Mountain Top Inn & Resort: The Perfect Vermont 4-Season Family Retreat

A horse-drawn sleigh ride, a signature experience at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort, Chittenden, Vermont © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Dave E. Leiberman & Laini Miranda

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

There are subtle things. Little surprises. Like shortly after our arrival at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort, I peek outside to see the horse-drawn sleigh gliding across the field. It is a signature experience at the inn, a class Vermont scene, but when you see it, you are overwhelmed.

It’s a place that organically brings people together. The low ceilings, the cozy sitting areas (I estimate probably one for each family grouping can be found), fire places, the fire pit with a supply of s’mores.

Even getting there along the narrow winding Vermont country roads to Chittenden, brings you through a Currier & Ives landscape.

Mountain Top Inn & Resort, Chittenden, Vermont © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mountain Top Inn & Resort has all the charm, the warmth, the cozy, intimate hospitality of a country inn, and all the luxury, amenities, activities and quality dining of a resort. It is both small and big in the ways you want.

It’s the sort of place that you instantly feel at home, exquisitely at peace. You don’t want to leave. Even the memory of having been there, fills you with longing to return.

The setting is breathtaking – 350 acres surrounded by open fields, a 740-acre lake and mountains beyond, and the Green Mountain National Forest. Indeed, Mountain Top’s name comes from the fact that at nearly 1,800 ft in altitude, the inn may well be the highest non-alpine resort in Vermont.

It is no wonder Mountain Top is so popular for weddings (elopements too!) – it exudes romance (two weddings were scheduled during the holidays). But any family gathering is special here.

I take note of the many, many cozy sitting areas – almost as many as there might have been families staying. The low ceilings and soft lighting, the fire in the fireplace, much more of a living room than a lobby, more of a den than a lounge.

Sit in front of the fireplace in the lobby at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We are here at the holidays and the inn has decorated Christmas trees and lights, fires going in the fireplaces; there is hot coffee, tea and hot chocolate set up in the afternoon.

Mountain Top Inn offers 32 rooms in the main lodge (classic, luxury and luxury suite), four king-bedroom cabins and more than 20 guest houses, each individually decorated, affording stunning views of the Vermont Countryside.

Our Lago Vista Suite is breathtaking – a kind of Colonial Spanish feel with a gas-operated double-sided fireplace separating the sleeping area from a living room area with plush easy chairs, a flat-screen TV, kitchenette. A stunning bathroom done with decorative terra cotta tile. All incredibly warm, like a big blanket enveloping you. And the view! Windows all across the wall out to the open field and the reservoir and mountains beyond. The bedding is so plush, it is a struggle to get out of bed in the morning.

The views from the Main Lodge rooms and suites at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Other suites are notable: The High Meadow Suite, popular as a bridal suite, has 8 windows with views to the lake and mountains, a luxurious bathroom, double-sided fireplace visible from the living room and bedroom, a large kitchenette.

Of these, Ike’s View, on the southern corner of the second floor, is particularly noteworthy.  Rich in history, it is named for President Dwight Eisenhower who stayed at the inn during a fly fishing expedition in 1955. Ike’s View can be combined with the adjoining suite, Mamie’s Retreat, to create an expansive two-bedroom/two bath wing with living room, kitchenette and fireplace. Presidential, indeed.

During the holidays, the guests are provided their own s’mores kit (and each evening, a tray of s’mores fixings are left by the fire pit).

The resort also features four newly built luxuriously appointed cabins, which are open-plan, king accommodation living space -inviting and cozy,  a perfect mountain retreat for two. Each with its own unique design, and within easy access to all resort amenities. The cabins are located across a quiet country road from the Main Lodge and adjacent Event Barn.

Accommodations also include hearty Vermont buffet breakfast – complete with eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurts and cereals, breads and pastries, fresh juices and coffee.

The Main Lodge rooms and suites are not pet-friendly, but some of the inn’s luxury cabins and guest houses are (and some of the snowshoeing trails also are pet-friendly).

Dining Inn

The inn on this winter day we arrive after a five-hour drive is fairly isolated and we are content to enjoy dinner in its traditional mountain lodge atmosphere. We opt to dine in the nicely appointed Tavern at a table right in front of the fireplace (there is also a dining room, and you can order from either menu).  In warmer seasons, you can also dine on the outdoor terrace. In or out, you still have gorgeous views of the mountains, lake and meadow.

The Tavern at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The menu and preparations are superb – artfully crafted selections featuring locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. The tavern has an extensive selection of locally crafted Vermont brews on tap. (Reservations are recommended, especially during the holidays, 802-483-2311).

The inn also can prepare picnic lunches – which would be really a good idea for a day cross-country skiing or snowshoeing or hiking.

The Baked Brie, featuring  12 Blythedale Farms Brie in a puff pastry, orange marmalade, blackberry jam, and grilled baguette, was out of this world.

The truffle fries, prepared with Parmesan cheese and truffle aioli was superb.

The Grilled Caesar was prepared with grilled Romaine hearts, capers, croutons, Parmigiano-Reggiano, roasted garlic and house-made Caesar dressing.

The French Onion soup, with Spanish onion, red onion shallots, croutons and baked Swiss cheese, was perfect.

We also enjoyed perfectly prepared burger and short ribs.

The restaurant did a fantastic job of accommodating our gluten free requests and promptly provided delicious gluten free rolls for both dinner and breakfast. The restaurant will also accommodate special dietary needs, including vegetarian, with advance notice.

The dining room serves breakfast and dinner; a children’s menu is available.

During the holidays, there is live music playing.

Staying in one of the guest houses? Special arrangements can be made for one of the chefs to prepare a private dinner in the home. (Advance notice required, pricing based on items chosen.)

So Much to Do!

Inn guests have access to daily afternoon refreshments in the Main Lodge lobby, use of the hot tub, sauna and fitness room, free WiFi, as well as access to seasonal activities. In winter, these include a access to the inn’s 60 km cross-country ski trail network (rentals, lessons available), snowshoe trails, ice skating rink (a small, cleared area on the meadow that is flooded; skate rentals available, $10). Warm weather activities include heated outdoor pool, tennis court, lake-front beach where there are kayks, canoes, paddleboards for guests, disc golf.

We get to enjoy the hot tub on evening – you can see the stars from the outdoor hot tub. When the mist would dissipate, it would open up to a view if the sky.  It’s a 15-second walk from the hotel Tavern (wear shoes).  It takes a minute to adjust to the temperature of the hot tub (very hot! then it’s perfect). You can call ahead and request that they fire up the tub for you.

The firepit beckons with s’mores © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

With 350 private acres perched at the top of a quiet mountain road, a 740 acre lake, miles of trails, expansive meadows, the Green Mountain National Forest and a full host of activities, there is no shortage of things to do right at the resort.

Nordic Skiing at Mountain Top has been a favorite past-time since 1964, with 60 km of trails plus the meadows, offering varied terrain and sweeping views.  Through over 50 years of continuous operation, Olympic Athletes, Vermonters and XC Skiers from all over the country have come to Mountain Top. You can get Nordic ski lesson; learn to ski package; rent equipment.  Trails are open 8 am to 4 pm.

Snowshoeing: Whether you’ve been doing it for years, or this is your first try, snowshoeing (one of the easiest new sports to acquire, you just walk) is a wonderful way to explore the woods and meadows and get that cardio going! The team at the Activities Center will provide a trail map and the inn’s chefs can pack you a lunch.  There are pet-friendly trails. There are twilight group snowshoeing tours (lamps provided).

Horse drawn sleigh rides, the quintessential Vermont thing to do, are offered mid-December through March (weather permitting); reservations are required for the 30-minute tours; private rides and packages are available (maximum 9 adults & children per ride; $40 adult/ $20/child call 802-483-6089).  A Sleigh Ride & Dinner Package (includes sleigh ride, 3-course dinner for two & taxes , can be scheduled ( $150, gratuity & alcohol not included).

Snowmobiling: Hit the VAST trails or tour Mountain Top’s property. You can take a guided 30 minute Snowmobile Tour through the meadows and along some of the trails at the Mountain Top Resort, or stop by for a bite to eat (or overnight stay) as you journey along the VAST Trail System –the Inn is  located right on the trail ($60 pp as a driver; $15 as passenger for 30 minutes).

