Lyon Mountain Skiing

Speed down the slopes to catch the amazing view of Lyon Mountain.

(DoNorth/Kevin McAvey)

My three friends and I make the turn onto Chazy Lake Road. With the early rising sun peering through the car windows, we watch the snow banks on each side of us increase in height. We arrive at the beginning of the snow and ice-covered trail marked by a wooden sign that reads “Lyon Mountain.”

At the trail head, the four of us are filled with adrenaline, and we all jump out excitedly to get ready. I feel the icy, cold wind rip through my jacket, but I keep my extra layers in my backpack since the climb up will surely keep me warm. We start up the mile-long road. I’m ecstatic to finally break trail, otherwise known as hiking through the fresh snow. This is a frequent spot for many local skiers, split boarders and snowshoers, so we are lucky to grab first tracks.

Lyon is Clinton County’s largest mountain with 3,830 feet of staggering views of Lake Champlain, the Adirondack High Peaks and if it’s a clear day, the Montreal skyline. Lyon is a well-known mountain to hike in the area, but many people are unaware of its recreational skiing.

The North Countryman put out its newspaper with an advertisement for Lowenberg Ski Area in 1964, which was actually planned on Lyon Mountain and spoke of having 30 chairlifts, 2,000 feet of vertical skiing and an amazing European-style village. Lowenberg was intended to be the largest ski resort east of Mississippi. The project was developed by Bennett T. Clute, a Plattsburgh real estate developer. Clute saw the decline of the mining and logging industries and thought to bring a recreational facility to the region that would attract tourists. You can still see one of the old T-bar lifts, which are now out of service.

With the ski trail ahead, the four of us head straight up past the abandoned T-bar and broken down structure of the ski lodge.  Just up the hill, we pass by the turnoff for the hiking trail. With the crisp smell of the fresh snow, the sight of clear blue skies and the easy going trail ahead, the group is in a great mood.

As we hike, I take in the striking scenery around me. The tree branches are lightly topped with snow and Chazy Lake is frozen over, which creates for a beautiful backdrop. Even though a couple of feet of snow occupies the ground below us, we warm up during the hike.

The snow has gotten deeper and the cold begins to set back in, but I still bring up how great the snow is this season. Whiteface has a wonderful amount of snow and Vermont’s northernmost ski resort Jay Peak is near the top of the charts for snowfall in the North. My friends and I spend most of our days off during the winter touring Lyon Mountain, shredding the steeps of Whiteface and dodging through the trees of Jay Peak. This conversation leads us right to the summit of Lyon. The beginning of the trail is narrow and looking up, we see a great view of the fire tower right before us.

On the summit, our group stops for a snack and throws on extra layers for protection from the brutal winds. After a celebration of making it to the top, we exchange a couple high-fives and take some photographs.

We head back over to the trail to get ready to head down. The fourth member of our crew has joined us for his first time skiing backcountry. He asks about avalanche safety, which is a primary concern of anyone entering backcountry terrain. Though there is always a risk in the backcountry, Lyon is skied often and has a low-angle slope that makes it safe enough, and unlike the rest of the Adirondacks, there is no need for the usual avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe.

We switch our ski boots off hike mode and tighten our snowboarding boots. Glancing at one another, we smile, eager to see who will get first tracks.

I call out “dropping!” and the trail starts out with a mellow decline with a few tight, narrow turns as the trail opens up around me. Seeing all the fresh snow on the open trail, I wear an ear-to-ear grin. Despite the cold that whips around my exposed skin, my experience snowboarding gives me control. I cruise down the trail with my friends knowing we earned our turns.

Issue 6: Winter/Spring 2016

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  • I’m a Malone resident and patroller at Titus: anxious to try this – your post whet my appetite and the background on the plan for the resort is really interesting

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