The 40 Year Competition

This is my friend Mike Smith who I have profiled before in my posts. He owns a marina up on Lake George and every year, we ski together at Gore Mountain and Whiteface up in the Adirondacks. For a review, Mike has jumped over 2200 times out of an airplane, he pilots his own plane and has flown open cockpit planes in the past with the leather helmet and goggles doing aerial acrobatics over Lake George to the delight of his neighbors and kids from the Hole in the Wall camp. He is also a strong skier whose lifestyle is gas pedal to the floor.

I first met Mike years ago at Laurel Mountain in Pennsylvania where he worked as the mountain manager. He then went on to work for Herman Dupre at Seven Springs as the mountain manager there and then took a job with several grooming vehicle companies eventually settling down with the marina. During the time of his sales career with the companies who make the groomers for the ski resorts, Mike visited a lot of areas in New England as well as out west. He ended up skiing at many of them with the mountain managers and would always call me and say, ” Hey McCloskey- are you working today?” To which I would respond in the affirmative and he would laugh yelling through the phone what great conditions he was having and how he was racking up more ski areas than I had at the time. You see, we have this 40 year old competition to see how many different ski areas we have officially visited and skied. We wrote them down one night over beers at the Algonquin on Lake George and ever since then, we have had this competition to see who is ahead. For documentation purposes, the areas visited have been in New England, New York State, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia,New Jersey, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, California,Nevada,New Mexico,Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Canada, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Never made it to South America or Australia or New Zealand but they are on the bucket list.

There are rules though which govern this competition:
You must officially have a lift ticket and take at least one run.
The tally must be for different ski areas- no credit is given for multiple visits to any ski area.
The only exception was Tuckerman Ravine which has no lifts. We hiked and skied there many times.

I remember one year passing the Donner Ranch Ski Area in Tahoe and my friends all wanted me to stop and hike up to take one run to rack up another area on Smith. They know all about this competition. The area was closed for the day and I reminded them of the rules. Smith and I would go back and forth with phone calls when each of us visited another area that we could add to our list. I delighted in calling him and he the same. In fact, when we ski together, his comment is that he knew he was making me mad when he called me daily on a visit to a new ski area. I laughed about it but you know, he was right. He did irk me when he would call on a daily basis while I was strapped to my desk. Jagoff!

I was behind for many years but eventually caught up to him and now have surpassed him because he is out of the grooming business and he skis mostly areas that he has skied before. However, I make it my business to continue the competition and when I visit a ski area, I always look for another place to get my tally ahead. My last addition was Homewood in Lake Tahoe which has beautiful views of the lake and advanced me to 108 different ski areas visited and skied in my life. One of my observations about ski areas is that smaller, family owned areas seem to have more of an appeal than the large corporate giants. The spirit of skiing is alive in the hard work and effort it takes to keep a small area running. The ambiance of a little area in Vermont or New Hampshire with roaring wood fires in the lodges and rustic architecture, to me is more appealing than the concrete behemoths that are the norm for lodges in the corporately owned areas. High speed chairlifts are not always the panacea for the skier. Sometimes those slow lifts add to the atmosphere and allow for conversation between runs. I like that. Sure, I like to rack up vertical with high speed lifts, but there is nothing wrong with the smaller areas and their fixed grips and surface lifts. Kind of reminds you of how skiing was in the old days. Single chairs are a classic a la Mad River Glen.

So, 108 different ski areas skied and visited is a pretty good achievement but before I puff out my chest too big, one final note. I met Ogden Nutting a few years ago who is the patriarch of the Nutting Newspaper empire which currently owns the Pittsburgh Pirates and Seven Springs Ski Area, Hidden Valley Ski Area, and manages Laurel Mountain on State property. Mr. Nutting has the unofficial record of 475 different areas visited in his lifetime. This was written up in Ski Magazine. I sheepishly boasted about my 108 but enthusiastically voiced my admiration for his achievement. He said, “my boy( I was 59),you have a lot of years left.” So, lets hope I can continue to accumulate visits to different areas. I have trips planned for this year, but if I spot an opportunity to take at least one run at some place where I have never been, I will do it. I need to keep my foot on Smith’s neck like a true hard core competitor. LOL. Thanks for reading and think snow.

