Already picking out what fresh new gear you want to purchase for the season? Perhaps you knew the answer to that question months ago. If so, then you also know that the leaves on the trees of Ellicottville are changing color, which means that it’s almost time for another fantastic season out on the slopes. And rest assured, HoliMont is looking forward to helping you enjoy every single snow-filled moment this winter.
If you’re a Member at HoliMont, North America’s largest private ski club, you know that it is an experience that can be tough to put into words because it really is just that – an incredible winter experience. Any time throughout the season you can hit the slopes and set your skis on edge to engage your finely tuned, high performance skis or snowboard on pristinely groomed corduroy and carve down one of HoliMont’s 52 slopes. But as with most things in life, picturing it doesn’t do it justice. Until you can actually feel that crisp Western New York winter air on your face as you cruise down a slope, all you can really do is imagine what spending your winters at this family-friendly ski club is all about.
Located just outside the village of Ellicottville, NY, HoliMont Ski Area has a slightly different mantra than many ski areas you are familiar with. HoliMont, you see, is a private ski club with a membership base that is very passionate about their little slice of winter ecstasy. Think this is like your grandfather’s country club? Think again. People choose to become members at HoliMont due to its family-friendly atmosphere just as much as they do for its pristinely groomed terrain and snowmaking abilities. With a strong emphasis on a children-focused ski school and racing programs that teach young members proper skiing/snowboarding techniques - and most importantly, lots of fun - the HoliMont experience is one that can be enjoyed by the entire family.
Experience HoliMont. Think of that phrase as a lifestyle suggestion or a word to the wise, if you will. Check out www.holimont.com and follow the club on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where you will find a continuous stream of content and action-packed photos. But social media isn’t going to give you anywhere close to the true feeling of being at the club on a Saturday morning in January after Ellicottville has just gotten pounded with glorious lake effect snow and the HoliMont Mountain Crew has been working throughout the night to get the slopes in optimal condition. Those are the days you will find out exactly what the edges on your skis are made for or how floating through the glades on a snowboard is as thrilling as any feature in the terrain park. It’s the little particulars that truly make HoliMont a special place. This club was founded on family values, hard work and a deep-rooted love of skiing. And while the club has definitely grown up over the years, the one thing that has never changed is that it offers a one-of-a-kind family atmosphere.
HoliMont still has original members (the club was founded in 1962) who are active in the club. Those people can tell you stories about hiking the hills in the off-season in order to remove any large rocks that could possibly cause damage to skis. Or they can convey tales about how the main chalet once doubled as a garage for the first snow groomer purchased by the club. Perhaps you’ll hear about how the chairlifts used to have numbers (i.e. One, Two, Three) for names instead of being called Exhibition Express, Cascade, or Greer. After all the stories are said and done, what you will really find out is that becoming a member at HoliMont is about more than involvement in a club; it basically becomes a home away from home and a vacation that you can enjoy all winter long.
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
If membership isn’t for you, you need not worry. HoliMont still has plenty for you! Years ago the HoliMont membership decided to open HoliMont to the general public every Monday through Friday (except for the week between Christmas and New Year’s). This change allowed any snowsports enthusiast to experience this special private ski club during its off-peak times. It’s not uncommon for people to use their vacation days (or sick days if you feel that “cold” coming on the morning after a powder dump) to take advantage of HoliMont’s Weekday Experience Pass (10 non-transferrable lift tickets and 5 snowsports clinics for as little as $240). Since the weekday traffic is considerably less than the weekend traffic, at times it is almost as if you have the slopes to yourself.
Whether you’re a HoliMont Member or not, everyone can look forward to some new additions to the Club this year. Perhaps the most important upgrade to the ski season will be the addition of nine new snow gun tower locations on Exhibition Express. The reason for this addition is to make it possible to get the main area of HoliMont open early on in the season. And for you terrain park enthusiasts, the Park Crew is planning on having a couple new items in the park that should leave you pretty stoked.
