This ski area about an hour north of Albany offers 30 trails with 80 percent snow-making, night skiing, and a variety of chair lifts and tows. Runs range in difficulty from easy green trails to intermediates and tougher black diamonds; there are some glades, too, on West Mountain’s more than 126 acres. There’s also snowboarding, a tubing park (it’s got four lower lanes and two upper lanes), and a pretty awesome terrain park.
Starting in January, West Mountain also plans to launch a six-week Super Senior ski program that’s designed to help folks 70 and older learn to get their glide on.
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Distance from Poughkeepsie: 176 miles
Killington, VT; www.killington.com; 800.734.9435
“The Beast of the East” is the largest ski area in the eastern US, with 1,509 skiable acres, plus an expansive network of five base areas and trail systems. With a yearly average of 250 inches of fresh snow, it has six peaks, the highest at 4,241 feet with a dazzling vertical drop of 3,050 feet. A Killington lift ticket or season pass offers access to seven mountain areas, including Killington’s sister resort, Pico Mountain, a quick, five-mile shuttle ride away.
If alpine skiing isn’t your thing, sample the six high-voltage terrain parks for snowboarders and free-skiers. Each park has its own flavor: one is nature-inspired, with 65 ride features; another goes cosmic with an outer-space-themed terrain park. Or get off your feet, and go alpine snowtubing. Snowmobile and snowshoe tours are also a great way to take in the scenery.
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Distance from Poughkeepsie: 216 miles
Lake Placid, NY; www.whiteface.com; 518.946.2223
PHOTO BY ORDA AND DAVE SCHMIDT
Whiteface is an official U.S. Olympic Training Site, and hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics’ alpine ski competitions. It boasts about 314 acres of skiable terrain, with 86 trails. As many ski aficionados know, it also has the greatest continuous vertical drop east of the Rockies, at 3,430 feet.
For those less eager to hit the scariest slopes, Whiteface (the mountain is a towering 4,867 feet high) also has the longest single intermediate run in the Northeast, at 2.1 miles long. While Whiteface draws top skiers (38 percent of the trails are designated for experts), it’s also a favorite for intermediates (42 percent of the trails), and 20 percent of the ski runs are deemed ideal for beginners.
Many upgrades at the facility are underway, including expansions and renovations in several lodges, thanks in part to $20 million received this year from New York State.
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Distance from Poughkeepsie: 228 miles
Waitsfield, VT; www.madriverglen.com; 802.496.3551
PHOTO BY JEB WALLACE BRODEUR
This laid-back ski site in the Green Mountains attracts devoted fans, largely because its emphasis is always on the sport. It is also a skier-owned mountain: Members of the public can buy shares — the cost is now just over $2,000, plus a $200 annual fee that can be redeemed for services like season passes and food.
Mad River Glen has been ranked among the most challenging runs on the East Coast, with a vertical drop of 2,000 feet. Its most challenging wooded trails include The Paradise, which requires hiking from the chairlift to the trail’s start, and at one point, taking a ski leap over the top of a partly frozen waterfall on a stream that spans the trail. Yikes! But take note: Snowboards are not allowed.
The slopes are usually not crowded here, there is an excellent ski school, and it has a variety of beginner and intermediate trails. With an average seasonal snowfall of about 150 inches, there’s usually no lack of superb natural conditions either. It has a licensed daycare, the nation’s last remaining single chairlift, and an Environmental Program to educate the public, especially youngsters, to appreciate the ecology and learn about conservation of the spectacular alpine environment.