Day 4, Waterloo/Seneca Falls to Syracuse, 39 Miles
Leaving our campsite at Mynderse Academy in Seneca Falls for Day 4 of our 8-day, 400-mile Cycle the Erie biketour, I make a point this time of stopping into the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, keeping to my plan of doing everything I did not get to do on my first Erie Canalway ride two years before. I take care to cross the busy thoroughfare (this section of the ride is on roads rather than the non-motorized trail).
The Refuge is a breeding ground for bald eagles; unfortunately, perhaps because of the season, time of day, or that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, I don’t get to see any birds at all. But I still get to notch another one of the sites that I missed before, realizing that the time spent here is time lost to explore another point of interest. (3395 Rte 5 & 20 E, Seneca Falls, 315-568-5987, www.fws.gov/r5mnwr).
This part of the ride – on country roads – brings us through pastoral scenery.
Our rest stop – laid out with snacks, fresh fruit, water as well as our trusty bike mechanic – is at the brand new Port Byron Erie Canal Heritage Park (great bathrooms), where we get to visit the new historic displays before getting back on the Canalway.
We ride into the quaint village of Jordan, distinctive for the lovely murals of historic scenes of the canal on a 19th century brick building. The Canalway – which was the original towpath – comes through though the Erie Canal was relocated when it was enlarged; the lock has been turned into a small park. Here, you can see what it means for a community to lose the canal. A historic marker notes: Opened 1819, abandoned, fall 1917. Aqueduct built 1841 when the canal was enlarged. Canal park built 1932.”
Just up from Jordan, on a particularly scenic section of the trail that passes Memphis, locals greet us with ice pops; one of the ladies is responsible for creating a gorgeous garden right on the trail in memory of her son and tells us that she tenders it 6-8 hours a week.
We come to Camillus, where we are greeted with signs and cheers of “Half way!” as we cross the 200-mile mark, from where we started out in Buffalo. The rest stop has been set up for us here, and inside the Sims Store, they offer us refreshments, as well.
The Sims Store is a replica of the original canal store which would have been located two miles east. You enter the store where two years ago, a woman in period dress was there to show off the sort of stuff that would have been on sale to serve the boats. There is an excellent local history section, an Erie Canal Barge display, an 1800’s room, and a section describing the building of the canal including some of the tools used. There is also a wonderful wall-mural of a boat traveling over the Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct on the second floor.
The artifacts on display are very interesting. The docent shows a map of New York State which shows why the Erie Canal was the only route to the West: a relatively flat, open portion cutting through a break between the Adirondacks and the Appalachians.
The Sims Store is part of a 164-acre Camillus Erie Canal Park, a town park that preserves a seven mile stretch of the Erie Canal. It includes the impressive Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. From the Sims Store you can take a boat ride on the old canal, which several of our cyclists are taking advantage of; they operate dinner cruises as well, (www.eriecanalcamillus.com/museum.htm)
At this point, we ride along the trail (the original towpath), but this part of what would have been the canal is no longer part of the Erie Canal – what looks like a stream now is where the original canal would have been and the water what is naturally collected.
We come to Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct, which is a stunning example of engineering. The aqueduct is a water-filled bridge that carried canal boats over rivers, streams or valleys. This 144 foot waterway enabled the first enlargement of the Erie Canal to be carried over Nine Mile Creek and is listed as the smallest of the larger aqueducts. Four stone arches made of fine Onondaga limestone quarried from Split Rock supported the towpath. Of the 32 original aqueducts on the First Enlargement, only about seven remain intact.
I try to rush to get to camp in time to also visit the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, which will close at 4:30 pm. (The organizers have also arranged for us to be able to visit the Syracuse Canal Museum this evening, with shuttle bus transportation into the downtown; I plan to visit the museum the next morning.)
It’s just about 3 pm when I arrive at our campsite in Burnet Park, alongside the Zoo. At the park, we can use the swimming pool and “indoor” campers can set themselves up on the hockey rink. Instantly, a whole tent city rises in front of the houses across the street from the park.
I promptly drop my things at the hockey rink, so I don’t lose time setting up the tent (also the forecast is for rain tonight). I walk directly to the zoo so I can see the animals before they are brought in at 4 pm. We also will be having a delightful barbecue dinner at the zoo this evening and a lecture in the visitor center auditorium.
Yesterday’s ride to Seneca Falls was 62 miles over rolling country roads but I didn’t feel tired at all and was able to explore the attractions that evening, perhaps because of my excitement at being there. But even though today’s ride was a mere 39 miles, I am heat-exhausted. I drag myself around the zoo, spending more time sitting on a bench and looking into animal cages than I do walking around.
Last time, I missed the excellent lecture that was held in the Rosamond Gifford Zoo’s visitor center auditorium by a representative of the Syracuse Canal Museum about the Erie Canal’s engineering. This time I wasn’t going to make the same mistake.
Sam Clemence presents “Engineering the Erie Canal” this year, and his talk is all the more fascinating because we have been riding alongside the canal and can appreciate the scale, the geography, the lift system, the aqueducts that made the Erie Canal an engineering marvel. And this evening, we not only appreciate the brilliant engineering, but what the canal meant in terms of transforming the United States into an industrial and global power, how it changed the face of the country quite literally in terms of population – bringing the immigrants to build and man factories, the settlers and pioneers through the west, unifying the nation, bringing down the cost of goods and improving living standards, and creating jobs and commerce.
Indeed, the idea for the Erie Canal goes back to George Washington and the French and Indian War. Thomas Jefferson, the guy responsible for such bold visionary enterprises as the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis & Clark Expedition, said in 1809, “It is little short of madness to think of it this day – a splendid project and may be executed 100 years from today.” Just eight years later, because of New York Governor Dewitt Clinton’s determination (and state financing), the first shovel went into the ground.
Before the canal, it would take three weeks to travel from Albany to Buffalo on sparse roads, involving fjording rivers and surmounting the Cohoes Falls, and would have cost $100 a ton to transport wheat; $6 a barrel to transport salt.
But a wheat importer named, Jesse Hawley, sitting in debtor’s prison, 1808-9, wrote a letter to the Genesee Messenger newspaper, using the nom de plume of “Hercules” and proposed the idea of building the canal for $6 million. His letter caught the attention of DeWitt Clinton.
“The USA in 1800 was a new country, with an expanding frontier, diverse and abundant resources, and a shortage of labor. The new nation had an experimental form of government. It manifested confidence, embraced technology, epitomized ‘Ingenious Yankees’ – self-sufficient, versatile.”
But when they started to build the Erie Canal, there were fewer than 10 engineers in the whole country; by 1816 there were 37; by 1850 there were 50.
The two who headed up the Erie Canal project, Benjamin Wright and James Geddes (a surveyor and lawyer) were really county judges. Clinton hired them in 1811 to survey the route. They first thought to build a route along the Mohawk River (there were no dams then), but that was considered an unreliable source of water. So they decided to build a lock canal, fed by 12 feeder streams. This required building 185 locks, 18 aqueducts over the 363 miles from Lake Erie to the Hudson River.
The biggest challenge was the Niagara Escarpment, which we saw at Lockport – where they had to surmount a 60-foot elevation. “In those days [before steel], they could only hold back 12 feet of water [with wooden gates].”
But they knew that the canal would go through the Mohawk Valley – the gateway to West. It was the lowest canyon, the only place with a break in the Appalachian mountain range, from Maine to Alabama. It’s called “Little Nose” and “Big Nose” (and we are alert to seek it out on tomorrow’s ride.)
Construction began on July 4, 1817 in Rome, the very center of the state where the ground was flat. Clinton wanted to get as many people to see it and built out. And he realized that if building started, it would be easier to get more money, if necessary.
They looked to English canal building as well as Leonardo Da Vinci’s gate system, and imported Irish immigrants who were paid $8-12/month and a ration of rum (the pay was pretty good for the time), but three-fourths of the laborers were US citizens (mainly farmers).
In the first two years, they only built 15 miles. Clinton was excoriated. “That Federalist Son of a [expletive] taxes our dollars to build a Ditch.”
Built at a cost of $7,700,000 (equivalent to $159 billion in 2018 dollars), the canal opened Oct. 20, 1825 and was an immediate success, bringing down the cost of commerce and transportation to a fraction of what it was.
We learn that at one time, more than 50,000 people depended on the Erie Canal for their livelihood. A whole culture developed around canal life. For many, canal boats were floating houses, traveling from town to town: the father was the captain, the mother cooked for family and crew and children would serve as “hoggees,” leading the mules as they towed the boats. (At Chittenango Landing Boat Museum we see a model boat and how the mules lived onboard.) He tells us that one of the US presidents was a hoggee in his youth: James A. Garfield.
