Going Places, Far & Near

New York State’s Ski Areas Span Gamut from Destination Resorts to Cozy Family-Friendly Day Trips

West Mountain, located between Saratoga Springs and Lake George in Queensbury, is one of more than 50 ski areas in New York State, ranging from full-service, year-round destination resorts, to small, family-friendly areas ideal for daytrips.

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York State has the most ski areas of any state in the nation and the range is marvelous, from high-end, full-service destination resorts to cozy family-oriented areas ideal for day trips to hone skills. A surprising number of ski areas, like nearby Thunder Ridge (just an hour on Metro North) offer night skiing. There are so many ski areas, in fact, most New Yorkers live within a 90-minute drive of a ski area, and several are conveniently reached by train or bus.

Here are some of the highlights for the winter season: 

Hunter Mountain

Empire Park at Hunter Mountain.

Hunter Mountain, after decades of family ownership, is now part of Peak Resorts.

The big news is the new six-pack lift, which is currently the fastest and highest capacity in New York State, taking 5-10 minutes to get to the top; of Hunter’s 12 lifts, two are detachable quads; the rest are doubles and triples.

This season, Hunter is introducing a new learning program that is affordable and convenient to those looking to learn how to ski or ride: the three-visit Peak Discovery Program, valid for ages 13 and older, is now available to purchase for $99 (the price increases to $139 after Dec. 24) at all Northeast Peak Resorts and useable at all the Peak Resorts, even allowing taking the lessons at different resorts (Attitash, Wildcat & Crotched Mountains in New Hampshire; Mount Snow, Vermont, Jack Frost Big Boulder in PA in addition to Hunter).

Once a guest ‘graduates’ from the 3-lesson program they will have an opportunity to add three additional visits to their card for $99 more.

The program is now available for purchase on all Peak Resorts websites and at the resorts themselves for $99 until December 24, 2017.  After that prices increase to $139.

With skiing terrain for all abilities, including an expansive learning area for beginners, cruisers for intermediates, and steeps and bumps for the seasoned pro  and 1600 feet of vertical from the summit at 3,100 feet, Hunter has a reputation as the Tri-State area’s “big mountain feel.”  With high-efficiency snowmaking on 100% of its 58 trails, an entire dedicated learning area perfect for beginners and families alike, expert terrain of Hunter West and Empire Terrain Parks.

Hunter consists of three mountains, which roughly separates beginner, intermediate and advanced abilities (the west side is exclusively advanced). The longest trail is the mile-long Belt Parkway, an intermediate trail. (There are no green trails from the top, but all the blue trails end in green.)

A children’s lesson at Hunter Mountain, now owned by Peak Resorts. You can purchase a three-lesson plan and divide them among the Peak Resorts in the northeast.

Peak Resorts is applying for a permit to increase the resort’s skiable acreage by 25-30%. The additional acreage would be built on the north facing slope of Hunter Mountain, between the Main Face and the West Side, and will be predominantly intermediate terrain. The new area would feature a parking area and a detachable high speed chair lift. The company hopes to complete the project for the 2018-2019 ski season. The expansion is expected to cost approximately $9 million and has the potential to generate $1.5 million to $2 million in incremental EBITDA per year.

Hunter offers a range of packages and multi-day deals including:

 Bring a Beginner (all season) – when you purchase a single pak beginner lesson your friend receives a lower-mountain lift ticket that can be upgraded to full mountain at 12:50. During January LTS/R month, the offer is for a full-mountain lift ticket instead of mid-mountain.

 Ladies Day Wednesday (non-holiday) : Lift ticket, lesson, rental, $10 food voucher all for only $75

 Sleep in Sundays – All-mountain lift ticket on Sunday starting at noon only $35 (non-holiday)

 Single Pak Beginner Lesson – lower mountain lift ticket, beginner group lesson, rental only $79

 Beginner Private Lesson – Private one-on-one beginner lesson, lower mountain lift ticket, rental, only $140

 Lodging – the earlier you book your room, the lower the rate. When you book your winter lodging by Oct. 31st receive 30% off full price lift tickets, rentals, and Beginner Single Pak lessons during your winter stay.

Hunter Mountain boasts having New York State’s largest snow tubing park.

Skiing and snowboarding are only a few activities at Hunter: the mountain is home to New York State’s largest snow tubing park as well as the nation’s highest and longest zip line canopy tour, open year round.

After a day on the slopes, enjoy apres ski at the Main Base Lodge and Van Winkle’s Restaurant, located at the on-site Kaatskill Mountain Club Hotel, steps away from the Base Lodge and the slopes.

Its Kaatskill Mountain Club Hotel and Liftside condos afford easy access to the slopes as well as an outdoor heated swimming pool and hot tub, spa, fitness room, and full-service restaurant.

