Top 10 Hudson Valley Ski Areas
Whether you’re a first-time skier or practically a pro, you can find the perfect slope close to home
Hunter Mountain was the first ski area in the world to implement snowmaking on its slopes
Photograph courtesy of Hunter Mountain
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 (January 8 this season), when $12 lift tickets are available at many mountains. 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!
# of trails: 58
# of lifts: 12 (1 six-passenger, 3 quads, 2 triples, 2 doubles, 1 poma, 1 carpet)
Skiable acres: 240
Longest run: 2 miles
Vertical drop: 1,600 feet
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $76
2, includes half pipe, rails, jumps
3 distinct ski areas, tubing, snowshoeing, ski shop, lessons, spa, 13 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. Last year it added automatic robotic guns to the mix. 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: $52 for four admission tickets, 32 percent off the regular price. And if discounts don’t draw you to the mountain, we don’t know what will.
Catamount Ski Area
Hillsdale, NY and South Egremont, MA
# of trails: 35
# of lifts: 6 (1 quad, 1 triple, 2 doubles, 2 wonder carpets)
Skiable acres: 132
Vertical drop: 1,000 feet
Longest run: 2.5 miles
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $63
Best deals: $20 e-ticket Mondays
1, includes jumps, jibs, an 800-foot boardercross, and a separate “panther park” for beginners
Night skiing, racing and freestyle teams, Scout programs, 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. But everything is changing this season, when a long-awaited posh hotel (as well as ski-in, ski-out vacation condos that are available for purchase) finally opens just feet from the slopes. Yep, our little 70s style ski area is transforming into a resort right in front of our eyes. Also new this year: Fisher Fluke, a meandering blue square trail. And while we’re not yet sure what new eateries will accompany the accommodations, for now, we’ll still head across the street to the old-fashioned Swiss Hutte to dip our bread in their famous fondue and think about it all.
# of trails: 15
# of lifts: 5
Skiable acres: 55
Longest run: 3,960 feet
Vertical drop: 500 feet
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $45
Best deal: During the day on Tuesdays
1, newly explanded this year, 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; and on December 21, Santa slides down the slopes, too. 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 around $55 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.
# of trails: 38
# of lifts: 4
Skiable acres: 75
Longest run: 10,560 feet
Vertical drop: 1,100 feet
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $59 (two-day: $99; three-day: $145)
1, includes jumps, boxes, and rails
Lift-serviced snowtubing, snowshoeing, 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 twenty percent are double black diamonds. New this season is enhanced snowmaking, as well an eight-week Saturday ski instruction program for kids ages seven to 17. At $300, it’s a bargain.
Holiday Mountain Ski & Fun Park
# of trails: 7
# of lifts: 4 (2 chairlift, 1 tube, 1 tow); 2012 saw the installation of a new magic carpet
Skiable acres: 60
Longest run: 1,400 feet
Vertical drop: 400 feet
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $42
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. Beloved by families, its Kinderski option teaches little tykes between the ages of three and six how to properly handle the slopes, and the longer trails have enough of a daredevil factor to entice teenagers and parents. Speaking of daredevils, snowmobiles take over the trails on January 15 when Holiday hosts a SHCRA (Snowmobile Hill Climb Racing Association) race. 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.
Sawkill Family Ski Center
# of trails: 2
# of lifts: 2 (1 hand tow, 1 conveyor lift)
Skiable acres: 4
Longest run: 1,000 feet
Vertical drop: 70 feet
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $35
Tubing, ski shop, snack bar. Note: open only on weekends and holidays.
One of the smallest ski areas on the East Coast — and maybe the whole country — tiny Sawkill is a one-of-a-kind place to take your little ones on their first downhill adventures. Tubing is also popular here, and to provide patrons with the best of both worlds, the facility offers an all-day mix and match plan where you can go back and forth between the two sports at your convenience. Don’t miss the much-loved hot chocolate at the snack bar.
845 878-4100; www.thunderridgeski.com
# of trails: 30
# of lifts: 7 (3 chairlifts, 4 magic carpets)
Skiable acres: 100
Longest run: 1 mile
Vertical drop: 500 feet
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $50
1, includes jumps, ramps, and jibs
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 back in September, 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, just 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. Lots of people take advantage of Metro North getaway package deals on weekends and holidays; Thunder Ridge runs a shuttle van from the Patterson train station (on the Harlem line).
# of trails: 50
# of lifts: 8
Skiable acres: 171
Longest run: 12,024 feet
Vertical drop: 1,404 feet
Full-day adult lift ticket weekend and holiday: $64
Best deals: Ski and Stay Sundays. Stay at participating lodging on select days and receive a $30 lift ticket
2, includes rails, jumps, and barrels. Progression Park, gentler version for beginners
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 50 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). This season alone, 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.
Tuxedo Ridge Ski Center
# of trails: 10
# of lifts: 2
Skiable acres: 100
Longest run: about one mile
Vertical drop: 450 feet
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $36
Best deals: Purchase your lift ticket, rental, and lesson together and save 20 percent
Night skiing, tubing (Thurs-Sun: about $25 for a 1.5 hour session), ski school, Slope-side Skier Drop-off, ski and stay program, pub with table-side service, cafeteria, warming hut
Just 35 miles north of New York City, Tuxedo Ridge is surrounded by 20,000 acres of state forest. So, when you’re at the top of the mountain, you sometimes feel like you’re in Vermont, though when you’re night-skiing on a clear evening, you can also see the city in the distance. Says general manager Rob Cannillo: “We’re easy to get to, close to home, and though we’re not a huge place we offer all the things the big mountains do: music on weekends, a great pro shop, a full après ski experience, snow tubing, and special features like scavenger hunts on weekends.”
The popular pub serves craft beers and marshmallow martinis in front of a wood-burning fire. Customers rave about the breadbowl chilis and soups. But there is also a cafeteria that serves up kid-friendly basics, or you can head to the warming hut with your cooler and cozy up to the fire pit.
Tuxedo Ridge is freezing its prices from last season. They’ll also pick you up, free of charge, at the Metro North Tuxedo train station (on the Port Jervis line) if you give them a head’s up a day ahead of time, while the Coach USA bus line out of the Port Authority in the city whisks skiers right to the front entrance.
# of trails: 53
# of lifts: 12 (2 high speed quads, 4 triples, 1 double, 5 surface lifts)
Skiable acres: 284
Longest run: 12,500 feet
Vertical drop: 1,600 feet
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $78
Best deal: purchase a two-day ticket for $136 ($116 midweek)
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, 10 eateries
Arguably the most upscale of Catskill ski resorts, Windham Mountain has been making improvements over the last two 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.
New this season is the Wolf’s Prey Trail in the Wilderness Bowl — with even more trails in the works — not to mention ooh-la-la!, a ski-in spa. Another over-the-top feature: The resort boasts the only Big Air Bag in the Northeast, which enables freestyle skiers and snowboarders to practice extreme jumps with the safety (not the mention the fun) of a cushy landing. 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.