now he is director of mountain ops and dedicated to the hill because “It’s a stronghold of the community.”

The name – Macker – was coined when he ran a garage and was the Mac Tools salesman for the area (even then he continued to work at the mountain in winter. He was that dedicated to it). And, from that time hence the man once known as Ken Davie became Macker – which sums up his personality – being the kind of person who says, “It’s not my way or the highway. It’s just my way.”

In shying away from attention, he insists I talk to others about him – like Jen Schumann who runs the ski school desk. When I ask her about him, she says, “He gave you list only of women
right?” and laughs – “He’s such a flirt.” Indeed now those steely Eastwood looks make sense.

(Above – Macker starts a fire ... with a flame thrower....)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Snow Hope Pt ... a Billion

Yes, look at that band of snow due today. We've had 3 inches and are owed up to 7.... All of which equals lovely conditions.

This year's already brought way, way above average snowfall (we're talking well near 120 inches for the Western Cats) -- which also translates into great skiing. Even last weekend with its mixed bag of (let me put it euphemistically) mixed precip .... In fact I might have had my best ski day ever in that rather sodden mix falling Saturday. The Plunge in low-vis cloud cover anyone? I can tell you it was a blast...

Just imagine how great Platte will be come Friday. See you there.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sledding Anyone?

Thanks to the awesome weather - meaning abundant snowfall and consistent below-freezing temps - the result is a fabulous snowpack this winter for x-country skiing, back-country skiing, snowshoeing, riding 'sleds' (the official Delaware County term for 'snowmobiles'; if you hang with with Sarah Palin, you'd call them 'snowmachines'), and of course good 'ole fashion downhill sledding! Those of us with kids ( I have two youngsters) have a great excuse to act like kids in the snow - by going sledding of course.

Growing up my brother and I used my father's huge, old-school wooden toboggan. Yes, that's right- one of those six-foot long things with the alternating black and natural wood color boards - complete with the curl on the front.

We never could get it going very fast, unless of course the hill had about a 60-degree slope or we had that nice coating of crusty, icy stuff under the powder. With the conditions being like they are out there today and predicted for tonight, I think tomorrow might just be a perfect day for tobogganing.

Don't have one? Well neither do I anymore. I wish I did because my 6'4" frame would fit much better on that than it does on these plastic sleds of today. I now have to get more creative in ways to go sledding so that my 4 year old doesn't get disappointed in me. Remember the sledding scene in Christmas Vacation? That is what I feel like. I must now become the Clark W. Griswold and find not only the perfect Xmas tree, but also the "food-grade cereal shellac" that will surely make me the King of the Hill in my little guys' eyes.

Sleds come in so many variations today, but what I have discovered is they all work well under the ideal conditions they are made for. If the hill isn't steep enough, the snow not wet enough, or the sledder is not light enough, then it all comes down to one thing - track/route preparation.

Despite the wishes of the 4-year-old, take the time to prepare....make a few trial runs to pack down the track. Start with the lightest weight person and build up to that 6'4" 220-pounder - especially when constructing/packing down the jump at the end!

Taking the time to experiment and prepare is the key, but I also bring a couple different sleds. You have to work up to that Cadillac - start with old reliable first to warm things up....then bring out the big guns for the big fun.

How do you know when your sledding sled run is officially 'groomed' to perfection?
When you can successfully go body-sledding!
Get out there...enjoy the food-grade cereal shellac that Mother Nature has provided for us in the Western Catskills......its great for your heart, and all natural you know.

Happy sledding,
Aaron & Hudson Bennett

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ice Harvest - A Must Do Activity For Kids Of All Ages

I always thought you needed to be a parent to go to the Ice Harvest Festival at Hanford Mills. I mean, what could possibly pull me away from the woodstove on my day off? But last year I went. And was amazed. Mainly because I actually dressed correctly for the weather and didn't get cold (but that may have had something to do with the 3 trips into the store for hot soup, chili and cider -yum!!)

But it probably had more to do with it being easy and fun. HMM has done this event so many times it always comes off without a hitch. This year should be no different. The ice is thick and the storm brewing and there is a good chance of snow. Hopefully, an incredible Saturday awaits you. HMM provides Yak-Trak's for your boots so you don't slip. You get to use all the vintage ice cutting tools - these things are way cool and would make for awesome props in a slasher movie. There are boat loads of volunteers there to help you get the ice block cut, moved to the exit ramp, up and in the vintage car to move to the ice house where it's stored.

To top it off there was all sorts of stuff going on throughout the grounds from the horse drawn sleigh ride, and ice carving (which starts in the morning so if you want to watch them do the actual carving go early). The blacksmith was on site and making nails and hooks. Some huge one ton cow (ox??) was hanging out (one half of a team named Ben and Jerry). This year SUNY Delhi's ice hockey team will be on site for added fun like pond hockey demos and you can attempt to score goals on them I think. For me a every cool new activity - how to cook on a woodstove demo in the Hanford house.

Hanford Mills Museum is in East Meredith so really easy to get to off of I-88 or State Hwy 23 in Davenport - to the south. Or up Elk Creek or Irish Hill from Delhi. It's at the intersection of County Routs 10 and 12. I've posted some photos here from last year. But go out and take your own and have some FUN!!! Plus, how awesome is it to come back on 4th of July weekend and eat ice cream made from the ice you helped harvest??