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New York Ski Areas Greet Guests With $71 Million in Improvements for 2018-19 Season

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

by Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York’s ski areas are greeting guests this season with an unprecedented $71 million in investments and improvements. More than 25 mountains and resorts have made enhancements in snowmaking, grooming, chair lift operations and guest/lodging services. Whether it is a seamless lift-ticket experience with RFID, opening new high-speed lifts, or doubling the size of the lodge/restaurant, New York ski areas have invested more capital into the 2018-19 season than any other state in the Northeast.

Most notably Windham, Hunter Mountain & Peak Resorts, Catamount and ORDA ski areas (The New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority which operate Whiteface, Gore Mountain and Belleayre) top the list with a collective $60 million invested. Energy efficiencies in power and snowmaking have been made possible by a $5,000,000 grant from NYSERDA which benefited Plattekill, Oak, Song,Thunder Ridge and Kissing Bridge

Windham Mountain Resort along with Catamount are the first resorts in New York State to implement RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology, providing guests with easy, simple lift access. ORDA property, Gore Mountain is opening a two-level addition to the Base Lodge, doubling the size of the Tannery Pub &Restaurant, seating up to 350 guests, while the lower level addition will house the new headquarters for their Mountain Adventure kids’ program, and more lockers. Resorts including Greek Peak (a self-contained resort notable for its indoor water park), Holiday Valley, Bristol, Titus and Peek n’ Peak have focused on infrastructure upgrades as well as optimizing their ski and stay offerings by expanding activities and creating lodging packages.

“New York ski areas have dug deep into their own pockets to make these improvements,which will allow us to expand our Learn to Ski programs- this is incredibly exciting,” said Scott Brandi, President of Ski Areas of New York, Inc. “Coupled with investments to increase efficiency in snow grooming, lodge hospitality and lift upgrades, we hope to create life-long ski enthusiasts and welcome future generations of winter sport advocates.” This is a state-wide effort with moxie and vision for a fantastic season around each bend, Brandi added. “With these expenditures, it is clear that New York ski areas and resorts are committed to being known as family-friendly accessible outdoor destinations, as well as offering a great experience to both the novice and advanced.”

New York State has 50 ski areas–more than any other state in the country—and will welcome nearly four million skiers, riders and winter enthusiasts this season, making it fourth in the country for skier visits; the ski industry has a $1 billion economic impact in the state.

Here are highlights of what’s in store for this season:

Gore Mountain Adds Snowmaking, Gets FIS Certification

Set in the Adirondacks, Gore is a big ski mountain – actually four linked mountains – with the most terrain (110) and lifts (14 including an eight-passenger Northwoods Gondola and two high-speed quads) in New York, the 6th longest vertical in the East, highest vertical drop within a four-hour drive of New York City and is closest big mountain (439 skiable acres) to New York City (a snow bus is available).

Skiing Gore Mountain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Skiers have been coming to Gore to be challenged for more than 80 years. Beginning and expert skiers will appreciate the vast improvements this season, including a 42% increase in snowmaking with 400 new snow guns, 312 of them state-of-the-art with sensors that adjust to weather changes.  In addition, new grooming machines ensure a smooth experience on the nine sides of four peaks of alpine terrain. For those looking forward to après ski, the Tannery Pub and Restaurant doubled in size.

Gore offers night skiing in North Creek Ski Bowl, where  60% of the trails are intermediate; this is also where there is the Nordic skiing center and snowshoeing (also open at night).

Four of the Nordic courses at North Creek Ski Bowl have just won homologation certifications from the International Ski Federation (FIS), making Gore Mountain one of just 29 FIS venues in the United States and one of only two in New York State. The certifications are for the 2.5K Distance Course, the 3.3K Distance Course,the 1.2K Sprint Course, and the 1.6K Sprint Course. Gore Mountain recently increased its snowmaking capabilities at the Ski Bowl with the purchase of 20 HKD Phazer snow guns designed specifically for Nordic terrain.


The Gore Mountain Nordic Center is equipped with lights, snowmaking and grooming, and welcomes recreational users and athletes daily.  The amphitheater style of the landscape at the North Creek Ski Bowl provides an outstanding experience for spectators, and the facilities include a lodge with rentals, restrooms, and fireplace, a food truck, a yurt, a tuning pavilion, and bleachers.