Spa & Salon: Mountain Top’s spa is located on the ground level of The Mountain Top Barn adjacent to the pool and hot tub. With features such as barn board wall paneling, hammered copper pedicure basins, a spacious cedar sauna, custom soapstone sinks, rich leather and wood furniture and views to the mountains and lake –  the spa & salon is a perfect example of ‘rustic luxe’ design in a wholly relaxing space.  The Spa offers several signature treatments; services include a wide variety of massages, scrubs and wraps, facials, manicures, pedicures and professional hair and make-up for wedding parties. The spa & salon operates seasonal hours – please contact us for a current schedule (Available for special events upon request). (For reservations, call 802.483.2311 ext 404 or spa@Mountain Topinn.com).

The fitness center  is equipped with state-of-the-art treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bicycles and a cable weight system and take a dip in the hot tub, or relax in our sauna, after your workout. (Guests under 18 yrs must be accompanied by an adult; open 7:30am – 9pm).

A White Christmas: The Barn was built for events; it can accommodate 250 guests © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Warm weather activities include:

Activities available for guests at no charge include tennis (you can borrow a racket; the court is available on first-come, first-serve basis); Disc Golf on the inn’s newly designed 9-hole disc golf course which takes advantage of the open meadow space, adjacent woods, spectacular views and finishes just a few steps from the Mountain Top Tavern and terrace (discs can be borrowed from the front desk, and discs and greens fees are included in your stay);  heated outdoor swimming pool open (weather permitting) from June into September; the  pool-side hot tub is open year-round; 40 miles of hiking trails; sand volleyball.

Private Beach: Less than ¾ mile walk down a private lane from the main lodge, Mountain Top’s exclusive beach is situated on a quiet cove within a 740 acre lake. Available spring through late fall, you can enjoy boating, swim or simply relax on lounge chairs. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards are available (no charge for guests; lifejackets provided). A beach towel is available from the front desk. You can arrange to take a picnic lunch. (Available spring through late fall.

Guided hour-long pontoon boat rides touring the entire lake are offered daily (weather permitting, through October; reservations are required).

Also available:

Equestrian Center: Mountain Top Inn is the only Vermont resort, and one of only a handful of properties in New England, to offer a full equestrian program, accommodating neophytes and experienced riders. The Equestrian Center is open May through October.

Mountain Top Inn is one of the few places in Vermont with a full equestrian center © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Children’s Adventure Camp is open July through August 14, for children 6-13 years old; the program is offered 9:30 to 3 pm weekdays (minimum 3 children). (802-483-6089).

Fishing: Go fishing for Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Yellow Perch and Sunfish on the 740 acre lake: you can rent a small fishing boat with electric trolling motor, seating up to four people.

Clay Bird Shooting: Lessons are offered daily by our experienced staff from spring through fall (weather permitting). For safety reasons, we have a maximum allotment of six people per time slot.  The minimum age to participate is 15 years old and reservations are required. ($40 per person for 20 shots with instruction).

Golf:  Mountain Top Inn & Resort, has several challenging yet fun courses near-by (including Rutland Country Club, Green Mountain National Golf Course, Killington Golf Course and Neshobe Golf Club – all of which are accessible to the public).  

Destination Weddings, Elopements, Retreats

For all the reasons – the setting, ambiance, facilities and activities, it is easy to see why Mountain Top is a favorite wedding destination.

Mountain Top Inn can accommodate up to 250 guests in the events Barn and the majority do tend to stay on property –it makes for less travel for guests and everything being pretty much within walking distance and gives family and friends that much more opportunity to be together and share experiences.

Intimate sitting areas abound at the Mountain Top Inn © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The inn also has more intimate spaces on property such as the beach pavilion for rehearsal dinners and events of fewer  than 100 guests (where the barn can feel a bit large) and for even more intimate events (an elopement, or corporate dinner) the larger guest houses are ideal.

The houses make for a great option for the weddings because family groups can stay together in one house and have common living space to share amongst themselves.  As well as bridal parties or just groups of friends who want to stay together and not have to head back to separate accommodations at night. They can hang out in their pj’s! (With the spa, the inn is also ideal for bachelorette getaways.)

The popular wedding ceremony site in the spring, summer, fall is the knoll up above the lodge (an amazing view). And in winter it’s the terrace outside the tavern (with a similar, but not as high altitude) view. For both, the ‘weather’ ceremony location is the loft in the barn which has lovely floor to ceiling windows that still provide that view.  In the warmer months, weddings are also held at the houses and on the beach.

A White Christmas at the Mountain Top Inn © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Overcome with the romantic ambiance and want to elope?

The Mountain Top Inn & Resort is the ideal setting for an elopement or intimate wedding. The inn has a dedicated staff of wedding coordinators. And because some elopements are planned with limited lead-time, or are truly a surprise, the inn has a special package which includes many of the elements the couple will need, or can be customized.

The Mountain Top Elopement Package includes two nights lodging; three course candlelit dinner for two; full breakfast each morning; scenic pontoon boat ride (summer) or horse-drawn sleigh ride (winter); one hour massage for both; Champagne and Truffles; bouquet and boutonniere; petite wedding cake ($1550 in classic lodge room; $1775 in luxury lodge room; $1975 for a suite; $200 more for peak dates and holidays).

The Inn is also ideal for corporate retreats, functions and events – having a place that brings people together in a close setting, plus has many activities to engage, dining and meeting venues. Mid-week November through April is when availability is the best. Various venues are used for meeting space including the yoga studio, the barn loft, the beach pavilion (in summer), living areas in larger guest houses for smaller meetings. The barn can seat upwards of 250 for larger conferences and functions.

Hometown Connection: A Distinguished History

The Mountain Top Inn has a marvelous history, and as it turns out, a connection to our Long Island home town.

As we were driving up the country lanes that lead to the Mountain Top Inn, I spotted a library named for Frederic Duclos Barstow, and recognized the name from our Great Neck, Long Island community: he was the son of William S. Barstow (1866-1942) and Frangoise Duclos Barslow (1876-1958) – he was the first mayor of Kings Point and his mansion is now the Merchant Marine Museum on the grounds of the US Merchant Marine Academy. Barstow, who was an important electrical engineer and a partner of Thomas Edison, made a fortune establishing utility companies (including the one in Chittenden) and even electrifying the Brooklyn Bridge. Their only child, Frederic Duclos Barstow, born in 1895, was exposed to poison gas during War War I, and suffered lung damage and from shell shock. He moved to Chittenden, Vermont, believing the clean air would be more healthful to him, but died in 1931, at the age of 35. The Barstows built the Barstow Memorial School in his memory.

Classic country scenes in Chittenden, Vermont © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

William Barstow purchased a farmhouse in Chittenden on his son’s property to serve as a hunting camp (what is now Fox Creek Inn on Dam Road). Here he entertained such notable figures as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone.

In 1939, Francoise Barstow bought the Henry Long Turnip farm, dating from the 1870s, which overlooked the Chittenden Reservoir, renovating the barn as an additional place to entertain her many friends – this is the property that became Mountain Top Inn.

Throughout the ensuing years, improvements and additions to the original barn building were made to accommodate the growing number of visiting friends and family – eventually evolving into a full service Inn & Tavern.  While Barstow, an associate of Thomas Edison, was a forward thinker, the couple maintained the integrity of property’s Yankee origins and protected the beauty and ecology of its natural surroundings. Barstow died in 1942.

In 1945, William and Margery Wolfe purchased the Mountain Top Inn. They continued improvements to the property and in 1955 put the Inn on the map when they hosted President Eisenhower and his entourage during a fishing expedition. Photos of the expedition are still displayed in the Main Lodge Lobby.  Ike’s View, a luxury room in the Main Lodge in which the President stayed, is named for him and the adjoining room is named for his wife, Mamie’s Retreat.

In 1964, realizing the natural terrain was ideal for winter sports, the Wolfes began to develop a cross country ski center and trail system. Today, one of the oldest in the country, the resort boasts 60 kilometers of trails.

Mountain Top Inn & Resort is the perfect synthesis of old and new © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A fire in 1977 destroyed most of the original Inn’s structure. Undeterred, the Wolfes rebuilt the Inn using traditional post and beam construction.  Large Douglas fir beams span the lobby and lend warmth and charm to the Main Lodge.  Rows of windows and a signature glass “silo” staircase offers the perfect vantage point for stunning views.

This is what accounts for the feeling you get of the Mountain Top Inn, that is both old and new – it is the faithful preservation of the traditional inn, with the modern amenities and materials.

With an appreciation and love for the property and its history, in the early 2000s a small group of investors purchased the Mountain Top Inn & Resort and have carefully nurtured its evolution from small country inn to a premier Mountain Lodge and destination resort.