10 thoughts on “The 40 Year Competition

  1. Paul K. Vey says:

    Great fun Pat!

    Mad River is still my favorite in the small mountain category

    I love their slogan ( and its fits) “Mad River – Ski it if you can!”

    Think Snow



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    Hi Patrick,

    Love the read and so cool about how many areas you have been too. I have afew, but not that many. Wow.

    Anyway, we just had all new lifetime warrenty carpet put down in the lower level of the haus and now the pool table (heavy and I didn’t move it!), but my son-in-law, Casey did with a friend and now it will take 4 people to slide it over blankets back into the family room downstiars to reset. Remember how much my Dad loved pool? Linda is really good too and it came with the haus. And get in few things moved around and bring in a new leather sofa Linda got by Tommy Bahama, that is in the garage at the moment.

    Moving into a new house is a process. A big one! I have put in 70in. dark walnut color, wood blinds in our master bedroom and doing another of the same in the other upper bedroom. We also got a blue heeler puppy, which are Austrialian Cattle dogs that are very smart and not like a Golden Retriever at all or any other popular dog. Her name is Gracie and she has gray brindle short hair coat and learns well. It is an extra responsibility, but animals make us humans feel better and healthier for so reason. Linda surprised me back in mis Oct. while I was mounting some towel racks in another bathroom and I almost fell over thinking, what, a puppy now?? Yes, a puppy……………………

    Riding the bike as long as I can and today with 70 degree weather. Snow caps seen from our vantage point out to the west. What a range to view when out and about in Parker.

    Hope all is well and always think of you when the seasons change and how excited we get for the snow to fly. Hope to see you sometine out west and have a little fun spinning on the mtn.

    Say hi to all.

    Take care, your buddy……………..



  3. Rus Davies says:

    Great article, Pat. I have never tallied my ski areas but my guess is about half of your 108. Since I retired from teaching I have more time to ski other areas. And with a daughter living in Vermont we take an annual trip there. In the past 2 years Miriam and I have added 6 areas, Middlebury College Snow Bowl, Bolton Valley and Cochrans in Vermont plus Mount Orford and Owls Head in the Easern Townships of Quebec.

    I doubt if very many have skied Cochrans which of course is the home of three olympians. They still have an active racing program. I have the lift ticket to prove it.

    This year in addition to skiing Jackson Hole (my favorite ski area, first skied it in 1968, about 3 years after it opened) and Grand Targee we plan to add Sun Valley, Big Sky, Whitefish ansd several other Montana ski areas.

    I do have patches and pins from many of the areas I skied in the 60’s and 70’s. I will talley them one of these days and who knows, the number may surprise me. And as with Paul Vey, Mad River is still my favorite in the small mountain category. In addition to the single chair there, both the original and the recent replacement, I have ridden the single chairs of that vintage at Stowe, Mt Tremblant and Aspen. I doubt if Sun Valley still has a single chair but if so I will ride it. Their single of course was the very first chairlift.

    • patmccloskey says:

      My friend Eric Durfee is great friends with the Cochrans. He just saw Marilyn on his last trip home to Vermont. Mark Hutchinson is another friend who we ski with every year who is also great friends with them. Lots of history in that ski hill. Sounds like you will be racking up some areas this season. Maybe you will have to enter the competition. But we will never catch Mr. Nutting. See you at Laurel.

  4. Hutch says:

    Pat come up sometime and we can hit some of the small areas up here, like Norheast Slopes, Hardack, Magic mountain, Lyndon Outing club, have you done the Dartmouth ski way? How about Storrs hill? Thats where Mikeala got her start. Anyway i want you to bury Smith in the competition and make a run at Mr. Nutting!

  5. patmccloskey says:

    Hutch- anywhere with you is a treat. Glad to tag along. See you soon with that reprobate Smith in the Adirondacks.

  6. patmccloskey says:

    Rus- Bring it!!! Game on.

  7. Deb says:

    Pat, very cool, I like it. Will try this list with my swimming holes!! Still waiting for my ski lesson, maybe this is the ear, then I can take you to the pool for an exchange!! Best, Deb

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