Friday, December 30, 2011


Being the Ski Director is not all about running around on snow mobiles, trying out new gear, selling products and (this season, anyway) praying for snow. It is a lifestyle that allows me to live within and pass on something that I am very passionate about -- skiing and the outdoor experience. Some days are pretty tough, tiring and challenging on many levels, but one thing that always puts it all back into perspective is teaching a lesson and watching someone "get it" and glide for the first time.

Ellen and Emily had never skied before. It was Ellen's lifelong dream to ski and stay at a winter lodge. She didn't come with expectations of perfect conditions from seasons past or prior experience from which to draw. Just a fresh set of eyes focused on a childhood dream. Being able to teach them a little and pass on the foundational elements of form and see them skiing correctly is such a thrill, and seeing their faces light up as they began gliding on the snow just made my day (which, coincidentally, was our first day of the season). The next day, seeing them enjoying skiing right outside the lodge, playing in soft snow and making their own tracks with the sweet smell of wood smoke from the chimney brought me back to why I ski. It is fun, pure and simple, it is freedom, and, here in the heart of the Adirondacks, it is the amazing sights and scents and sensations on skis that create the whole Nordic experience. Sure, it is sliding on two planks in the snow (or ski-swinging on the rope swing), but it is so much more.

Being part of these experiences is what I love the most, knowing that each and every one of you is having a great time up here. You meet the greatest people skiing -- everyone is out playing like they are kids. Just ask Mary and Frank. They've been here all week skiing and snowshoe trekking and I've seen them all over the property, every day, playing in the outdoors. What will your adventure behold?

Ellen and Emily making tracks

Prepare to launch

Long-time Garnet Hill visitors Mary and Frank bask in the glow

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day One -- Finally

It has been a hectic road to get to this point, with lots to do and little snow, and while feeling glum when the snow turned to rain the other night, I knew it was actually to our benefit. As with everything in life, you need to start with a foundation. In the Nordic ski world, a firm or frozen base is ideal in getting started to capture and insulate natural snow, so the rain on snow was a great setup for us as single-digit temperatures sealed our needed foundation. And that is where we begin.

Today, up at 5:30am, check several weather service and forecast sites, update website with info from that and previous night's snow plan meeting. Out on snowmobile by 6:45am in clear crisp air at 3 degrees. Watching the sunrise filter in during early morning grooming is something I will always cherish around here, with several spectacular spots getting sun in sequence as the sun slowly climbs above the hills and lights up the trees with low angle golden glow. With the roller and its corduroy-creating drag, I work my way through the trail system checking things out, closing off hazards, checking snow conditions. I closed the trails that I knew were hazards and moved through the system, getting back for the opening of the ski shop. Chop wood, make a fire, people coming in, tickets, wickets, maps, get'em rolling with rentals -- it was a nice familiar rush. New customers and familiar faces like Peter Horvath and Beth Maher, smiles, and excitement of skiers filtering out across the trails for their first season outing.

We wanted to get the word out to you die-hard skiers anxiously awaiting ski season that we had ski-able terrain, and many came. With Intermediate-level and up skiing conditions, many of you found that there was indeed good snow out there amongst the tough spots. Early season indeed. I was able to get out onto a few trails with our "powder maker" implement that chews up and softens the firm snow. Back to the shop; more customer service, chat about gear, help some new skiers, back to shop, service the powder maker, put away machines, close shop. After a snow-plan meeting with my lead groomer, I head out only to be back at 8:00pm for my scheduled Natural Light Nite Hike. With about 10 in our group, we hike to the Hooper solely by natural light to watch the stars and garnet stones twinkle in the clear night air. It is spectacular up there, and even more-so with a clear and moonless sky, and young Nathaniel from Long Island even found a garnet stone to bring home! As we were leaving, the skies started to thicken slightly, and we hope that means more snow for us. Back to the lodge to help out, getting to bed at midnight. T'was a great start to the season, finally!