Winter Family Wonderland package is available for non-holiday periods, and includes three nights accommodation;  Vermont country breakfast each morning;  horse-drawn sleigh ride for your group; one hour “family” cross country ski lesson with rentals (must be 6 years of age or older to take this lesson; one parent must participate); trail passes; use of resort facilities; tax and resort charge ($1260 for quad occupancy in classic lodge room, $1620 for luxury room; two-bedroom guest houses also available at $1670).

The website is really complete and easy to use to get information, but you need to call 802-483-2311 to book the packages (https://MountainTopInn.com/specials-packages/winter-spring-packages/)

Mountain Top Inn & Resort is also located a short distance (about 20-30 minutes drive) to Killington Mountain for downhill skiing; the inn provides shuttle transportation (8:30 am, returning 4:30 pm); reserve in advance.

Mountain Top Inn & Resort, 195 Mountain Top Road, Chittenden, Vermont 05737, 802-483-2311, www.MountainTopInn.com.

See also:

Killington, ‘Beast of the East,’ is Roaring into 2018 With Powder Snow

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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

 

Enchanting Candlelight Evening at Old Bethpage Village Restoration is Like Stepping into a Christmas Card

Santa Claus looks relaxed and casual in the parlor of the Layton Home at Old Bethpage Village Restoration during the Candlelight Evening, having finished his rounds delivering presents to children around the world © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Fire light. That is the common denominator – seeing life in the orange-red glow of candlelight, a fireplace, a bonfire. One of my favorite holiday events is the Old Bethpage Village Restoration Candlelight Evening, and even the bitter cold could not keep me away.

I arrive in time for the candlelight procession into the village, to the gazebo where an 1840s brass band is playing, despite the bone-chilling cold.

The brass band entertains despite bitter cold, at the Gazebo in Old Bethpage Village Restoration © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The most wonderful thing about the candlelight evenings at Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Long Island, is yes, the sense of stepping back into time, into an idyllic peacefulness such as finding yourself in a Christmas card. But what I love best are the serendipitous moments when you engage the reenactors in conversation- the questions that arise just because you are immersed in that experience.

Performing traditional music on period instruments at the one-room schoolhouse from Manhasset © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the District No. 6 School House, which dates from c. 1845 in Manhasset, there is traditional fiddle music, played on a period instrument, a 150-year old violin that had been made in Prague, that has no chin rest or frets. We learn about the Manhasset School house – children attended the one-room school house six days a week. Music would have been widespread but there were no real professional musicians in Long Island. The school house would have been the venue for music, entertainment, and various gatherings in the evening. He tells me that all of Nassau County used to be part of Queens County, until the residents wanted to separate from New York City. He performs one of the most popular of his repertoire,“The Dancing Man,” to which his wife maneuvers a fascinating puppet-like toy to dance along.

Music was so important to the people of the mid-19th century, the period which Old Bethpage reconstructs. When you think about it, people could only appreciate music live, in the moment.

Max Rowland plays his concertina at the Hewlett House © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the Hewlett House – a grand home high on the hill, which was built by the founder for which the town of Hewlett is named – Max L. Rowland regals on a banjo, reconstructed to its period, and a concertina and because I ask, he talks about the instruments . He says that in the mid-1800s, the concertina was the most popular instrument around – because it was relatively inexpensive (costing less than a violin), and compact, easy to carry and capable of such rich sound and complexity.  It was extremely popular with sailors, who could tuck it away in their gear. Rowland can testify to it: this particular concertina has crossed the sea three times with Rowland, who lives on a boat.

There is also popcorn being made in the kitchen fireplace.

Preparing popcorn in the Hewlett House by the fireplace © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the beautiful Manetto Hill Church, 1857, a Methodist church that originally was located in Plainview, there is singing and storytelling – the origin of holly (representing male), ivy (representing female), so the two entwined are a symbol of marriage; mistletoe and poinsettias.

The Noon Inn, which dates from 1850 and was owned John H. Noon, innkeeper, in East Meadow, is where you can get hot mulled cider and cookies, and climb the stairs to hear a string ensemble.

Broom-making at the Luyster Store, where you can buy the broom you watch being made © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the Luyster Store, which dates from c. 1840 and was built by John B. Luyster, a storekeeper in East Norwich, you see the rare craft of broom making (and can purchase the brooms that are made here). The fellow works on a machine from 1840, and you can see how much physical effort goes into it. He explains that a home would have had 2 brooms per room, or 18 per household; an ordinary broom might have cost 24 cents – but that was equivalent to half-day’s wages, or about $50 today (so his price of $20 is a bargain). This also was an enterprise that farmers would do to make extra money, and they would raise the special wheat (called “corn”) for that purpose. An interesting artifact here is the massive safe.

The Layton Store was the Walmart of its day © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Layton House is also the General Store dates from c. 1866 and was built by John M. Layton, a storekeeper. It had originally stood in East Norwich. He was fabulously wealthy as you can see by the large rooms and tall ceilings. Here, in the parlor, I meet Santa Claus who seems relaxed after his trip around the world; later, when I come back, there is a choral group. In the next room is the Layton General Store – the Walmart of its day – where you can purchase candy.

Singing holiday songs in the Layton parlor © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Benjamin House, dating from 1829, was built for William Benjamin, a minister and farmer in Northville, where there is a bass and violin playing holiday melodies that would have been popular at the time – like Deck the Halls, which was a Welsh melody dating back to the 1600s. We discuss Christmas traditions of the time (gift-giving wasn’t yet a tradition, but Queen Victoria had popularized table-top Christmas trees as a loving gesture to Prince Albert).

Demonstrating how to spin yarn at the Conklin House © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

I stop into the Conklin House last – this house dates from 1853 and was build by Joseph H. Conklin, a bayman in the village of Branch. It is small and I am surprised to see spinning being done in front of the fireplace where there is a roaring fire (so picturesque). She is so patient in explaining how it is done – how common it would have been for a farm woman to have spent some time in the evening spinning, but there were professional spinners (men) and spinsters (women) – spinning, was in fact, one of the ways a woman could have earned money. By the mid-1800s, though, people were importing finished textiles.

The Huntington Militia reenact Christmas in 1775 in the Schenck House © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I usually save the Schenck House for last because each year, because it is here that I come upon the most unexpected encounters and find it the most illuminating. Instead of interpreting the holiday traditions of the mid 1800s, the Huntington Militia re-create a Colonial Christmas in the 17th century. The Schenck House dates from 1765, owned by a Dutch farmer. Here, our presenters speak in the style of the time, and celebrate Christmas of 1775.

I am swept into its history. I am transfixed talking with “Ambrose Everyman,” a fellow from 1775, an American of English descent really troubled by North Hempstead’s succession from the Town of Hempstead over the issue of rebellion against the King and Crown. His loyalties are clear. He raises the question over how the colonists are made so dissatisfied with the King – and questions the veracity of the crimes and accusations designed to foment rebellion. He notes that since the first Continental Congress, the Massachusetts faction of the Patriots have banned women from going to the tavern, banned theatrical entertainment – in effect, installed the Puritan societal structure on the colonies.

And because of the “attack against one of the colonies is an attack against us all,” he questions whether the attacks in Lexington and Concord, portrayed as a British massacre, really happened that way.  “How do we really know?” he tells me (the original “fake news”?).  Mr. Everyman was upset with the upstarts in Massachusetts who caused so much trouble, who dared to pretend to be Indians and toss tea into the sea. He called them cowards for hiding behind their disguise. He said he knew war – had fought in the French and Indian War – but was too old to fight again. If there was a break with England, he says,, his business of building and repairing houses, would be destroyed.

The Town of North Hempstead had recently split from the Town of Hempstead over the issue of whether to support “The Cause” or stay loyal to Mother England. North Hempstead, which had a substantial Dutch population, wanted to break with England, while Hempstead, which was populated mainly by English colonists, wanted to stay.

But, he says, he cannot express his feelings: the local Committee is strictly enforcing its ban on English tea and though it had no force of law, someone who broke faith would be shamed in the Gazetteer as “an Enemy of American Liberty,” would no longer get business, and ultimately be forced out of the community. So he keeps his views to himself. Taxes? What difference does it make to pay taxes to England or taxes to the Congress, he said. And doesn’t England deserve to get repayment for the expense of fighting for the colonies. How would those who would break from England confront the greatest army on earth? Would they get aid from foreign powers like France, when France would want to take over the colonies for itself?