I can imagine how for those who traveled along the Canal in packet boats or passenger vessels, the Canal was an exciting place. Gambling and entertainment were frequent pastimes on the Canal and often, families would meet each year at the same locations to share stories and adventures.
Amazingly, by 1836, the very success of the original canal – which was a mere 4 feet deep and 40 feet wide (to permit east and west traffic), affording just 6 inches of draft below the boat –had not only paid back the original investment, but rendered it obsolete. An enlarged canal, 7-feet deep with locks 110 feet long and 18 feet wide, was built. That one, too, was replaced in 1905 with the New York State Barge Canal System; built for self-propelled vessels, it uses canalized rivers, lakes and land-cut sections with a minimum depth of 12 feet and electrically-powered locks 300-feet long, that still operate today.
The Erie Canal is called “The Mother of Cities” – a fact that is made eminently clear when I visit the Syracuse Canal Museum, which displays a graph showing the growth in population of cities like Syracuse before and after.
A heavy rainstorm is expected tonight, and I am happy to be doing my “indoor camping” in the hockey rink at Burnet Park, literally adjacent to the zoo. I hear from a few campers in the morning that they could hear the animals at night.
The 20th Annual Cycle the Erie Canal ride is scheduled July 8 – 15, 2018 (www.ptny.org/canaltour). In the meantime, you can cycle the trail on your own – detailed info and interactive map is at the ptny.org site (www.ptny.org/bikecanal), including suggested lodgings. For more information on Cycle the Erie Canal, contact Parks & Trails New York at 518-434-1583 or visit www.ptny.org.
Information is also available from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Waterford, NY 12188, 518-237-7000, www.eriecanalway.org.
More information about traveling on the Erie Canal is available from New York State Canal Corporation, www.canals.ny.gov.
Next: Cycle the Erie, Day 5: Syracuse’s Erie Canal Museum
Immediately upon leaving Medina on Day 2 of Parks & Trails NY’s 19th annual 8-day, 400-mile Cycle the Erie biketour, which transverses New York State from Buffalo to Albany, we reach one of the highlights of the Erie Canalway: you ride over a concrete embankment that goes over a waterfall which turns at a hard angle. You marvel at the construction as much as the view – the quaint Industrial-era town on one side, the dramatic forest and falls on the other. I stop at one of the many historic markers that are along the trail to learn about the special mortar they had to devise to accomplish this engineering feat.
Just a little further is another remarkable feature of the Erie Canalway, the multi-use trail built mainly upon the original towpath that makes biking so pleasant: the culvert. We leave our bikes on the trail and climb down an embankment to where this tunnel has been cut under the canal. Here you can really appreciate just how shallow the Erie Canal is – really just a bathtub. This is the only place on the 353-mile long canal where a road is built under the canal – and is quite a dramatic scene.
This is also one of the more scenic parts of the trail, at least to an urban Downstater like me: here we see sprawling farmland. I later learn that the Erie Canal does not just play a role in transportation (now more recreational than commercial), but in irrigation and flood control.
We come into Albion, one of the charming canaltowns we travel through, so rich in history, where you see in the stunning architecture, and the opulence that the canal and the Industrial Revolution created – civic buildings, churches, banks.
Because I had been here before, I knew to ride a short distance up Main Street from the canal where there are churches and a Town Hall on four corners.
One of the churches, Pullman Memorial, has drop-dead magnificent Tiffany stained glass windows. I meet Bill Lattin, a church volunteer, and here is one time that my tardiness in leaving our campsite is rewarded: he wasn’t informed (as usual) that the 750 Cycle the Erie riders (a record) were coming through this morning, so no one was at the church to open it up for visits, but as he was coming in to town, he saw us and opened the church just in time for my visit.
George M. Pullman (1831-1897), who made his fortune manufacturing the luxurious railroad sleeper cars, was born in Albion. He had long before moved away but remained close to people in his hometown and one of his friends, Charles A. Danolds, in 1890, convinced him to donate $67,000 to build the church.
Shanties were set up to house the stonecutters who managed to complete the building in less than a year’s time and the church was dedicated January 1895. Pullman’s daughter bequeathed $5,000 to maintain the exquisite stainless glass window of Jesus which was created in the Tiffany Studios in New York (look closely to see the Tiffany signature etched in a corner) – an early example of Art Nouveau. There is also a 1,248-pipe organ with pipes of gold leaf decorated by Tiffany Studios. Lattin tells me that there are only 30 people left in the congregation (Albion has a population of 5,000). (10 East Park St., Albion, NY `14411, 585-589-7181, PullmanMemorial.org).
At Mile 21, we come to a small town of Holley, settled in 1812 and established on the original Erie Canal. Originally, this was an enormous and complicated loop that was straightened out when the canal, already hugely successful in its first several years, was expanded, putting the town a few blocks from the repositioned canal. The restored railroad depot (circa 1907) is now a museum. Holley was the center of a community of Italian immigrants who were brought over to work in Medina’s sandstone quarry (the sign says, “affectionately called, Podunk”).
As we ride into Brockport, where one of the State University of New York campuses is located as well as a prison, we are greeted with water, lemonade, and free stamped postcards. Brockport has a charming Main Street. Brockport, it turns out, was where Cyrus McCormick contracted a factory to manufacture his reapers (there is a marker near the dock), seeing that the reapers could be shipped on the canal to the Midwest where he was getting orders from the large farms.
We ride passed Adams Basin and Spencerport (recommended for our lunch stop), where a unique lift bridge carries Main Street over the canal.
The part of the ride that goes into Rochester is some of the toughest – a series of up-and-down hills and dales, twists and turns, but from the perches we can see how the canal was sheer-cut into high rock faces.
We ride over a bridge from which we can have a dramatic view of where the Erie Canal crosses the Oswego River. (I’ve done this by canalboat, a floating RV, which you can rent through Mid-Lakes Navigation, Skaneateles. So much fun to go through the canal locks, under the lift bridges, tying up where whimsy takes you. 800-545-4318, email@example.com, midlakesnav.com.)
Our rest stop is here at Rochester (mile 45.8) is at a beautiful park along the Genesee Valley Waterway Center, where the organizers have arranged for us to go swimming, canoeing and kayaking, as well as for escorted bike rides to High Falls – a phenomenal sight – in downtown Rochester. REI has sponsored the stop, as well as bike repair.
The Erie Canal, known as “The Mother of Cities,” turned tiny Rochesterville into an American “boom town” and today, is the third largest city in New York State, the brochure says. The canal first went through the center of the city, across an 800-foot aqueduct over the Genesee River – a major engineering achievement at the time. A second, sturdier version, built in 1842 to replace the original aqueduct, can be seen at the base of the Broad Street ridge. Eventually, as Rochester was built up and the canal interfered with traffic, the canal was rerouted to bypass the city.
But as we leave Rochester, we see how the Erie Canal is still the “mother of communities” – along much of the trail, we see new housing developments that come right up to the Canalway.
We now ride along the Great Embankment, yet another engineering marvel. At the evening lecture, we had learned that they actually had to move a creek and flood a town in order to straighten out the canal, but this required engineering that had not yet been invented.
“You can get a lot done when you don’t have to file environmental impact statements. They moved the canal, redirected the creek, to create the Great Embankment.”
They put in floors of concrete and the re-done canal opened in May, 1912. But just a few months later,, in September, there was a break at Bushnell’s Basin and it collapsed.
They managed to keep navigation flowing by creating 70-foot high stilts to support a wooden trough while they rebuilt the Great Embankment from the bottom up (quite literally a concrete bathtub). There is a photo from May 1918 of the men standing in it when it reopened.
This day’s route has us riding through a sequence of charming canaltowns – Spencerport, Brockport, Pittsford (one of my favorites), and finally, our destination for the night, Fairport (my favorite) – which are experiencing the most marvelous renaissance because of the repurposed Erie Canal: no longer a polluted cesspool of stinky commercial boats, foul water and even fouler boatmen, but pastoral scenes of non-intrusive recreational boats. Indeed, there are charming residential communities – among them, at Buffalo, Rochester, Pittsford and Fairport – that are sprouting up right along the canal. Some like in Rochester are a planned community of single-homes built around a recreation center, and others, like in Spencerport and Fairport, are townhomes that seem ideal for empty-nesters (or people escaping summer heat in Florida).
Pittsford and Fairport are the best examples of this renaissance. In Pittsford (where I tied up one summer in the canalboat to overnight), you can see what was a grain silo repurposed as an office tower, and other structures turned into charming restaurants and boutiques.
The lift bridges are themselves an attraction – Fairport’s lift bridge, which celebrated its centennial in 2014 is a particular attraction because it has no right angles.
