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So my Indy Pass brought me to Montage yesterday (Sunday). I live on Long Island and have two boys (12 and 8) that play sports all year, so at 3 hours this is one of the "doable if we suck it up" Sunday daytrip mountains on my Indy list. I guess everything covered in this podcast is true, and maybe it's on me for not studying the trail map before hitting the road, or maybe I did everything "wrong" at this place and missed options, but in my humble opinion the set up of this place . . . kind of stinks if you have pre-teen kids or are a skier who doesn't feel like being "challenged" by steeper terrain. And I wish it didn't, because I pull for places like this.
"Base" lodge is two-thirds up the mountain. If you boot up in the parking lot, the walk to the ticket counter/lodge/rentals/ski shop involves 40-50 steps down (not an exaggeration, although this is probably more of an issue for the adults than my two kids). If you don't boot up in the lot, they have a small area outside the lockers you can use (quickly), but you are on top of a dozen people (half unmasked - what the hell already?) trying to do the same, and need to find a locker or other place for your bag - the lodge is essentially closed. All this is fine, not complaining, the topography of mountains is tough and unchangeable, and I roll with the Covid inconveniences for the most part, just saying it's a tough, sweaty start to the day if you are skiing with kids and have to sherpa gear down from the parking lot (don't forget anything!).
In that vein, the main disappointment for me was the Green and Blue terrain is limited to the top-1/3 of the mountain; essentially everything below that is a Black or Double Black, some with some legit steeps, and all (at least yesterday) with dudes bombing the hill right up your a$$ (and I am a Northeast skier who used to go to Hunter - I don't usually complain about this kind of thing). So while in Stuart's write up he says Montage "skis bigger" than it is, that's only if you can handle/want to handle relatively steep terrain (and it is steep - one run looks like a damn wall from below, and is supposedly the second-steepest steep in the Northeast!). I'm sure there were a few Blacks that my kids could have handled, but after taking them on one trail and twice hearing skiers yell "look out!" or "on your left!" and careen by my kids at 50 mph, I decided the Sunday "expert trails" crowd wouldn't mix with my sons making wide controlled turns, plus I didn't know the mountain enough to take the chance of putting them on something they weren't ready for. Even for me, while I can handle a few steeps, my preference is long meandering greens and blues these days, so not sure I would have really enjoyed skiing top to bottom here even if I didn't have the kids to worry about.
Again, they developed the mountain they had, and if it is mostly steeps it is mostly steeps, I get it. But the end result was we were skiing the same limited terrain and 3-4 minute runs all day, and we basically didn't use 2/3 of the mountain, which was kind of a bummer.
I have more to say about the lack of food options, or indoor/outdoor rest areas catering to families, but those are really specific to "making adjustments for covid," which are in their control but I hate to kind of dump on a small Indy mountain that I am otherwise rooting for. The people working there were great. There was a good crowd, yet the lift lines were very manageable (though the base lift to the beginner terrain had the steepest lift line decline I have ever seen, and beginning skiers were routinely crashing into the people ahead of them!). And the guys running the afternoon race course were, in particular, fantastic. They set up a short course on one of the blues up top the hill, and for $10 my 8 year old got a race number and could race the course as many times as he wanted for 2-3 hours, with his times called out when he crossed the finish. He had never tried it before, but he "raced" 4-5 times and absolutely loved it. Kudos to the starter and announcer making him feel like he was in the Olympics. And the kids still had fun, and I had fun with them, and I am glad the Indy pass made me give Montage a shot. But . . .
The experience was disjointed for me, and I am not sure I would return this year - maybe when my kids are older, or when the covid restrictions are gone and some of these practical "skiing with kids" inconveniences are lessened. But other options on the Indy (or not) are calling me now.
It’s the best mountain in the area with only Elk being a more distant competitor. Vertical is same between Blue, Elk, Montage. But...the top to bottom vertical atMontage is much more interesting in my opinion. And it is waaaayyy less crowded than Blue.
Big prices for such a small mountain , staff is rude at best . Watch your legs while getting on one of their “FOUR “ slow lifts , the lift attendants don’t do anything !!
Small Moutain, Big prices on peak Days. Poor grooming, poor park and Ski Patrol is nasty. My family and I had an incident where we did not know the lower half of the Moutain was closed. Ski patrol used profanities in front of my young children because they had to sweep the Mountain again. I would not recommend this Moutain to anyone who knows what a real Moutain should run like.
The one thing that seems strange is the Indy Pass exchange during your discussion. I totally understand how the Indy Pass needs to pay careful attention to spacing and potential concentrations since that could blow up the pricing and usage model. But I would have guessed Shawnee and Montage are far enough apart (60 miles). Berkshire East and Catamount are this same distance; Black Mountain and Cannon are closer, and I am sure there are some other examples.
Excellent conversation. It’s a great story and certainly leaves you pulling for Montage mountain. And I have to give you (Stuart) props for your interviewing skills - this was informative and entertaining even when the proportion of time spent discussing skiing was small. You’re a natural at these podcasts.
What a great story. Someone who never skied before buys a resort and makes it work. Just dropped Montage on my list of places to ski.