Imagine a place where the musky scent of fresh-burning logs forever fills your senses; where the notes of nostalgia envelope you like an old friend, where the air is crisp and invigorating. Imagine a place that is surrounded by snow-capped hills and lush, green mountains; a place that brings you warmth even when it’s cold. Imagine a place where you glide along a white canvas creating your own beginning and your own end, where the world stops turning and life momentarily pauses, where the wind in your ears creates a silence that has no likeness. Imagine a place where, no matter who you are or where you’re from, you are instantly and wordlessly a part of a family. That place, my friends, is called Titus Mountain Family Ski Center in Malone!
A few weeks before Christmas, I was asked by Ottawa Mommy Club Blog if I would be interested in taking a weekend trip to Malone, New York, to review the ski resort. I am a mom to a 6-year-old and I have a full-time job on top of all my additional freelance writing work so when I was offered the opportunity for a girl’s weekend, I jumped at the chance. As we continued to lay plans and the excitement grew, I failed to recognize one thing: This winter trip meant that I would have to learn to ski!
So, here’s the deal: About 12 years ago, I decided to try skiing for the first time in my life and, well, let’s just say, it wasn’t successful. In fact, it was a complete failure: I ended up taking my skis off halfway down the hill and scooted down the rest of the way on my butt. It was embarrassing and I wasn’t exactly interested in trying again. However, just like childbirth, when I realized I would have to ski, I thought, “Well, it really can’t be that hard.” It may have been my bravado speaking, or maybe it was my desperate need to get away, but either way, I was very much looking forward to my weekend at Titus Mountain.
Titus Mountain Family Ski Center
Titus Mountain Family Ski Center is located in the village of Malone, New York, just on the other side of Cornwall, Ontario. Malone, New York, was established in 1805 and many of the homes and buildings are first generation.
Me and my girlfriend, Leslie whom I brought with me on this adventure, have an annual tradition in which we seek out small, quaint towns to spend a girl’s weekend. We have a slight obsession with historical architecture, visiting quaint boutiques, and getting to know small, tight-knit communities. So, you can imagine how excited we were on the first morning as we made our way to the resort to see all the adorable little stores and houses. In fact, on our second morning, as a little side adventure, we drove around through the smaller streets bordering the downtown area, with our 4-ways on, gawking at all the adorable houses. And, as we always do, we carefully sought out and chose the lucky house that would probably have been ours had we lived there.
When I spoke to Tim from ROOST, I asked him if he had any preferences as to what parts of the resort I spent time reviewing, among some resort areas, he also mentioned the hotel and the restaurants. He said it because Titus Mountain is a part of a community, a part of a large family, and whatever helps the community also helps Titus. I was really surprised to hear this, to be honest; it’s refreshing to step into a small town and know that they’re all working together to take care of one another (after all, it takes a village…).
Before I talk about the hotel, you must know two things about me: My family loves to travel; from one-nighters in Montreal to a week in Cuba, we’ve stayed in a lot of hotels. And secondly, I am a bit of a princess; I am the first to admit it. When my husband and I consider going on a trip in another country (Cuba or Mexico for example), I scroll through Trip Advisor and other such websites looking for personal uploads of whatever resort we are thinking of going to for bathroom pictures. I know – it’s weird. But to me, the way a bathroom looks is an indicator of the care staff puts into the rest of their hotel or resort. There are other things I consider as well, like (obviously) how you’re treated by the staff, as well as (and this is super weird, but bare with me OK?) what their door frames look like. Again, door frames are an indicator of the care they put into their hotel.
Well, let me tell you – the Holiday Inn Express in Malone has beautiful door frames! In fact, our room as a whole was fabulous! We arrived in Malone around 9 at night and we were exhausted after working all day, and I was really looking forward to going to bed. However, I was a little nervous about check-in. I had no hand in making any of the reservations and I was nervous they would have no idea what I was talking about.
Well, I was pleasantly surprised that check in took less than 30 seconds, and even more so when we walked into our gorgeous room. The room was very impressive: a small kitchenette, two fluffy beds, and a giant – and clean – bathroom (go ahead, roll your eyes). Sometimes when you go to a well-known, older hotel there are little things that, although the room is clean, indicate “wear and tear,” like small tears in the curtains, chipped door frames, chips in the furniture and so forth. There was none of that in our room. And to top it all off, there was a welcome basket on our table stocked with snacks, drinks and even a bottle of Moon Valley Syrup.
