By Oliver Burdo
The essence of the mountain is something long described by skiers and snowboarders as simply inexplicable. It can take years to develop that sense, but you have to start the process somewhere and for those who are lucky enough to reside near or visit the beautiful snow country of western New York, Peek n’ Peak Resort is an excellent place to begin. Friends and family gather there to learn, share memories, community, and the chance to embrace winter as it comes. I am grateful to have begun my journey at Peek n’ Peak, tucked away in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in Clymer, near Findley Lake, NY and a hub of seasonal adventures from golf to snow sports with great food and learning.
I remember the nerves as a pre-teen, embarking on the unknown adventure that later became a staple of my life, during a winter break from school with my family. We gathered for a week at the Peak with several other families and went skiing, tubing, swimming, and ate, a lot.
First I had to learn. On a crisp, sunny morning, we walked up to the desk at the Snow Sports School and Rental Center, purchased lift tickets, and began the process. From what I recall this was fairly easy. Someone helpfully fitted me with boots and skis, and I proceeded with the group to the great outdoors. With a quick, and anxious, trot over to the learning center, I met my instructor. My nerves were quickly dampened by his knowledge and kindness. I learned about my skis along with the bindings, poles, and the use of my equipment before I even began forward motion. The instructor was patient as we started on the short conveyor that took us up a small angled slope. Riding on this for a while, learning the “snowplow” and various ways of stopping before advancing to the hill, built confidence and excitement for what came next.
We moved on to the bunny slope, learned “the ways of the lift”, how to get on and off properly and safely. Then, off the lift and onto the slope. I began to understand the feeling of the snow, turning, stopping, grasping what I initially thought I would struggle with. Within the hour and a half or so lesson, I was able to hold my own. I don’t believe I would have gotten as much out of that day had I not gone through the Snow Sports School.
During middle and high school I attended ski club at the Peak and transitioned to snowboarding. Once a week, I had a group lesson and then ventured off to the mountain with friends. I developed a friendship with instructors along with a better understanding of life – confidence, integrity, respect, community and excitement. “Try, and try again.”
Peek n’ Peak doesn’t have the largest or longest hills in the world, but what they do have is variety, an array of slope difficulty and terrain parks with features that change with each visit. I remember coming back one week to a buried school bus in the terrain park. Friends and I must have spent half the day riding that alone. We would also pick different places to eat every night. The Sugar Shack, found on the west end of the slopes, was a favorite of mine with wood fire pizzas. The lodge was always filled with laughter and families warming up from a long day on the hill. The Main Lodge, centered above the snow sports shop and equipment rental was the meeting place, with good grub, families and friends having picnics, and a large warm dining hall. The Retreat, located on the east side was the most visited by my peers due to its location near the half pipe, terrain parks, tubing area and favorite slopes.
Aside from snow sports, Peek n’ Peak offers condominium rentals, fully equipped for multiple families and privacy, as well as an Inn. The Inn at the Peak has an awesome pool, indoor-outdoor hot tub, fine dining featuring an emphasis on locally sourced products, the Serenity Spa by Aveda and all the necessities to keep vacations running smoothly for the whole family. The event calendar ensures entertainment in all seasons, from snow sport events, summer activities such as golf, Segway tours, zip lining, an Aerial Adventure course, and music all year round.
For one of this year’s big events, resorts across the country are coming together in an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records Largest Ski and Snowboard Lesson of all time. It begins at 10am on Friday, January 8th, 2016, and is the unofficial kick off to the Annual Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month at Peek n’ Peak. It’s only $10 which includes a beginner lift ticket, lesson and rental. You must check in by 9am on the day of the event.
“Why Peek n’ Peak?” Well… That’s just it. There is no single reason. It is a place to begin; the quintessential winter environment for learning, creating memories with friends and family, and fun. It’s not small, nor overwhelming, and it’s casual, yet professional. The Peak is where the air seems to be at home. It just feels right, and that, I believe is the indescribable nature of being on the mountain, to be a part of something completely satisfying.
Author Oliver Burdo is a singer, songwriter, and musician with the band, St. Vith, and lives near Hammondsport, NY . He’s also a snowboarder who anxiously awaits the lake effect snows of western New York. His mom works for the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, promoting the region all year long.