Our campsite tonight is at the Minerva DeLand School in Fairport, and they have arranged for shuttle buses to take us back into Fairport to enjoy the lovely restaurants and shops. But I don’t want to miss the talk by Andy Beers, director of the Empire State Trail about the Erie CanalwayTrail and New York State’s plans to build a new Empire State Trail – for a total of 750 miles of dedicated biking and walking trails. The plan is to complete the Erie Canalway from Buffalo to Albany (long the goal of Parks & Trails NY and this annual Cycle the Erie ride), and also to link and build new trails that will extend from the tip of New York City (the Hudson River trail) north to the Canadian border, making the longest state ‘shared use’ trail in the nation.
Day 3: Fairport to Waterloo/Seneca Falls, 62 Miles
This is my second time doing the Cycle the Erie ride, and I am attuned to the things I did not get to do the first time. So, leaving Fairport to start Day 3’s ride, I am alert to stopping off the trail (crossing over the canal) to visit Macedon, where you follow a nature trail to the end and come to a point where you can see where all three canals – the original 1825 canal, the expanded canal, and the Modern Barge canal – converge together.
Our rest stop is in Palmyra, a 19th century village which predates the Erie Canal (that’s why it isn’t called Palmyraport), which has 200 buildings on the Historic Register in one square mile, and where Joseph Smith founded the Mormon religion (you can visit his farmhouse). I take time to ride through Palmyra, which I had visited more extensively on a prior trip, by Mid Lakes Navigation canalboat (like an RV on the water) to enjoy its architecture. (www.palmyrany.com, 315-597-4849).
There is an unexpected treat at Newark, where the community has set up a welcome table for us at the canal park. You walk down to the canalside walkway (excellent rest facilities) and there are the most magnificent murals painted on the base of the bridge that tell the story of life for canalers on the Erie Canal with reflections on the Civil War era, some of which can only be fully appreciated if you come by boat.
On my first Cycle the Erie ride, because I was in a hurry to get ahead of the rain (it didn’t work), I missed the Peppermint Museum in Lyons, where a clever food scientist (not sure that is what he was known as), H.G. Hotchkiss, revolutionized the use of peppermint oil, so I was intent to visit this time. Once again, this is a tiny site that you might miss except if you were looking for it, and it proves fascinating in ways you never expected.
The Erie Canal is what brought Hiram Hotchkiss to Lyons in 1841. Indeed, there was an oversupply of peppermint oil, an herb that was grown extensively in fields around Lyons. But because of the Erie Canal, Hotchkiss had the idea to export the peppermint oil to Europe. Europe already had its own peppermint oil and his product was at first met with skepticism. But Hotchkiss perfected the process and his product won medals. The long success of H.G. Hotchkiss Company in peppermint and other essential oils made Lyons, New York, the Peppermint Capital of the world for many years. Indeed, at one time, Hotchkiss was responsible for half the annual production of peppermint oil in the United States. Canallers would say they could tell when they were approaching the village by the smell.
Until Hotchkiss, peppermint oil was used for medicinal purposes and to make tea. But Hotchkiss expanded its use – Beech-Nut (which has a factory in Canajoharie, another town where we will stay) first started using peppermint in candy and gum.
Hotchkiss, who was brilliant at branding and packaging in gorgeous blue glass bottles manufactured at the Clyde Glassworks (another town we visit) became a millionaire. He had a 42-room home a few blocks up the hill, which a couple from New York City purchased.
We get to visit Hotchkiss’ laboratory and warehouse; the parlor offers an exhibit honoring suffragettes. Indeed, we learn that Lissat Hotchkiss Parshall (1840-1913),one of Hotchkiss’ seven daughters, was a suffragette and Anne Hotchkiss (1914-2010),was the company’s fourth president (1963-1984), and one of the first women to become president of a company. This is most fitting because we will wind up this day in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of Women’s Rights.
Gradually, though, Lyons farmers started planting apples and switched to dairy production; and the peppermint factory closed in 1990. The town just about forgot about its peppermint past and locals didn’t know what the building was until the Lyons Heritage Society reopened it as a museum.
(The Peppermint Museum, an absolute jewel, is open by appointment only; you can arrange a tour by calling Patty Alena at the Lyons Heritage Society, 315-946-4596; 95 Water Street, Lyons, NY 14489, www.lyonsheritagesociety.com).
I ride up to the Lyons town square and get some feel of the community before continuing on the trail.
We have our afternoon rest stop in Clyde (the townspeople have gone all out on the Village Green with music and ice cream for us) and then go off the Canalway trail onto country roads through Amish Country (who knew there was an Amish country in New York State?), some of the prettiest farmland anywhere. On my last visit, it started pouring immediately as we left Clyde, and I was unable to capture these exquisite scenes that evoke Currier & Ives, in photos. This time, I am lucky because it is sunny and some of the farmers are out. I pass the barn where last time we took shelter from lightening.
Our 51-mile ride ends Day 3 of our 8-day, 400-mile Cycle the Erie biketour at another stunning school campus, Mynderse Academy in Seneca Falls.
Because I want to have as much time as possible in Seneca Falls, where the Women’s Rights National Park and other sites are staying open until 8 pm for us, I drop my things in the school gymnasium for “indoor camping,” (the school even has a TV where we get to watch the All-Stars baseball game at night) and rush out to the school bus which is shuttling us into town. Tonight is one of the two during our eight-day trip where we are on our own for dinner, but I occupy my time touring the attractions dedicated to Women’s Suffrage (New York State is making a big deal of the centennial of the 19th Amendment that is coming in 2020) and exploring Seneca Falls.
The 20th Annual Cycle the Erie Canal ride is scheduled July 8 – 15, 2018 (www.ptny.org/canaltour). In the meantime, you can cycle the trail on your own – detailed info and interactive map is at the ptny.org site (www.ptny.org/bikecanal), including suggested lodgings. For more information on Cycle the Erie Canal, contact Parks & Trails New York at 518-434-1583 or visit www.ptny.org.
Information is also available from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Waterford, NY 12188, 518-237-7000, www.eriecanalway.org.
More information about traveling on the Erie Canal is available from New York State Canal Corporation, www.canals.ny.gov.
Next: Seneca Falls Hails its Role in Birthing Women’s Rights
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 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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Time is running out to purchase Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass and for the first time, because of Vail’s acquisition of Stowe Mountain in Vermont – its first Eastern resort – it makes epic sense for Northeastern skiers. The deadline to purchase is November 19.
Considered one of the best values among ski passes, Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass gives you full unlimited, unrestricted access to 15 resorts in three countries (just three weekend visits to Stowe pays for the Epic Pass) plus limited access to 30 European ski resorts.
New for the 2017-2018 season, the Epic Pass also provides unlimited, unrestricted access to its newest acquisitions, Whistler Blackcomb in Canada (the largest ski resort in North America) and Stowe Mountain in Vermont, as well as at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City in Utah (the largest ski resort in the US); Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps near Minneapolis, Mt. Brighton near Detroit, Wilmot Mountain near Chicago, and the 2018 Perisher season in Australia. Also, Epic Pass holders again enjoy limited access to 30 European ski resorts including Verbier and Les 4 Vallées in Switzerland, Les 3 Vallées in France; Arlberg in Austria; and Skirama Dolomiti Adamello Brenta in Italy.
Season pass holders save more than 40 percent compared to lift ticket window prices.
2017-2018 Ski and Snowboard Season Pass Options
Epic Pass™: Ski unlimited and unrestricted from opening day to closing day for only $899. The Epic Pass pays for itself in just over four days of skiing or snowboarding. Enjoy full access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan; Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin; Whistler Blackcomb in Canada; and Perisher in Australia for the 2018 season. The Epic Pass grants limited access to Les 3 Vallées, Paradiski and Tignes-Val D’Isere in France; 4 Vallées in Switzerland; Arlberg in Austria and Skirama Dolomiti in Italy. A child pass (ages five to 12) is $469.
Epic Local Pass™: For $679, receive unlimited and unrestricted skiing or riding at Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Wilmot, Afton Alps and Mt. Brighton with limited restrictions at Park City, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, plus a total of 10 days at Vail, Beaver Creek, Stowe, and Whistler Blackcomb with holiday restrictions. The Epic Local Pass pays for itself in just over three days. A child pass (ages five to 12) is $359.
Epic 4-Day™: A convenient option for a short ski trip. The pass pays for itself in just over two days andincludes a total of four unrestricted days valid at Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe and Arapahoe Basin, plus four additional free days at Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton or Wilmot Mountain. The Epic 4-Day Pass is $459 for adults and $249 for children (ages five to 12).
The deadline to purchase a 2017-2018 season pass is Sunday, Nov. 19. For additional information on season pass options and to purchase, visit EpicPass.com.
