First Snow, First Tracks: Firsts For Me!

Conquering the Firsts…

It’s the first significant snow of the year, first weekend that Mt. Van Hoevenberg is open for the season, first time I have ever skied alone. 

I woke up this morning to the magical text: 6"


That simple text is what we've all been waiting for — it's the first significant snowfall of the year. We have permission to hit the slope/track/trail of choice for an hour or so prior to hitting the office. Our mission: check out the conditions, take pictures, report back. One of the advantages to working in a beautiful mountain town.

Cross Country Ski Center ahead!

Where to go? 

I chose Mt. Van Ho Cross-Country Ski Center — I have never been there. I think I’ve always been a bit nervous about it being one of the Olympic venues, and the fact that I am a pretty amateur skier. I often choose more secluded places - or places I have practically memorized like the winding trails of Cascade X-Ctry Ski Center. So, with the knowledge that it’s a pre-season weekday morning, and I probably won’t make a fool of myself in front of the normal masses, I’m pretty excited to check it out. I am not disappointed. 

From Lake Placid, the drive is a quick 10 to 15 minutes, the ski center is located off of Route 73 near the bobsled runs, right before you descend into the Cascade Lakes. The ride itself is scenic, snow falling softly; the Adirondack peaks just breaking through the clouds to let the sun shine through in a few spots.

I arrive with a bit of trepidation in my step. As I pull into the lot, I realize this is the first time I have ever (EVER!!) skied by myself, and in a place I’ve never been before no less! I guess I’m feeling adventurous in my old age. Or else it’s just the fact that I am considering this a scouting mission to see if I will be able to bring Oliver here without additional support — aka my friend Erin, who happens to be an awesome teacher with a knack for wrangling my little snowball-of-energy.

I glanced out into "the Stadium" nervous - but at least there wouldn't be too many witnesses to any mishaps!

Snow, Skis, Nerves, and Me!

I unload my gear and size up the 4 other cars in the lot - none look familiar. This is good - if I am going to wipe out on a trail with a scary hill, at least I won’t know who’s laughing at (and with) me. I muster up my courage and start the walk up toward the Lodge to check in. I have got this. And, then I don’t. Yup, I guess I needed to get it out of my system; or I jinxed myself. Not 20 feet from my Jeep, I decide to sprawl out across the entrance walkway - skies flying one way, poles the other. Yeah. That’s right, my first wipe out of the season and I don’t even have my gear on. So, with that out of my system, I gather myself together and continue on, a bit of relief flooding through me - I fell, I survived. And, no one saw me!

Crystal welcomed me with a smile and lots of useful information - thank goodness for our friendly locals!

I enter the Lodge and I’m greeted warmly by Crystal. I quickly blurt out: "I’ve never been here before." The words tumbled out covered in a bit of guilt as I have lived here for nearly two decades. How can I possibly admit this tragic omission? I am immediately put at ease. Crystal walks me through the check-in process, hands me a trail map, and then brings me over to the trail board and explains how it works. Fairly simple to grasp - even for nervous me: the trails are all listed by color according to their difficulty. If there’s a check next to them they are open (even I can handle this). We talk for a couple of minutes and Crystal decides to send me out on the Flatlander Loop, while suggesting I take the Extender Loop - if I am feeling comfortable and want a bit longer trip. I take a couple of minutes to check out the Lodge - they're getting it ready for the season, and I can just imagine it filled with folks enjoying the fire and food on a cold day.

The Lodge - preseason

Mt Van Ho cross country Trail Map

Here we go: Mt. Van Ho!

I head out into the Stadium - which I now know is the big space in front of the Lodge. There is not a person in sight - although evidence that other humans have gone before can be seen in the tracks through the freshly groomed trails. I make it to the end of the stadium and choose the right trail. I have to say, this is one of the reasons I usually ski places that I know - I get turned around in the woods very easily (actually, I get turned around everywhere pretty easily - I am not allowed to be the navigator on any family trips unless there is absolutely no one else available — Oliver’s directions are trusted before mine). The trail markers at Van Ho are pretty darn awesome - not only do they say which trails you are on, they literally point the right direction. I think I will be able to figure this out! 

Thank goodness for Trail Markers!

I head down the Flatlander Trail and it is a beautiful, peaceful snow-covered wonderland. The tracks are wide and this is a pretty flat trail with just a few small hills, nothing I would worry about even as a beginner. Oliver is going to love skiing here. There is a bridge to cross, picnic tables - a perfect length down the trail for a kindergartner to take a snack break, and if you look carefully, at one point you can even manage a glimpse across the road at the Biathlon Range. 

Groomers at work from bridge

Van Ho Picnic Spot!

I do the Extender Loop an extra time - just for good measure - and then head back into the Lodge. I passed one skate skier (or I should say, she passed me) and glimpsed the groomers a few times, but otherwise, the trails were mine. All Mine. It was the perfect morning: a 2-mile ski in the 17-degree snow globe we call Lake Placid. I can’t wait to explore a few of the other trails - I am still a bit nervous about not knowing what is around the next bend, but after taking my first turns of the season I am willing to give it a try!

I'm not alone - although I was quickly lapped!

At the beginning of the ski season, they typically operate on a day-to-day pre-season schedule based on current weather conditions. There are some great early-season ski deals as well as some great perks for purchasing your season pass now!

Who's Joining Me Next Time?

I love where I live. Come see why, stay awhile, and while you’re here enjoy all of our great cross-country ski trail options. From beginners to backcountry adventurers, we have trails just waiting for you to explore! After a day on the trails, you'll find it's the perfect time to do a tasting of the town - check out this fun blog where we did just that, and find out some of our favorite local eating spots

We’ll see you on the trails - and, if you come across me sprawled across the path, take a pic - we can all use a good laugh, can’t we?

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