Each morning, the first thing we did was go down to the main level for breakfast. The majority of Continental Breakfasts I have had in hotels consist of stale pastries, watered down juice, a toasting area with just white bread, and a small cooking area with runny eggs and under-cooked bacon and sausages. But not the Holiday Inn! The Holiday Inn’s continental breakfast consisted of a buffet with a coffee area (with cream, milk, and multiple different cream flavours), fresh pastries, to-die-for fresh cinnamon rolls, a toasting area with bagels, English muffins, and white and whole wheat toast, 4 cereal dispensers with different cereals, fruit, yogurt, and freshly cooked sausage patties, bacon, turkey sausage patties, perfectly cooked scrambled eggs, and even omelets! Also, in the back corner, a pancake machine (Leslie was like a kid in a candy store) that dispensed fluffy, delicious pancakes.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, on Saturday night upon returning to the hotel after spending the entire day on the mountain, there was a nice little note from Nicole, our room cleaner, saying she hoped we had a nice day and that we enjoy our stay (and don’t worry, I left her a tip when we left for Ottawa).
All in all, our hotel stay was extremely pleasant. We didn’t have any nuisance noises, the food was fantastic, and that bed…I might dream about that bed for months to come!
I like food; there’s no secret there. But what I like most about eating in new restaurants is seeing the way the same dishes are prepared differently. While in Malone, we had the opportunity to try out a few different places: Mo’s Grill & Pub, Shredding Betty’s Bistro, and Moon Valley Grill. In every place we visited, the food was fantastic! And not only was the food fantastic, the service was, as well. When we arrived at Moon Valley Grill, it was ridiculously busy and we were told there may be a 45-50 minute wait. When I frowned (because I was starving) a staff member swooped in and whispered to us that there were two people she thought might be leaving and that if we didn’t mind sitting at the bar, we could sneak in there – and remember, this woman didn’t know what we were doing there. To her, we were just another couple of girlfriends, but I felt like a celebrity regardless.
Although I had never stepped foot in a ski boot before I was 22, all my friends either skied or snowboarded while I was growing up, so it wasn’t my first time at a ski resort. Although I didn’t ski, I would still go to the resort and hang out in the chalet with my other friends who didn’t ski, so I’m familiar with what a ski resort is all about, and out of all the resorts I’ve been to, Titus Mountain has the most to offer by far. Not only does it have three (yes, three) separate places to fill your stomach and re-energize, but it has countless more activities, programs, and events than all the other ski resorts I’ve been to combined.
Since neither of us had ever been skiing before (cause let’s face it, what I did last time cannot be considered skiing), we met with a ski instructor named Ron, along with his instructor-in-training, Reagan. They were both extremely understanding when we told them we’d never skied before and, it seemed, that there was no doubt in their minds that at the end of the hour we would know how to ski. Ron explained that he’d been skiing for the better part of his life and had been teaching for over 30 years. He was very sweet and encouraging, and his explanations were easy to understand. It wasn’t until we were well into the lesson that he found out we were there for a blog article, so I am confident that this is how Ron is and wasn’t amusing us because he knew why we were there.
Unfortunately, after about 30 minutes, I was in a quite a bit of pain (the reason turned out to be simple, however, I didn’t realize the source of the pain until a little while later), but Leslie continued with Ron. In fact, about 5 minutes before Ron was to start his next lesson, one of the other instructors said he would cover him and so Ron continued with Leslie.
I’ll admit, once I’d sat down with Regean (during which time I found out that Reagan was not only a junior ski instructor and avid skier, her dad was also on the ski patrol – talk about a family business!), I thought I was done with skiing. I had come to the conclusion that I would just never ski and I would have to accept that.
When Leslie was done, she came down from the mountain smiling from ear to ear; I don’t think I’d ever seen her so happy. Like me, she’d thought she would never ski. After she made sure I was OK, I asked her about the rest of the lesson and she didn’t have enough good things to say about it. This is what she said about Ron:
“[Ron] was exceptional! It was as if he knew from the get-go that I had the potential to learn how to ski. And even though he knew I’d never set foot in a ski boot before, he was encouraging and supportive[…]I think I actually feel confident enough now to be able to do this on my own…”
We decided then to have lunch and I promised, given how badly I didn’t want to let Leslie down, that I would think about trying again, as much as I was convinced that it would never happen. I attempted to stuff down the disappointment with a delicious Buffalo Chicken Salad.
