Last weekend I took a ski trip with some friends from work to Ellicottville, NY, home of the Holiday Valley ski resort.
We stayed in one of the Alpine Meadow chalets on the resort. As a group of 10 people, we filled it all its beds: two double beds in the loft, one king-size a main floor bedroom, and a double with single top bunk and another single. Though the sleeping arrangements were a little crowded, there was a large common room where we spent most of our waking hours in the chalet. With a full kitchen, sofa, and wood-burning stove, it had everything to make our stay enjoyable; everything, that is, except a second shower.
On Saturday morning, I was up before everybody else. I hit the slopes (trail map) before the rest had had their breakfast, giving me a chance to get a few runs in while it was still cold and relatively fast. There was a heavy, wet snow that morning and I was concerned that it might change to rain in the afternoon so I wanted to make the most of my day. I spent most of the morning on the lower side of Mardi Gras, enjoying the likes of Firecracker, Shadows, The Chute, and Champagne, all of which were steep enough to provide some challenge and fun. When I met up with my friends, we toured around the hill some more, hitting the runs serviced by the Little Spruce lift, with which I was generally unimpressed. They were typical beginner/intermediate runs with a constant gradual pitch, excellent for the typical beginner/intermediate, but quite dull for my tastes.
With all the heavy wet snow that morning, it was difficult to stay dry. In fact, the cheap gloves that I brought, figuring I didn’t need the warmth of my usual mitts in such mild weather, were soaked right through. To my relief, for lunch we returned to the chalet, where I could throw all my wet clothes in a drier while I nibbled on a roast beef sandwich.
In the afternoon, we toured around the hill some more, hitting the Eagle chair, with its steep, fun runs: Eagle, Raven, and Hoot Owl.
I was surpised at the number of quad lifts they have. Although most of them are not high speed lifts, they managed to service what little lines formed quite efficiently. I don’t think I waited more than five minutes for a lift all day; usually we skied right on to the lift.
Around 4 o’clock, we returned to the chalet for a dinner break with plans to return to the slopes later for some night skiing. Those plans soon disappated with talk of going out for dinner. We decided to go to the Ellicottville Brewing Company, a microbrewery with excellent food and mediocre beer according to those who had been there before. They were right on one count, anyway. For dinner I had their chicken quesadilla; with large chunks of chicken and a shell toasted to perfection, it was some of the best food I’ve had in a long time. The beer, on the other hand was far from mediocre, as my friends generously suggested. It was surprisingly bad. Among their several varieties, I sampled their stout, which I can best describle as a blend of the tastes of cigarette ash and fish. I sampled several other varieties, and after much deliberation about which was nearest to tolerable, I finally settled on scotch.
On Sunday morning, I toured the town of Ellicottville with some friends while some others skied for the two hours before we were required to vacate the chalet. We stopped in at several ski shops, an excellent chocolate shop (of which I sadly don’t remember the name), and a trinket & art gallery, which housed a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Orlando Bloom as Legolas from LOTR that I considered bringing home for Mandy but for its size and likelihood of damage in transit.
All-in-all it was an excellent trip, one that I would recommend to any cost-conscious Ontarian skier.