Gore has a reciprocal pass with the other two NYS Olympic Regional Development Authority ski destinations, Whiteface and Belleayre. (www.GoreMountain.com, 518-251-2411)

Gore doesn’t have slopeside lodging (except for Gore Mountain Lodge which offers yurts on the access road). But the nearby village of North Creek is utterly charming (lovely shops and bistros) where we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Copperfield Inn (www.copperfieldinn.com, 877-235-1466). The town offers a free shuttle to the mountain.

New in North Creek for summer and fall: Revolution Rail Experience: a fast-moving “rail bike” that you propel 6 miles, roundtrip, one of the many year-round activities being developed.

Whiteface Mountain Expands Snowmaking

Whiteface Mountain (Wilmington, Essex County) is home to the greatest vertical in the east (3,430’), and the east’s longest intermediate run (Wilmington Trail, 11,088 ft), with 86 trails stretching over 22 miles and encompassing three peaks, with an almost natural separation in skier ability. This season the Olympic mountain offers upgraded snowmaking capabilities on key trails while widening and expanding popular trails, and anew pump house, for a 25% increase in snowmaking capacity. The renovations to the Bear Den Base Lodge will be home to the facility’s ever-growing snowsports program.

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

Lake Placid is a charming village that is the hub for Whiteface in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. Plenty to do, from the Olympic ice skating oval and museum downtown, to Olympic venues(you can even do bobsled, skeleton, biathalon, go up the Ski Jump towers,cross-country). Even (and especially) if there is someone in the family who doesn’t ski, there is so much to enrich a trip. (Try also to fit in a hike through Ausable Chasm, incredible in winter). It’s not for nothing SKI Magazine named Lake Placid #1 ski town for off-hill activities. Purchase an Olympic Sites Passport for $40 for one-time admission to the venues any time through April 30, 2019 (ages 6 and under get free admission; online purchases must be made at least 24 hours in advance.) (www.whiteface.com, 518-946-2223).

We loved our festive holiday stay at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, which offers a shuttle bus up to Whiteface, but also is a hub for all that Lake Placid offers: walking distance to the Olympic Oval ice skating rink and museum or ice skate on Mirror Lake just outside the resort; lovely shops and restaurants, and the local “toboggan roller coaster.” Also dog-sledding across the frozen surface of Mirror Lake and guided snowshoeing at Mt. Van Hoevenberg. (www.golden-arrow.com, 844-209-8080)

Belleayre Expands Areas 51, 15, Kidscamp

The third of New York State’s ski destinations under the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), Belleayre, in the Catskills, is one of the closest major ski areas to New York and one of the best for families and beginners. Located off of State Route 28 in Highmount, just a few hours from New York City, Belleayre is set in an area that was declared “Forever Wild” by the New York State Forest Preserve in 1885 and was one of the earliest pioneers of American skiing.

Belleayre is compact: 51 trails (the longest is 12,024’), 5 glades, one terrain park, one progression park, 175 skiable acres, a vertical drop of 1,404 feet, 8 lifts,with a natural separation between beginners in the lower part of the mountain,and intermediates and advanced above. The “Catskill Thunder” gondola located next to the Discovery Lodge which opened last year, services intermediate and expert terrain and “Super Chief” detachable high-speed quad services the Intermediate/Expert Area  and 4 lodges.

New for 2018-2019: Area 51 and Area 15 terrain parks are bigger and better, with new jumps, ramps, boxes, rails, pipes; expanded snowmaking capabilities with the addition of 50 low energy tower snowguns to the fleet and 4 new 1500 cfm compressors; expanded Kidscamp Learning Area with a longer 220′ magic carpet.  

Belleayre, an ORDA ski area, has an adaptive ski program.

Belleayre also offers 9.2 km of cross-country trails, which free to use and are only open with natural snow.

