Like the city dweller who has never visited the Empire State Building, many Valley residents are only vaguely aware of the many ski and snowboard areas that surround us. It’s time to open your eyes: “New York has more ski areas than any other state in the country, and is fourth in skier visits,” says Scott Brandi, president of I SKI NY. In our region, we have everything from big and bustling Catskills resorts to much smaller operations in the rolling hills of eastern Putnam County, and near the Appalachian Trail in the Warwick Valley.
Brandi quickly ticks off reasons to ski the Valley, rather than heading to Vermont and other points north. “It’s simple, close to home, there’s night skiing if you’re at work all day, and there are great learn-to-ski opportunities and children’s programs.” We’ll add the obvious: Lift tickets are cheaper, too.
I SKI NY is also the organization behind the wildly popular Kids Ski Free program, which introduces third- and fourth-graders to the sport, as well as Discover NY Ski Day. On your way to the slopes, you might even spot the I Love New York Bus on the road. This new tourism initiative departs from New York City and offers day trips to Hunter or Windham.
Even if the white stuff isn’t in your backyard, rest assured, snow will prevail on the slopes. Over the last few years, ski areas have been ramping up expanded snowmaking, not to mention other modern marvels like magic carpet lifts, improved night lighting, and cushy indoor amenities. On top of it all, they are diversifying, with many adding snow tubing, terrain parks, and snowshoeing. Heck, even the dining options are rapidly improving, with craft brews and a wide variety of waffles popping up all over the place. This month, if you’re lucky, you may even get to zip down the slopes next to Mr. Claus himself. So what are you waiting for? Time to strap on this skis!
64 Klein Ave, Hunter
# of trails: 67
# of lifts: 13
Skiable acres: 320
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $89
3, includes half pipe, rails, jumps
4 distinct ski areas, tubing, snowshoeing, ski shop, lessons, spa, variety of eateries, hotel with full-service restaurant, childcare, 3 bars, slope-side lodging
Hunter Mountain is the king of firsts: It was the first ski area in the world to feature summit-to-base snow making in 1967; in 1980, it achieved 100 percent snow making coverage (another world’s first); and nine years later, it became the first in North America to have an automated snow making system. If you’re hungry but don’t want to get off the mountain yet, slide over to Pika’s Waffle Stop and chow down (and warm up) on their scrumptious Belgian waffles. And after a long day of schussing, it’s great to unwind at the full-service spa or grab a great meal at Van Winkle’s Restaurant or one of the many other eateries — anyone up for a trip to the sushi bar? Don’t feel like skiing? Head to the snow tubing park — the largest in the state — and slide down some of the 18 chutes. Best night to go is Friday to buy a family fun pack: $69 for four admission tickets, 35 percent off the regular price. And if discounts don’t draw you to the mountain, we don’t know what will.
Hillsdale, NY and South Egremont, MA
# of trails: 36
# of lifts: 7
Skiable acres: 132
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $69
1, includes jumps, jibs, an 800-foot boardercross, and a separate “panther park” for beginners
Night skiing, racing and freestyle teams, two lodges, ski shop, tavern, cafeteria, childcare
One of only three ski spots in the whole country that straddles two states, Catamount — which sits on the border of New York and Massachusetts — also has one of the steepest trails in the Northeast (the double black diamond trail is aptly named Catapult). This unique, mid-sized mountain, which first opened in 1939, has delighted generations of downhill devotees with its laid back, retro charm (and somewhat retro prices). It’s also ridiculously easy to get to: It’s only 15 minutes from the Taconic State Parkway. Enjoy a posh hotel (as well as ski-in, ski-out vacation condos that are available for purchase) just feet from the slopes.
51 Old Mt Peter Rd, Warwick
# of trails: 14
# of lifts: 5
Skiable acres: 55
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $54
Best deal: During the day on Tuesdays
1, includes jibs and rails
Free beginner ski and snowboard lessons, western-style tavern, racing programs for kids, two lodges, outside grill, night skiing
Opened by Macy’s department store in 1936 for a winter fashion shoot, this family run establishment is the oldest operating ski area in New York State. Still, Mt. Peter knows how to keep up with the times, constantly upgrading its learning area, opening new trails, and spiffing up its lifts. This has long been the go-to hill for many area families; now, Long Islanders, Jerseyites, and savvy city slickers have discovered it too. Little ones line up on holidays and weekends to meet Sweet Pete, a mascot bear who hands out treats. The expansive views of the Warwick Valley — the ski area is just feet off of the Appalachian Trail — just adds to the overall appeal. While the famous free beginner lessons (available with purchase of lift ticket on weekends and holidays) are a steal, the midweek learn to ski packages ain’t bad either, with rentals, lessons, and lift ticket for $65 for adults. The food is pretty good too: house-made soups, grilled burgers, and hot dogs for the kids. On weekends, don’t miss the homemade Belgian waffles, served with choices of fresh fruit, maple syrup, and even hot fudge.
