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New Jersey Ski Area Guide -- Very Complete

New Jersey News:

Sparta Ski Swap | December 6-7, 2013 -- The Sparta Ski Team Boosters will be hosting a ski swap at the Mohawk Avenue School in Sparta, NJ for used & new skis, snowboards, ice skates, ski & snowboard boots, poles, apparel and accessories. Selling and buying are both open to the public; admission is free.

Consignments must be dropped off at the school on Friday, December 6, 2013 from 5-8 PM. The sale runs Saturday, December 7, from 9 AM - 1 PM. There is no charge to consign; a 20% commission is taken on all items sold. All proceeds benefit Sparta High School Ski Team. The Mohawk Avenue School is located off Route 181 in downtown Sparta. Lineup generally begins 8:30 AM.

  • Campgaw, Mahwah • 18 skiable acres on 270' vertical
    Specs: Summit elevation: 720'; Base elevation: 450'. 4 Lifts: 2 doubles, 2 surface lifts. Uphill Capacity: 1800/hr. Terrain Mix: 50-38-12. Longest Run: 600'. Season: usually December through mid March. Night Skiing. Annual Snowfall: 45". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: Built by the Army Corps of Engineers, operated by the Bergen County Recreation Division, providing a great learning hill for over 40 years...hard to believe it's still operating, in New Jersey no less. Campgaw is about 20 miles from Manhattan. This is a great little ski hill, crowded at times, but ideal for beginners of all ages. Home to a lot of after-school skiers who grow up to slash Hunter West or crank the hits at Mountain Creek South. Campgaw offers both a very good ski experience and a view of the George Washington Bridge.


  • Hidden Valley, Vernon • 36 skiable acres on 620' vertical
    Specs: Summit elevation: 1435'; base elevation: 815'. 4 Lifts: 1 Triple, 2 doubles, 1 handle tow. Uphill Capacity: 3500/hr. Terrain Mix: 10-40-50. Longest Run: 4124' as measured by skiernet.com. Season: December through late March/early April. Night Skiing. Annual Snowfall: 65". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: "Hidden" is the right name, and they do a good job of keeping it secret despite the fact that it's visible from some of the crowded ramparts of Mountain Creek. It's a "private" club that sells a limited number of non-member tickets, but I don't believe they've reached that "limit" since the late 1970s. If you wish to ski without waiting in lift lines more than thirty seconds -- and that's unusually long -- ski Hidden Valley. Unfortunately it doesn't offer the variety of terrain to appeal to wanderers, nor the challenges and crowds that hotshots require. Absolute beginners are pretty much limited to one trail (Chicken Delight), but it is a long, rolling run as beginner trails go -- better suited to beginners than anything at Hidden's larger neighbor. Hidden Valley is a great area for families that have a couple of strong blue skiers and a newbie or two. The lesson program is outstanding, and the racing program has a tremendous reputation. If you live in the New York metro area, this is the place to go to learn to ski, or to practice, or to escape the crowds and edgy youth atmosphere of Mountain Creek. As for the expert in the family, there are three short but steep trails that provide a nice challenge. A long route from the top called Browse-Along serves the better novice/lower intermediate.
    For the past couple years, high school racing programs have been based at Hidden Valley, which deserves kudos for hosting the racers. The downside is that some runs will be unavailable at times, and liftlines are slightly longer after school hours. (Which is to say, you might have to wait 3 or 4 chairs) The upside is that the racers and their families are providing HV with some much needed business. This is a ski area that caters to racers and traditional skiers, and as such deserves our support.
    Insider Tip: Dinner in the upstairs lounge.
    Signature Trail: Browse Along


  • Mountain Creek, Vernon • 168 skiable acres on 1040' vertical
    Specs: Summit elevation: 1480'; base elevation: 440'. Actual vertical is probably 1001' on 1452' summit and 451' base. 10 Lifts: 1 open standing gondola, 4 quads, 1 triple, 3 magic carpets, 1 rope tow. Uphill Capacity: 15000/hr. Terrain Mix: 30-37-33. Longest Run: 9300' as measured by skiernet.com. Season: usually mid December through late March. Night Skiing. Annual Snowfall: 65". Snowmaking: 100%..
    The SKInny: Mountain Creek is the best and the worst of skiing in the east. It was originally two separate ski areas, Great Gorge and Vernon Valley. Vernon bought out Gorge in the mid-1970s, and the mega complex became a haphazardous entity called Vernon Valley/Great Gorge. In the 1990s it sold to IntraWest (Whistler, Stratton, Steamboat) who renamed it Mountain Creek and turned a tired, crowded ski area into a new, well-run, crowded ski area. Liftlines got shorter, grooming became decent, and the skiing became very good. Sometimes excellent. It's close and convenient for a huge population center. Did I mention the weekend crowds?
    When all is said and done, Mountain Creek is a world-class ski area in New Jersey. Wanderers can choose among four separate summits spread across 3.7 miles of terrain, and will be in heaven -- although nowadays this is very tedious as the Sojourn double chair is gone. Hotshots will find a couple of very short but taxing sections on some trails.
    Trails on the weekends can be a nightmare, but you can generally find open runs and short lines on Granite Peak (the old Great Gorge North). On some weekends you won't find short lines anywhere.
    Best skiing was at South. In recent years Vernon Peak has been crowded, and the atmosphere has been heavy with in-your-face youth attitude. A massive hotel was constructed a couple years ago but is embarrassingly underused; a painful lesson to ski area operators that customers like to have a lodge as a prerequisite to lodging. It didn't help that patrons would rent a room, then step on a lift crowded with foul-mouthed, chain-smoking teenage snowboarders acting like wannabe "gangstas." So in 2007, management converted the entire South section to the park'n'pipe theme, supposedly because it was underused. I still say they were hoping to draw the uncouth away from their hotel. A lot of skiers fled the all-park "South" for the less edgy atmosphere of Vernon Peak. Parking at Vernon is deplorable -- possibly the longest walk in the east without a shuttle -- and the lift requires you to take skis off and stand, all for a trail system that funnels down to a single runout.
    Following the implosion of Intrawest, Mountain Creek was sold. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Gene Mulvihill -- founder of the original Vernon Valley -- is back, large and in charge. Mulvihill is a polarizing figure, but whether you love him or despise him, there would be little or no skiing in New Jersey today if not for his efforts and influence through the years. First order of business was to knock down the old Sojourn double, effectively returning the area to a its 1975ish division between north and south. Management drew up a fantasy trail map showing a new route off Great Gorge summit to provide a return link northward, but a whole lot of gneiss and a little thing called gravity took that proposal off the table -- at least temporarily. Instead skiers were treated to a brand new and rather delightful lodge at Vernon Peak, replacing the ghastly bubbles. Time will tell if the areas are ever to be reconnected, if the parking in Vernon will ever improve, or if the Opossum trail will reopen and alleviate some of the traffic at the funnel. One thing remains certain: The ski resort on Hamburg Mountain is quintessential Jersey. Would we really want it any other way?
    --RB