Belleayre has become a year-round destination. In summer into fall, Belleayre Beach swimming, picnicking, horseshoe pits, volleyball, basketball, boat rentals (pedal boats and kayaks), stand-on-top paddle board rentals, fishing, hiking and great relaxation; there’s mountain biking; hiking, scenic gondola rides, and festivals. (845-254-5600 or 800-942-6904, belleayre.com)

Belleayre doesn’t have its own lodging, but there is plenty in the vicinity. Years ago, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in an 1866 Queen Anne bnb with mountain views, the Margaretville Mountain Inn (845-586-3933, www.margaretvilleinn.com).

Hunter Mountain Opens Hunter North

Hunter Mountain in the Catskills is debuting five new trails, four new glades and high-speed six-person lift this season – adding nearly 80 acres (an increase in 33%) in skiable terrain, accessed with a new high-speed six-person lift.  Driven by a $9 million investment by its new owners, Peak Resorts (which also owns Mount Snow in Vermont), the opening of Hunter North is the largest expansion the Northeast U.S. has seen in 15 years.

“Hunter North is a game-changer for Hunter Mountain as it dramatically expands our winter offerings and adds variety to our terrain,” Russ Coloton, General Manager at Hunter Mountain, commented. “Featuring predominantly intermediate terrain serviced by the high-speed six-person chair lift, Hunter North will allow our resort to broaden its appeal and improve on-mountain traffic flows over the course of the winter season. Views from the additional terrain are spectacular.”

Hitting the park at Hunter Mountain, now owned by Peak Resorts. This season, the resort opened Hunter North, expanding skiable terrain by 80 acres.

With the addition of Hunter North, the resort offers 320 skiable acres; 67 trails, 7 gladed areas, 4 freestyle areas, 13 lifts and a vertical of 1600 ft.  There’s also snow tubing, cat tours, and a spa. (www.huntermtn.com, 800-486-8376)

Hunter Mountain has its own slopeside lodging with ski in/out convenience – the Kaatskill Mountain Club Lodge and condos – but the area also has most charming inns and bnbs. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Fairlawn Inn, an elegant Victorian bnb, just down the street from Hunter’s entrance (www.fairlawninn.com).

Windham Mountain Has New Lift, RFID

Windham Mountain (Windham, Greene County) is where small-town charm meets 21st century technology:  radio-frequency identification (RFID). This new feature eliminates paper lift tickets and allows skiers to reload online, meaning shorter lines, less waste and lower prices.

But the big news is the opening this season of Windham’s new high-speed six-pack detachable lift, Westside Six, which brings skiers up the mountain in less than 5 ½ minutes, for a total of 12 lifts accessing its 285 skiable acres and 54 trails, six terrain parks. The resort, which began as a private club and still has that intimate feeling,offers night-skiing, Terrain-Based Learning, beginner packages. It also offers lodging, dining options, an Adventure Park, and full-service Alpine Spa. 

Windham Mountain, which began as a private club and still has that intimate feeling, offers night-skiing, Terrain-Based Learning, and beginner packages.

This year, Windham Mountain Resort and the Adaptive Sports Foundation have joined forces with the Capital Region Nordic Alliance, Inc. to offer Nordic and ParaNordic activities at Windham Country Club including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, orienteering, and biathlon (light-based and paintball). Trail fees will be $10 for adults and $8 for youth (children ages six and under are free). An additional fee of $10 for adults and $5 for youth will be charged for orienteering or biathlon activities.  Rental equipment and PSIA certified Nordic lessons are also available.  Capital Region Nordic Alliance, Inc. plans to work closely with The Adaptive Sports Foundation in Windham, making these services available to children and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities and chronic illnesses.
 
“Last year, we offered cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at the Country Club but it was contingent on natural snow, making operations difficult. This is an exciting expansion because the orienteering and biathlon activities will be available whether there is snow on the ground or not,” says Kristen Garraghan, Director of Operations at Windham Country Club.  “I had the pleasure of managing Nordic operations at Windham Country Club toward the end of last winter and I’m thrilled about this new partnership,” adds Russ Myer, Executive Director of the Capital Region Nordic Alliance (capitalregionnordicalliance.org).
 
