MALONE — Something big is coming to Titus Mountain Ski Center this weekend.
This winter, Christopher Monette, co-owner of the family-run business, has watched 50-foot-high mounds of snow rise like swelling waves on the side of his mountain.
The snow mammoths were shaped into jumps, rails and other features in preparation for the 36th-annual Empire State Winter Games, set for this weekend at sites around the region.
Titus Mountain is on deck for two events — slopestyle and big air — so everything needed to be ready for skiers and boarders to descend upon the mountain, ready to compete at breakneck speeds.
Monette said he's been enjoying the process, but the deadline added some pressure. That's why he beefed up some of the resort's equipment.
He bought a new trail groomer earlier this winter and also increased the resort's snowmaking fleet by 40 percent.
Monette said those things will come in handy for operating the Ski Center after this big weekend, as well.
"The course is going to be amazing, and the way we're going to host these games, the event is going to be right at the base lodge," Monette said.
"It's something Malone has never had before."
Monette's confidence is rooted in optimism, and with so many firsts, that's probably a good thing.
This is the first year the games have included those events, and it's the first time Titus has taken part in the games. It's also the first time Titus has hosted any kind of event of this magnitude.
It's a massive undertaking for a family operation.
“It's been a lot more work than we anticipated, but we're happy we did it,” Monette said.
"We've made a lot of improvements along the way."
PLANNING THE COURSE
Course designer Mike Kirchner has made sure spectators can get right next to the 1,500-foot-long course to watch skiers and boarders launch off of the mini-mountains.
And for those more inclined to enjoy the great indoors, Monette guarantees good viewing from three levels at the base lodge, where food and drink are in abundance.
"You don't have to hike up the mountain to see the features; you don't have to put grandpa in the snowmobile and truck him halfway up the hill," Monette said.
"He can be sitting at the bar with a pint in his hand, watching these kids do their tricks."
Kirchner has designed ski and snowboard courses around the country. When he isn't doing that, he's working as a program director with the New York Ski Educational Foundation.
Kirchner's job was to create a course that challenges the athletes while working in tandem with the terrain's natural nuances. No two courses are the same.
"It can be as simple as offering a challenge or a layout to the course that hasn't been experienced before or hasn't been seen regionally," Kirchner said.
He feels a world-class event needs to look the part, so he's given special attention to making the course look refined and professional.
"The scope and the look of an event is based on the course design," Kirchner said. "We're trying to up the ante, so to speak."
FIGHTING THE WEATHER
Kirchner said the warm temperatures this winter haven't helped the process, but a massive snowmaking effort by Monette and his staff has gotten things where they need to be.
"We're looking forward to this event, for sure, and we're really looking forward to the reaction from the spectators," Kirchner said.
"This is going to be a big deal, and we want to keep it going every year after this."
Shaun Kittle is content developer for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.