Ok, it is 4 a.m. and I am skiing - how cool is that! And most interesting enough I am not alone! Now the really weird part… It is 4 a.m., I am skiing, there are lots of other folks skiing and I am in Indiana! I better explain.
A recent business assignment has forced me to temporally relocate from the Washington, D.C. area to Louisville, KY. When I took the job I thought, “Ok, I like horses as much as anyone - Kentucky can’t be that bad, but how am I ever going to get in some skiing?”
Well, I found the answer. 45 miles northwest of Louisville lies the Paoli Peaks ski resort. This little area makes up for what it lacks in vertical with aggressive snowmaking and around-the-clock operations on weekends.
I was quite surprised as I pulled into the parking lot at 3:30 a.m. this past Saturday night (or was it Sunday morning?) to find that I was not alone. I had figured it was best to get up early to ski than to try to pull the ski all-nighters. It seems, though, that the ski all-nighter was the norm. Most of the folks had been there since midnight or before.
I gathered my gear and tried to buy a ticket at the lodge. There I learned probably the best kept secret in the Midwest: They stop selling tickets at 3 a.m. I guess they figure if anyone is crazy enough to show up after that, let them ski. I wandered the lodge for awhile looking for a staff member to confirm this, but by 4 a.m., I was on the slopes.
Now the slopes were busy but not crowed. There were many folks skiing and boarding. There seemed a good mix of skiing apparel and the odd “Cartwright” coveralls. Naturally the average age seemed under 20, but I did see a few “old folks” around, including a 50 year old snowboarder/ farmer who said a first - his kids used to make him come out but now he makes them. It was a pleasant atmosphere. Kind of like a church group outing. There are no beer sales at Paoli, which might have helped foster the kinder environment.
The set up, as I have found common in the Midwest, is lodge on top, ski down into a valley below. Paoli claims 16 runs, but really there are 7-8 ways down to four lifts. The slopes, although a bit worn by the traffic, were in surprisingly good shape (frozen grandular with very little ice). It has been cold here in the heartland and the snowmakers had done a good job with coverage. The pitches were fun and easy. The trails were mostly marked as blues (a light blue) and one black diamond run, which is really the terrain park. These runs provided a bit of variety if not challenge. It was fun and it was 4 a.m., so that in itself was cool.
In two hours I got my skiing fill. The snow held up nicely. I never had to stand in line for more than a minute. Now I will say that “brain buckets” have not made the impact in the Midwest as they have back East. I saw only one other person with one. But the overall skiing experience was quite pleasant. Paoli will make a nice place to train while I am marooned in the Midwest. I wonder if Liberty stayed open all night would anyone come out?
Robbie Allen is an avid small hill skier. He has written several articles on the many small hills he has sought out.