EpicMix Time Insights
New for 2017-18, Vail Resorts has launched EpicMix Time Insights, a website designed to help guests make the most of planning their ski day at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Park City by providing full visibility into lift line wait times. Vail Resorts is the first in the mountain resort industry to provide guests full transparency on historic lift line wait times, setting a new guest service standard for the industry. Guests can select a specific resort and date from last season to access resort trail maps that display individual lift line wait times for every lift collected by the EpicMix Time app during the 2016-17 season, sliding across the day in 15-minute increments from the time the lifts open until they close. Insights also highlights new lift upgrades for the 2017-18 winter season and provides mountain tips on how to best navigate each resort. Insights offers guests full visibility on actual lift line data from last ski season so they can maximize their day on the mountain during their next trip. To explore Insights, visit Time.EpicMix.com
Here are highlights of what is new for the 2017-18 season at Vail Resorts:
Stowe Mountain, Vermont
Stowe Adventure Center opens at Stowe Mountain. This $30 million, state-of-the art facility literally sets a new standard in the industry for kids and family amenities. Located at Spruce Peak, Stowe’s Adventure Center is home to all the children’s programs. From beautiful daycare facilities to ski and ride programs for kids 3 and up, the new Adventure Center has significantly advanced and expanded luxurious family amenities and services at the resort. The building also includes new shops, an Indoor Climbing Center (called Stowe Rocks) and family-friendly dining in The Canteen restaurant
Outdoor Ice Skating Rink. Also new for Stowe is the Spruce Peak outdoor Ice Skating rink, Ice skating is complimentary and open to the public daily from 11am to 9pm. Skate rentals are available.
New Spruce Peak Village Center Includes: Vermont crepe restaurant, Skinny Pancake, gourmet food and beverage markets, an artisan coffee shop and retail shopping. Spruce Peak is also home to the relatively new Stowe Mountain Lodge, one of the most awarded new ski-in ski-out luxury hotels & spas in the world.
Whistler Blackcomb, British Colombia
New this season is the WhistlerPeak Suspension Bridge and West Ridge Viewpoint. The Whistler Peak Suspension Bridge spans 426.5 ft from Whistler Peak to the West Ridge Viewpoint, a multi-tiered viewing platform with 360° views, offering guests a thrilling new way to experience this iconic spot. The cantilevered walkway extends 40.7 ft out from the West Ridge and an exhilarating 164 ft. above Whistler Bowl.
Signature Experiences t Whistler Blackcomb include Ski With An Olympian. Ski with an Olympian is Snow School’s most exclusive program and allows guests to experience a full day private lesson with an Olympian, so you can follow in their tracks, copy their technique and hear neat stories.
Fresh Tracks Mountain-Top Breakfast, presented by The Globe and Mail, lets you board the Whistler Village Gondola at 7:15 am and head up to the Roundhouse Lodge for the ultimate mountain-sized breakfast buffet. Then, as an added bonus, you get to ski fresh powder or perfectly groomed corduroy on the upper mountain before the rest of world is even out of bed. This unique experience is not limited to skiers and boarders; sightseers can get an early jump on the day by enjoying a Fresh Tracks mountain top breakfast before setting out on the PEAK 2 PEAK.
Whistler Heli-Skiing is the pinnacle of Whistler’s skiing experience. With exclusive rights to 432,000 acres of big mountain terrain that includes 173 glaciers and 475 runs, Whistler Heli-Skiing offers a variety of packages for everyone, from strong intermediates to seasoned experts. All heli-adventures are lead by a professional, certified heli-ski guide and include the use of avalanche transceiver, on mountain lunch and return ground transportation from Whistler Village. The Guide will choose the best ski area for the day and will ski or board with the group.
Park City Utah
With acquisition and connection with Canyons, Park City is now the largest ski resort in the United States, and one of the easiest to reach, just about 45 minutes from Salt Lake City airport (so you can actually fly from New York and be on the slopes by noon).
$15 Million Grand Summit Hotel Renovation: Now a RockResorts Property: The Grand Summit Hotel, located in Canyons Village, opened for the season after an extensive $15 million renovation and has been branded as a RockResorts property. The renovation included a complete overhaul of all 212 suites, including new interior finishes, furnishings, soft goods, appliances, artwork and technology. The property’s communal spaces were also incorporated into the renovation, including the lobby and front desk, full remodel of the on-site spa, café and general store, and refresh of the meeting spaces. More information here.
New Signature Experience: Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour: New this season, Park City Mountain will debut the Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour. On this complimentary, guided ski tour, guests will explore the mountain with an expert guide and uncover the historic mining buildings and hidden relics scattered across the resort. They’ll learn how Park City Mountain evolved from a silver mining camp to an internationally recognized winter sports destination and hear the stories behind the authentic mining structures seen on the mountain. Tours are recommended for intermediate level skiers/riders and above and depart daily from the Park City Resort Mountain Village at 10 a.m. and at the Trail Map near the top of Bonanza lift at 1 p.m. After the tour, participants will receive a signature pin to commemorate their visit to Park City Mountain.
Special Events: Park City Mountain is making the holidays even more special for guests by hosting unforgettable holiday events this Christmas, New Years and Spring Break. The Holiday Season kicks off on Saturday, Dec. 16 with Park City Mountain’s annual Snowfest Celebration, a 16-day festival including morning and après musical acts, village entertainers, annual torchlight parade, fireworks and a special visit from Santa on Town Lift. Park City Mountain’s annual Spring Grüv Celebration will return just in time for Spring Break this March with 16 days of free concerts and the famous Pond Skimming Contest. Beyond the holidays, Park City Mountain hosts free concerts, family activities and events all season long at both base areas including free s’mores on Saturdays and Sundays and an hour to meet the avalanche dogs on Fridays and Saturdays.
New Event: Seven Summits Challenge: Can you hit seven summits and cover 7,300 acres of terrain in one day? Brand new this season, Park City Mountain will host the inaugural Seven Summits Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 24. Participants will conquer a pre-set course that takes them on a journey across Park City Mountain’s seven peaks and 7,300 acres in one day. It’s the ultimate adventure at the largest ski resort in the United States. More details, including a course description, will be announced in January.
New Beginner Ski and Snowboard Area at the Park City Mountain Village: This summer, Park City Mountain installed a new, enclosed surface lift and a new designated beginner trail to serve entry-level skiers and snowboarders at the Park City Mountain Village. The new area will provide a comfortable and spacious learning area for those just starting to ski or ride.
Ski and Snowboard School: Your Personal Guide to 7,300 Acres of Terrain. Park City Mountain’s signature Peak-to-Peak Guided Mountain Tour pairs you up with an expert guide who will take you peak to peak uncovering the best runs and conditions on the mountain. And if you’re skiing with the whole family, a Private Family Lesson is a great way to learn and transform your day on the slopes into a real family adventure.
Heavenly Lake Tahoe & Kirkwood
The new Red Cliffs Family Lodge features family activities every weekend. Enjoy family movie night each Friday with popcorn, snacks, hot cocoa, beer, wine, s’mores. Themed nights throughout the season, events and parties such as family feud night, ski trivia night and holiday themed evenings. The Red Cliffs Family lodge also has board games, corn hole, foosball, air hockey, giant jenga and checkers.
Women’s Clinics and Camps for all ages and skill levels. This experience is about escaping, having fun, developing friendships, seeking adventure and doing something just for you. Throughout the day you tackle a variety of terrain and snow conditions while working on the terrain selection, tactical approach and off-piste skiing and riding technique.
New GoPro Ski and Ride School is an instructed lesson where you learn how to use a GoPro camera to capture first-person footage of Heavenly’s secret stashes and powder pockets. You get to keep your memory card full of the day’s footage and can purchase a GoPro at discount in the Heavenly Sports stores.
Expedition: Kirkwood combines Kirkwood Mountain Resort’s legendary terrain and secret powder pockets with qualified guides and expert coaches. Elevating safety and avalanche education will allow you to hone in on your skills while navigating Kirkwood’s signature chutes, cornices, and bowls led by our team.
Specialty Experiences, Instruction and Guiding. Northstar California’s new Platinum program allows skiers and snowboarders with Platinum Season or Day Passes gain access to the exclusive run offered on Saturdays, experiencing the best conditions throughout the day Platinum Season and Day Passes are perfect for skiers and snowboarders seeking solitude by unlocking private gates at the front of each lift line. Other experiences in the Platinum family include Platinum Lockers, featuring private boot warmers and house-made sweets, and Platinum tōst, a European-style lunch paired with Veuve Clicquot off East Ridge Run.
Northstar Traditions Every afternoon skiers and snowboarders gather off of East Ridge Run for a complimentary glass of champagne or sparkling cider and tōst to the mountains, Lake Tahoe, and friends and family. After ski school gets out each day, S’mores Ambassadors descend upon the Village carrying silver platters covered in ooey-gooey chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow treats.
