Always struggling, Warrensburg’s Hickory Ski Center (or Hickory Hill, as we knew it in our youth) was uncertain if its ski lifts, which have been dormant for the past eight seasons, would run this year.
But with help from Queensbury High School graduate Mike Rogge and his Lake Tahoe-based outdoor magazine, Mountain Gazette, and others, the lifts will operate, weather permitting.
Creating and selling stylish, limited-edition merchandise celebrating Hickory and small, independent ski areas everywhere, Mountain Gazette helped Hickory raise the $38,000 necessary to pay the center’s ski-lift liability
insurance premiums, which have increased dramatically in recent years.
“The response was amazing,” said Rogge. “Skiers look out for other skiers. We received orders from skiers here in Tahoe, from Utah, from Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. They just helped save a small ski area.”
Rogge said he found it especially gratifying to hear from people in New York – from both the city and upstate – who had never heard of Hickory.
“We let our readers in on a local secret, a place I’ve loved since I was a kid,” said Rogge.
Rogge, whose parents live year-round on Lake George said he first skied Hickory when he was ten years old.
“In a lifetime of powder days, I have never forgotten my first one at Hickory Hill,” he recalled. “The powder felt as though it were two feet over our heads. It’s a memory burnt deep in my brain.”
Hickory, Rogge continued, is “a reminder of how skiing was, and frankly, how many people think skiing still should be – a sport that’s accessible to everyone, not just the super-rich.”
Mountain Gazette raised $7,500 from the sale of the swag, all of which was donated to the Hickory Legacy Foundation.
Hickory general manager Sue Catana said the support of Mountain Gazette and others, from members of the local community to the online ski ticketing agency IndyPass and a digital ski publication titled Unofficial Networks, “was absolutely helpful, allowing us to purchase the insurance.
With the resulting financial boost, Hickory is now selling season passes, day tickets and various package deals through its website, either for the lower portion of the mountain or full access, with or without the use of their four lifts.
Catana said that she expects that this new collaboration will prompt Hickory’s full revitalization and sustainability.
If Hickory continues to be in need of support, Mountain Gazette, a bi-annual, large format magazine, will offer it, said Rogge.
Mountain Gazette was established in 1966 and by publishing writers like Hunter Thompson and Gary Snyder, quickly gained a reputation as the outdoor magazine of the counterculture.
After folding in 1979, the magazine was revived, unsuccessfully, a number of times until 2020, when Rogge acquired it, “in a bar in Denver,” he says.
“And three and a half years later, we’re confounding expectations. We have 10,000 subscribers from Jackson Heights to Jackson Hole and everywhere in between – the Adirondacks included.”
Rogge’s ascent has been relatively quick and direct, however steep the slope.
After graduating from SUNY Potsdam, he took a job with Ski The East, a Burlington, VT-based clothing company. From there, he moved to Powder magazine, where, at the age of 23, he became its youngest editor ever. Rogge has also produced and directed several award-winning films about topics such as the birth of halfpipe skiing as an Olympic sport.
Rogge still spends part of every summer on Lake George, where one of his sons will attend Camp Chingachgook for the first time this summer.
Asked what aspect of the Adirondacks he brings to Mountain Gazette, Rogge said, “We help our neighbors. When you’re on Lake George in the middle of simmer, you know who’s a tourist and who’s a local. The local is the one who stops to offer help to another boater in need.”
As of January 5, Hickory was awaiting New York State ski lift inspectors to complete their work, lift attendants and ski patrols to start work and Mother Nature to deliver a on a promise of a nor’easter.
“Then we’re off and running,” said Sue Catana.
Thom Randall contributed reporting