He gives me the sense of what a difficult dilemma this was – the prospect of confronting the most powerful nation the world had never known, the superpower of its time – and how while there had never been consensus (New York patriots fled to Philadelphia), the forcefulness with which the revolutionaries pressed their cause, the violence, a literal civil war within communities.

“Ambrose Everyman” describes how the Schencks would celebrate Christmas with Dutch traditions © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

He goes on to show the group of Candlelight visitors that has gathered how the owner of the House, Martin Schenck, would have celebrated St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6), when the children put out wooden shoes, filled with a carrot to draw the horse that St. Nicholas rides through the sky on, and leaves them treats – an orange that would have been an expensive treat having been imported from Jamaica, and  skates for the young girl, a pull-toy for the baby.

Members of the Huntington Militia fire the Christmas guns © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here at the Schenck House, the Huntington Militia – a group of reenactors – are dressed in the style of the militia of this Revolutionary War era. This year they fire Christmas guns – demonstrating the painstaking task of loading their muskets.

The Barn, decked out with holiday lights © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then, at The Barn on the fairgrounds, there are a model train show, contra dancing, a brass ensemble and a delightful performance of “Scrooge’s Dream” – a condensation of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol.”

A performance of “Scrooge’s Dream” during the Old Bethpage Village Restoration Candlelight Evenings © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year, the Old Bethpage Candlelight Evenings are only five nights, Dec. 26-30, 5-9:30 pm. Old Bethpage Village Restoration, 1303 Round Swamp Road (Exit 48 of the Long Island Expressway), 516-572-8401; Adults/$10, children 5-12/$7 (under 5 are free); and $7 for seniors and volunteer firefighters.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.comwww.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

Killington, ‘Beast of the East,’ is Roaring into 2018 With Powder Snow

Skiing Killington, Vermont, the “Beast of the East.” A major snowfall in December created incredible powder conditions © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Dave E. Leiberman & Laini Miranda

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

Whoa, what a Christmas present: December has been very kind to Killington which already had a decent base when we arrived just before Christmas, then had nearly two feet more of powder by the end of Christmas Day, much to the delight of skiers and snowboarders who clearly raced away from opening gifts to enjoy the acres and acres of fresh powder snow.  With Killington’s elevation and a 3,000 ft. vertical drop, the powder made you feel you were skiing the Rockies.

Killington, known as the “Beast of the East,” is the largest ski area in New England – sprawling across six-mountain peaks, the highest at 4,241’ elevation, affording 1,509 skiable acres, 155 trails totaling 73 miles. Of the 21 lifts, three are gondolas, and of the nine quads, five are high-speed express.  (Pico Mountain, Killington’s sister resort (Killington’s ticket is valid there), is its 7th peak; it is not connected by lift but there is shuttle service between the resorts.)

Killington, with 1,509 skiable acres, 155 trails totaling 73 miles, offers variety of terrain © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The resort offers multiple terrain features for snowboarders and freeskiers in six terrain parks including The Stash, an all-natural inspired terrain park with more than 65 features, and NeffLand, an outer-space themed terrain park with rocket and planet style jibs, as well as two pipes.

Killington is absolutely phenomenal for black-diamond skiers and skiers who are comfortable regardless of terrain – you can just go and explore and not really care what you wind up on.

Bear Mountain is great for double-black diamond skiers, and is where you will find Outer Limits and Centerpiece (glades).

A fun narrow trail in the trees for daring intermediate (don’t have to be advanced tree skier, but should be comfortable intermediate, slightly more adventurous): Roundabout (rated a black diamond, really fun, narrow, tree experience, don’t have to be a glade skier), shoots out to a long green, Bear Cub, long easy, on the perimeter.

Taking the scenic route at Killington: Launch Pad. © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Intermediate skiers will need to plot out their route. One combination that I particularly enjoyed was riding K-1 to the summit and taking Blue Heaven to Bear Trax to Launch Pad (which has a particularly scenic stretch flanked on both sides by trees to Bitter Sweet where you will find a few, short steeps.

I also enjoyed taking the Skyship Gondola up to Great Eastern, a green, (I chickened out of taking the blue trail, Skylark, normally a long fun blue run,  because it had a caution, “Advanced skiers only” and I wasn’t in the mood to be challenged), to connect to Cruise Control, a very pleasant blue. From there, you can ride up the Northbrook Quad back up to the Snowshed slope.  Skyship tends not to be as crowded and is particularly a good place in the afternoon when it is less likely for the trails to be skied off.

There are great blues at Rams Head but this is also the area that is used for ski school and clinics, so tends to be crowded.

Killington’s famed K-1 Gondola © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Green trail skiers are more restricted – the Great Eastern is a long trail but you have to watch carefully when it crosses over black and blue trails. Snowshed offers great opportunities on gentle terrain to fine-tune your form, so I didn’t mind riding the chair five minutes for the five-minute run because I enjoyed my skiing there so much. At Rams Head there is another long green trail, Easy Street.

Killington’s Discovery programs utilize Terrain Based Learning, the latest innovation in snow sports education, coupled with the promise of free equipment for skiers and snowboarders at the end of a four-lesson series.

Novel Ways to Enjoy Killington

Snowshed, indeed, is the place for novel mountain activities.

This year, you can rent a ski bike (also known as snow-bike); lessons are available as well. Killington ski bikes operates Friday through Sunday 9 am to 4 pm and daily during holidays, and rentals are offered at the Snowshed base area. Ski biking is permitted on the Snowshed and Ramshead mountain areas which provide optimal beginner to intermediate conditions. Pricing starts at $88 for a half-day rental and includes an access ticket.

It’s also where you will find The Beast Mountain Coaster, a 4,800-foot-long alpine coaster that twists and turns through the woods with 360-degree corkscrews. It hadn’t yet started operation for the season (Dec. 26, 2017-April 1, 2018), but operates 1-4 pm weekend and peak days (operations are weather dependent; check Resort Services Report for updates in real-time. Book with a Ski & Stay Package prior to arrival and save; call 800-621-6867 for reservations.

The Snowshed area is where you will find ski bikes, The Beast Mountain Coaster, the terra maze and other novel ways to enjoy Killington © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New attractions include the four-story Skye Ropes Course, Skyeride (seated zip line ride), 5,000 square foot Terra Maze, Roaring Brook Mining for the youngest adventurers, plus motorized mountain tours by Segway and All Terrain Vehicle.

Killington and Pico are catering to increasing popularity of “uphill travel” with guests choosing to reach the peaks of Bear Mountain, Snowdon, Ramshead and Pico via human vs. machine power with designated routes for each mountain area and 24/7 access (when designed routes are open).

Experiential Dining

Killington also has Vermont’s highest elevation structure: the Peak Lodge from where, on a clear day,  you can actually catch views of five states plus Canada. The Peak Lodge is the most sustainable building at Killington, with forward thinking approaches to electricity (Cow Power), lighting, recycling, grey water, and refrigeration (Freeaire).

All food at the Peak Lodge is made to order, and ingredients are sourced from local farms to ensure the freshness of all dishes. Fresh local craft beer is also available from the full-service bar with views of gondola cabins cresting the head wall and arriving at the terminal.

At the Bear Mountain lodge, the chef very kindly prepared a gluten-free sandwich.

Also fun: the Waffle Haus at the bottom of Snowshed.

The Long Trail Pub at Snowshed is a great place to finish the day or wind down. The windows open up to see the skiers as they come down.

The Long Trail Pub at Snowshed is a great place to finish the day or wind down. The windows open up to see the skiers as they come down. © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Experiential dining at Killington ranges from fresh-made fare at the Peak Lodge to snowcat-drawn sleigh rides to the Ledgewood Yurt, a ski-in-ski-out hidden gem during the day that transforms to a cozy, candlelit slice of paradise after hours.

The Motor Room Bar, located in a retired lift tower at the top of Bear Mountain overlooking two of Killington’s most feared double-black diamond runs, is reserved by single parties for an unforgettable apres – complete with private cabin-cat transportation, libations and small bites.

While Killington doesn’t have an actual village, the Killington Access road is as famous for dining institutions like the 50 year old Wobbly Barn steakhouse as it is for high energy nightlife, and the Liquid Art Café .

Casey’s Caboose is Back!

The little toy train runs again! And you can still sit up in the caboose cab, or in a snowplow. All the fun and whimsy has returned, but with seriously improved food for an altogether outstanding dining experience on Killington Road: Casey’s Caboose is back.