Windham Mountain Resort is a year-round destination in the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County, in the Hudson River Valley, about two and a half hours north of New York City. In the summer months, Windham Mountain Bike Park is famous for its World Cup course, but also features a three-mile-long beginner trail. Windham Mountain Country Club is an 18-hole public golf course with a private club atmosphere. (windhammountain.com, 800-754-9463)

Windham has its own lodging but there are also several delightful inns in the vicinity.We enjoyed our stay at the Thompson House Family Resort, a six-generation historic inn, just around the corner (actually abuts Windham’s golf course), thompsonhouse.com, 518-734-4510.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort

Greek Peak Mountain Resort (Cortland, Cortland County in the Finger Lakes) continues to invest in the mountain with more than $1.5 million in improvements. Under new ownership, the resort, which was founded in 1958, has added a new quad chairlift, new PB 600 groomer with Zaag attachment, new ski and board equipment in the rental shop and state of the art ski & board tuning facility and added snowmaking machines with 1,000 gallons per minute capacity. Improvements to the lodge include a gazebo, a mountain-top deck, a wedding-tent venue with new flooring, and a new ‘Big Bear Activity Zone’ at Cascades Indoor Waterpark, a 41,000 sq. ft. park featuring 500 ft. of slides, wavepool and hot tubs open to the public year-round.

Mountain coaster at Greek Peak is a year-round attraction.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort is the largest ski resort in central New York with 33 trails, six aerial lifts, two surface lifts, beginners’ slope, and terrain parks. The four-season resort is located in New York’s scenic Finger Lakes region, just off Interstate I-81.

Its “green” hotel, Hope LakeLodge, affording ski in/out convenience, features 106 luxury condominium-style suites. Arcadia Village, located next to the hotel, offers additional lodging in units that are spacious with all the comforts of home.

Amenities at the resort include three restaurants, a world-class customized spa, a fitness center, and a 41,000-square-foot indoor water park. The Resort is set within 7,000 acres of state-protected land that is accessible by all residents and guests for cross country skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, and horseback riding.Additionally, Greek Peak Mountain Resort operates an Adventure Center in New York State with a Mountain Coaster and 4 tandem zip lines operating year-round and a ten-lane winter snow-tubing center and the Cascades Indoor Waterpark  (greekpeak.net, 888-353-5707).

Hop Metro North to Thunder Ridge

Closest and most convenient to New York (actually, just a hop off Metro North) an hour north of New York City, Thunder Ridge Ski Area, Patterson, NY, is an ideal area for families and beginners. The ski area offers a convenient shuttle service form the train, a “Take the Rails to the Trails” package and is open for night skiing until 9 pm (Sunday until 5 pm). Ski and snowboard lessons are available for all ages and ability levels. There are ski and stay packages, and seasonal passes are based on age (https://thunderridgeski.com/, 845-878-4100).

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

January is Learn to Ski Month

Events and discounted programs for skiers and riders of all skill levels are planned for this season, including:

         January 11, 2019: National Learn to Ski or Snowboard Day Celebration – Part of a national month-long initiative that encourages skiing and snowboarding with professional lessons offered by many ski areas  
         January 17, 2019: Discover NY Ski Day – Special deals and discounts by various ski areas  
         January 26, 2019: Central Park Winter Jam – Annual event hosted by the Ski Areas of NY, NYC Parks and the Olympic Regional Development Association that brings free skiing and snowboarding to New York City’s Central Park  
         All season: Kids Passport Program – Third and fourth grad students learn to ski for free with a paying adult  
         Various dates: Ski & Stay Weekends – Deals includes ski and stay for two nights and get the third night free  

For more information on these and other winter experiences in New York State, visit iloveny.com/winter.

Connect with ISKINY online at www.iskiny.comwww.facebook.com/ISKINY,and www.instagram.com/i_ski_ny/

New York State features 11 vacation regions. Attractions encompass landmarks such as Niagara Falls, the largest park in the continental U.S. in the Adirondacks and treasures such as the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, the Strong Museum of Play (with its Toy Hall of Fame) in Rochester, National Comedy Center in Jamestown, Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome, and the Erie Canal stretching across the state’s mid-section. New York State offers diverse activities for all seasons, from fishing, hiking, biking and boating to year-round festivals and exploring the rich history and culture of one of the 13 original colonies. Throughout the state, visitors enjoy fine cuisine, beverage trails and farm-to-table fresh foods. Visit iloveny.com for more information.

