Monday, February 7, 2011

Ski Venture, Glenville NY: 02/06/2011

Sunday afternoon, with both kids in tow, I had the chance to check out a small, local ski area that you’ve probably never heard of, even though it’s been in continuous operation for nearly 75 years. Ski Venture is a private club with its own ski hill and rope tows located in Glenville, about half an hour southwest of Saratoga Springs. Though small (110-foot vertical drop), there is a surprising amount of variety among the half dozen or so trails.

Main rope tow and intermediate slope at Ski Venture

Membership in the club is amazingly inexpensive: annual family dues are $60 (basic) or $100 (sustaining), making Ski Venture an economical alternative to the big resorts. The well-maintained operation is entirely run by the club’s enthusiastic members, and the friendly environment is ideal for families. A friend who has been a member for about a year told me about the club, and invited me to come along with his family for a visit.

Trail from the parking area to the lodge

The slopes and lodge are located out of sight from the parking area, about a hundred yards away through the woods. A ski trail with a very slight downhill grade leads from the parking area to the lodge, so we put our skis on at our car and skied in. At the end of the day, you can ride the main rope tow to the top of the hill and ski another trail back to the parking area. Once at the lodge, you'll feel as though you've stepped back in time to how skiing was 40 or more years ago.

The ski lodge

The lodge is a small, rustic but cozy A-frame with a wood stove and large windows facing the slope. Inside there’s a small table or two with chairs, and benches along the sides for warming up or having a snack. Looking up at the hill from right to left are the beginner, intermediate and expert slopes, a glade run, and two more narrow expert trails through the woods beyond the glade.

The bunny slope and tow are to the side of and below the expert and intermediate slopes

Skiers on the expert slope

Sleet and freezing rain overnight on Saturday, with temps just below freezing on Sunday, had me expecting very firm conditions, but the slopes had been groomed by the club and the skiing was surprisingly good. There is no snowmaking, so the skiing is entirely on natural snow. Unlike the bigger mountains, the slopes never got skied off, so the snow stayed in good condition all afternoon. There was no hint of hardpack or scratchiness anywhere on the hill.

Glades too - Pretty good for 110' of vertical!

Beyond the glades are two more narrow expert trails

We skied from about 1pm to 4pm, and I couldn’t even begin to guess how many runs we got in. Dozens certainly. The main rope tow is fast, covering 500 feet in less than a half minute, and requires some strength to hold on, especially where the slope steepens near the top. Daniel sometimes rode it on his own to the top, and other times I rode it with him. Sometimes he would ride it most of the way up and then simply let go and ski off. The beginner tow is much slower and gentler, and my friend’s 4-year-old girl had no trouble riding it on her own. Sylvie, who just turned 3, isn’t skiing yet, but I’m sure that she could have ridden the beginner tow if I had brought skis for her. Next time I will.

View of the rural setting from the top of the beginner slope

Since the ski hill is entirely run by the club, members receive training in the operation of the tows, the lights and the lodge building. The facility is available for use 24/7 by members who are certified as Hill Masters (an annual 2-hour training course is required), so if you really want to catch first tracks at 1am, you can show up, flip on the slope lights, fire up the tow and have at it!

If you’re like me, the idea of local skiing on natural snow and participating in the operation of the ski area has strong appeal. I joined.

Looking down from the top of the expert slope

If you’re interested in finding out more about Ski Venture, the club’s website is here, or you may contact Ski Venture president Frank Winters. Also, Jeremy Davis recently updated the NELSAP site with a report on Ski Venture here.

3 comments:

  1. Nice report on a very cool area. There are several "private" clubs in Ontario but unfortunately they are the domain of the wealthy.

    I would love to be able to drive in to somewhere at 1 am, flick on the lights and do some turns! Too bad there aren't more little areas like this - skiing would be a lot more affordable for more people. It just goes to show that you CAN make a mountain out of a molehill!

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  2. Thanks SBR... I think one of the coolest things about SV is the fact that it makes skiing accessible to anyone. The place is a gem, a throwback to an era when skiing was simple, fun and inexpensive. The people I met were all friendly, nice folks.

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  3. Note that SV's bylaws limit the number of members. Although they haven't had to turn anyone away yet, according to the club's president they are close to their limit. Anyone interested in considering joining should probably contact the club sooner rather than later.

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