The little train is back running around the ceiling at Casey’s Caboose – if you manage to hit Goofy with a quarter. © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is back with the color, the lights, the spirit, the toy train that runs around the room (it launches when someone hits Goofy with a quarter), and with an outstanding menu all guided by new owners who loved the Killington tradition too much to let it die. The restaurant reopened this past July after being closed for three years.

The cozy sitting area in the cab of Casey’s Caboose © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Built around an 1876 railroad caboose and a 1910 railroad snowplow, fans (like us) will be delighted to see the fun, whimsical interior, with its toy train that still runs around the room and colorful neon lights, its tiny sitting area in the caboose cab (you have to climb up a ladder and step across a space), are even better than we remembered. But the food! That is entirely new.  Everything is homemade. The menu has a few nods to one of the new owners, a British gentleman who couldn’t bear to see the restaurant close, with fish and chips that are outstanding (the cod is really flavorful and fresh). The burger selections are out of this world. Who could imagine a New York Deli version, with fresh, homemade pastrami combined with the beef? Or a burger with lobster! Even so, Marco had them make his own version: a burger with egg and jalapenos. My Meat & Mushroom burger (prepared with Portobello mushroom and gruyere cheese) was perfectly prepared and one of the best ever (and served on a warm, not cold bun!). They were extremely accommodating to our requests: gluten free for Daniella; spicy for Marco. Everything is freshly made and beautifully presented. And the prices are still modest. The dessert that had everyone’s eyes popping was like a combination of every edible fantasy: chocolate, pumpkin pie and cheesecake. They also offer 21 draft beers and cider (including Long Trail), a gin kitchen with a surreal selection of gins, tonics and botanicals.

Casey’s Caboose offers a huge selection of local beer, cider, gins, tonics and botanicals © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Fun fact: Casey’s Caboose was named after Jonathan Luther “John” “Casey” Jones the great American railroad engineer who died in April 30 1900 saving the passengers on his train. His mother, Mrs Jones is said to have lived near Killington in her youth.

(Opens daily at 3 pm, 1930 Killington Road, 802-422-3795, caseyscaboose.com.)

Ski Rentals

The skis we rented from Peak Performance, just about a half-mile below Snowshed (2808 Killington Road) were fantastic. The Everyone is specifically measured and fitted for boots (Salomon brand). The skis (Fisher) were brand new and after each use are run through the shop’s tuning machine, one of three on the mountain (you have to see it; like a car wash for skis and snowboards) and performed amazingly. Even the poles, Scott brand, were top quality. Reserve online in advance and you get a 15% discount on the already really reasonable rates if you reserve on line – basically just filling out the rental form, you don’t even give a credit card. The website is extremely easy to use. When you arrive, they are ready for you. It is no wonder the shop has been rated the best in New England.

The cool tuning machine at Peak Performance Ski Shop on Killington Road © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is surprising to learn that they are also the biggest race ski center in the country, selling more racing skis than anyone, even more than Colorado. Returning was equally easy and stress-free. Peak Performance has been in business for 27 years, and the shop, owned by Fred & Denise Coriell, clearly reflects pure love of the sport. (Peak Performance, 2808 Killington Road, 802-422-9447, info@peakskishop.com, www.peakskishop.com.)

Lodging

There are loads of lodging choices, including several that are managed by Killington such as the Killington Grand Hotel, right at the base.

We absolutely loved our stay at the Mountaintop Inn & Resort, a 30 minutes scenic drive away in Chittenden (the hotel offers a daily shuttle to Killington), as well as its own major cross-country ski center. (Mountain Top Inn & Resort, Chittenden, VT, 802.483.2311, www.mountaintopinn.com).

Mountaintop Inn & Resort, Chittenden, Vermont © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Killington Resort is a four-season destination set on 3,000 acres in the heart of Central Vermont’s Green Mountains. After the snow melts, Killington features an 18-hole championship golf course, the family-friendly Snowshed Adventure Center, 30 miles of mountain biking trails with expansion underway with Gravity Logic, plus 15 miles of hiking trails. The range of après (snowmobiling, snowshoe tours, sleigh rides, tubing), dining, and lodging options have made Killington a world-class destination for skiers and riders for over 55 years. Killington is part of the POWDR portfolio and participates in the M.A.X. program. Check the website for packages and specials.

You can check ski conditions at killington.com/conditions. For information, 800-621- 6867, www.killington.com.

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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

Times Square and Beyond: Best Places to Ring in the New Year in New York City

A couple celebrates the ball drop New Years Eve in Times Square © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New Year’s Eve in Times Square is one of the experiences you must have at least once in your life. That’s the way it was for me when I did it a few years ago. But New York offers many other experiences. I followed my Times Square experience with joining in the New York Road Runners’ festival in Central Park, complete with live band, midnight fireworks and yes, a midnight Fun Run, and these past couple of years reveled in the divine New Year’s Eve concert at St. John the Divine.

With festive events in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, including the annual ball drop in Times Square, New York City holds onto the tradition of being the New Year’s Eve capital of the world.

“From the iconic ball drop in Times Square to the simulated ball drop in Coney Island, New York City has no shortage of events and activities that make it a quintessential New Year’s Eve destination,” said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of  NYC & Company. “We will once again host visitors from around the globe for a multitude of unique celebrations.”

Times Square has been the center of worldwide attention on New Year’s Eve ever since 1904 when the owners of One Times Square started holding rooftop celebrations to greet the New Year. The first Ball Lowering celebration took place in 1907, and this tradition is now a universal symbol of welcoming the New Year.

The estimated 1 million revelers in Times Square are expected to be joined by more than 100 million television viewers in the United States and more than 1 billion people worldwide collectively watching a 109-year-old tradition: the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. At 11:59 pm, the ball begins its descent atop One Times Square as millions of people count down the final seconds of the year and celebrate the beginning of a new year.

The excitement builds to crescendo as the famous crystal ball drops at One times Square, a tradition that goes back to 1907, updated and high-tech to greet 2018 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here are some tips: You have to get to Times Square in the early afternoon, well before 3 pm, to even get inside the “zone” that is otherwise cordoned off by New York’s Finest and have a hope for a spot that gives you a view of the ball drop (Broadway curves). And the most significant thing to remember about this is that you can’t leave and return and there did not seem to be any bathroom facilities within the zone. Bring your own bottle of water and snacks but don’t drink much before you come. Each year security becomes even more intensified.

Keep the weather forecast in mind, but come with layers of clothes, particularly warm socks and hats and a waterproof cover, and possible feet and hand warmers. You might also bring a small collapsible seat or something to sit on like a cushion. You can’t bring much in because of security (no backpacks allowed). Definitely bring your camera (check battery) because the images are fabulous with all the neon lights and the confetti.

It is a marathon that tests endurance – literally standing in one place for eight or more hours. It is this physical challenge that becomes part of the fun (and part of your own legend which you will be able to tell over and over).

The assembled minions are a cross section of humanity – not too many fat cats among the hoi polloi in these crowds. But that is the most fun – this sense of community that forms and being part of this amazing celebration. Gathering from early afternoon, the dazzling lights, neon colors, massive dynamic photos from gigantic billboards add to the energy and the people around you become your new best friends.

This year’s Times Square New Year’s Eve Live celebration will formally open with a performance by the Tongliang Athletics Dragon Dance thanks to a partnership with Chongqing, China. Multi-Platinum Pop Singer and Songwriter Andy Grammer will headline the musical lineup. Country music singer-songwriter Lauren Alaina will perform a selection of her number one hits and dance crew Kinjaz will also present numbers.

The star attraction, of course, is the gargantuan ball atop One Times Square, that slides down the pole to announce the new year, a tradition that goes back to 1907.

The ball is a 12-foot-diameter geodesic sphere covered in 2,688 Waterford crystals, weighing 11,875 pounds and powered by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LED lights, Each LED module contains 48 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs – 12 red, 12 blue, 12 green, and 12 white for a total of 8,064 of each color. The Ball is capable of displaying a palette of more than 16 million vibrant colors and billions of patterns that creates a spectacular kaleidoscope effect atop One Times Square.