Amongst the familiar faces we saw today was Aimes from Connecticut. He brings a great event to Garnet Hill Ski Shop -- the Empire Orienteering Club Ski Orienteering event this Sunday, January 1st! Open to anyone and all abilities, the event features 3 unique courses to navigate with map and compass upon skis, and you may start anytime between 11:00am and 1:00pm. This event is also a qualifier for the Empire State Games, so come join the fun. More details to follow.

So come on out -- skiing is pretty nice. Moderating temperatures and more snow is in the forecast, so will only get better! Midnight now -- time for bed.

Shannen grooming it smooth

Climbing Andy's Run to the Lodge (and a hot lunch!)
A long way from Long Island

On the rim of the Hooper Mine

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Garnet Hill Lodge (The Adventure): Snowfall begins

Greetings! I had to make time this morning to share some important milestones in our Garnet Hill Lodge adventure that came to pass yesterday.....
Our ice machine got fixed....thanks again to Gaye Byrne for her ice when I called with a guests "martini emergency" in need of "rocks"; now I'll find time to stop back for that glass of wine you offered.
Ron Howe from Omstedville came by and agreed to take the old shuttle bus for scrap metal (the purple one with "Beth Israel" on it) - so that will be hauled away today.
At 2:45pm the snow was accumulating outside, Don was headed to shovel the steps/walk (big smile on his face) when an e-mail arrived from Frank with Congratulations...minutes later a fax arrived bearing the signature of Gov. Cuomo confirming that our 90 day Temporary Liquor License has been approved/issued! This was within the hour after I asked Pat & Judy to phone all guests arriving for the New Year's w/e and make certain they knew that our liquor license did not transfer with our purchase...."get back on the phone ladies and tell them Preuninger's Pub will be open!" Don called the Liquor Authority to confirm and made his appt to pick it up in person. After pausing for a moment to reflect on how truly blessed we've been these last two weeks with pieces falling into place where we thought it impossible, I got busy ordering wine, beer and champagne for the w/e! SUHRU wines will be our primary house offering of by-the-glass pours from the North Fork of Long Island, NY. Our friends, Sue & Russ Hearn produce these wines and because they are avid skiers with a w/e home up here, I was able to offer our dinner guests a choice of SUHRU's Pinot Grigio, Dry Riesling or SUHRU Red. I've included the SUHRU philosophy statement for your information...

SUHRU WINES goal is to produce fresh, vibrant white wines and fruit forward, soft tannin red wines. The grapes we use in our wines are sourced, from both the North Fork of Long Island and the Finger Lakes Appellations. Depending on where the grape variety grows best, mainly White grapes from the Finger Lakes and Red grapes from Long island.
My husband, Russell, has worked with many respected vineyard growers during his 21 years of Winemaking in the New York Wine Industry. We can take advantage of the regional differences and strengths between the New York Wine Growing Regions. Our winery is on the North Fork of Long Island, Mattituck where all our wines are made and Winemaker is my (husband) Russell Hearn.
Proprietor Susan Hearn

Appropriately enough, our first dinner guests last evening were Paul & Nancy Cormack, Innkeepers at Garnet Hill Lodge from 1970 -1977. Byron & Margaret Shafer accompanied them for a celebratory dinner of the Shafer's 51st wedding anniversary. After dinner Paul presented me with our first (empty) bottle of wine sold and we had them sign the label as a special keepsake for the Don & I at Garnet Hill Lodge.

Stay tuned as Jay works with the snow toward an opening. As I complete my first "post" on the Blog, I will be sure to hit the correct button....I tried on Christmas Eve and lost it. Mindy

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Snowfall begins

2:30PM Tuesday and the snow is falling nicely. We will see what we get in the overnight with temperatures and conditions. If things are favorable we will be grooming on Wednesday morning. Stay tuned...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

Well it's been an eventful holiday weekend. A number of guests arrived on Friday and a few more on Saturday to spend Christmas with us. One family spent Christmas morning around the tree and fire opening their presents. Later on, Christmas dinner was served to a full dining room and by all accounts was a delicious success. Chef Andrew is doing a great job not only with his fabulous food but with the logistics of organizing a large kitchen too.

