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Smells like Jersey, looks like Jersey and as much as I hate to admit it…is Jersey.
By Chris Stepanek
I live in New York City. There are many non-snowboarding related reasons for this. Given my geographic location I usually have one of three choices when I want to ride my snowboard. My first choice is a three hour drive to Vermont, a drive I have done many times and have come to enjoy actually. Second is an awful drive of two hours to Hunter or Windham near Albany, NY, a fate I wouldn’t bestow on anyone. Third is a mere thirty five minute drive to Mountain Creek, New Jersey. Being a native New Yorker it is hard to admit any reason to cross the Hudson river and enter New Jersey, but Mountain Creek very well could be the first one I have found.
I enjoy small ski areas and night riding, I always have. However after riding Vermont for so long I have forgotten what fun it is to ride in rutty icy snow that has been abused all day by countless soccer moms snowplowing their way down the middle of the trail. I mean I forgot how to do all that in the dark on less than one thousand feet of vertical. I have made a conscious effort this season to reacquaint myself with the glories of small mountain and night time riding. Considering that is what I learned to ride on all of those years ago and I have been having moments of nostalgia often this season, I found I missed it a lot.
Let me start off by saying how impressed I am with the faculties at Mountain Creek. Intrawest bought it a few years ago and has since dumped a ton of money, $26 million according to the their website, into this place. They have added some great lifts (an odd open gondola being the main new lift), a ton of condos, actual snow making and real grooming equipment (a pipe dragon too I believe). Everywhere you look everything is new and shiny, maybe that is just the ice / man-made snow coating on most stationary objects here. Come here at night, after the area schools let out, and you can get an added attraction for your lift ticket dollar. Anywhere you get a ski area next to a town(s) with a high-school that local ski area automatically becomes the mall in the winter. You can watch the high school kiddies out on “dates”, the girls in one group trying to look all cute and the boys in another trying to be all cool, Âa consistent ten foot gap between them at all times. If you are really lucky you may even get to ride up in the gondola with a group and hear all about their plans for that night, the boys talking trash, the girls dreaming of their favorite Backstreet Boy.
And if that wasn’t already enough reason to go you also get to watch the Camaro driving (you know the ones, mullets, “no fear” stickers, “back-off” mud flaps) don their prized starter jackets (Jets, Jets, Jets!!!), sweat pants (or jeans) and drop a lot of money to rent some beat Rossignol equipment. Then you get to watch those same people create the human debris field that is most of the mountain. Unless you go away from the main area of the hill it is very hard to link two turns together around all of the fallen people, New Jersey-ites just weren’t meant to slide on snow, I give them much credit for trying though.
Every snowboarder here wants to be part of the Forum 8, whoops, I mean the M3 crew (Forum just ain’t cool anymore, no matter how green they make their bindings). Most every snowboarder at Mountain Creek is decked out in Four Square camo outfits, they all ride 151 Peter Line boards with twenty four inch duck stances and they all sport gold link (no lie!). I love to watch them side slip their way down the trail barely making it to the next six inch kicka’ to pull a clean frontside 120 to face plant, two feet out, it is so impressive. Plus the alpine slide and water park structures on the lower mountain provide those same kids many Mack Dawg jib-rific moments. But hey, they are having fun and that is the whole point of going snowboarding. Right?
A word of advice. If you stay to the sides of the trails, and you will have to because of the ice, try to avoid the chain link fence on the sides of most trails. The hill Mountain Creek is on is basically one big rock. Therefore you will find very few straight fall-line trails, rather every trail zigzags its way down the rock, at times providing twenty to fifty foot cliffs on the sides of the trails.
I can honestly say I like Mountain Creek. It is a beautiful little ski area, the conditions can be a bit dicey considering how far south and close to the ocean it is, but in a season that we actually get snow it can be a wonderful place to ride. Your best bet is to hit it during peak season (that means January in most winters) because early and late season down here in the tri-state area mean rain and temperatures in the 50s, not the best for snow. I guess they even have a good park and a few pipes. I spend almost no time at all in either a pipe or the park but from what I have seen they look no worse than your average Vermont park / pipe. Mountain Creek is also part of Burton’s LTR (Learn To Ride) Program which means if you are a beginner and you go here you will have some special equipment and instruction to get you off of your butt and riding like a pro in no time, a great idea.
Stock Mountain Creek photos by Brooke Geery.