For Times Square 2018, 288 Waterford Crystal triangles introduce the new Gift of Serenity design which is a pattern of cuts resembling butterflies flying peacefully above a meadow capturing the spirit of serenity; 288 are the Gift of Kindness design consisting of a circle of rosettes symbolizing unity with the fronds reaching out in an expression of kindness; 288 are the Gift Of Wonder design composed by a faceted starburst inspiring our sense of wonder; 288 are the Gift of Fortitude design of diamond cuts on either side of a crystal pillar to represent the inner attributes of resolve, courage and spirit necessary to triumph over adversity. The remaining 1,536 triangles are the Gift of Imagination design with a series of intricate wedge cuts that are mirrored reflections of each other inspiring our imagination.

The first Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration was held in 1904’ the first New Year’s Eve Ball lowering celebration from One Times Square was in 1907 (the event is now the property of whoever owns One Times Square building). Seven versions of the Ball have been designed to signal the New Year. The first Ball was made of iron and wood, weighed 700 pounds, and was covered with 100 light bulbs. In 1920, a 400-pound iron Ball replaced the iron and wood Ball. In 1955, a 150-pound aluminum Ball with 180 light bulbs replaced the iron Ball. In 1995, the aluminum Ball was upgraded with aluminum skin, rhinestones, and computer controls. In 1999, the crystal New Year’s Eve Ball was created to welcome the new millennium. In 2007, modern LED technology replaced the light bulbs of the past for the 100th Anniversary of the New Year’s Eve Ball. In 2008, the permanent Big Ball was unveiled atop One Times Square where it sparkles above Times Square throughout the year.

Various establishments in Times Square present New Year’s Eve parties with a pre-purchased multi-venue pass (though participants are warned they need to get inside the security perimeter before police close it off). Among them: Applebee’s, Planet Hollywood, Copacobana Times Square, Olive Garden and “Supernova Ball Drop in Times Square with guaranteed view of the Ball Drop.”

(For more details, visit timessquarenyc.org, our main source for Times Square dos and don’ts.)

More activities related to the Times Square Ball Drop start even before New Year’s Eve:

On December 28 from noon to 1pm, locals and visitors will gather in the Broadway Plaza on Times Square for Good Riddance Day, as bad memories from 2017 are torn apart to make room for the new year, with help from Shred-It.

In the lead up to the big night, through December 29, visitors can visit the Wishing Wall to note their hopes, dreams and goals for 2018 on the confetti that will be released at midnight to float over Midtown and the approximately one million visitors who congregate in Times Square for the ball drop.

Viewers around the world can also visit TimesSquareNYC.org,
NewYearsEve.nyc and TimesSquareBall.net to watch the annual event.

Beyond Midtown Manhattan, countless other celebrations will take place.

33rd Annual Concert for Peace

Judy Collins will again be part of the Concert for Peace at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of my favorite ways to bid adieu to the year and begin anew is the annual Concert for Peace at the magnificent Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, which takes place on Sunday, December 31, 7-9 pm. This is a signature New Year’s Eve event that was founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984 with the idea of bringing together New Yorkers and visitors from around the world for an evening filled with uplifting music. This year’s concert, the 33rd Annual Concert for Peace, honors the centennial of Leonard Bernstein. begins with Joseph Haydn’s glorious Te Deum. The program continues with the U.S. premiere of See the Wretched Strangers by composer Lucas Wiegerink; the text, written by Shakespeare, is an impassioned commentary on immigration and refugees. A series of choral songs about our shared Earth continues the theme of neighborly compassion, inspiring a renewal of hope for the coming year. In addition to performances by Jason Robert Brown and Judy Collins, joined by host Harry Smith, with soloists Jamet Pittman and Arthur Fiacco.

Concert for Peace at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is an inspiring way to welcome the new year © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A limited number of general admission seats are free and open to the public, on a first-come, first-served basi. Ticketed seating is also available, at $40 (general admission), $100 (preferred seating), and $150 (premium seating). For additional information and to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.stjohndivine.org/visit/calendar/events/music/4035/new-years-eve-concert-for-peace-5

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street, New York, NY 10025, (212) 316-7540, info@stjohndivine.org.

NYRR Midnight Run

New Year’s Eve revelers at the NYRR festival in Central Park © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year’s event New York Road Runners Midnight Run is being organized differently than in the past. You need to be registered in order to attend the pre- and post-race festival, which is being held at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park (10 pm to 1 am) but you can bring two guests.

Fireworks will kick off the start to 2018 and the 39th annual NYRR Midnight Run, a four-mile race held each year in Central Park on New Year’s Eve. An expected 5,000 runners (many wearing costumes) will race into 2018 together. All participants will be able to toast with family and friends at the sparkling cider fluid station halfway into the four-mile course. #ResolveToRun back bibs will be distributed to runners prior to the race to those interested in sharing the reason they are running.

NYRR celebrates the new year with a Midnight Run © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

In compliance with NYPD security plans, the start area and Pre-Race Festival, located at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, will be open to registered runners and their guests only; these areas will not be open to the general public. Each runner will be permitted one guest and receive a wristband at number pickup to give to their guest. Guests must display a wristband and runners must display a bib for entry into the park at 72nd Street and into the Pre-Race Festival and start area. The general public may still view fireworks from south of 72nd Street inside the park, and will be subject to security screening at any park entrance south of 72nd Street. To register, visit nyrr.org).

For more information, visit: http://www.nyrr.org/races-and-events/2017/nyrr-midnight-run

Other events around the Five Boroughs:

New York Philharmonic’s New Year’s Eve concert also celebrates its Laureat Conductor’s centennial with a “Bernstein on Broadway Toast the New Year with West Side Story’s star-crossed lovers, On the Town’s fun-loving sailors, and Wonderful Town’s bright-eyed New Yorkers as portrayed by Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford, Hamilton’sChristopher Jackson, Cinderella’s Laura Osnes, and Next to Normal’sAaron Tveit. Audience favorite Bramwell Tovey conducts. For more information, visit nyphil.org.

World Yacht New Year’s Eve Dinner Cruise: Ring in the New Year in style aboard New York’s premier dining yacht. Board at 9 pm for a 10 pm sailing which returns at 1 am. The evening includes a four-course dinner with standard open bar followed by dancing to DJ entertainment and of front-row seats to the world famous fireworks display at the Statue of Liberty with a Champagne toast at midnight. (Priced from $419, https://www.nycgo.com/tours/world-yacht-at-pier-81-new-years-eve-dinner-cruise-in-new-york-2017)

Circle Line offers a New Year’s Eve Fireworks Cruise sailing New York Harbor from 9pm to 1am. A DJ and midnight champagne toast add a lively touch to the 21+ to drink, 18+ to enter party. (Manhattan).

The Empire State Building will ring in 2018 with a festive multicolored sparkling LED confetti lighting on Dec 31, 2017. Five minutes before midnight, the building will switch to its signature white lights, sparkling again in the New Year through sunrise on January 1, 2018. Lighting schedule here(Manhattan).

Coney Island USA will host their 4th annual NYE celebration in Steeplechase Plaza, with a fireworks display from the historic Parachute Jump. Select boardwalk restaurants and attractions will be open, including B&B Carousell, Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Thunderbolt roller coaster. A digital burst ball drop rings in 2018, followed by a Circus Sideshow Fire Spectacular at 1am. (Brooklyn).

The New Year’s Eve Fireworks Celebration at Prospect Park’s iconic Grand Army Plaza will celebrate its 38th year. For a truly local, free, family-friendly experience, visitors can join Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, the Prospect Park Alliance and tens of thousands of revelers for the public event. (Brooklyn). 

Celebrating its 20th year, the Time’s Up New Year’ Eve Bike Ride & Afterparty will reverse direction, beginning at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel at 9:30pm and ending in Brooklyn with a party at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space(Manhattan/Brooklyn). 

NYE 2018 will bring the French electronic music DJ, producer, and recording artist David Guetta to Depot 52 (7 52nd Street, Brooklyn, NY 11232), a converted warehouse space in Sunset Park. The one night only dance music experience ‘Light & Life’ is for visitors 18+ (Brooklyn).

Popular 90s band Phish will return to Madison Square Garden from December 28 to 31. New Year’s Eve attendees are invited to rock into 2018. (Manhattan). 

The 8th Annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium takes place prior to New Year’s Eve. Attendees can consider a stay at the historied Opera House Hotel, first built as a performance venue by Broadway producers and designed by the architect of Harlem’s Apollo Theater(Bronx).

More Ideas for Where to Celebrate

From east to west, Midtown hotels will ring in 2018 with grand revelry and guests in lavish attire.

Right in the heart of Times Square, the New York Marriott Marquis will host a five-course dinner, unlimited premium open bar and entertainment at
The View Restaurant & Lounge, with 360-degree views revolving completely every hour overlooking Times Square.