  • Lift Tickets at Discount: This is a "clearinghouse" of sorts that many ski areas use to raise cash by selling discount tickets in advance, called Liftopia. If you haven't used this service, it is important to know for certain that you are going on a specific date. The deeply discounted tickets must be purchased in advance; generally up to two days out. The sticking point is that some ski resorts only make a limited number of tickets available to Liftopia for any given day, so they might be sold out if you wait too long...so, as soon as you are absolutely, positively sure that you will be skiing on a certain day, click this link to get deeply discounted tickets. I've used this service many times, but again, ONLY when I am absolutely certain I will be skiing on a specific date. You need to have access to a printer to print out your receipt, and you have to take identification with you to the mountain. I've knocked a third off the price of some tickets. Not every area participates, but it's well worth checking if you've got a date nailed down.


New Jersey's Ghost Ski Areas

Also known as "lost" ski areas; the Garden State once boasted some twenty lift-served slopes. Here are four SkierNet.com pages:

Craigmeur, Newfoundland NJ A classic feeder hill where thousands upon thousands from the New York metro area learned how to ski. From J-bars to jumps, Craigmeur had it all. Skiing at Craigmeur closed in 1998, but fortunately NJ Ski Historian Liz Holste has preserved it here!
Great Gorge, McAfee Now part of the Mountain Creek complex, previously purchased by Great American Recreation and merged with Vernon Valley. This page covers the era up to the merger.

Snow Bowl, Milton Closed in the mid 1970s, this Morris County ski area can still be visited -- and skied -- today.

Vernon Valley, Vernon Now part of the Mountain Creek complex, previously operated by Great American Recreation and merged with Great Gorge. This page covers the era up to the merger.

Free Ski & Snowboard Stickers!

Show your passion for doing it up and keeping it real with a free "Old School" sticker for your helmet, or your board, or whatever. Just e-mail your mailing address to sticker -at- gondyline -dot- com and say "send me a snowboard sticker" or "send me a ski sticker" or "send me a ski sticker and a board sticker for my sister" or whatever. If you say "please" we'll send two. They look like this:


Ski Into New Jersey History...

A friend of mine named Liz Holste has written a book about the history of skiing in New Jersey. That's right, Jersey. Liz contributed a lot of the photos and plenty of information for our Great Gorge webpage, and she's also the author of our Craigmeur page. Her book has plenty more information about the Vernon area hills, as well as a surprising number of "lost" ski areas throughout the state. All over the state, in fact. Plenty of interesting stories and lots of photos, one of the most all-around fascinating ski books anywhere.

Here's an excerpt from the foreward, written by Donna Weinbrecht, 1992 Olympic Gold medalist: Liz takes you back in time to the birth of skiing in one of the most unlikely winter sports states in the country ? New Jersey. Her book honors the spirit of the Europeans who brought their inbred passion for snow and the great outdoors to these shores. The spirit of these pioneers of skiing, described in this book is still alive in those of us who have been lucky enough to reap the rewards of their incredible journey.

To order the book, please click here. The link takes you to Amazon.com, so you know it's a safe place to order and whatnot. I've read it, and I assure you that if you're into history and skiing, it's a "must-have."


Key

Hotshots are skiers who can ski anywhere, anytime, in any conditions, and generally enjoy showing off those skills. Wanderers are skiers who like to go exploring, to essentially get "lost" and move from face to face, seldom skiing the same trail twice. Newbies are the girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband who has never skied before, but gamely insists on going along. Obviously, Blues represents intermediate skiers, while Blacks refers to experts.

A Signature Trail Is mostly subjective. Whether it's history, reputation, the view, or degree of difficulty...it's the run you have to do, even if it isn't necessarily the best the resort has to offer.

Finally, a note about ski area statistics: Although it's hard to believe, some ski areas are (gasp!) less than truthful with their numbers. Like the guy who lies about his, uh, shoe size, some ski areas believe that inflated numbers make their resort sound more appealling. When these numbers are obviously questionable, we put a note: (?!) and will attempt to verify the legitimacy of the claim.