Feeder Hill Highlights: Snow Ridge, NY // Ski Stories
Over the course of the winter, we'll be posting numerous interviews with small ski areas across North America in a series that we're calling, "Feeder Hill Highlights." Longtime readers of Chairlift Chat know that we have a special appreciation for the hundreds of small ski areas that help introduce skiing to millions of people every year. It's a sentiment that we first touched on back in early 2014 with our "Forgotten Feeder Hills: Taking a Look at the Lifeblood of Skiing" article. Now, we're looking to take things a step further by highlighting a handful of feeder hills who play a pivotal role in introducing their communities to the sport of skiing.
For the first installment of the Feeder Hill Highlights series, I reached out to Nick Mir at Snow Ridge Ski Area in Turin, NY. Nick is actually a friend of mine from my highschool days when we used to manage the terrain park at Toggenburg Mountain together. At the time, his mom, Cyndy Sisto, was managing the ski area as well. Fast forward just under a decade and Nick and Cyndy have left Toggenburg (a resort where they had deep family roots) and are now the co-owners of Snow Ridge. On the verge of their second year, we got in touch with Nick to learn more about their ski area, as well as plans for the future and why people should visit Snow Ridge (hint: snow). So without further delay, let's hop right in to our very first Feeder Hill Highlight!
TRAILS: 21 LIFTS: 6
AVERAGE SNOWFALL: 230"
NIGHT SKIING: Yes
RACE TEAM: Yes
TERRAIN PARK: Yes
Matt McGinnis: Hey Nick! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. To start things off, can you tell us some of the history of Snow Ridge?
Nick Mir: We actually came into the business at a very cool time. During our first season, we celebrated the resort's 70th year. It was opened back in 1945 and has been operating every year since then. Before snowmaking made its debut in Upstate New York, Snow Ridge was the mecca. Positioned on the Eastern edge of the Tug Hill Plateau, this was just about the only place that you were guaranteed to find snow. People traveled from all over the Northeast to ski Snow Ridge, and when we get a big lake effect storm, they still do! Cyndy and I are excited to bring the resort back to those glory days, when Snow Ridge was truly a destination for New York skiers.
What role does Snow Ridge play in the community?
The resort plays a large role in Turin and the surrounding communities, employing roughly 50 local workers during peak season. We have also reinvigorated an already strong connection to local schools, extending weekly lesson programs to more nearby districts and offering a free day of skiing in March to all the schools in our area. The resort also plays a huge role in bringing tourism revenue to the area, helping other local businesses such as motels and restaurants. Snow Ridge has always been an important part of the North Country community, and we're really excited to continue that tradition.
Are there any groups or clubs that call Snow Ridge home?
The Snow Ridge Ski Club is our race team, who holds The Silversmith, one of the longest running races in the country. The 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum has used Snow Ridge as a training grounds for decades, and continues to hold on hill training to this day. A number of local school have weekly ski clubs that come to Snow Ridge as well.
Does Snow Ridge offer night skiing or after school programs?
Absolutely. Before we took over operations, they offered two nights a week. We now offer night skiing Wednesday through Saturday during peak season, and are planning to expand our night skiing terrain as soon as possible. We have school programs running Wednesday through Friday in January and February.
"Snow Ridge is a bit of a secret, but once people learn about it, they'll travel!"
In your estimation, how far away do your guests come from? What are the closest cities to your resort?
Our guests come from all over. Many of them come from a number of small towns surrounding us, while others come from some larger cities like Watertown, Utica, and Rome which are all less than an hour away. It's very common for us to have people make the 90 minute drive from Syracuse and the two hour trip from Albany. Opening day last season was a bit of an eye opener for me though. I met people who made the trip all the way from Boston, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania just to name a few. Snow Ridge is a bit of a secret, but once people learn about it, they'll travel!
Who would you say your core customer is?
We cater and rely on middle class families for sure. They make up the majority of our customer base. Powder hounds aren't far behind though, they know where the snow is and they come in droves.
"Snow Ridge is a bit of a secret, but once people learn about it, they'll travel!"
Have there been any notable skiers or snowboarders that grew up skiing at Snow Ridge?
There have been a number of incredible skiers to come out of Snow Ridge, the most notable being Renie Cox. Renie grew up skiing at the resort, before she was selected to the United States Women's Alpine Team. She went on to compete in a number of events around the world, including the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley.
What's one unique thing about Snow Ridge?
Our snow and steeps. You will not find anything deeper and steeper anywhere nearby. The North side of the mountain is like Jay Peak or Mad River wrapped up in a miniature, 500' package. I've never seen anything like it.
Snow Ridge has an annual snowfall of over 230"- a huge amount for a mountain with a peak elevation of just 1,850'. Where does all of that snow come from?
Lake Ontario is our best friend. There is a 15-20 mile wide lake effect band that covers the Tug Hill Plateau in unreal snow every winter. We are right in that band, and when it dumps, it's a different world. A weather team from Utah did a study on Lake Ontario lake effect just a couple years ago, and found that the snow quality is comparable to places like Utah and Montana, where they claim to have THE BEST snow on EARTH! It's pretty wild, and very few people have any knowledge of this, but we're hoping to change that.
What's it like at Snow Ridge on a powder day?
It's deep, it's blower, and there's plenty for everyone. We have two chairs and a t-bar that allow you to access all different parts of the mountain, so even if word gets out and it's busy, you'll be able to get untouched tracks all day.
What's your favorite part about Snow Ridge?
The snow! But honestly there is so much to love about this place. Snow Ridge is a wealth of history and tradition, and the love our long time skiers and snowboarders have for the mountain is absolutely infectious. For such a small ski area, there is something for everyone. I know a lot of resorts say that, but we have some of the best learning terrain around, great intermediate groomers, a killer terrain park, and some of the gnarliest, deepest tree skiing you'll see on the East Coast. As someone who respects the sport as much as I do, those are not claims that I take lightly. You just have to see it to believe it.
"The North side of the mountain is like Jay Peak or Mad River wrapped up in a miniature, 500' package. I've never seen anything like it."
Does Snow Ridge do anything to generate Summer business?
Cyndy and I are dedicated to turning Snow Ridge into a year round business. We successfully introduced two new events to the resort this summer, a 5K adventure run and a food and music festival. We will be expanding these offerings next summer with a number of new events, as well as starting to build our downhill mountain bike trail system. We also have a campground that we plan to expand with more RV sites and the addition of small cabin rentals.
Are there any special events that Snow Ridge hosts on an annual basis?
Snow Ridge used to be the home of Moe.Down, a summer music festival featuring the band Moe. and many other musical acts. We are working with the promoters of this event to bring it back to the resort once again. Besides that, we are planning to introduce a number of new events to bring Snow Ridge to the forefront of fun and entertainment in the North Country.
You're pretty new to the world of resort ownership. What was it like to make the decision to buy Snow Ridge?
My mom and I have wanted this for years. When I left for college, we started talking about the possibility actually becoming reality. It took a long time, about 10 years, but we finally found the right opportunity for us, and that was Snow Ridge. So once we found it, and did our research, it really was a no brainer. It's been quite the learning experience, but it really has been a dream come true for us, and we're very excited for what the future holds.
What made Snow Ridge the right opportunity for you?
We did a lot of research before we decided that Snow Ridge was the perfect fit for us. The finances were there, the property was super unique, and the potential for growth and expansion was absolutely huge. Once we knew all the pieces were there, we pulled the trigger and we couldn't be more glad that we did!
Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us, and best of luck this winter Nick!