High above the lights of Fifth Avenue, The Peninsula New York’s Salon de Ning will be transformed into a chic sky-lit penthouse with the East Terrace enclosed and heated, a performance by UK rock and pop cover band The Chip Shop Boys plus ball drop projection at midnight.

One block west of Times Squaret, The Sanctuary Hotel New York’s Haven Rooftop will offer group packages for its heated and tented New Year’s Eve party. Guests will enjoy a DJ from 8pm to 2am, a prix -fixe dinner and top shelf open bar.

 A NYC & Company guide to New Year’s Eve in Times Square is here; more ideas www.timessquarenyc.org/times-square-new-years-eve/new-years-eve-parties

On Arthur Avenue, Zero Otto Nove, which boasts Salerno-style cooking and is in the 2018 Michelin guide offers a New Year’s Eve dinner in the “Little Italy” of the Bronx. The restaurant will not remain open until midnight. (Bronx).

Beginning at 11am on New Year’s Eve day, the Bronx Beer Hall will host “Brunch Brunch Brunch” in the heart of the Arthur Avenue market. (Bronx).

The Hilton Garden Inn New York/Staten Island NYE package offers a two-person overnight stay, entry to the glamorous and romantic New Year’s Eve Gala at Nicotra’s Ballroom (7:30–1am) with buffet breakfast for two inclusive. (Staten Island). EVE Ultra Lounge will host an authentic Albanian American fusion music event to ring in 2018. While Staten Island’s Italian influence is well noted, the borough’s Albanian American population is under the radar. (Staten Island).

New York City’s only casino, Resorts World Casino invites those 21 and older to celebrate NYE at BAR360 with live performance by TKA K7 (a NYC-born freestyle emcee who rose to fame in the 80s and 90s.) Guests can also enjoy its 4,200 slot machines and 1,300 electronic table games. (Queens). 

Modernist, industrial chic Z Hotel in Long Island City, Queens, will offer a stay, plus admission to the “Dueling Pianos” rock and roll sing-along in Cellar Bar with open bar and buffet, for under $100 USD on New Year’s Eve. (Queens).

Thai Rock in the Rockaways, Queens, will serve up fine Thai dining, dancing, imbibing and live music from band Leaders of the Shift who will perform “Psychedelic Cosmic Rock N Roll” on New Year’s Eve. (Queens). 

New Year’s Day & Beyond:

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Plunge is free with registration and begins at 1pm at the Stillwell Avenue boardwalk entrance. Participants get free admission to the New York Aquarium and a post-dip warm up at Coney Island Brewing Company and Steeplechase Beer Garden. (Brooklyn).

The New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show will be open for visitors until 6 pm on New Year’s Eve. Model trains will travel through a miniature landscape of 150+ iconic city structures. This year’s version spotlights Midtown Manhattan, with a new Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, General Electric Building and more on view through January 15. (Bronx).

The 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®—hockey’s highest profile regular-season game—will be held at Citi Field on New Year’s Day. January 1, 2018, will mark the first time the game is held in New York City. (Queens).

The NHL Centennial Fan Arena and Stanley Cup at Madison Square Park will be a free fan event December 27–28 in the lead up to the 2018 NHL Winter Classic. It will feature a pop-up rink, a VR Zamboni experience, photo opportunities with the Stanley Cup and more. Additional information here(Manhattan).

NYC & Company’s top New Year’s Day activities are available here.

For more information, visit nycgo.com.

 

See also:

Holidays in New York, The Most Enchanting Time of the Year

Nighttime Stroll of New York City’s Holiday Lights

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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

Nighttime Stroll of New York City’s Holiday Lights

The look of enchantment on a child’s face at seeing the animated holiday windows at Saks 5th Avenue © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Take the walk to see the animated windows and the holiday lights at Rockefeller Center (it’s best after 5 pm in the dark): My route typically starts at Macy’s on 34th Street, then up to Fifth Avenue to visit Lord & Taylor’s (both of these have nostalgic New York City themes this year), then up to Saks Fifth Avenue (celebrating the 80th anniversary of Snow White, with a light show that covers the entire building with Disney music) and Rockefeller Center, then up to Bergdorf Goodman (stunning displays that pay homage to New York City’s iconic institutions including the New-York Historical Society and the American Museum of Natural History.

Come walk with me:

A father and child enjoying the holiday windows at Macy’s © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Start at Macy’s at 34th Street, with displays along 34th Street and Broadway (amazingly, in the days before Christmas, the store is open until midnight; check schedule).

Doors open to reveal what’s inside the elaborate dollhouse at Macy’s © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Macy’s theme this year is a nostalgic peek at New York City in miniature, with a doll house that opens; scenes of the Roosevelt Island cable cars and New York trains, in addition to its time-honored, traditional windows along 34th Street based on an actual child’s letter to the editor of the New York Sun in 1897 asking “Is there a Santa Claus?” with the reply, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Lord & Taylor’s animated holiday windows © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Walk up to Fifth Avenue, then north up to 38th Street to Lord & Taylor. This venerable store takes its holiday windows cue from the Hallmark Channel with whimsical scenes.

Continuing on, you pass the regal edifice of the 42nd Street Public Library, with its famous lions bedecked with holly wreaths for the holiday. If you come early enough, you should stop in; there is always a wonderful exhibit.

The Sound & Light show across Saks Fifth Avenue’s entire building façade.        © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Continuing up Fifth Avenue by 49th Street, the crowds begin to get so thick, they are impassable, but people are courteous and kind to each other, and you make your way toward Rockefeller Center and directly across, Saks Fifth Avenue.

The Sound & Light show across Saks Fifth Avenue’s entire building façade © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I watch the first light show that spans the entire front of Saks’ building from 49th Street corner, diagonally across. It’s a Disney theme this year, with Disney music, paying homage to the 70th Anniversary of Snow White.

I inch my way through the crowds to Rockefeller Center, getting a view of the famous tree above the ice skating rink, and the row of angels. This is also the best place to watch the Sound & Light show on Saks Fifth Avenue’s facade.

Angels line the path to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rockefeller Center is the epicenter for Christmas in New York – the Christmas tree, ice skating on one of the most iconic rinks in the world (therinkatrockcenter.com), ringed by giant Nutcrackers and holiday garlands and a veritable parade of angels. Perhaps little known, there are delightful eateries and shops inside at rink level.

I don’t visit Saks’ windows yet, but instead, continue on up Fifth Avenue, passing  by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and such iconic places as Cartier’s, with its famous red bow, and Tiffany’s, and the giant lighted crystal star in the middle of the crossroads of 57th Street and Fifth.

Cartier’s tied up with its festive red-ribbon bow© 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

I come to Bergdorf Goodman’s, still so elegant, and once again, with the most imaginative and magnificently designed windows. This year, the windows pay homage to iconic New York City institutions including the New-York Historical Society, American Museum of Natural History, Museum of the Moving Image, New York Philharmonic and New York Botanical Gardens.

Bergdorf Goodman pays homage to the New-York Historical Society in this dazzling holiday window display © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Just across the street, I take a peek at the view of the Plaza Hotel before reversing direction.

Coming back, I walk along Fifth Avenue, stop in at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and cross the street to queue up to walk by the Saks Fifth Avenue windows, with the scenes of Snow White.

Saks Fifth Avenue’s holiday windows pay homage to Snow White’s 70th Anniversary © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

When I get to 42nd Street and the Public Library, I turn up toward 6th Avenue, to walk through the fantastic Christmas market that takes over Bryant Park with small boutique shops and eateries. There is a wonderful skating rink with its own Christmas tree. Indeed, Bryant Park has become one of the most festive places to visit in the city during the holidays.

Ice skating at Bryant Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The walk takes about two to three hours.

See also

Holidays in New York, The Most Enchanting Time of the Year

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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

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

 

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

Nestled in the Adirondacks, Gore Mountain offers expansive views of a real wilderness © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Believe it or not, New York State, with more than 50 ski areas, has more ski areas than any other state in the country and the biggest vertical ski drop east of the Mississippi; New York is the 4th in terms of skier visits, after Colorado, California and Vermont. The ski areas range from pleasant family-friendly nearby areas that are ideal to learn to ski or ride, to the two-time Olympic mountain, Whiteface.

The three ski areas owned and under the aegis of New York State’s Olympic Regional Development Agency (ORDA) – Whiteface, Gore and Belleayre – are continuing to implement dramatic improvements and programs like SkiNY3 and Parallel from the Start programs, along with state-wide-programs  like free skiing programs for 3rd and 4th graders, to entice new skiers.