Set at Zephyr Lodge, the Mountain Table Dinner Series marries food and wine for a private dinner culminating with a surprise transportation twist. This winter’s series features SIMI, Prisoner, Charles Krug and Rodney Strong Vineyards.
New: First Tracks, where Adventure Guiding and Learning Center mountain guides take two intimate groups on a tour of the mountain before lifts open to the public. This shamelessly indulgent experience gives private access to freshly groomed runs and sparkling powder across the entire mountain. Convenient and inviting, the Adventure Guiding and Learning Center welcomes guests into the lounge with fresh espresso and custom equipment fitting, prior to meeting a hand-picked mountain guide. Northstar mountain guides and instructors provide what you need – including tours to the most serene locations on the mountain. After a full day of skiing Northstar like a local, visitors return to the Village for a well-earned champagne toast. Next door at the exclusive Burton Snowboard Academy, snowboarders of all levels enter a realm of terrain-based learning. Leather-seated couches and a fireplace surrounded by top-of-the-line Burton equipment make for a cozy setting to lace up boots. On-mountain, little tykes learn the essentials in the Ripperoo Riglet Park, while more mature boarders progress on the trail, in one of the five nationally-renowned progression parks or off-piste. For breaks, the private Burton Academy Lounge at Mid-Mountain offers one-on-one time with Burton-certified instructors, hot cocoa and fire pits.
New:Six-Passenger Northwoods Express Lift (#11) marks the 10th lift replacement in the last 11 years at Vail. Northwoods Express is a primary lift on the front side of Vail Mountain, serving intermediate and advanced terrain. The new lift reduces wait times and increases capacity by 25%. The increase also improves the flow of skiers and snowboarders to the legendary Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin throughout the day, as well as creates a better flow of traffic exiting Blue Sky Basin and moving across the mountain at the end of the day.
The Arrabelle at Vail Square, A RockResort, celebrates 10 years in January 2018. A celebration of the anniversary will take place in December and special activities will be held in Vail Square including musicians and ice sculptures during the winter season.
New: Beaver Creek’s Red Buffalo Park Adventure 200-acre family learning area accessed by a new high-speed lift. Located at the mountain’s highest elevation, 11,440 feet, Red Buffalo Park provides 13 trails designated as a family adventure zone and features family-friendly amenities such as snow sculptures through the park, Kids Adventure Zones and a dedicated Ski School Skills Zone. Guests enrolled in Beaver Creek Ski School will have exclusive access to the Cookie Cabin, a mountaintop refuge serving up Beaver Creek’s famed, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies all-day long. At the heart of the experience, the new Red Buffalo Express Lift (#5), a high-speed quad, allows for easier access to the dedicated beginner terrain while decreasing lift lines and providing a shorter, 4.3-minute ride to the top of the mountain.
White Carpet Club is an exclusive, private retreat within the heart of Beaver Creek Village which you can join for the duration of your visit. Located steps from the escalator leading to Centennial Express Lift, the White Carpet Club hosts spacious lockers for storing apparel and accessories; boot dryers; a continental service offering coffees, teas, cocoa, and decadent morsels; private restroom facilities and an intimate lounge adorned with soft, cozy seating. The dedicated on-site concierge offers instant assistance with lift ticket and pass purchases, as well as dinner and activity guidance and reservations. Priority access to SaddleRidge Restaurant – renowned for ski-in fine dining during lunch and dinner – is also a distinct benefit. Other benefits include preferred parking and slope side equipment-check.
Beaver Creek’s First Tracks experience invites guests to cherish unrivaled scenic beauty at sunrise, delight over premier access to flawless snow surface conditions, and savor a five-star gourmet breakfast on the mountain at the exclusive Allie’s Cabin. Guests board the Centennial Express Lift at 7:30 a.m., enjoy a private, guided tour of the mountain’s flawlessly curated slopes and relax over breakfast – all before the resort opens for the day. (Reserve First Tracks by dialing +1-866.250.1679 or +1.970.754.5310.)
Allie’s CabinWine Dinners and Family Dinners via Open Sleigh. Allie’s Cabin, a fine dining retreat atop a peaceful aspen grove on Beaver Creek Mountain, features Wine Dinners with a celebrated group of wineries, accompanied by a stunning fireworks display over Beaver Creek Village. On select Thursday evenings December through March, guests arrive via open-air sleigh for a gourmet culinary experience in the cozy cabin. While savoring exquisite food and wine pairings, guests enjoy a warm fireplace and sweeping views of the Beaver Creek Village, illuminated by Thursday Night Lights Fireworks. Classic contemporary regional fare has been crafted to offer the perfect pairing for the featured wines of the evening. New this winter and offered during select weekends, Allie’s Cabin Family Dinners welcome guests to savor gourmet fare which caters exclusively to children and families.
Artisan Chocolates found pnly at Beaver Creek Candy Cabin Located at the top of Strawberry Park Express and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts, myriad palate-pleasing sweets are created locally by fifth-generation chocolatier, Michael Mootz, presented in a custom Beaver Creek gold box; individual chocolate snowflakes, snowmen or ski boots.
The Falcon SuperChair is being upgraded from a quad to a high-speed, six-passenger lift, offering an easier and faster ride up Peak 10. Breck’s Ten Mile Station is going a little “Willy Wonka” this winter season, adding an old fashioned sweet shop. It’s sure to guarantee you a sugar high as you ascend the Imperial Express, North America’s highest chairlift! The resort’s newest restaurant, Pioneer Crossing (opened December 2016), is also sweetening up its menu, adding sweet and savory crepes to its breakfast lineup this winter. Located just steps from the top of the Independence SuperChair on Peak 7 – one of the resort’s five iconic peaks on the north side of the mountain – the slope-side restaurant offers panoramic views of the mountain and Summit County. Also on the menu, a variety of house made options like fresh made salads to order, signature dishes like Pioneer Lamb Pie and a Mediterranean inspired station.
The Dew Tour returns to Breck for its 10th year, December 14-17, 2017 (presented by Mountain Dew® and TEN: The Enthusiast Network), as an Olympic qualifying event for the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. The four-day event kicks off the competition season, featuring individual superpipe and slopestyle competitions with the best skiers and snowboarders in the world, along with live concerts, the interactive Dew Tour Experience and in-town events. The Team Challenge is also back for another year and features invited teams of riders representing the biggest brands competing on a unique three-course layout.
Spring Fever! Breck will be one of the last major resorts still open when the biggest spring skiing party in the Rocky Mountains returns March 17 through April 22, 2018. Breckenridge’s elevation – 9,600 feet in town – makes the snow last longer and the bluebird spring days even sweeter. To celebrate, Spring Fever brings a month-long lineup of activities for families, beer drinkers, music lovers, mountaineers and more. www.BreckSpringFever.com
Breck Into Epic Above Tree-Line Terrain and Bowls From Blues and Blacks to Double Diamonds, Breck’s 11 bowls truly offer some of the best above tree-line skiing and snowboarding in North America. Hop off the Imperial Express, North America’s highest chairlift, and it’s like being transported to a winter vacation in the Alps. On a clear day Peak 8’s treeless, powdery slopes offer views for miles, and a bird’s eye look at historic Breckenridge. For a snow-sensory overload drop in on E.S.P. on powder days. Sign up for a Breck Guide for the day, for the inside scoop on hidden powder stashes and top terrain.
Visitors will find The Montezuma Express Lift, a primary lift on Dercum Mountain serving popular intermediate and beginner ski terrain, has been replaced with a high-speed six-passenger chair that increases efficiency and capacity by up to 25 percent, while improving skier and snowboarder circulation on the mountain.
Kids Still Ski Free. Every day, all season long, kids 12 and younger ski for free at Keystone with no blackout dates when family’s book two or more nights in one of Keystone’s numerous accommodation options, which span from affordable hotel rooms to family-sized condominiums. (Keystone is one of the only Colorado ski resorts offering nighttime skiing; it also provides access on its ticket to ski Arapahoe Basin.)
Kidtopia: Free Family Programming Offered Every Day of the Season. The Kidtopia lineup includes activities such as the village parade and fireworks, snowball launches, ice cream parties and meeting Keystone’s Ski Patrol rescue dogs. All Kidtopia programs are free.
