Continuation of The Chautauqua Chronicles Part 1: Origins
Continuation of The Chautauqua Chronicles Part 2: Peek 'n Peaking Too Early?
Waking up the next morning, I really had to shake off the cobwebs from the previous night's charades in Ellicottville. I'm fairly certain that I did not need the shot of low grade tequila that we took with some random Canadian couple at The Gin Mill. Seriously, I've tasted gasoline that was better than that crap. TERRIBLE! It was nothing that a shower and few cups of coffee couldn't cure. And not that I needed an excuse to head back into town but it provided Brian and I with even more reason to check out the Ellicottville Coffee shop that I saw the night before. This being our last day of the trip, we packed all of our stuff and headed on over to get our caffeine fix prior to skiing at Holimont that morning.
Ellicottville Coffee Company a Welcome Surprise
Ellicottville Coffee Co has a welcoming exterior that is exactly what you would expect from a coffee shop in a ski town. It's lodge like facade accented with a ski lift chair piqued my curiosity the night before but as we walked in we realized that this was so much more than just a coffee shop. The building was also home to an outdoor retail store called Adventure Bound that had been a staple business in the neighborhood for decades. Turns out, the coffee shop and fresh baked goods was a new addition that was recently added within the last year and judging by the coffee, I have to imagine a welcome one as well.
Sipping on what was some of the tastiest coffee that I've had (seriously, I came home and ordered a bag) I bumped into and chatted with the owner John Rounds for a bit. He was the most recent example of how the people of Ellicottville make it a special. Taking time away from his busy morning schedule, he filled Brian and I in on the history of his store and his vision for the brand both of which could not be a better fit for the outdoorsy nature of the town. And DAMN that coffee was good!
Dina's at the Mont's Amazing Breakfast Burrito
Savoring every sip on our short ride over to Holimont, I wondered allowed what this, our last ski resort of the trip, would be like. Holimont was private and offered a country club like setting for its members a notion that became abundantly clear when we walked into a quiet, uncrowded base lodge. Ahhhhhh, the serenity...it was a welcome contrast to the characteristically bustling lodges in the east. Fascinated, Brian and I even took the time to enjoy a quiet breakfast before booting up and heading out. Good thing because that breakfast burrito from Dina's at The Mont (a ski season pop up for the local dining establishment, Dina's of Ellicottville) easily catapulted itself to the top of my all time breakfast burrito list. My mouth is watering right now, just writing about it.
Holimont's Pristine Snow and Unpretentious Members
With only a short amount of time to ski Holimont prior to driving to Buffalo to catch our flight home, Brian and I did not linger too long savoring our tasty burritos. As good as it was we got out there pretty quickly and began to shred the pristine snow that Holimont is known for. When you're a private club with limited traffic on the trails, the snow tends to be really good and Holimont's is true to form. Ripping down groomers, there was little to no ice and the trails were a flawless surface of corduroy perfection.
Making our way around the mountain we got a great feel for what life was like at The Mont. It may have been private, but similar to other the other Ellicottville establishments that we visited that weekend, it was not pretentious at all. I've been to another private ski club in the past and there was definitely an air to it. There was none of that at Holimont. There were lodge bunnies who do their hair and wear fancy ski clothes just to hang in the lodge for the day. People were there to actually ski and every member that joined us on the lift with was super friendly, often asking how two guys from Jersey ended up at Holimont. They'd even point us in the right direction towards their favorite trails.
Crowds? There are No Crowds at Holimont
Immaculate snow and friendly members aside, it is also quite nice to not have to fight the crowds. The trails were relatively empty for a Sunday. A bit odd after it had dumped for three straight days but making any idea of a lift line non-existent. Jackpot! The end result, when combined with the fast conditions, was a multitude of runs in a short time. That's exactly what we needed since we had a flight to catch early that afternoon.
My only regret was that I wish had more time to listen to the sweet tunes that the one Holimont member's house was blasting from their deck. Less that fifty feet from one of the lifts there was a DJ sized speaker situated outside blasting music that skiers and riders could hear almost halfway up the mountain. If ever there was a need for a lift line, it was here. Or maybe, I just need to go back and join them apres ski for what I imagine must be quite a party.
It's Never Too Early for Apres Ski at Holimont
Instead, Brian and I had our own Holimont apres ski party while meeting with Holimont's Marketing and Sales Director, Greg Culver, back in the lodge. When I asked him if it was too early to have a beer given the ripe hour of 10:45, he replied, "It's never too early to have a beer. It's Holimont." Sold. I grabbed at can of a local craft beer that I hadn't yet tried on my trip and relaxed once again in the slightly busier, yet still quiet lodge. Greg filled us in a bit on Holimont, telling us how on Friday there was men's day at the club followed up by a private concert featuring Finger 11 on Saturday. Sounds like a pretty epic weekend there but also seemed like the norm for this pretty sweet private ski club.
It's the Whole Experience That Makes Chautauqua Special
With our 2 pm flight looming in the not so distant future and an hour ride to Buffalo airport, the time had come for us to say goodbye to Ellicottville. We did, however, have to pay another visit to Ellicottville Coffee for another delicious roadie. Heading south, Brian and I reminisced about all that was great from our tour of Chautauqua county. Fortuitous, in our timing, the major dumping of snow made the trip all the more worthwhile and the wineries, breweries, restaurants and resorts were all top notch. However, what really made it all special was how welcoming everyone that we came in contact with was. Of course the wine, beer, food and skiing were good. Actually, who am I kidding? They were really good, but they were merely a catalyst for the excellent conversations we had and the new found relationships we formed on the trip. The people in Chautauqua all realize and buy into the idea that it's not just the individual parts but rather the whole experience that is important to the overall success of the region.
In the end, Brian and I finished the trip the same way that we began it with wings and craft beer. While waiting to board our flight home we felt compelled to try some original Buffalo wings from the Anchor Bar and wash it down with a delicious Hayburner IPA from Buffalo's own Big Ditch Brewing. While enjoying our last meal in the area, the bartender, true to form, engaged us in friendly conversation and asked us where we were from. When we said Jersey, his response..."What the hell are you doing here!?"
"Oh you know, just enjoying this very special region filled with great people like yourself."