The three ORDA areas have multi-lesson packages and lift tickets that allow the flexibility of using them on nonconsecutive days and at the different areas.

Already this season, major competitions have been held to decide who the athletes to represent the United States at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, including five major international events at Whiteface – in bob sled and skeleton, figure skating, luge, freestyle aerial.

Whiteface Mountain, Lake Placid

Whiteface is New York State’s Olympic Mountain, with actual Olympic facilities all around Lake Placid that you can take part in, as well as special attractions that altogether make for a unique winter experience: skating on the Olympic Speedskating Oval, plunging down the Olympic Bobsled Track where you can try bobsled or skeleton (truly thrilling); touring the Ski Jumping Complex; Nordic skiing on the Olympic course, and testing your own mettle at the biathlon, a sport that combines cross-country skiing with riflery (lesson available), visiting the Olympic Museum.

Whiteface, Lake Placid, is where you can experience Olympic sports such as bobsled on an Olympic track © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Whiteface offers the greatest vertical (3,430 ft. of any lift-serviced mountain in the Northeast, mile after mile of groomed cruising trails with 98% snowmaking coverage.

This is a serious mountain, with more expert terrain, more long, rolling groomers (including the longest single intermediate run in the Northeast, the 2.1 mile-long Wilmington Trail). Whiteface summit is a 4,867 ft.; Lookout Mountain tops at 4,000 ft.; Little Whiteface at 3,676 ft.. Whiteface offers the highest skiable terrain, The Slides, at 4,650 ft. elevation. In all, explore 288 skiable acres including 35 inbounds, off-piste double-black diamond wilderness terrain (“The Sliders”, conditions permitting) and 58 acres of tree skiing. There is terrain for everyone: 38% rated expert; 42% intermediate and 20% beginner. Among the lifts is an eight-passenger gondola and a high-speed detachable quad.

There have been extensive improvements on the mountain over the past three years.

There’s so much to do in and around Lake Placid (even a slide onto the lake once it freezes over), that it actually competes for time on the mountain, but richly fills the time after the lifts close down; an all-access Olympic Sites Passport is $35 (provides discounts on attractions and experiences): the Lake Placid Olympic Museum; speed skating oval, Olympic Jumping Complex, Snow Tubing, Bobsled and skeleton experiences, cross country skiing, biathalon.

Ski like an Olympian at Whiteface, Lake Placid © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Save up to 50% on lift tickets by purchasing in advance online at whiteface.com; Frequent skier cards, valid at Whiteface, Gore and Belleayre give you the first day free, 50% off nonholiday weekday skiing, 25% off weekends and holidays and every 6th day free ($99 for ages 20+, $79 for students 13-19; $59 for ages 7-12).

There is no lodging on the mountain (it’s a wilderness area, after all), but many lovely inns, bnbs, hotels and resorts nearby, including the Whiteface Lodge Resort & Spa, Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, conveniently located in Lake Placid village, walking distance to everything, and accessible to a convenient shuttle bus to the mountain (www.golden-arrow.com).

Whiteface, Lake Placid, 800-462-6236, 518-946-2223; Olympic Center, 518-523-1655; vacation planning assistance at  whitefacenewyork.com, lakeplacid.com, whiteface.com.

Gore Mountain

Gore Mountain is one of my favorite places to ski. Nestled in the Adirondacks, it offers expansive views of a real wilderness. You actually feel as if you were in the Rockies.

This season, guests will benefit from major renovations to three lodges.

At the base area there are two two large additions which will streamline the rental process and facilitate getting back on the mountain.

Skiing Gore Mountain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Last season, Gore introduced Nordic skiing, turning its old tubing park into a cross-country ski area –– which will have snowmaking on 3.7 km of its 5 km trails. The new area was so successful last year (even opening by Thanksgiving) that Gore is hosting the NYS Nordic Championships. The Ski Bowl where the Nordic area is also has a half pipe, border skier cross and twilight skiing (til 9 pm).

Gore participates in the I Ski NY Free Passport for 3rd graders; also, kids under 19 ski free with an adult.

Gore Mountain is 30 miles away from Lake George and the magnificent grand, historic Sagamore Resort & Spa, Bolton Landing (www.thesagamore.com).

We loved our stay at the delightful Copperfield Inn in North Creek (www.copperfieldinn.com/), a truly charming village that is just outside the entrance to Gore Mountain, with lovely bistro restaurants and shops. A shuttle bus operates from North Creek and the surrounding properties to the mountain, as well as the train station.

Gore Mountain, 793 Peaceful Valley Road, North Creek, NY 12853, Snow Phone: 518-251-5026, info 518-251-2411, goremountain.com.

Belleayre Mountain 

Belleayre boasts a new gondola this season (part of an $8 million investment in the mountain), the first one in the Catskills (third in New York State). The 60-car gondola whisks guests from the lower lodge to the summit, bottom to top in just 7 minutes.

A new trail was opened in conjunction with the new gondola: the Deer Run extension trail  starts just to the right of Tomahawk Lift parking lot, crosses under the access road via a skier tunnel, and winds down to the lower area popping out just above Running Bear into Iroquois. The mid-section of Deer Run, just above the shale bank, is widened to create a more natural fall line, while on the upper sections, the natural rollers are filled in, creating less of a pitch for easier intermediate skiing from the summit.

This season, Belleayre opens the new Catskill Thunder gondola.

The new “Catskill Thunder” gondola will operate year-round – and  open up the mountain for mountain biking (now you have to hike up) as well as for wedding and party rentals at the summit. In the next five years, there are plans to open cross-country skiing on the summit’s plateau with snowmaking – which will make for a fairly unique experience.

Belleayre is bigger than people realize but what is especially wonderful about Belleayre, particularly for families, is the natural separation between the beginner area on the lower mountain, and the intermediate and advanced trails at the top. It’s snowmaking and grooming is highly rated. This year, beginner terrain has been doubled in area, and separates snowsports lessons from the general public. Also, gladed terrain is being expanded.

Belleayre is a very family-friendly, comfortable mountain, all the more popular because of its close proximity to New York City – just about 2 ½ hours away.

Belleayre offers a Learn to Ski package at $79 that includes a lift ticket for the lower mountain, rental, two-hour lesson; a three-day package is $169 (it doesn’t have to be consecutive days, you can split them up), and even take the lessons among the three ORDA mountains, Gore and Whiteface.

You can save up to 40% on the price of a lift ticket by purchasing in advance online.

Belleayre does not have lodging at the mountain but there are delightful BnBs, lodges and inns close by (check the website for lodges that offer Ski & Stay packages which provide savings up to 50% on lift tickets.)

Belleayre Mountain is located off of State Route 28 in Highmount, NY, just hours from New York City.

(Belleayre, Highmount, NY 12441, 800-942-6904, 845-254,5600, www.belleayre.com).

I Ski NY

The Discover NY Ski Day will be held on Thursday January 18th and offers discounted lift tickets starting at $12 and discounted learn-to-ski/snowboard packages start at $25. It is open for all and the tickets are typically 8 hour tickets. The Learn-To-Ski/Snowboard packages start at $25 and give people who never skied or snowboarded or haven’t been on the slopes in a long time the opportunity to get on the slopes again. Full details and sales at https://www.iskiny.com/ski-deals/discover-ny-ski-day.

NYC Winter Jam, a free winter sports festival for New Yorkers of all ages will return on January 27, 2018. Presented by NYC Parks, I Love NY, I SKI NY, and the Olympic Regional Development Authority, Winter Jam is a great opportunity to experience skiing, snowshoeing, and winter as a whole. Gore Mountain will blow lots of fresh snow in the heart of Manhattan for all to enjoy. Location and time yet to be determined. Details will be available at nycgovparks.org.

The I SKI NY Free For Kids Passport Program returns for the 2017-18 ski season. For the 2017-18 ski season, I SKI NY is once again offering the award winning “Free for Kids Passport” program for 3rd and 4th graders. The program allows a 3rd or 4th grader to learn to ski or ride for free at all participating ski areas and / or also ski for free when an adult ticket is purchased. The program is free, but there is a small processing fee to enroll. More information at ISKINY.com.

Golden Arrow lodge at Lake Placid, ideally situated for skiing Whiteface. Many lodges are participating in I Ski NY ski & stay packages© Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Ski & Stay: The Ski Areas of New York (ISKINY) has teamed up with lodging properties to bring you 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.

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