Mountain Creek review ’15: New Jersey’s One-and-Only
(day 7 in a 10/9 circle route of the ’14-’15 season)
A mountain? In New Jersey? 47 miles from the city? No way! Yes, way. And a 1K at that. It’s New Jersey’s one-and-only! Mountain Creek by name, formerly known as Great Gorge side by side with a sister property, Vernon Valley. The area was also known as home to an infamous Playboy Club. Mountain Creek is full and fancy resort as opposed to a simpler ski area. It is a large, complex, impressive operation, well-worth a visit. A real ski experience. In NEW JERSEY!
“OK,” I said to myself, “let’s get this over with.” To cross another sate off the bucket list, I’ve gotta ski it.” Was I ever pleasantly pleased. I like this place, Mountain Creek. I enjoyed it. I had fun! Contrary to my prejudicial frame of mind and stubborn bigotry, people were pleasant, even considerate and nice. “MOST”, I emphasize; but not all. Then again (you can meet jerks anywhere. Every slope, every place has ‘m. And let’s face it: sometimes, I am “it”!) But still, the closer one gets to the coast, the more frequent the likelihood of “self-centered , inconsiderate “snow snobs“.
Mountain Creek review ’15
It is a true resort with full-facilities: the massive “Appalachian Resort” distinctive among others, shops, rentals, instruction, tubing and various other activities. It is nicely family friendly providing three magic carpets for the littlest ones.
But, let’s study: other “surprises” by the numbers:
#1: The elevation: I know, I know the promo lit does say, “Vertical drop of 1,040 feet, but did I really believe it? NO! … but now I’m a believer..
#2. The approach, the drive up was enjoyable. I though New Jersey was one continuous string of strip malls sandwiched between parking lots. Oh contraire, the ride out was a bucolic, country experience. I even stopped at Thomas A. Edison’s incubation lab in West Orange for a quick fix of National Parks to sustain my history habit. Now, I recognize I’m the silly-goose, the ignorant jerk. But it’s been said that, “confession is the first step to repentance”. Thus perhaps, I am on my way to my transformation. Yes, yes only now can I say, “I’m a believer”.
#3 The size. The official reviews all clearly state there are 167 acres. I think that’s groomed runs. If the annual natural snow drop of 67 inches ever comes in a large dump, or a rare coastal storm moves in, it might be possible to ski the woods for even more variety. But for the normal day, let’s think in terms of mostly groomers and packed runs.
#4 The staff – wow were they ever friendly. When ya come in with a chip on your shoulder, expectations can be self-fulfilling,. But I was wrong and Now I’m a believer. As I stated. the place is huge. There are several remote parking lots. There is a large lodge with a small parking allotment. I came on a Sunday. Like any ski resort, especially on a mild, sunny Sunday, the expected crowds were there. Being new to the area, I cautiously drove up to the main lodge and central drop off point.
My modus operandi to reconnoiter, plan and execute the best maneuvers for a successful sortie. I (did I mention my low expectations?) fully expected to be rudely admonished and brusquely hustled out of the way or even on my way to a distant lot to fend for myself and hike back to the lifts.
A courteous attendant called (politely I add) me and asked, if I was going to ski? Perhaps it was my white head (I don’t wear a helmet driving.) or the fact that I was a single ( thus to drop off my skis would require more time to exist, unload and re-enter the car.) Yes I responded upon which he said, “Wait, Ive got a spot for you. He then directed me to a coveted, envious parking spot a feet feet from the main entrance form the lodge . To my further astonishment and total appreciation, he then replaces to bright orange station removed momentarily for my convenience, waved and bade me “Enjoy!” Wow, do I believe in Angels? Was I in New Jersey? You betcha!
But wait, there’s more. I had inquired ahead, of professional courtesy (Believe it or not, I still instruct.) “Yes”, was the first nicety. “There is a profession discount available, just bring proof” This is normal, expected and appreciated, thank-you. But as I presented the expected documentation, I was even more tickled with a warm salutation, a very pretty smile, and an unbelievable, “No charge. Enjoy. Let us know what you think. Hopefully you can come back.” Wow! Was I in ski heaven? Not quite, but surely I was approaching.
#5 Ease of movement: Facilitated by a unique “people-mover” gondola. Yes, there was a crowd and definitely there was a line. But we boarded with skis in hand (saved time, streamlined effort, assuring I’m sure to “first-evers”, precluded the ignorant, “only-me” or “walk-over/walk-on” line crashers.) 6 even 8 per “stage coach” to be whisked to a real ski lift. There are six adult lifts plus thee magic carpets and one people mover (gets you from the staging area to the adult lifts.)
#6 Impressive terrain: There exist woods and even large rock out-croppings, medium sized air-generators that I’d love to try under better conditions than this day.
There are three distinct summits at Mountain Creek. Vernon Peak is a magnet for beginners and the second has the more challenging runs. If there is any doubt you can compare the lines. The easier slopes always have the longer lines and the patrons have a glazed eyes that seem o to blend two states of mind: sheer excitement combined with total confusion, Yet the body is driven by the thrill of it all, a primeval instinct of survival combined wit a child-like delight of play and games. The lines at the more advanced lifts tend to be more organized, orderly, focused and respectful able to string words in to coherent sentences which link to convey logic thoughts and coherent logic. And the people are more tolerant and polite.
Granite Peak provides more challenging runs but South Peak seemed to be a bit steeper and and sports some nice terrain park stuff with a couple good jumps. And there were some borders executing very nifty aerials. Impressive! Am I in New Jersey? You betcha! Now I’m a believer.
Sojourn Double lift that spans the Granite and South Peaks . It brought back recollections of the questionable “lift” that connects Mt Ellen with Sugarbush south allowing evidence of ownership under single management. It is horizontal in design and more intended to connect two former independent facilities that in actually provide distinct skiing or boarding opportunities. The peaks or in deed linked, but the actual run is far more tedious than fun. I pity the poor boarders who must “hop” the flats rather than skate with the flexibility and freedom of skiers! The propaganda cites the longest run as 2 miles, but it is more akin to “a walk.”
#7 The general attitude of the patrons: Noteworthy. I chatted with many on the lifts up. The size of the facility lead me to ask of favored runs and directions to preferred slopes and secrete stashes. I received helpful answers and suggestions. One youthful couple even went out of their way and show me their most-favored run. Was I in New Jersey? You betcha!
#8 The skill and talent of the clientele: I don’t see myself as a ski snob, but I have been around for a few years, and after a while you begin to separate the beginners from the experts. You begin to recognize native ability and discern talented maneuvers. I saw some good moves in the terrain parks at Mountain Creek. Don’t be overly presumptive for as expected at any area (but particularly one near a big city) there are plenty of beginners, “straight downers” who are threats to themselves and others. The same ones who ski over the tops of our skis despite our continual, conscientious efforts to use the bottoms.
#9 Snow making grooming and mountain management: 100% coverage, I marvel the quality results under the adverse conditions. And Mountain Creek has trained and motivated a courteous and effective “customer- contact” staff too. Well done folks.
#10 Basic ontology: How could anyone create, organize, operate and maintain a ski area in New Jersey? To answer that, Come, ski the Garden State of New Jersey!
On to the Pennsylvania Poconos: Come, Ski With Me!