Mindy and I sat with some of her family and
friends of ours and had a very nice time.

The weather seems to be coming around to snow as the temperatures drop. Every day we've been getting a nice round of snow showers to add to what is already on the ground.
Today we began to groom the trails using a roller to compact the snow. We are hoping to open the trails in the next day or so.

On Tuesday, Judith Harper, a local naturalist will be leading a nature walk that is free and open to all, up to 12 people at a time. The walks go from 10am to 12am and from 1:30 to 3:30. Please call the Lodge (251-2444) for more details. It promises to be very interesting.

Debra has been busy with training of
new hires and checking guests in

The new coffee buffet offers guests fresh, high quality
coffee, decaf, tea or hot chocolate.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Morning Mountain Adventure Hike

Garnet Hill Cross Country Ski Center ski instructor Ivy guided a Morning Mountain Adventure Hike today to the Balm of Gilead. "The Balm" is a phenomenal hike accessable right from our property, featuring a rather strenuous elevation gain and the bridge from today's earlier post. At the top you are rewarded with one of the most spectacular views in the Adirondacks. Ivy lead the Schoenlank family from Philadelphia, PA to the top where they took in an incredible view under blue bird skies, and partook in a Garnet Hill tradition. After working hard to climb the mountain while observing various wildlife tracks and animals, they topped out and out came a backpack stove and pot. They quickly heated water and enjoyed hot chocolate while enjoying the spectacular views!

First (coyote) Tracks!

Composite view -- Balm Of Gilead overlook

The Schoenlank family of Philadelphia


Garnet Hill's beauty is much more than ski-deep. Although we are a Nordic ski center, we also have many trails and surprises for hikers and snowshoe trekkers alike. Morning Mountain Adventure Hikes will get you in the thick of things right out our front door, so check'em out when we do them. We'll have a Natural Light Night Hike this week, too, weather depending. Stay tuned here and in our ski report for more information.

Ski Season Beginnings

Santa dropped a little teaser in our ski boots this week, in the form of 3 inches of nice snowcover! A little wet and a little dense as it lay on Friday, it was perfect for our base-building. Lead groomer Dale Monthany got out to roll a bit of it upon our trusty Scandik 800, compacting the snow in anticipation of the nighttime firm-up. Overnight temps dropped into the lower teens, setting up a good base capture and hold additional snowfall as temperatures and some snowfall potential look good in the immediate future. We'll keep our eyes glued to the forecasters, you keep your eyes glued here for updates on our opening for the 2011/2012 Ski Season!

In anticipation, we've been working hard getting the Ski Shop ready for your visit. New equipment has been arriving and improvements to the shop are ongoing. We are pleased to announce that we'll be having hot soups and chili for sale during the season at lunch time (which, in the Nordic ski way is nearly all day!). This is in addition to the traditional snack, power-foods and cold and hot you'll need to keep fueled up and comfy.

New Rental Skis

New Rental Snowshoes
I ventured into the backcountry the night before the snow fell and came across this Adirondack beauty:

Our local Forest Ranger and his crew built it upon the a popular and local ski/snowshoe trail, and you will get to check it out this season! Lots more to come -- stay tuned...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Could be Snow

It looks like we may get 2-3 inches tonight and tomorrow morning.  Enough to start rolling the trails.  It will certainly be welcome for Christmas.
We continue to get ready for serving dinner on Sunday and also to prepare for the arrival of guests on Friday night.   John Philips did a lot of maintenance on the heating systems today, Debra from the Saratoga-North Creek Railroad stopped by to talk about working together, the Direct TV guy came and got the TVs up and running again.  (No, there won't be any TV in the Lodge rooms or pub any time soon).  The Pyrofax guy came and double checked that all the gas leaks have been fixed.  And the water conditioning guy came and checked over the dish washer and sanitizer.  Oh, and some other people came by and talked to Debra and Mindy that I didn't get to talk to at all, which was fine with me.
Here are some shots of people just working around the Lodge today.