New for 2017-2018, the Kidtopia Signature Event Series will feature three distinct events throughout the winter to complement the family experience at Keystone. The Kidtopia Spectacular, Dec. 15-24, marks the first signature event of the winter and kicks off the holiday season with a bounce house party, a mountaintop celebration and lighting ceremony of the world’s largest snow fort, and an evening with Santa Claus himself. The first-ever Kidtopia Culinary Festival debuts for the 2017-2018 winter, Feb. 9-17, with a savory lineup tailored to the youngest of foodies with cooking demonstrations, chocolate fountains, bakery tours, dessert specials and a celebrity chef event. The Kidtopia Music Experience, March 2-10, is the last of the signature event series and kicks-off the spring skiing and snowboarding season with music-themed fun including rock ‘n’ roll themed parties and the Snow Pants Dance Party, featuring live outdoor music performances from popular kid-friendly acts.
The Inn at Keystone is being rebranded to Hyatt Place Keystone following a significant renovation of the property. The rebranding marks the first significant hotel brand in Keystone as well as the first Hyatt select service hotel to be announced for the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Guests of the hotel will also be able to enjoy a new fitness center, an alternative grab-and-go dining option and new outdoor communal spaces.
Bermuda is a magical place where the beaches have pink sand and the aquamarine water is so clear, you can see amazing marine life and feed fish Cheerios. But one of the most magical experiences of all is Dolphin Quest.
The experience starts off with our own training – shaping our own behaviors in order to properly interact with the dolphin. We join three others for a 30-minute Dolphin Dip – one of several different interactive encounters that are available. Lottie, the cheery dolphin trainer, tells us so much about how the dolphins learn and how they respond to specific calls. She demonstrates some incredible tricks (behaviors) by teaching the five of us how to signal to the dolphins ourselves.
When we are in the large pool, Lottie calls me out to the middle of the lagoon and tells me to bring my hands together with palms facing up on the surface of the water. She blows a whistle and Caliban swims up to me and puts her snout on my hands, seeming to smile up at me with that broad dolphin mouth. Then she tells me to show her my cheek and he kisses me on the cheek!
Now it’s Dave’s turn to come out. Lottie tells him to put his hand out to the side. Then Caliban swims up and takes his hand. They practically dance! Then Caliban swims past us, inviting us to stroke her tummy for positive reinforcement. We get to feed her a small fish after each behavior which she seems to really enjoy.
Lottie has each of us engage different behaviors with the four dolphins we get to meet, which are all also perfect photo opps. A professional photographer is on hand shooting photos the whole time and capturing so many amazing moments.
The digital and physical copies of the photographs are available for sale through an online portal. They’re pricey, but they capture priceless moments! There is free seating poolside so if anyone in your party is not in the water with you, they have the opportunity to capture their own photos, too.
The photographer is also extremely knowledgeable about the dolphins. He tells us about the 5- star health care they have and that the average lifespan is roughly double for the dolphins in their facility compared to dolphins in the wild. They also have a larger, more natural enclosed swimming area just outside the walls of the maritime museum, though we can’t see it ourselves because it is being cleaned.
It’s $219 for the 30-minute “Dolphin Dip” — pricey, but one of the cooler experiences we’ve had. It’s an amazing gift for someone you want to indulge and celebrate! Family/friends can watch from the sidelines where they can also enjoy seeing the dolphins up-close without paying the premium of being actually in the water with them.
A portion of the proceeds goes towards continued animal research. So far, Dolphin Quest programs in Hawaii, Oahu and Bermuda have contributed more than $3 million in funding, resources and field support to vital marine studies around the globe. University research studies have generated hundreds of published scientific works that are helping researchers find solutions to the threats dolphins and whales face in the wild. These studies also help the marine mammal community better care for dolphins in human care.
But there is something more: Dolphin Quest gives people a rare experience to interact and engage with dolphins, deepening our empathy for marine mammals and raising awareness about conservation programs.
“With our dolphins, we touch the hearts and minds of our guests in a fun and inspirational way, sharing how each of us can play a vital role in protecting our precious ocean ecosystem,” Dolphin Quest says.
Our time with the dolphins is not like a performance. We are reminded that dolphins are wild animals; they clearly only engage with us as they like, and seem to genuinely enjoy the intellectual stimulation.
It is an incomparable experience to interact with another species, and especially so with an intelligent marine mammal.
In addition to contributing millions of dollars toward research and conservation programs, Dolphin Quest also contributes essential medical and training support to wild marine mammals in distress through the marine mammal stranding networks in Hawaii and Bermuda. Its team members also hand raise newly hatched endangered sea turtles, releasing them back into the wild when they are large enough through the “Turtle Ambassador Program”.
Dolphin Quest also organizes beach and stream cleanups, recycling efforts, and other environmental stewardship initiatives.
Indeed, Dolphin Quest’s humane stewardship of the marine animals living in its care is recognized: Dolphin Quest is an accredited member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, with all three of its locations certified by the American Humane Conservation program.
After the Dolphin Dip (or any of the Dolphin Quest programs), you are given free admission to the Maritime Museum and the National Museum of Bermuda, where you can explore the 200-year-old fort and experience educational maritime and cultural exhibits including: the Commissioner’s House, Shipwreck Island, The Warwick Project, Bermuda’s Defense Heritage and The Hall of History 1000-square-foot mural painted by Bermudian artist Graham Foster, plus an onsite Playground and Playhouse for children.
New Programs in Expanded Ocean Habitat
Dolphin Quest Bermuda has expanded its large ocean water dolphin lagoon inside the walls of the National Museum of Bermuda to include an outer Ocean Habitat. Accessed by a tunnel passageway, this supplemental sea sanctuary provides Dolphin Quest’s dolphins and guests another enriching natural environment to explore.
The outer Ocean Habitat utilizes an environmentally friendly sea pen structure. Its natural underwater terrain and sea life mirrors the shallow bays and estuaries where the coastal ecotype of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are found in the wild.
“While our dolphins are thriving in their ocean water lagoon within the walls of the museum, it is so fun to be able to introduce them to another area for them to play, socialize and inspire people to care about and protect dolphins in the wild”, says Lauren McWilliams, Supervisor of Marine Animals at Dolphin Quest Bermuda.
Founded by two marine mammal veterinarians in 1980s, Dolphin Quest continues to be on the leading edge of advocacy, conservation and research. Back then, Dr. Jay Sweeney and Dr. Rae Stone sought to create an alternative to oceanariums and “dolphin shows.” They set out to create pristine and enriching natural dolphin habitats where visitors could enjoy inspiring and educational dolphin encounters that, in turn, funded wild dolphin conservation.
Since opening their first location at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii in1988, Dolphin Quest has become recognized as a leader in establishing large natural habitats for the animals, creating successful dolphin breeding programs and developing innovative interactive dolphin programs that combine fun and learning for the animals and the people, and promoting environmental stewardship.
They opened their first Dolphin Quest in Bermuda in 1996 at the Southampton Princess Hotel, but it was damaged in Hurricane Gert in 1999. The staff battled high winds and rough water to move the animals to a protected area on the most southwestern side of the island, into an area known as The Keep within the Royal Naval Dockyard. This offered a large, protective ocean-water lagoon within a historic fort, with a connected outer habitat that would be safe from hurricanes and weather events. This became Dolphin Quest’s home on Bermuda.
New innovative and inspiring interactive programs are now available in the Ocean Habitat: “Dive with Dolphins” helmet dive, the “Sea Quest” guided water scooter ride with the dolphins and the “Exclusive Sea Quest” which is a private experience.
Dolphin Quest Programs Year-Round
A variety of programs are offered year-round. The website offers excellent information and an easy-to-follow breakdown of the various programs available by season and by age-appropriateness. Programs include:
Ultimate Adventure, an hour-long program (45 minutes in the water with dolphins), the longest time available, appropriate for ages 6+, available May-October.
SeaQuest, a scooter program, April-October, for ages 8+, 45 minutes
Dolphin Encounter, available November through April, let’s you create your own dolphin experience (30 min., $175).
Underwater Exploration (20 minutes with dolphins, for ages 8+, $100 (maximum 3 people): You explore dolphins’ natural ocean habitat with underwater scooters and snorkeling; you have the opportunity to interact with dolphins in deeper waters, guided by marine mammal specialists (water scooters and masks provided; you must be a proficient swimmer; no more than 3 people and the trainer). After the program, the marine mammal specialists are available to discuss dolphins’ care and wellness, animal training, conservation; and you get free full day admission to the National Museum of Bermuda. Winter programs (November- May) provide free wetsuits and booties; and a winter hot tub special (December 15-April 30, limited spaces available).
Marine Conservation Tour is a two-hour behind-the-scenes program that finishes with a five-minute dolphin touch, but it focuses on training programs, learning about animal care, visiting the medical lab, and watching the dolphins interact and socialize with each other (November-April, $79)
Trainer for a Day, a five-hour program with 60 minutes with the dolphins where you are side-by-side with trainers and dolphins and participate in dolphin health exams, dolphin training sessions, dolphin play time and dolphin programs for guests (lunch included). There is time in the water with the dolphins as well as interacting from the docks. (Wet suit and booties provided, November-May).
