Ithaca is gorgeous. By your junior year when you’re trudging through three feet of snow against the tide of a skin-numbing wind that is flinging ice particles at your glowing cheeks, you want to kill the person that coined the phrase that appears on the chest of every native Ithacan and the bumper of every rusty Buick. As you stand at the summit of Libe Slope, perplexedly staring at the ominous gray sky that has leered down on this town for seven months, you wonder what possesses these people to insist that Ithaca is gorgeous.
The answer is that the citizens of this odd upstate town are here in the warm months of summer when Ithaca goes from medieval to romantic, when the trees are dressed in green leaves, the gorges flow with cool water, and the sky is the bluest in the heavens. Most of us don’t have this pleasure, since the school year is so appropriately scheduled for the doomsday months of winter.
But, come on. We’re talking about Cornell students. We may only have the wintry pleasures of snow, ice, and sleet to work with here, but it just takes a little altitude and ingenuity to make a gray time into a great time.
Just as University of Miami students hit the beaches with their bikinis, Cornellians hit the slopes with their skis, snowboards, and ski boards. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and after a few runs at 40 miles per hour down a powdery mountain your daily morning trudge may evolve into an anticipatory prance. With local resorts like Greek Peak, a 20 minute car ride from campus, and Labrador Mountain, about a 45 minute trip, Cornellians have a reason to say Ithaca is gorgeous.
“While you can’t really compare the terrain within our reach to some of the great Western mountains, skiers and riders at Cornell are much better off location-wise than many of our counterparts across the country. Friends of mine from Michigan and Minnesota have grown up skiing on landfills with a third of the vertical and a quarter of the number of runs as Greek Peak,” said Justin Davison ’01, president of the Cornell Ski and Snowboard Club, which boasts a membership of 250 students.
Although Greek Peak may solicit as much praise from students as Harvard does, there’s a reason it’s the largest resort in central New York. The Peak has more vertical and more trails than other mountains in the area.
“For being so close, Greek Peak has some solid bump runs and challenging glades. Recreational ski and snowboard clubs come from as far away as Philadelphia to ski ‘the Peak,’ and as a club we do all of our local skiing there,” Davison continued.
According to Greek Peak group sales representative John Kozlowski, “We have one of the best snow sports schools on the east coast. In comparison to the other mountains in central New York we offer more of a destination resort setting.”
And although a destination resort isn’t what the average college student is looking for, Greek Peak still relies on them for a large portion of their business. They offer students an opportunity to make the best of a hard winter at a decent price. This year the Peak offered students a season pass for only $99, and to sweeten the deal there’s a bus that runs every Saturday from campus. It’s free for Ski Club members, five bucks for non-members.
Those who hold season passes are the people seen frolicking around campus, clicking their heels together each time it snows as you drearily march to your next class. Why are these snow bunnies so joyful? Conditions have been excellent this year.
“The snow storms in the beginning of the semester gave Greek Peak some incredible powder days and a decent base. The snow gods have been a little less generous recently, but the storms predicted this week should give us some quality conditions for the weekend,” said Davison.
Kozlowski echoed these happy tidings, explaining, “We were able to make snow early and the colder temperatures throughout the winter have kept the snow on the hill.”
The next closest outlet for the snow sport fanatic is Labrador Mountain, located north of Cortland off I-81. Labrador is comparable to Greek Peak, but with fewer trails, a better terrain park, and a somewhat better half pipe.
Labrador representative Keith Smith compared the mountains in the area, saying, “We all offer the same thing. It’s just different terrain and we have a very nice, long half pipe that they groom nightly,” He also praised the snow gods’ generosity early in the season saying, “We’ve had nice, natural powder since the middle of December all the way up until the last week of January.”
Though Labrador may be a better destination for snowboarders, it doesn’t seem to attract as collegiate a crowd as Greek Peak. Most of Labrador’s traffic comes from families in the Syracuse area, so their prices and packages cater more to this segment than students. Smith mentioned the popularity of snowboarding at the facility. “Learning to board is about $20, but if you don’t take the lesson, they won’t let you on the lift,” Smith explained.
A great as it is to have two decent facilities that can make the onslaught of snowfall a little less dreadful here at Cornell, the best snow sporting is found in Vermont. Six hours away from the gray hills of Ithaca are some of the best mountains on the East Coast.
“With over 3000 vertical feet and 200 plus runs, Killington offers everything from challenging bumps and glades to long blue cruisers and some beginner terrain. Throw in its reputation of a legendary night life and Killington makes a great destination for a college ski trip,” raved Davison.
It’s no wonder since the Cornell Ski and Snowboard Club is offering a “super-discount” spring break trip for a week in Killington ($259 for members, $269 for non-members).
The trip promises to be a success given the great conditions this year. “The huge snow storm that the East got in late December was the biggest we’ve seen