Hickory Ski Center is one of the great hidden secrets in East Coast skiing. Renowned for its steeps, trees and vintage ski experience, Hickory Ski Center is also a great place for families.
“Mad River Glen – Ski it when you can’t ski Hickory” proudly proclaims the resort’s bumper sticker. The comparison to the legendary Vermont mountain is an apt one for nowhere else in the Northeast is skiing’s original flame kept burning so bright.
Hickory rises 1,200′ from the banks of the Hudson River and stirring views of the river are possible from most of the upper mountain. Gore Mountain, 20 minutes distant, is visible as well. Hickory is approximately 5-10 minutes off I-87, less than an hour north of Albany. It is only open on weekends (conditions permitting).
Founded in the 1946 by veterans of the 10th Mountain Division, Hickory was for many years a ski hill mainly visited by corporate ski clubs in the Albany area and Warrensburg locals. It was (and still is) run by a board of passionate locals who are committed to keeping this living piece of ski history alive. Hickory closed for a number of years in the mid 2000’s before being saved from the scrapheap of history by William Van Pelt. Van Pelt, a native of Saratoga, was committed to keeping Hickory alive and has been in all respects since his purchase, Hickory’s savior.
From the lifts to the natural snow conditions to the steep terrain, Hickory is in almost every respect a miniature Mad River Glen. At Mad River Glen, it is the single chair that is the iconic lift – at Hickory it is their vintage 1950’s Poma lifts. Riding up is almost as much fun as skiing down. Both lifts are particularly springy and are apt to lift a rider clear up off the ground; Poma 2 is particularly fun for this reason as long as you know what’s coming…With line speeds approaching that of modern express quads, skiers can get in lots of laps using these vintage lifts.
Hickory continues to draw in skiers young and old because of its terrain. The resort does not have snowmaking and so operating days are limited. Hickory is only open when Mother Nature cooperates. However, the result is a snow surface that can be truly fantastic on good days. The resort does not groom, but rather packs its lower mountain intermediate slopes. On the upper mountain, steep runs like Winfall and The Hare challenge even the most capable skier.
Rocks are, of course, an issue with no snowmaking and Hickory has plenty of sharp ones. We suggest maybe leaving your best pair of skis at home. Take a few dings and dents in the right spirit and you’ll learn to love Hickory. Skiing at Hickory is less about carving and much about picking your way down a difficult line.
Lastly, a day at Hickory wouldn’t be complete without spending a little time in their fantastic base lodge. Odds are you’ll have to since skiing both up and down gets tiring. Between the ungroomed slopes and surface lifts, three hours of skiing at Hickory can feel like a full day to many. It is very common to see skiers take multiple short lodge breaks during the day, clicking out their skiis and quickly popping in for a glass of water and a seat. A large circular firepit surrouned by built-in bench seats is the focal point of social activity in the lodge. Tending the wood-burning fire is a key job for those taking a short rest.
From the lifts to the snow conditions, there is simply no place in the ski world quite like Hickory A first-time visitor to Hickory summed it well when she remarked, “I can’t believe places like this still exist.” On behalf of all of us who appreciate skiing history, we’re thankful it does too.
Beginners comfortable riding surface lifts will enjoy Hickory’s lower mountain terrain. The T-Bar services two green runs – Cottontail and Snowshoe Glade. Cottontail is a gentle, wide green which runs straight through a gully before emptying out into a wide field near the base of the T-Bar.
Snowshoe Glade – not a glade at all, but a narrower, winding trail – is to the skier’s right of Cottontail. Although it is just a few hundred feet from Cottontail, the two trails ski quite differently and are separated by a low ridge. Snowshoe Glade is the best green trail at Hickory and is a lovely wandering trail.
Beginners will find Hickory’s all-natural snow conditions differ from the type of snow they may be used to because the base is entirely packed natural snow. On good days, the snow is softer and more carveable. After poor weather, conditions can be more challenging since the slopes are not groomed, but packed by a roller.
Intermediate skiers are able to explore more of Hickory’s terrain than beginners. In addition to the two green trails mentioned above, the T-Bar provides easy access to Lower Peabody. Lower Peabody is the easiest intermediate slope at Hickory. Except for a short moderate pitch coming off the T-Bar it is suitable for advanced beginners and low-level intermediates.
Moving over to Poma 1 is truly a step up in difficulty. The jump up has less to do with the difficulty of the runs serviced by the poma as much as it is a product of the lift itself. The T-Bar is much easier to ride than the poma and it can take a little getting used to. Thankfully, there’s hardly ever more than a three person liftline so even if a skier falls off it’s a quick reload.