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© 2018Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved.Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet@TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Skiing Gore Mountain: New York’s Adirondacks at its Best

Riding the chairlift at Gore Mountain. The jagged peaks and wilderness of the Adirondacks give you a Rocky Mountain feeling © Laini Miranda/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By David Leiberman and Laini Miranda

We arrive at Gore Mountain, in New York’s wild and open Adirondack Mountains, park in lot E and immediately find a shuttle driver to take us to the base lodge. Three kind gentleman staffers open the door for us and greet us as we walk in. We get our ski rentals quickly and are out the door, taking the gondola to the summit.

The first thing we notice at Gore is the ease of the experience. While maintaining a deceptively small, family-friendly feel, every amenity is considered and every step of getting you out of the parking lot, through the rental shop, and up to the mountain is as smooth as can be.

On this particular Saturday when they had several inches of new powder, whenever we veered away from the gondola, it felt quiet and we experienced the sweeping panoramas of the Adirondacks without much of a crowd. At some points, the open vistas of the Adirondack Preserve let you imagine yourself skiing the Rockies.

Though Gore skiing consists of nine faces across four mountains, you can easily move between the areas, and it’s simple to get back to the base lodge and food-court or the mid-mountain Saddle Lodge to grab a bite or warm up.
There are a lot of options for all types of skiers (10% of trails are classed as easier, or green; 50% are intermediate, or blue; and 40% are most difficult, or black trails). They also feature abundant glade skiing when there’s sufficient snow –– more than we’ve seen at most of the East Coast resorts.

It is surprising to realize that Gore is the biggest ski destination in New York State (and New York has more ski areas than any other in the nation!), with the most skiable acres (446 acres), 107 trails, 27 glades (Gore was one of the first eastern ski areas to develop gladed terrain), six freestyle areas. Six of its trails are longer than 1 1/2 miles, with the longest run 4.4 miles. In all, Gore offers 42 miles of skiing, even night skiing!  With 2537 vertical feet, Gore also offers the 6th greatest vertical in the East – a greater vertical drop in fact than such famous mountains as Stowe (2360), Sunday River (2340), Okemo (2200), Jay Peak (2153), Mount Tremblant (2116), Loon, (2100), Mont-Sainte-Anne (2050), Mad River Glen (2037), Stratton Mountain (2003) and Mount Snow (1700).

Each of Gore’s four mountains have their own character: Gore Mountain is the biggest and highest, at 3600 ft., Bear Mountain rises to 3200 ft., Burnt Ridge Mountain rises to 2735 ft. and Little Gore Mountain goes up to 1900 ft.

Among them is an astonishing array of terrain, not to mention views and the fact that if conditions are not the best in one area, or are too crowded (not likely because of the way skiers are dispersed), you can simply move to another.

Gore Mountain, the largest ski area in New York State, offers a variety of terrain © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is more useful, though, to divide Gore into its different areas: the Straight Brook Area on Gore Mountain is where you will find a variety of challenging terrain and glades; it is also where you will find the two runs, Rumors and Lies, rumored to be the steepest train in the East (unconfirmed). There are also a couple of intermediate trails – like Cloud – which connects to other blues and greens to ski the whole way down. In all, this area has 10 trails, 4 glades and 54 acres accessed by a quad lift.

“The Dark Side” of Gore known as the High Peaks Area is “Classic Adirondack” skiing and very popular with experts. There are 12 trails and 2 glades on 30 acres, accessed by a double chair.

Bear Mountain offers the Northwoods Area, accessed by the Northwoods Gondola and Gore’s newest lift, a high-speed detachable quad. You can take a green trail Sunway, 2.2 miles down to the base; a blue trail, Twister, is long, wide and forgiving, and beautiful, lined with trees and with lovely views of the Adirondacks. This area offers 29 trails, 3 glades, gondola, detachable quad, double and four surface lifts on 154 acres. (The gondola is marvelous, and they cleverly post these interesting historical notes in each car.)

