They stay for the fluffy, powdery snow. Some people call Snow Ridge the best kept secret in the east.
Snow Ridge has been open for 70 years and Jimmy Shue has been skiing there for 65 of them. He learned to ski there when he was five years old. Shue is now 70. He teaches skiing and helps with the ski patrol. Shue started teaching skiing here when he was college. After college he moved out west and became a professional ski instructor. He taught at big resorts such as Alpine Meadows in California and Steamboat Springs in Colorado. He skied all over the world. Eventually, Shue moved home. He said there is something about this little ski area, “the big snow we get, the nice powder, and just the local folks.”
Snow Ridge ski area is exactly as its name describes — a long ridge. It is not that high and not that big. The ski area is old-school. There is a little chalet-style lodge and restaurant, and a little rental shop with the basics. You can bring your lunch and drop your bag anywhere. There are a handful of lifts, a handful of trails. I was eager to get out on the mountain and see if the snow is as good as everybody says. So we popped on our skis and skated over to the bright blue lift that leads to the north slope.
It was a weekday so the mountain was pretty quiet. When we got to the top, we could see the Black River Valley below and the Adirondack Mountains in the distance. “On a clear day, we can’t see them today, but I can normally see the ski runs over at McCauley Mountain in Old Forge,” Jimmy Shue explained. “So we’re looking probably about 50 miles.”
As we skied I realized everybody is right. The snow was fantastic. It was a combination of manmade and natural stuff. There was no ice. It was fluffy, downy snow — like skiing in powdered sugar.
We took run after run. At the top of the lift, we met Lois Fey, Betsy Delalla and Emmy Healey. I could not tell what they looked like since they were wearing their goggles and helmets.
Like Jimmy, they are from the area. They have skied other places, but Snow Ridge is their favorite because of the snow and the friends.
Jimmy taught skiing for decades, so when he saw me ski, it made sense that he wanted to give me a little lesson. He had me ski next to him. “It wasn’t shameful or anything, you handle the skis well,” he said diplomatically. I asked him for suggestions.
He said, “Sarah what I’m seeing, a lot of snow spraying off the tails of your skis and when you skied by me a little bit, you’re in the back seat. So think about a lot more pressure here, lean forward into the tongue of your boot and a little bit more pressure here down on the balls of your feet.” It was a good suggestion. Next time down the mountain, I felt focused, faster, and not so hesitant.
Jimmy said he taught thousands of students over the years. That afternoon he would teach more. When we called it a day, a group of high school students was suiting up in the lodge for their lesson. These kids might have been skiing at a small ski hill, but they were learning from the best.
Photos, from above: Snow Ridge’s north slope; Jimmy Shue; view from the top of the lift; and Betsy Delalla, Lois Fey, and Emmy Healey enjoy a midday ski. Photo by Sarah Harris.
A version of this story originally aired on North Country Public Radio.