Stop by the Slopeside shop or the Gear Up Mountain Shop at some point this season and you’ll undoubtedly come across HoliMont’s newest full-time employee. After over a decade of running Sliders Snowboard Shop in Colden, NY, Greg Culver will be bringing his knowledge and love of the ski industry to HoliMont. As HoliMont’s new shop manager, Culver will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of onsite retail, rental equipment, and gear tuning. Perhaps more importantly, he will be tasked with bringing a fresh perspective to the two shops and maximizing the potential that they have to benefit HoliMont members and guests.
Culver comes to HoliMont with an extensive and diverse history in the ski industry. After growing up skiing and then later snowboarding on the slopes of Kissing Bridge, he started working as a nighttime lift attendant during the 1992 ski season. After two seasons of swinging chairs, he transitioned over to the KB snowsports school in order to get out on snow more and share his love of being outdoors on snow with others. In 1999 Culver attended an American Association of Snowboard Instructors’ (AASI) certification clinic at HoliMont where he attained his Level I certification, and from that point on he knew that the ski industry was where he wanted to be.
“I had a great job and had worked my way up the corporate ladder a bit and was living quite comfortably,” Culver stated. “But I always felt like I wanted to do something else and the appeal of combining a business with my passion seemed like an exciting opportunity.” That mindset eventually led Culver to open Sliders Snowboard Shop in Colden, NY, where he spread the good gospel of the snowboarding lifestyle to every patron who walked through his doors.
Sadly, after many years of good times in the shop and on the slopes (why own a snowboard shop if you don’t make some time to test the product?), Culver was forced to close up shop at Sliders before the start of last season. And just like that, his future in the ski industry was up in the air.
Culver took his newfound open schedule as an opportunity to catch up on lost time out on the slopes of Holiday Valley where he spent last season working full-time in the snowsports school.
“Getting on snow full-time last year was great,” said Culver. “My body was pretty battered by the end of the season but it was good fun. I really enjoyed the customer service and interaction aspect. I love winter and I love the cold temps. Granted, we had some pretty nasty cold days, but with the right gear and a few more warm-up breaks, you could find some great sliding conditions.”
Alas, when the snow melted off the slopes, Culver went back to the drawing board to evaluate his future and whether or not snow sports was going to be a part of it. Given the fact that he was pretty set on continuing to live in the Western New York area, he realized that his options were somewhat limited. That is, until he saw the shop manager opening at HoliMont. “After trying to find my spot in the WNY snow biz for a while,” Culver said, “I thought HoliMont could be an opportunity to find a new home, not just a job.”
As soon as he secured the job, Culver, who prides himself on his attention to detail and structure, immediately got to work revamping both shops and familiarizing himself with the inventory.
“My goal with Slopeside is to offer cool products at reasonable prices and keep the ‘got to have’ items stocked,” Culver said. He went on to state that “this year will give me a chance to get a finger on the pulse of the HoliMont customer. I want to find out what they need and want. “ For those already familiar with the shop, Culver said that moving forward he would like to bring in a few new softgood brands to replace some of the less popular sellers. He’s looking to bring more Burton apparel in and is currently looking at least one new ski line. Additionally, he envisions a cool selection of HoliMont branded items.
On the rental and tuning side of things, Culver has similar plans. He stated, “Gear-Up’s focus will be on fast and efficient customer service. I’d like to continue to work with local shops and offer demos of the latest and greatest gear. In the Tune-Up shop I would like to improve turn-around time and efficiency. I’m kind of a neat freak so everything is getting reorganized and cleaned.” He finished by saying that he would also be looking to eventually update some of the equipment in the shop and ideally will be offing more ski race products and accessories.
Given that the 2015-16 ski season is right around the corner, Culver has definitely had to hit the ground running in order to acclimate himself to his new path in life. But since it’s a trail that he has more or less walked alongside for years now, there is little doubt that he has the aptitude to do the job well. So make sure you stop by both Slopeside and Gear Up this season to check out the changes. You might just find some unique items that you didn’t even know you needed.