Intermediates must unload at the midstation; everything above is decidedly expert. Honey Run is the main blue run from the midstation. It rolls its way down the main face of the hill. Wide and packed, it is the best run at the resort for high speed carving. Next to the Honey Run is Beatnik, which is of similar pitch. The narrow Lodge Run trail is accessible on the skier’s left of Beatnik. Lodge Run is a short, very narrow run through a tunnel of evergreen trees on the periphery that pops skiers out right at the base lodge.
From the summit, intermediates can ski the Ridge Run. Rolling across the shoulder of the mountain, Ridge Run begins as a narrow catwalk before opening up into a high alpine meadow. From the meadow, skiers enjoy long views out to the Green Mountains. Only a narrow catrack is packed on the skier’s left and a powder day, the skier’s right of the meadow sees very litte traffic; expert skiers tend to head for steep stuff and bypass the blues. Gathering into a narrow opening at the base of the meadow, Ridge Run turns left and runs out back to near the top of the T-Bar.
Hickory is one of the Northeast’s premier expert ski mountains. “The Legend” – as Hickory is affectionately known to those who ski it – earned this moniker because of its expert terrain. There is simply nothing like it in the Northeast. Natural snow combines with steep, rock-strewn slopes to create one of the most challenging ski experiences anywhere. That’s right – anywhere. If you can ski Hickory, you can ski pretty much anything.
All of the advanced and expert terrain is located on the upper mountain. The first set of black diamond runs are found above the midstation of Poma 1. Four steep runs await. On the skier’s left is Grand Teton, perhaps the least skied of the black runs on the mountain. About halfway down, Grand Teton splits into two with the Upper Beatnik Run as a spur off to the skier’s left. Top Notch is the widest, main black run from the Poma 1 summit and tends to develop big, soft moguls because its gets the most traffic.
If a skier turns left coming off Poma 1, he ends up on the Jack Rabbit trail. Jack Rabbit starts with a great first pitch before leveling out for a bit then diving down to the summit terminus of the T-Bar in a final crescendo. Carrying speed from this pitch brings a skier to the base of one of the Northeast’s best lifts – Poma 2.
A slingshot start and 3 minutes of hair-raising uphill skiing on a steep liftline deposits a skier at the very summit of Hickory. Skiing the liftline trail – Winfall – is an obvious choice. Scouting out a line while riding up is a good idea since Winfall’s several tiers of rock ledges are more clearly visible from below.
Exiting right off Poma 2 leads to the The Hare – our favorite marked expert run on the mountain. Steep, narrow and windy with a great double fall-line, The Hare is a short test of skier’s mettle. The challenge continues as The Hare concludes at the advanced terrain atop of Poma 1.
For a true expert skier, there’s nothing quite like a powder day a Hickory. Of course, because Hickory is closed midweek, a Saturday powder day can be days after a storm. While we recommend checking the snow conditions in advance of a visit, Hickory is worth a visit pretty much anytime it’s open for confident black diamond skiers.
Hickory has one marked glade – Paul’s Peril, but has several cleared tree skiing areas which don’t appear on the map. Hickory doesn’t officially close, open or maintain its woods, but there are plenty of treeskiing areas that the locals clear on a regular basis.
As there is no base village at Hickory, the options for restaurants and bars are limited to the base lodge. The food is beyond reasonably priced. Lunch at Hickory will set a skier back less than $10 pretty much regardless of how much he eats.
In Warrensburg, George Henry’s is the best option for apres-ski and nightlife. No review of the food options in and around Hickory would be complete, however, without a mention of Jacob and Toney’s Meat Store of the North. This amusingly-named local institution is so spectacularly good, we devoted an entire feature story to it – Found: The Best Breakfast Sandwich in Ski Country.
The closest town to Hickory is Warrensburg – 5 minutes by car. There are a number of restaurants and shops in downtown Warrensburg. Lake George Village is approximately 10-15 minutes away. The outlet shopping center just south of the village is home to stores for many top brands as well as a few restaurants.
There is no on-mountain lodging at Hickory. The closest lodging is in the town of Warrensburg, approximately 5 minutes from the resort. Many Hickory skiers choose to stay 10-15 minutes away in Lake George. Lake George is almost completely a summer resort and many of the hotels and businesses are closed in the winter months. However, there are a number of hotels which remain open year round.
Hickory is located in Warrensburg, NY. It is approximately 5-10 minutes off the Adirondack Northway (I-87).
Top: 1,900 ft
Bottom: 700 ft
Vertical: 1,200 ft
Skiable Area: 225 ac
Annual Snowfall: 80 in
Lifts: 4 (2 Pomas, 1 T-Bar, 1 rope tow)
Beginner: 5 trails
Intermediate: 6 trails
Advanced/Expert: 7 trails
+ most rugged expert terrain in New York State
+ quaint, old-time ski resort feel
+ no snowmaking – all natural snow!
– no snowmaking…limited snowfall
– no chairlifts
– limited beginner terrain