I went skiing at Buck Hill last night with my co-worker F. (Digression. I decided to start using initials -- following West Coast Girl -- to represent recurring co-workers. F was represented in earlier entries as the vegetarian who ended up renting the Rover Seventy-Five in England.)
It's getting a bit warm for decent conditions to ski in Maryland in March, so using this trip to Minnesota for some late-season skiing seemed like a good idea. Buck Hill was maybe a 15 minute drive around for us, which also made things easier than making a 2-hour trip to go skiing back home. The facilities were definitely on a smaller scale -- you bought your lift ticket and paid for your rental in the ski shop. Unfortunately, there was no good place to change outside of the men's room -- meaning there was no good place to change.
F. had never really been skiing before, so the first thing we did was head over to the beginner hill. (If you look at the trail map, that's "New Beginner Area".) We used the rope tow -- a new experience for me -- to go partway up the hill so he could practice. He was about as awkward as I remember being my first time out, and he had a harder time standing up. After skiing down the NBA a few times, I left him to practice before his lesson and went to the "Gawn Double Chair".
Buck Hill is in the middle of the suburbs (apparently the suburbs grew up around it), which led to a few interesting things. For one, I could use my cell phone on the lifts -- which I did just for the dorky "guess where I'm calling from" thing. That was a little bit tricky, as the chair lifts didn't have restraining bars. But, I survived. Also, on my way up one time I heard sirens in the distance. When I got to the top, there was a trail of smoke blowing above the ski area, and I could see a house on fire. Too bad for the people involved, but it was otherwise kind of neat.
I then skiied down J.T.'s Half-Pipe (not sure if I was supposed to do that), Jabar, and Teacher's Pet. After getting practice there, and seeing that F was into his lesson, I decided it was time to hit the blue slopes. I headed to the Quad Chair, and rode to the top. This seemed to commit me, as the trail map they posted at the bottom seemed to imply that I couldn't get down via a green slope.
Unfortunately, once I had gotten to the top, there were no clear signs. The clearest sign was the one that said "Easiest Way Down", so I followed that rather than risking ending up on the black diamonds (although the starting gate they had on Milk Run tipped me off). This led me down Meadows, on the other side of the hill. That was slightly annoying, as the Miner Double Chair on that side of the mountain wasn't running. The next time down, I was sure to finish with sufficient momentum to carry me most of the way to the Quad Chair.
After a few runs down Meadows, I went back to check on F's lesson. He was really lucky -- he was the only one who had signed up for the lesson, so he got an individual lesson at the group lesson price. Speaking of prices, this place was pretty inexpensive. It was only $35 for a lift ticket and a rental, and my dinner (which I had about then) consisted of a brat, chips and a bottled water for $5. They were going down Teacher's Pet and the NBA, so I skiied in that area for a while. When they were done, I went over to see how F was doing. He was having a lot of fun, but was still a little intimidated by the chair lift and Teacher's Pet. So he said he'd ski in the NBA for a while. So I decided to head over to Pet's Peeve, a blue trail.
It didn't end up being that bad at all. I skiied across rather than down it, and never quite lost my balance. On the other hand, I now see why people complain about the 300' vertical drop at Buck Hill. On the greens, I didn't really mind, since that leads to slower skiing. Also, many of the greens I'm used to don't go to the top of the slope anyway. But going down Pet's Peeve was very, very quick. I decided to end on that note, and we went back to the hotel.
All in all, I enjoyed Buck Hill. It was slightly less "modern" than the Pennsylvania resorts I've been to, but not in any way I can really complain about. It wasn't crowded at all, and the slopes, while shorter, were pretty nice. The price was cheap, the people were stereotypially Midwestern friendly, and the price and location were right. The magazine First Tracks Online has an interesting article about Buck Hill.