10 Reasons to Ski Locally This Season
Head for the (local) hills: Skiers and snowboarders don’t need to leave the Valley to enjoy first-class fun on the slopes
Living on the edge: Taking a run at Catamount Ski Area in Hillsdale
Ski Vermont? Who needs the Green Mountain State when we have such compelling reasons to take to the slopes right in our own Valley backyard? Sure, Vermont has tons of world-class skiing and boarding — but did you know that New York is home to more ski areas than any other state? That’s 45 to Vermont’s 20. And sticking close to home offers something for everyone: big Catskills resorts — like Hunter, Windham, and Belleayre — as well as smaller mountains like Hillsdale’s Catamount and Warwick’s Mount Peter for a quick trip.
Some of the reasons for taking to the region’s slopes are obvious: You’ll save on time (not to mention gas), and pay less for lift tickets, too. Several of the Valley’s ski areas are family owned and operated, offering a comfortable and relaxed experience that the bigger resorts just can’t match. But if these arguments aren’t enough to convince you, here is our list of the top 10 reasons for snow bunnies to stick local this winter:
1. Where else can you ski in two states at the same time?
There are three ski spots nationwide that straddle two states, but Catamount Ski Area is the only one on the East Coast to do so. Here, the trails zip between in New York and Massachusetts. In addition, Catamount had added a new double-diamond natural snow trail, and the new Bobcat Trail offers terrain that’s perfect for beginners.
2. No wheels? No problem!
Thunder Ridge has a free shuttle to its ski area from the Metro-North train station right in Patterson. The shuttle runs Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays; it picks up guests at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., and 1:30 p.m. In fact, you can both your train ticket and lift ticket in a discounted combo package. Thunder Ridge also has great mid-week rates: $20 for a full-day lift ticket, available Monday through Thursday.
3. Cool history
Bet Vermont ski areas don’t have a backstory like this: Mount Peter, the oldest ski area in the state, was founded in 1936 by executives from Macy’s Department Store — maybe even ol’ R.H. himself — who were looking for an authentic setting in which to showcase their ski equipment and apparel. The site is only 50 miles from NYC.
Big air: Warwick’s Mount Peter Ski Area offers free ski and snowboard lessons
4. Free ski lessons at Mount Peter
Generations of kids (and more than a few adults, too) have gotten their first taste of snow sports by taking a ski and/or snowboard lesson offered gratis on weekends and holidays at this family-run facility in Warwick. Once they’ve purchased a lift ticket, newbies learn the ropes of the slopes during a one-hour group session that covers topics like equipment, balance and stance, changing direction, and stopping — all taught by professional instructors.
5. ISKINY Free for Kids passport program
Got a child in the third or fourth grade? Visit www.iskiny.com, download the Passport application, send it in with a copy of your kid’s report card and a $22 processing fee, and your youngster gets coupons for free lift tickets at a long list of New York State ski areas — including Catamount, Windham, Thunder Ridge, and others in the Valley. Never skied or boarded before? Opt for the Learn to Ski or Snowboard package, which offers free and discounted lessons for all ages.
6. Slope-side waffles at Hunter Mountain
Yes, without even taking off your skis, you can now chow down on this breakfast staple — one of our Best Breakfasts in 2014 — courtesy of Pika’s Farm Table in Lake Katrine. These treats are made in the Liège style (an urban area in southern Belgium); their texture is dense and doughy on the inside with a crunchy, sweet exterior. But never fear — the ever-popular, fluffy Brussels variety is still available indoors at the resort’s base lodge.
7. Increased glade skiing
Also known as tree skiing, this form of the sport involves skiing off-trail through the trees or sometimes on a defined woods trail. Inherently more dangerous, glade skiing is often reserved for experts; it is growing in popularity since it offers outdoor enthusiasts more natural — as well as challenging — terrain. Belleayre has long been a local leader in glade skiing; it currently has five glade trails. In 2007, Hunter Mountain added a glade area and this year, Windham Mountain has cleared the terrain on their western peak so that they, too, can begin to offer this latest fad.
8. Hot deals on cold fun
Lots of our local mountains run super specials. Holiday Mountain in Monticello has a few of our favorites. A family of four can go tubing for $35 on Fridays, and get lift tickets for a combined $40 on Thursday and Saturday nights. Bring a carload on Wednesday nights and prices for lift tickets go as low as $13 per person.
9. Improved snowmaking
While Hunter was the first ski area in the world to offer base-to-summit snowmaking, all of our ski areas now continue to improve their capacity to create the white stuff. Hunter recently added automated robotic snow guns; Catamount also invested in 30 new energy-saving snowmaking guns.
10. Outdoor alternatives
While many of our local mountains now offer loads of outdoor activities, Windham Mountain really shines in this arena. There are eight lanes for snow tubing, two zip lines, ice skating, snowmobiling for kids — and of course, the Big Air Bag (see it in action here). This giant sack lets skiers and riders practice their tricks. And not to brag, but Windham has the only Big Air Bag in the Northeast (check out the Big Air Throwdown on February 15). Sorry Vermont. We’re staying here this year!