Otis in his half-yeti state greeting us at the lift at McCauley Mountain.

McCauley Mountain: The Best Day Ever

So there's this place in New York out on the western edge of the Adirondacks near the town of Old Forge that 99% of people in the Northeast have never heard of and never think about going to. It has just 633' of vertical, only 70 acres of skiable terrain, one lonely double chair, two T-bars, two rope tows, costs just $18 on Liftopia a day ahead, and I just had my best day of riding ever at this place.

What makes McCauley special are the advanced trails and glades with massive piles of boulders on steep pitches paired with snow coming off of Lake Ontario. Sometimes after those nasty storms that bring rain and then a freeze up, the weather also brings them snow, and when the stars align, lots and lots of it. They received rain last Saturday in one such storm, but by 4 days later they had 24" and counting of light blower pow with on and off bands of snow dumping at rates that produced white outs. Pair that together with the fact that this mountain isn't well known, meaning very low traffic on a Wednesday following their day of rest on Tuesday, and even fewer who were willing to jump into those pillowy rock piles, it meant fresh tracks could be had on every run. How many runs? 30-40 for each of us; 20,000 to 25,000 vertical feet, and the ability to crush pow in any direction at almost every moment.

How this came about was by way of an invite from Harvey Road of NYSkiBlog who was taking his birthday off from work and looking for a place to go with his buddy Scott Ketchum. I already had a plan for a mid-week trip with Stuart Winchester of The Storm Skiing Journal. A failed storm sent us back to the drawing board and Harvey was hunting for the best opportunity. Eventually, Harvey decided that he just wanted to go with a quaint little indie and suggested McCauley, and told Stu and I that we might be bored and maybe we should go elsewhere seeing as how we tend to hunt large. I knew it had been snowing out there, but they were only about half open in their last report, and no glades were in play due to having lost their base just 4 days earlier. Given McCauley's day of rest on Tuesday interrupting the snow reporting from them, It took a bit of research in studying the NWS snowfall maps along with the past weather, and what was coming overnight and during the next day. I figured they had picked up at least 16" by Tuesday, and the natural snow trails would be untouched, and although the forecast was for just 4"-6", models were suggesting potential for even more. Despite never having been there, I told Harvey that I thought they had a 70% chance of dropping ropes on their natural terrain and that it was an excellent choice. After a quick call to Stu he agreed; both he and I wanted to check this little powder mecca out, and even if they didn't drop more ropes, the regular trails would be in prime condition. We were in, and the rest is history.

I think the photos speak for themselves. They did in fact drop the ropes, and it was pure heaven. Otis greeted us at the old Hall double chair, and within an hour he was collecting snow in his curly hair and beard at such a rate it seemed like he might turn into a yeti. While that chair hauled us up the mountain, we would discuss what to hit next, and the most common answer was "let's do that again". Yes, we ran a single trail or glade 5 times in a row that day on multiple occasions. We rode the center of the trail, then we spotted that we could ride the edge up a hill and just send ourselves down a twiggy steep cliff and somehow straight-line the drop and miraculously survive with the aid of nature's fluff, and then the next run we found huge natural rollers still covered with pow on the other side. The fall line trails on the front were covered with boulders and big drops, but they had just enough snow to not damage our gear or ourselves. The trees were hardwoods, many of them had boulders and butt-clenching drop-ins that made you focus on keeping your tips up for fear of needing to return after the spring melt to reunite with your sticks. Sure, we averaged just 1/2 mile per run, but that was 1/2 mile of sheer joy every time, and the chair lift back up was a replacement for the rest you might take mid-trail on a much longer run.

Now McCauley isn't like this every single day. It's a town-owned mountain, local kids ski free, many come there after school, tickets are cheap, and it's probably a great place to take your family for an authentic 'how-it-should-be' experience, but when McCauley is on point during a sleeper pow day with all of the terrain open and hardly a soul in sight it becomes your own private Jackson Hole.

-- Matt