National Museum of Bermuda
The fortuitous collaboration between Dolphin Quest and the National Museum of Bermuda greatly enhances the visitor experience, as well, because you are not only given this rare experience to interact with marine mammals, but also become immersed in Bermuda’s rich heritage.
The Keep of the Dockyard is a six-acre historic fort that was designed to serve the naval fleet at anchor in Grassy Bay. It was once one of the most strategic military installations in the world and was heavily protected with a moated entrance, cannons, shell guns, and other weapons.
It was designed so munitions and provisions could be moved by boat between the large Keep pond and the vessels in the harbor. The grounds and many buildings of the Keep are now home to the National Museum of Bermuda’s exhibits and serve as home base for its highly-regarded maritime research, restoration, and preservation efforts.
“The fort provides probably the world’s most secure home for our dolphins, and we are enjoying exploring the many possibilities for expanding our dolphin programs within this historic context,” Dolphin Quest notes.
It is contained within a 16-acre National Museum of Bermuda with eight exhibit buildings and the most extensive historical collection in Bermuda, including the hilltop commissioner’s house. You can walk along the ramparts.
In 2016, the dolphin’s habitat was expanded to include The Ocean Habitat, a large sanctuary that extends beyond the museum walls and allows the dolphins to swim out into the ocean waters via a connecting tunnel from inside the lagoon. The entire sanctuary is one of the largest and most natural dolphin habitats in the world. Dolphin encounters in this area allow guests to interact with dolphins while riding underwater scooters and they can also explore the Bermuda reefs and bountiful marine life.
After American independence from Britain, Bermuda was identified as a strategic location for a naval base and dockyard. Construction on the dockyard began in 1809, which involved massive land reclamations and quarrying, first by slaves and then by thousands of British convicts. In its heyday, the dockyard provided facilities for the Royal Navy’s fleet.
The Keep was the citadel of the Dockyard, built to guard the naval base against land or sea attack and as an arsenal. The massive bastions and ramparts were designed by the Royal Engineers and are reinforced at intervals by casemated gun emplacements. Casemates were built in the late 1830’s to house troops manning the Dockyard fortifications. After Dockyard closed in 1951 it became Bermuda’s maximum-security prison from 1963-1994.
It is currently undergoing extensive restoration by the Museum and volunteers.
The Museum’s scope has expanded to encompass more than maritime history and today it is a vital custodian of Bermuda’s heritage. It is also a champion for the preservation of Bermuda’s underwater and land-based cultural heritage through collecting, exhibitions, restoration, conservation, research, publication, education, public outreach, and archaeology.
The National Museum of Bermuda is open daily except Christmas Day (Dolphin Quest is still open); admission fees are $15/adult, $12/seniors; under 16 free; admission fee is waived for Dolphin Quest participants.
“Dolphin Quest is committed to protecting our planet and inspiring the next generation of ocean stewards by providing inspirational interactive experiences, educational programs and contributing funding, resources and field support to vital marine studies around the globe.
“With resort partners in Bermuda, Hawaii, and Oahu, Dolphin Quest inspires tens of thousands of guests each year to care about and help protect dolphins in the wild.”
My three-day fall getaway in the Great Northern Catskills exploring the Hudson River School Art Trail starts before I even arrive at the historic Fairlawn Inn, in Hunter, NY. Taking advantage of the time of day and beautiful weather, I stop at the parking lot on 23A for the trailhead to Kaaterskill Falls, where you get an amazing view of Kaaterskill Clove (HRSAT Site #4). You gaze out over the gorge where mountain peaks seem to thread together and compare the scene today to the way it is depicted by Hudson River School artist Asher B. Durand’s 1866 painting. The trees are just beginning to turn colors (the peak is usually around Columbus Day weekend), but I swear that the same tree, already crimson, is the same red tree in the painting, also depicting an early fall scene.
It’s a short walk along 23A (watch out for cars on the winding narrow road) to the trailhead for one of my favorite hikes, Kaaterskill Falls (HRSAT Site #5), a stunning scene that looks remarkably just as depicted in an 1835 painting by Thomas Cole, known as the father of the Hudson River School. “It is the voice of the landscape for it strikes its own chords, and rocks and mountains re-echo in rich unison,” Cole (who was also a poet and essayist) wrote.
The Kaaterskill Falls were a favorite subject of many of the Hudson River School painters and for me, is the quintessential combination of stunning scenery plus the physical pleasure of the hike – half-mile up to the base of the double-falls, then another half-mile to the top.
The two-tiered Kaaterskill Falls, 175 and 85 feet, is the highest in New York State and was described by James Fenimore Cooper in “The Pioneers” which Thomas Cole, a friend of Cooper’s illustrated.
The waterfalls, usually rushing, are just a trickle after a long dryspell, but the hike is still absolutely fantastic – just enough challenge (I love my walking sticks) – and means you can get much closer than you might if the falls were fuller.
You make it to the base of the double-falls. Last time I hiked the trail, there were barriers and warnings not to go higher because it was so steep and dangerous (people have died!), but since then, there are staircases so you can hike to the very top. (There is also access to the top from other trails and nearby Laurel House Road parking lot above).
I climb up and take a cut-off to the bottom of the high falls where there is a pool of water. Though it is already autumn on the calendar, it is as hot as a summer’s day – record heat in fact, close to 90 degrees – and people are in the shallow pool. The ledges are beautiful and you get a wonderful view back down the valley.
Another half-mile climb (another new staircase gets you up the steepest part) brings me to a winding forest trail that wraps around the hilltop to the very top of the falls. I cross a bridge over what would usually be rushing water. You can look back to the steep drop of the falls, back to the valley – just as Thomas Cole and the artists would have seen it. There is a viewing platform which looks back at the falls, bookended by trees just beginning to turn into their kaleidoscope of fall colors (the peak is traditionally around Columbus Day).
There is a small trail through the woods to the very top of the falls. Signs admonish hikers that climbing the ledges beside Kaaterskill Falls is extremely dangerous, and has resulted in numerous injuries and deaths. But the falls are not flowing when I come, so I get to walk on the ledges, giving me really nervous view straight down and beyond, to the Valley and letting me look at the carved initials and graffiti from the 1920s and 30s, some even from the 1800s. You feel a sense of kindred spirit with those who have passed through and passed on. You feel the height and the proximity to the drop off, and it makes your heart flutter.
Later, you will recognize the view in Thomas Cole’s paintings and imagine how he must have stood in this precise place where you are standing.
It is a half-mile to the base, and another half- mile to the top of the falls, for a total of 2 miles roundtrip. There are some scrambles and it is uphill almost all the way (walking sticks are really recommended), and is thoroughly fantastic.
I’ve taken my time, really savoring the views and the scenes and the smells, and the couple of miles hiking have taken about 2 1/2 hours.
(The parking lot is just west of the trailhead and across 23A, so you park and walk back along the road, being very careful. Haines Falls NY 12436, 518-589-5058, 800-456-2267).
I set out along 23A toward Hunter and the Fairlawn Inn.
Hudson River School Art Trail Hikes in North-South Campground
For my second day, after an amazing breakfast at the Fairlawn Inn, I head to North-South Campground, where there are several of the Hudson River School of Art Trail hikes (as well as many other hiking trails) – the lake itself depicted in paintings such as Thomas Cole’s “Lake with Dead Trees,” 1825, (HRSAT Site #6).
I take the longer and wonderfully more challenging (only moderately strenuous) hike which brings you to such spots as Artist’s Rock, Sunset Rock and Newman’s Ledge (you can continue to North Point). Other hikes bring you to Boulder Rock, the Catskill Mountain House (HRSAT Trail Site #8) and Laurel House sites.
The hike to Sunset Rock (HRSAT Trail Site #7) begins along the well-marked blue trail (you cut off to the yellow trail to Sunset Rock) that mostly wraps around the ledges, with the amazing views that so enthralled the artists of the Hudson River Valley. Close to the beginning is a fairly interesting scramble, then the trail winds through the woods along side fabulous rock formations before coming out again to the ledges. You reach Artists Rock at about .4 miles. Continuing on, you look for the yellow trail marker to Sunset Rock.
I continue on to Newman’s Point but overshoot and head up some challenging scrambles before turning back (the trail to North Point continues for another mile). I am delighted with myself to have gone what I estimate was an extra .4.
Back at the North-South Lake (it’s taken me about three hours taking my time), people are swimming in the ridiculously unseasonably hot (near 90) weather.