 The kitchen is getting spruced up with Heidi doing a lot of the cleaning

 This is our coffee bar.  It goes great with the logs.

 Skorko tuned the piano today

 Some French Provincial style chairs we found to put into rooms

Mindy chatting to Andrew about menu details

And Yours Truly grinding away at the paperwork again

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Dinner and More Bridges

The last couple of days has been mostly head down paper work for me: forms, applications, bills, etc...  Mindy and Andrew went to visit the Sysco Test Kitchen yesterday and found some nice combinations of ingredients to work with.  They also came back with a really good coffee making plan.  We'll only be serving real coffee in the dining room now.

The big push right now is to get ready for serving Christmas Dinner on Sunday.  Chef Andrew's menu includes a soup or salad to start along with traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings, or roast leg of lamb with rosemary au jus and red potatoes, or poached salmon with maple orange glaze, and finishing with a selection of desserts including Mary Jane's pie.  Dinner will be served with a variety of beverages including several traditional holiday drinks.  All for $45 per adult, $15 per child under 12 and free for children under 5.  Includes tax and gratuity.  We are looking forward to a very nice time and we hope to see many of you there.  Please call ahead for a reservation.

Meanwhile Shannen has been out working on bridges so that's what I'll be showing in pictures today.

This bridge was replaced on Monday.  
It's the first bridge on Cougar Run after it branches off Trapper Trail.

The new decking after Shannen drove his truck over it.

Then today we drove down from Mountain View and in through the Harvey Tailings to get to this bridge which is on Solitude just after it crosses Duffany's Run.   
 This is what it looked like before replacement.  And that's Cooper, my dog.

The underpinnings

And the new deck.  We'll replace the whole bridge next year.

And this is a pic from last summer of a bridge I built about 15 years ago over a brook on my land in Johnsburg.  This was just after Hurricane Irene. 

The water was about 4ft high

And finally, just to remember what it was like, the view from the lodge last summer.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Clear skies and watering eyes here this morning -- indeed, 0 degrees at 7:00am will do that to ya!  As I write tonight, the sky tonight is beautifully starlit and the air crisp, and there is a little bit of snow all about. The ground is firming up nicely, ready to cradle our first significant base-building snowfall.  Anticipation...

Things are flying along here, and our open house, the first function of the 2011/2012 season, was a resounding success as you may read below.  Energy surrounding the Lodge is electrifying, and the ski shop is buzzing along accordingly.  New rental and retail equipment has been arriving from Alpina, Madshus, Fisher and Atlas, and trail improvements are ongoing.  On Friday one of our snowcats left for complete PistenBully factory-spec refurbishment, with the other getting the same treatment next! Head Groomer and trail boss Dale Monthany is absolutely thrilled as he takes a lot of pride in his work, and loves your feedback. Dale's family has a devoted history here at Garnet Hill.  In fact, our Old Faithful trail is named in tribute to his father. 

Getting a look around and taking stock of the surroundings and work to be done is daunting with the Holiday Week soon to be upon us.  Seeing such little snow as of yet is frustrating, wondering how it will all come together.  I do remember the same feelings at this point last season, and while taking a look around in the Tailings last Friday, I also remembered how much snow piled in and how quickly our property transforms into an Adirondack winter wonderland.  Your wait will soon be rewarded with new experiences and adventures.  Anticipation indeed!
It is indeed Winter here!

Breakfast view, awaiting lake effect...

New gear for this year

More from yesterday

Today, Sunday was quiet.   Mindy and I stayed at the Lodge last night so we hung around the fireplace in the early morning then went to church where I played piano while she and the children put on a Christmas play.  Then we just went to Glens Falls to do some Lodge and Christmas shopping.

So I'll just post some more pics from last night that Marilyn Jeffereys sent me.

 The open house in the afternoon

Mindy chatting

The deer by the apple tree

The lights from outside

Me playing 

Having dinner

Jay DeJesus with Mindy's Mom and Dad

Mindy and me

Visiting in the lounge area