There are also scores of lodging choices close to the mountain. We enjoyed our stay at the historic Fairlawn Inn, a quarter-mile from Hunter’s entrance (7872 Main Street (Hwy 23A), Hunter, NY 12442, 518-263-5025, www.fairlawninn.com; children must be 10 or older.)

Hunter Mountain is 2 ½ hours from New York City in the heart of the Great Northern Catskill Mountains, atop winding route 23A, scattered with views of gorges, waterfalls, and rock formations.

Hunter Mountain, Rte. 23A, Hunter, NY 12442, 800-HUNTERMTN, Snow Phone: 518-263-4223, www.huntermtn.comPeakResorts.com. 

Windham Mountain

Independently owned, Windham Mountain, which began as a club and still has the feel of a private club (it offers a members-only private club in the base lodge), is arguably the most upscale ski mountain in the Catskills and prides itself on the pampering you might expect at Vail.

Windham offers 54 trails (285 skiable acres) on two peaks, serviced by 12 lifts, including long blue trails like Wanderer that wraps around from the top, and also a beautiful green trail from the top, so beginners get the view. The lifts are detachable quads. Fully 97% mountain has snowmaking, an advanced snowmaking system that can cover the mountain in 48 hours (if temperature allows). There are six terrain parks. And there is night skiing!

Windham, which is a very cozy, comfortable mountain that is really family-friendly, has focused on building up its beginner and learn-to-ski area adding new terrain and a terrain-based learning program:  – novices start on flats learning how to move on skis, then small rollers to learn how to control skis, so they are not afraid of speed and incline.

Windham Mountain has the cozy, pampered feel of a private club.

Improvements to snowmaking will have the most impact on Wiseacres, a popular intermediate trail that winds through a wooded area on the ski area’s West Peak.  It will now have 100% snowmaking coverage with new permanent, fully automated HKD snow guns.  Beginner terrain on Wonderama has also been updated and upper portions of the Warm Up Park has the new system installed, as well.  Nearly three miles of new snowmaking pipe will contribute to efficiency by ensuring there are no leaks of the water and air being pumped up the mountain.

Windham, which is a very cozy, comfortable mountain that is really family-friendly, has focused on building up its beginner and learn-to-ski area adding new terrain and a terrain-based learning program:  – novices start on flats learning how to move on skis, then small rollers to learn how to control skis, so they are not afraid of speed and incline.

There is cross-country skiing on Windham’s golf course (no snowmaking)

The offers learn-to packages, ski and stay packages, an Adventure Park, the full-service Alpine Spa, and various dining options.

The proximity to New York City, Long Island and Northern New Jersey has made the mountain popular for day-trippers with various bus operators offering trips (you can stay over as well). Windham limits the number of buses so the mountain isn’t overcrowded.

There are lovely inns and lodges in the area including The Thompson House (The Thompson House, 19 Route 296 Windham NY 12496, 518-734-4510, thethompsonhouse@gmail.comwww.thompsonhouse.com), Windham owns the Windham Inn, a 20-room historic inn with 29 adjoining condos, just a mile away, and provides a shuttle to the mountain base; breakfast included in the stay, and offers ski and stay packages.

Windham participates in M.A.X. Pass (add on to season pass, so $349 extra for 5 days each at the participating resorts).

In warm weather months, Windham Mountain Bike Park is famous for its World Cup course, but also features a three-mile-long beginner trail.  Windham Mountain Country Club is an 18-hole public golf course with a private club atmosphere.

Windham Mountain, 9 Resort Drive, Windham, New York 12496,  800-754-9463, info@windhammountain.com, www.windhammountain.com.

West Mountain 

Located between Saratoga Springs and Lake George in Queensbury, West Mountain is a medium-sized area for skiing and snowboarding (offering night-skiing)  and tubing.

West Mountain Ski Area has made numerous improvements for the 2017-2018 season, including renovation of the Northwest Base Area ski lodge; a new 500 foot conveyer magic carpet lift that can transport 1,500 people per hour for its expanded tubing park that will now have four upper chutes that are 850 feet long with a 100 foot vertical drop and six lower chutes that are 55 feet long with a 65 foot vertical drop; lights and snowmaking on the recently widened black diamond “The Cure” trail; 20 more snow guns and 5,000 feet of snowmaking pipeline that will increase snowmaking capacity by 50%; 82% of the terrain is covered with snowmaking.

West Mountain offers 30 trails and over 126 acres, ranging from easy, gentle learning slopes to challenging, expert terrain.

With stunning views of the Hudson River and the Adirondacks, West Mountain has been the setting for families’ winter outings for over 50 years.  It offers 30 trails and over 126 acres, ranging from easy, gentle learning slopes to challenging, expert terrain.