I look for a relatively easy trail and find just a short distance away, Mary’s Glen trail to Ashley’s Falls (alas, the falls are all but completely dried up when I come). This is an ideal trail for families with small children who want to avoid hiking near open ledges. You go through a lovely wooded glen alongside a beaver meadow and stream to a deeply forested cascade, Ashley’s Falls. This day, though, there is no cascade. (just .6 mile roundtrip).
Mary’s Glen trail can also be the entrance to a difficult hike, to North Point, a distance of 3.2 miles with 840 feet ascent. It is a mostly moderate climb but has some short, steep scrambles over rock, but you come to large open slabs and expansive vistas at North Point, a 3,000 ft. elevation with some of the most distant views.)
On my last visit, I did a wonderful hike to the site of the Catskill Mountain House (HRSAT Site #8), one of the earliest tourist hotels. The majestic hotel, which was opened in 1823 and accommodated 400 guests a night (Presidents Arthur and Grant were among those who stayed here), burned down in 1963 but the view that attracted visitors still remains as one of the most magnificent panoramas in the region, and can be compared to Frederic Church’s “Above the Clouds at Sunrise” (1849).
It is fun to see the initials carved into the stone ledges from more than a century ago. The Mountain House began drawing thousands of guests each season from all over the country as well as from abroad, who came not just for the cooler, healthier climate but for what had already become one of the most renowned natural panoramas in the young nation: the valley 1,600 feet below, stretching east to the Taconic Mountains and the Berkshires, with the silvery thread of the Hudson visible for 60 miles from north to south. On a clear day, you can see five states – Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. The hike is just a half-mile with only an 80-foot ascent.
There is a $10/car day use fee for the NYS DEC’s North-South Lake Campground from early May through late October, however the fee is waived for NYS residents 62 years or older midweek. The campground is open for camping from May through October; 518-589-5058 or call DEC Regional Office year-round at 518-357-2234, More information at www.greatnortherncatskills.com/outdoors/north-south-lake-campground.
Those who prefer driving to experience fall foliage will find two National Scenic Byways in the Great Northern Catskills: a 21-mile route that descends from high country peaks to Durham Valley farmland., affording views that stretch across the Hudson River Valley to summits in four New England states. Then take an excursion along Mountain Clove, a byway that meanders through ravines, historic districts, and waterfalls. In fact, one of the best foliage views in New York State, Innkeeper Chuck Tomajko notes, is just 2 miles from his Fairlawn Inn door, at the intersection of Rte 214 and 23A – which looks toward Bear Creek and some half-dozen mountains that form layers.
An Arts-Meets-Nature Driving/Exploration Route: The Kaaterskill Clove Experience provides a new self-guided discovery tour through the history of American art, and the primeval landscape that inspired it. Tailored, easy-to-follow itineraries provide a roadmap for families, adventure seekers and leisure travelers to experience the Kaaterskill Clove at your own pace, while enjoying everything that Greene County has to offer, from farm stands to charming cafes. (www.greatnortherncatskills.com/kaaterskill-clove)
Antiquing. The villages of Catskill and Tannersville are known for their antique shops. Actually the best antiquing of all turns out to be across the street from the Fairlawn Inn in Hunter: the Antique Mall, housed in what used to be the Masonic Center, is owned by innkeeper Chuck Tomajko. Among the treasures: two chairs that had been owned by Elizabeth Abell, the woman who introduced Mary Todd to Abraham Lincoln. Another chair dates from the mid 18th century, made in Philadelphia, could well have been used by Washington, Jefferson or any of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
The Bronck House Museum, where you see how eight generations of a family occupied this same house for more than 350 years. (Greene County Historical Society, 90 County Route 42, Coxsackie, NY 12051, 518-731-6490, gchistory.org/bronckmuseum.html).
The charming town of Hudson with its galleries, antique shops, and restaurants.
Hunter Mountain is a four-season resort most famous for skiing, but offers a score of festivals and activities in fall, including weekend scenic skyrides (www.huntermtn.com).
The I LOVE NEW YORK weekly foliage report – a detailed map charting fall color progress, vantage points for viewing spectacular foliage, suggested autumn getaways and weekly event listings – is available at www.iloveny.com/foliage or by calling 800/CALL-NYS (800/225-5697).
As we discovered, climbing in a gym is very different from climbing a real mountain face. One of the best places in the world to learn how to climb is practically in our own backyard: the Shawgunk Mountains, affectionately nicknamed “The Gunks,” is just six miles from New Paltz and offers some of the best rock climbing in the East.
The Mohonk Preserve, New York State’s largest private, nonprofit nature preserve with over 8,000 acres, owns this section of the Shawgunk Mountains and charges a $20 day-use fee for climbers (a season pass is available, also). Of the 200,000 visitors that the Preserve welcomes in a year, 80,000 are climbers who have more than 1,000 climbing routes – five linear miles of cliff face – to venture out on, with near access to parking and sanitary facilities.
In the early 1950s, there may have been 50 climbers on a busy day in The Gunks. By the 1990s, that number grew to 500-800. Today, The Gunks have become a world-class climbing area, offering some of the best climbing in the eastern United States. What is more, The Gunks offer particularly friendly terrain for people (like us) who have never climbed real rock faces before. The vertical cliffs and their overhangs create a wide variety of high-quality climbs of varying levels of difficulty. The distinctive, stark, white cliffs of the Gunks are as tough as they look – with sharp angles testing your skill and with quartz pebbles and deep fissures providing multiple holds.
It’s also an ideal place to climb safety, with some of the best-trained, vertical rescue teams in the northeastern United States. Indeed, guide companies have to be registered with Mohonk Preserve. In collaboration with climbing guides and groups, the Preserve regularly hosts climbing clinics.
And so, for our first climbing venture, we went out with with Bobby Ferrari of High Xposure Adventures ($350 for two for a full day program, 9 am to 4:30 pm). The conditions were ideal: bright sun and cool temperatures for a summer’s day.
High Xposure was founded in 1974, and has been guiding rock and ice climbing trips in the Gunks and Catskills Mountans for more than 40 years. Its accreditation with American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) dates back to 1986, when the accreditation program was established.
High Xposure works with climbers of all abilities and experience – from total beginners, introducing them to outdoor rock climbing, to avid climbers visiting the Gunks from other regions and interested in climbing the Gunks classic routes. The company also organizes group climbing trips – corporate outings, family retreats, adventure groups. “We have extensive experience working with kids – during school breaks, we guide rock climbing outings for summer camps and boy scout groups.”
High Xposure offers a wide range of climbing programs – rock climbing techniques, rope management and anchors, multi-pitch, and lead climbing.
It was an ideal program for us to make the transition from climbing in a gym to climbing the real thing.
Mohonk Preserve is also popular for bouldering, with acres of boulders that offer hundreds of problems – from basic to advanced; climbers come from all over the country to try out the new problems put up almost every day.
This is a year-round destination with ice climbing. The best active time of year, and when the guide companies are most active is from April through November.
Mohonk Preserve is one of the few private, nonprofit (NGO) climbing areas in the United States and is financially supported by members and visitors. It is open to the public 365 days a year. (You can join online now, or you can buy a day pass or membership at a trailhead or at the Visitor Center.)
Here is more helpful info from the Preserve’s website:
Be aware that you climb at your own risk on the Preserve, which isn’t responsible for the condition of the cliffs, climbing protection, climber behavior, or training or supervising climbs. For your safety, read the Preserve’s Climbing Policy.
Help protect the resource. Prevent damage to the cliffs and to the fragile life found here:
Use only established trails and carriage roads.
Use the yellow-blazed climber approach trails in the Trapps.
Avoid damaging lichen and vegetation growing on the cliff and treat the rock gently: tree cutting, rock trundling, hold chopping, and bolting or gluing of holds are prohibited.
Minimize chalk use and brush off heavily chalked holds.
Leave only rock-colored slings at rappel stations.
Parking is extremely limited on weekends and holidays. During peak seasons, parking lots fill early. Ease traffic congestion by carpooling or coming at off-peak times.
Dogs must be attended and leashed at all times. To avoid having your dog disturb others, don’t leave your dog tied-up at the base of a climb. If you leave your dog unattended, it will be removed by an animal control officer.
Keep the trails at the base clear so others can pass by.
Camping is available at the Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground on Rte. 299. For more information, click here (mohonkpreserve.org/camping).
For other hotel and lodging information, see the Area Guide (mohonkpreserve.org/area-guide).
Becoming a member helps keep the cliffs open to climbers and provides ongoing support for the preserve’s climbing management program – recognized as a model by the UIAA (International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation).
You can also:
Volunteer for trail maintenance and other projects that ensure climber access.
Donate to the Thom Scheuer Memorial Fund for Land Stewardship, which helps build and maintain climber facilities, including trailheads, parking areas, and sanitary facilities. To contribute, contact the Development Department at (845) 255-0919 ext. 1240.