469 Plattekill Rd, Roxbury
# of trails: 38
# of lifts: 4
Skiable acres: 75
Longest run: 2 miles
Vertical drop: 1,100 feet
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $67 (two-day: $125; three-day: $180)
1, includes jumps, boxes, and rails
Lift-serviced snowtubing, lodge, bar and grill. Note: only open on weekends and holidays, plus mid-week when there is more than one foot of snow on the ground
With trail names like Shredded Mozzarella and I Think I Can, Plattekill, which has been owned by the Vajtay family for more than 20 years, has a very playful atmosphere. A bit off the beaten path, loyal fans think it’s worth the trip.
You’ll find skiers of all levels happily cruising along here, whether on the Powder Puff, a gentle two-mile beginner course, or on the double-black diamond Blockbuster trail — 1,100 feet of intense vertical that is one of the steepest in the Catskills. “Plattekill is situated in a natural ski bowl, so all trails ski right to the base,” says owner Danielle Vajtay. “Our steep slopes are legendary, as most mountains are not situated like this.” In fact, 20 percent of the trails are rated black diamonds, while another 20 percent are double black diamonds.
99 Holiday Mountain Rd, Monticello
# of trails: 7
# of lifts: 4 (2 chairlift, 1 tube, 1 tow)
Skiable acres: 60
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $42
â€‹Night skiing, tubing, ice-skating, cafeteria, lounge, arcade
Holiday Mountain proves you don’t have to be one of the biggest to be one of the best. If you’re looking to warm up, there’s plenty to do in the arcade, including bumper cars and, yes, a mechanical bull. Be sure to grab some noms at the on-site 845 Food and Fun Restaurant. Don’t worry about a long drive either, Rte. 17 boarders the property, so the little ones won’t be asking “Are we there yet?” for too long.
137 Birch Hill Rd, Patterson
# of trails: 30
# of lifts: 8
Skiable acres: 100
Longest run: 1 mile
Vertical drop: 500 feet
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $57
1, includes jumps, ramps, and jibs
â€‹Night skiing, racing program for six through 19; childcare, midweek specials for adults with childcare (lift ticket and lesson a steal at around $45); cafeteria; snowsports school, including six-week seasonal programs with afterschool hours
For a few days, it seemed that Thunder Ridge may be no more. A local newspaper reported that longtime operators Mary and Robert Conklin, who have run the small but popular operation since 1995, were looking to retire. But luckily, days later Putnam County National Bank, which owns the facility, came to the rescue and promised to keep Thunder Ridge open. The collective sigh of relief could be heard throughout the hills of eastern Putnam County. And no wonder: Not only did the ski area employ hundreds of people each winter, but generations of locals — mostly from Connecticut, Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess — have learned to ski at the facility, which is conveniently located right off of I-84. (Non skiers take note: The Danbury Mall is only 30 minutes away.) From the glass atrium at the baselodge, you can see almost the entire mountain, which has also been a mecca for many high school ski teams.
181 Galli Curci Rd, Highmount
# of trails: 51
# of lifts: 8
Skiable acres: 175
Longest run: 12,024 feet
Vertical drop: 1,404 feet
Full-day adult lift ticket weekend and holiday: $64
2, includes rails, jumps, and barrels. Progression Park, gentler version for beginners
â€‹Night skiing, Kidscamp learn to ski or snowboard program, cross-country, snowshoeing, cafeteria, sub shop, bar, four lodges
A Catskills classic, Belleayre comes with a storied history. Even before it became a state-owned snow park, ski freaks would make pilgrimages here for the thrill of laying their own tracks in the fresh powder. After groups lobbied to make it an official ski resort, construction began in 1949, and Belleayre debuted with five trails, New York’s first chairlift, and a rugged cafeteria with dirt floors.
Much has changed: Today Belleayre has four lodges and 51 trails for downhill skiing, including some of the best glade skiing in New York (also called forest skiing, it is not for the faint of heart). Throughout the years, there have been a ton of upgrades, including an improved cafeteria, the expansion of the Kidscamp program, and the sorely needed renovation of the Discovery Lodge.
With its tricked-out terrain park and double black diamond trails, Belleayre pleases even the most persnickety elite skier. Yet it also has plenty of gentle slopes and a progression park to help skiers and riders transition to the bigger terrain. There are also nine kilometers of cross country/snowshoe trails located at the base of the mountain. Use them free of charge, courtesy of New York State.
19 Resort Dr, Windham
# of trails: 54
# of lifts: 12 (2 high speed quads, 4 triples, 1 double, 5 surface lifts)
Skiable acres: 285
Vertical drop: 1,600 feet
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $95
6, including Mini Park with small jumps with shorter landing areas for beginners; Warpath Park for intermediate levels; and revamped expert-only Warm Up Park
Night skiing, equipment valet, childcare, ski-in spa, cross country skiing and snowshoeing; Adventure Park (¼ mile from the ski area) with outdoor ice skating rink, kids snowmobiles, eight lines of tubing, lodging, multiple eateries
Arguably the most upscale of Catskill ski resorts, Windham Mountain has been making improvements over the years at a breathtaking pace (to the tune of over $11 million). Refashioned as an upscale pampering destination (with bike park and golf resort), this Catskill contender has become a world-class heavyweight.
While there are lessons for all ages, the resort has interesting workshops that focus on different skill sets, for instance the adults-only Power Learn Program, essentially a boot camp, and the women-only Fear Workshop, a three-day event that includes small group lessons, meals, yoga, and even après-ski wine and cheese.