Travel-Mommy: Skiing Mountain Creek, NJ by Guest Dad Blogger Greg Lao
The Mountain Creek view from a marketing mom’s perspective
Mountain Creek is located in Vernon, New Jersey southwest of the NY border at Warwick (a beautiful valley with a small production vineyard and distillery). Just 47 miles from the George Washington Bridge, Mountain Creek is actually the closest ski area to New York City. The mountain boasts 167 acres of ski-able terrain and 1040′ of vertical. There are 4 peaks – Vernon, Granite, South and the smaller Bear Peak. There are two base areas (you will have to decide which one to arrive at as they are separated by a mile or two or road – we’ll help you decide which one later). The mountain layout is weirdly reminiscent of Sugarbush Vermont with its Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen areas. Like Sugarbush, Mountain Creek has connected its two distinct areas with a horizontal chairlift that traverses a gorge. To be very clear, the scale and pitch of the terrain at Mountain Creek are MUCH smaller/less intense than the Bush.
The mountain has a colorful history going back to the 70’s when it was known as Great Gorge/Vernon Valley. The base lodge at Vernon Valley (now Mountain Creek South) was designed by Alexander “Sandy” McIlvaine, who also had a hand in the design of lodges at Mammoth (CA) and the original lodges at Squaw Valley (CA) and Stratton (VT). After a slump in the 80’s and early 90’s, the development company Intrawest bought the resort and began a slow development and transformation of the area. One of the major decisions along the way (in 2007/8) significantly changed the mountain’s personality. At that point, they committed to making the entire South area (South Peak and Bear) pure top-to-bottom terrain park catering to the snowboarding and nascent “new school” ski set. To this day, the park is one of the best in the east short of Mt. Snow‘s Carinthia and has held many national competitions. Notably, the snowboarding bad boy, Danny Kass emerged from Mountain Creek.
North vs. South:
The skinny for skiers – as promised, we’ll now help with the choice of selecting Mountain Creek North or South. Go to Mountain Creek NORTH if: you want to experience the amenities of a brand new base lodge worthy of the best Vermont or even Western resorts – replete with outdoor fire pits on stone terraces, carpets and furnishings that are literally seeing their second season. Also, pick North if you like (very) gentle intermediate cruising terrain spread across a broad mountain face and if you are a “traditional” skier or snowboarder who doesn’t seek out features and hits.
Go to Mountain Creek SOUTH if: you are a member of the park set (a snowboarder or new school free-skier who likes rails and jumps). It has top to bottom features with small to medium boxes, rails and bonks. The “Jib Lab” crew that designs the parks has a reputation for being very creative, though it is unclear if the commitment to park development will continue under new ownership (Intrawest sold in 2010/11). The jumps range from small to medium and by late season they may put a few 40-50 footers in. There is enough to have fun on, but be careful and know what you’re doing. Anyone who has spent time in dedicated parks knows the risks. Speaking of which, one extra requirement at Mountain Creek South is a “Park Pass”. This small extra ticket (good for a whole season) is acquired after taking a primer and test of park “rules of the road”. As a tip – you can take the Park Pass Quiz online at the Mountain Creek website (look under “Ski & Ride Smart”) and then pick up your park pass at the mountain. If you do it at the mountain, you may have a slight wait to use one of the interactive kiosks. To be fair, MC South is not only for park brats, though there are sometimes packs of kids with a surf style “locals only “attitude. You will see the occasional plain old skier or snowboarder (or father whose job is filming his son). But after a while, if you’re just skiing, you do start feeling a little out-of-place (or tempted to do something you’ll regret).
- Great for day trips or mini vacations for one of the holiday breaks
- Lift ticket prices make the Mountain very family friendly at only $65 on weekends and save 50% if you book online in advance. Ski rentals are available
- As a post-script regarding Four season activity: Mountain Creek apparently has a killer downhill Mountain Biking operation in the summer that again, surprisingly, hosts national level competitions. (South)
Lodging & Dining:
- Crystal Springs Resort and the Grand Cascades lodge: are great get-away resorts
- VBRO or Dwellable.com: are easy options for rentals and B&Bs
- Schuss: a yummy wood-fired pizza restaurant with craft beer bar (North)
- The Kink (as in kinked rails): a nicely situated bar/restaurant that serves family friendly fare and always has room (South)
Mountain Creek is a wonderful gem for those who want a quick hit of skiing really close to New York with some cues that might make you feel like you’re at a mountain resort farther away. It is also great for kids (and adults) who are just starting out on skis or snowboards as the gentler terrain at North is conducive to learning. If you’re a park rat who loves grinding rails and hitting interesting and innovative features, Creek South is Mecca. But, if you’re a more traditional skier who needs a little more pitch and perhaps some moguls for challenge and excitement, you should probably travel north the extra hour to Hunter Mountain or get up to VT.
A cool video by Greg to give you a lay of the land
Many thanks to Greg Lao for writing this post for our Travel-Mommy section of Revolutionary Marketing Ideas.com. Greg is a senior advertising executive by day, loving father and husband, avid sportsman and a great friend.