After lunch, I gave in and decided to try again. I watched Leslie go down the hill a few times, and while I expressed how nervous I was to go down the hill, a family – who was snowboarding for their first time – took time to show us how to lean and bend our knees to ensure that I would be able to zig-zag down the mountain, while also helping their kids, and helping another young girl they didn’t know buckle into her snowboard every time she got back to the top. And, you won’t believe when I tell you, after watching Leslie go down six times and listening to the man and woman (who, I might add, had two of their own children but also spent time teaching me and Leslie as well as helping a random little girl buckle up her snowboard every time she got back to the top), I went down the hill! It took me 2 minutes to get down the bunny hill and I was convinced I was going about 100 km an hour, but I had done it, and when I got to the bottom I almost cried (and then I went again and made Leslie take a video so I could send it to my husband as proof). On my last run, I happened to pass the little snowboarding girl, and as I did, she yelled, “See? You can ski!”
Why I Was Able To Do It
I’ve discovered recently that I have this incessant need to feel safe in most situations in my life. Since I was a young child, I have been painfully shy, but as I’ve grown up, I’ve started to figure out which situations make me shy (ie: feel uncomfortable) or which situations lessen my insecurities; in order to lessen my shyness or insecurity, I must feel safe. I must feel as though those around me are interested in my well-being and are rooting for me rather than against me.
The Saturday I went to Titus Mountain, it was Pass Holder Appreciation Day; during our lesson, there were at least 75 adults standing at the bottom of the hill watching their children. Normally, a situation like this would have made me feel unbelievably uncomfortable and insecure, and I will admit, in the beginning, it did. But once I had been with Ron and Reagan for roughly 10 minutes, all those insecurities went away, and even more so after I’d had to sit down due to my mystery pain. Here’s why:
While I was sitting on the bench trying to find the source of my pain, four different instructors asked me if I was OK as they walked by, and seemed genuinely concerned. Even the “Ski Guy” (the guy who gave me my rented skis) asked how it was going when he walked by. And when I decided to try a second time and approached the end of the bunny hill full of people, a woman who was not a part of the resort lent me her shoulder when I almost fell over trying to get my second ski on. And while I sat on the bench at the top of the hill trying to gain my courage, the family I mentioned before tried to help, as well as 2 other random people. The entire atmosphere, from the waitresses to the instructors to the staff to the actual environment, felt safe to me.
Later, when the sun went down and we were still skiing and the eternal fire’s scent wafted up the mountain, I felt like I’d been visiting this resort forever; it no longer felt strange and scary, it felt comfortable and home-like.
Why I Loved Titus Mountain
Besides the fact that I loved the atmosphere on the mountain, I noticed that it’s not just about skiing – it’s about gathering the families together and giving them somewhere to spend precious time together. I looked through some of the events coming up in the next few months, and honestly, I’m already planning my next trip! Here are some of their upcoming events:
- The Challenge Race Series: Every weekend, they have these race challenges in a specific part of the mountain. While we were there, we got to witness this first hand!
- Moon Valley Maple Sugar Shack: I was really disappointed that we didn’t have time to check this out, however, I will make it a point to go back when we return (although, I did try the syrup the hotel gave me and it was to die for.)
- LAFFTER Hash House Hide The Chicken: I’m sure you can guess what this is by the title and it sounds hilarious!
- Howl At The Moon: An annual party where runs go until midnight with live music and giveaways!
- Mountain Madness: A family fun day with activities like the Challenge Race Series, Sugarhouse Tours, Outdoor Grill, Face Painting, Penguin Paddle, Cardboard Shred Race, Pond Skimming, cook s’mores over the fire pit, a torchlight parade, and fireworks! Also, live music, awards and prizes, and appearances by Titus Teddy and Shredding Betty throughout.
- Live music and open mike: Every week, a band or singer performs in the main lodge for whoever is attending that night. Also, open mike is quite literally “open mike” anyone can have their turn in the spotlight, regardless of their talent (what do you think they would think about my ability to yodel?)
And these are all just until March!
Titus Mountain isn’t just a ski resort. It’s a place where families, kids, teenagers, singles, couples, and seniors come to experience a shared love for skiing. It’s a place where people like me (who would prefer to hibernate until May) come out to embrace winter, to take part in an old-fashioned activity that will never go out of style.
I’m planning a trip back there very soon and I absolutely cannot wait to show my son what it’s like to be a part of a community, part of a group of people who all have the same motivation in mind: To be part of something bigger than themselves.
The Pensive Girl, signing off.