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December 20, 2013

Caution: Serpents and monsters lurk on area ski slopes

The Daily Star

---- — I’m sure many of you still remember the old Mt. Otsego Ski Area.

You turned off of Route 80 a mile or so beyond the Farmer’s Museum and drove out to the very end of civilization. They had a rope tow and a T-bar to get you up the mountain. 

That’s where I started with old wooden skis and leather straps across the toes, but I learned to ski a few miles above Cooperstown. Every weekend a group of my friends and I would head out and pound down the slopes. They seemed so big back then.

And then Scotch Valley opened up in Stamford. Now that was a mountain. It even had a chair lift.

My skiing progressed. We’d get off the ski lift and race to the bottom as fast as we could. After all, we thought we had to get in as many runs as possible before the day ended.

But as we raced down the slopes every once in a while we’d fall.

Now it wasn’t because we caught the edge of a ski on a mound of snow or just happened to have a ski slide out on a piece of ice. And God forbid it wasn’t that we were skiing out of control or going too fast.

No, it was those darn snow snakes. Every ski area has them. They’d lie and wait just under the snow for some unsuspecting soul to come along and then they’d attack. They raised their evil tail through the packed powder and grab the leg of a skier who just happened to get too close to the monster’s lair.

They are terrible creatures. You would go head over heels and bounce along, covering yourself with snow because that darn snake decided it was your turn to fall.

It was hard to believe that so many of those evil serpents could inhabit one ski area, but they were always there. They seemed to be more abundant on the steeper parts of the mountain where we were riding that thin line of being in control and out of it. That’s when they seemed to attack the most.

But now a new creature lurks in the trees. It seems to be most prevalent in areas where the snow-making guns blast across the trails. The snow piles up against the trees and brush, and creates the evil creatures just waiting for the unsuspecting skier.

Actually, I find these snow monsters quite beneficial. The young kids who snowboard on the mountains go at blazing speeds. They go up on the banks of the trails and do all those fancy spins and turns. They seem to have it figured out. But there are boarders who cut you off and race by you like there is no tomorrow. Those are the ones who fall victim to the new monsters of the slopes.

These boarders head out into the glades, going around trees and over rocks and cliffs. But the snow monsters lie and wait. They watch these gangs of boarders and seem to gobble them up for hours on end.

I used to fear the snow snakes, but now I welcome the free-formed snow on weathered trees. The snow guns pile up new man-made snow sometimes faster than nature can bring it. If a few boarders are sacrificed to these monsters, so be it.

I watched a couple of kids Monday drop in behind a sculptured pile of snow and shoot out onto the trail as I got near the bottom. I thought maybe they don’t like the taste of these younger kids. After all, they’re probably a little tough because that’s the way they ski and board today.

I just wish I could keep up.

Rick Brockway writes an outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at