West Mountain offers affordable rates and easy lot to lodge to lift access.A variety of programs and packages are available, including Ladies Lift, Lesson & Lunch; Super Seniors (ages 70+, a six-week lesson program that meets Thursday and includes five-hour lift ticket, 1.5 hour lesson, continental breakfast; Mountain Masters (ages 18+, a six-week program for skiers and snowboarders, from beginner to advanced that meets Tuesday evenings.

The four-season resort is a venue for weddings and events, mountain biking, hiking and scenic lift rides. West Mountain has developed a new Mountain Bike Park that has a total of 25 trails (12 downhill and 13 cross country) and pump track that opened in June; and purchased  15 full-suspension Scott downhill and cross country rental bikes and protective gear.

West Mountain Ski Area, 59 West Mountain Road, Queensbury, NY, 518-636-3699, westmtn.net.

Greek Peak 

Greek Peak Mountain Resort and Hope Lake & Conference Center is central New York’s largest four season, family-centric resort. Located in the scenic Finger Lakes region, minutes from I-81, it is also the largest ski resort in central New York with 54 trails, six aerial lifts, two surface lifts, beginners’ slope, four Terrain Parks, including a Progression Park. Additionally, Greek Peak operates a full service Nordic Center with groomed Cross Country and Snowshoe Trails with an average annual snowfall of 122 inches.

Mountain coaster at Greek Peak.

Resort services include multiple dining options, conference and event facilities, Waterfalls Spa, Cascades Indoor Waterpark and The Adventure Center with mountain coaster, zip lines, aerial ropes course, and team building. The Resort is positioned adjacent to 7,000 acres of State protected land that is accessible by all residents and guests for cross country skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing.

Since purchasing Greek Peak in 2013, local entrepreneurs, John Meier and Marc Stemerman have made $5.5 million in improvements. These include the addition of the first Quad chairlift to Central New York and enhancements to snowmaking and base area buildings. This season, improvements continue with enhancements to snowmaking and upgraded rental equipment.

Greek Peak has partnered with SNOW Operating, of New Jersey, focused on customer experience and Terrain Based Learning™. Terrain Based Learning™ removes the traditional fears and anxiety from learning to ski and snowboard utilizing purpose-built snow features to assist the guest in achieving the movements, sensations and body positioning needed to ski and snowboard.

For more experienced riders, Greek Peak is incorporating some of their downhill mountain bike trails into their glade ski/ride trail map bringing the trail count from 42 to 54 trails. These additional glades will be natural, ungroomed trails that many riders seek out to get that backcountry, adrenaline-pumping experience.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort, 2000 NYS Route 392, Cortland, NY 13045, 800.955.2754, www.GreekPeakMtnResort.com.

Thunder Ridge Ski Area

Located just an hour by Metro North railroad from New York City, Thunder Ridge, which offers night skiing, has been a popular place for families to learn how to ski.

The proximity, ease of access (just an hour north of New York City, and just a mile from the Metro North railroad station, with a convenient shuttle service from the train, and a “Take the Rails to the Trails package gives a discount on the combination ticket), not to mention night skiing until 9 pm (Sunday until 5 pm), the cozy aspect make Thunder Ridge an ideal area for families and beginners. Ski and snowboard lessons are available for all ages and ability levels and the Snowsports School boasts the highest percentage of PSIA-certified instructors in the northeast.

There are ski and stay packages, and seasonal passes are based on age (13+ are $419).

Thunder Ridge Ski Area, 137 Birch Hill Road, Patterson, NY  12563, www.thunderridgeski.com, 845-878-4100.

I Ski NY

The Ski Areas of New York (ISKINY) has teamed up with lodging properties for three special ski & stay weekends this winter (January 5 – 6, February 2 – 3, March 2 – 3). Ski and stay two nights you get a third one free.

Guests can choose to add on the Thursday night before or the Sunday night after for their free lodging and skiing. The promotion is subject to availability and may not be combined with any other offers. The third night lodging and day skiing can be used for a Thursday stay Friday day skiing/riding or Sunday stay Monday day skiing/riding. Lodging for two nights and lift tickets must be purchased for the two days and you will get third free.

Contact the selected hotel directly and identify this promotion as “I SKI NY SKI and STAY” to arrange reservations. Lift tickets will be provided at check in or at the resort ticket window.

For information on all New York State’s ski areas, visit www.iskiny.com/explore-new-york/mountains.

Find Ski & Stay packages at www.iskiny.com/ski-deals/ski-stay.

See also:

New York’s Olympic Regional Development Authority Continues to Make Improvements at Whiteface, Gore, Belleayre Mountains

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

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