Coming Home to Snow Ridge

Meet the mother-and-son team running New York’s snowiest mountain

This interview originally appeared in the January 2016 (44.5) issue of POWDER. PHOTO: Nicola Rinaldo

There are some calls you have to pick up. Like that one from your doctor after a week in Vegas, or from your buddy with the season tickets to your favorite team. But what about the one from Mom asking if you want to buy a ski resort? It was the latter that blew up Nick Mir’s cell phone in the summer of 2014. His mom, Cyndy Sisto, had a solid lead on a little mountain named Snow Ridge that was on the block in Central New York. During their time at Toggenburg Mountain outside Syracuse, where Sisto, 60, worked and skied for 32 years and Mir, 28, fell in love with skiing and designing terrain parks, the duo always joked about running a mountain together. Now they could own one. Mir didn’t hesitate, ditching his rental-shop gig in Breckenridge, Colorado, to return to the shores of Lake Ontario and a mountain that receives 230 inches of snowfall every winter. After a year of fundraising and paperwork, the mother-and-son team took control of Snow Ridge this fall, turning mountain-ops into the family business.

Kade: Has skiing always been in the family?
Cyndy: My father was a skier in the army and he ran the rope tow at the [Toggenburg] bunny hill so us kids could ski. On Sunday we would sneak out of Mass early to get to the slopes, but I probably shouldn’t admit that.

When did you realize you had your own skier on your hands?
C: Nick was 4 and I was pregnant, so he had to go ski by himself. My sister taught him to get the chairlift bar down with his pole and I’d watch him come down the hill all day from my office. The ski patrol would radio down and let me know he was on his way—he was basically babysat on skis.

Whose idea was it to buy a mountain?
Nick: Mom’s been in on it since the beginning. It’s something we both talked about before I went away for college. It was a cool idea, but having it become a reality has been a whole different thing. I’m still wrapping my head around it, actually.

What would teenage Cyndy say about taking the reins of a ski mountain?
C: She’d say, “Why not you?”

How’d it all go down?
C: The ski school director at my hometown grew up and skied [at Snow Ridge] and found out that it was for sale through some friends. I was on a run and he pulled over and said I should look at it. After checking it out myself, I called Nick and told him it was doable. We don’t have personal wealth and didn’t have backers, so we had to find bundles of loans from local banks and tourism boards. We just kept banging on doors until somebody answered.

So this isn’t mommy buying her baby boy a ski hill?
C: In reality, without him, I wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. I don’t have the ideas he brings to the table—he’s an integral part of this.

Nick, you gave up Breck and a job at Windell’s to move back East. What gives?
N: The family is all here, and it’s what I grew up doing. I went to school, then I went skiing. I always knew I was going to come back, but I also knew this was the only reason I was going to come back.

What are you trying to bring to Central New York?
C: Before snowmaking, we were the only area you could go to from December through March. I want to bring skiing back… get the kids away from their game boxes and feed youngsters into the sport.

And terrain?
N: There’s really rad lift-accessed backcountry, mini golf lines, and ridges that can be opened up with some cutting. It’s not like you’re going to be riding [500 vertical feet] more than 30 seconds at a time, but there’s tons of deep snow and good trees. There’s a 15-mile band that gets hit hard with lake effect, and we’re in the middle of it.

You guys are prepping for your first season. How hands-on are you right now?
N: I’ve been helping the chairlift guys every day and Mom has been painting—a lot. We take pride in what we’re doing, so we want to be the ones out there getting it done.

Does this cut into ski time?
N: You better believe I’m going to be out there every day. It’s a small hill, so they’ll be seeing our faces all the time.