The North Side is off the beaten path, and offers an array of easy-going cruisers and gorgeous views of High Peaks. It’s considered the best bet for families (9 trails, 2 glades on 37 acres serviced by a quad).

Burnt Ridge area is one of Gore’s four peaks of development, which is noted for its geology and great views of North Creek and the Hudson River – six trails, four glades on 70 acres, serviced by “one of the most luxurious rides” on the mountain, a high-speed quad.

North Creek Ski Bowl is where they offer night skiing as well as tubing (8 trails, 5 glades, on 47 acres, serviced by two triples. This area has its own base lodge and parking lot, plus half pipe and terrain park. That means you can drive up in the day, arrive in the late afternoon, and purchase a night-skiing ticket; or if you purchase a multi-day ticket, you purchase an add-on for night skiing (3-9 pm). Night skiing is offered Friday, Saturday and Sundays, and daily during holidays, until 9 pm.

Getting set to take a run at Gore Mountain © Laini Miranda/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Now for the runs. Our two favorites were on opposite sides of the mountain: Chatiemac at Gore Mountain and Sagamore at Burnt Ridge Mountain. We were intrigued by Rumors and Lies on Gore, which are two of their most famous runs, but neither was open due to the lack of snow. The rest of the top of the mountain was fun to explore. The caveat about this area is they don’t feature high speed lifts. On the other hand, the double High Peaks Chair lift is one of the last of its kind on the East Coast and makes for a sweet slow-paced ride between the glades.

To get to the top of the mountain you have two options, right or left: from the top of North Woods Gondola you can go right to take the windy green Ruby Run to blue Upper Wood Inn, to the High Peaks Chair. Pick up speed towards the bottom as you’ll have to skate for a decent chunk at the end of that ride, and will end up at the quaint double chair lift. Or there’s a pretty fast and enjoyable black called Uncas that will spit you out at the Straight Brook Quad, which will take you straight up to the top at quicker speeds.

Our other favorite was Sagamore, a long delightful black that we had virtually to ourselves. On this March day with not a ton of snow, that trail was still a pleasure top to bottom.

In general, Gore has excellent signage and interesting trivia throughout the property. Each of the gondola cabins has its own set of fun facts, including one about Gore’s award winning environmental initiatives (all the finalists behind Gore were Colorado or west coast mountains). The timeline above the stalls in the food court is another sweet touch.

Try the pulled pork at the outdoor grill. Also, the new mid-mountain Saddle Lodge with smoked chicken tacos and a breathtaking view. © Laini Miranda/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

We got to experience the major renovations Gore made this season at three lodges. At the base area there are two large additions which (as we found) streamline the rental process and facilitate getting back on the mountain. Another addition that any hungry skier will appreciate is their brand new smoker and the amazing pulled pork sandwiches it produces in the outdoor Open Pit Grille by the Base Lodge Food Court. The new mid-mountain Saddle Lodge is another welcome addition featuring smoked chicken tacos and a breathtaking view.

Last season, Gore introduced Nordic skiing, turning its old tubing park into a cross-country ski area –– which has snowmaking on 3.7 km of its 5 km trails. The new area was so successful last year (even opening by Thanksgiving) that Gore hosted the New York State Nordic Championships. The Ski Bowl where the Nordic area also has a half pipe, border skier cross, and twilight skiing (until 8 pm).

On one gondola ride, we learned from a nice woman with her daughter that 3rd and 4th graders ski for free at many mountains in New York State (I Ski NY Free Passport); also, kids under 19 ski free with an adult.

The demo skis we rented were excellent: my Rossignol skis felt like they almost turned by themselves they were so smooth.

Gore started off as a destination ski area – after all, it wasn’t that easy to reach. But over time, especially as the New York Thruway and Northway made it so easy to reach from Albany, Saratoga Springs and Glen Falls and even Montreal, Gore became more of a day trip.

However, if you have more than the one day, the Adirondack region has so much to offer. The landscape is breathtaking, and significantly, relatively undeveloped. You also have some marvelous resorts and lodging – the grand, historic Sagamore Resort on Lake George is 45 minutes away (they offer a shuttle bus), and in North Creek, the Copperfield Inn is as intimate as an inn (only 31 rooms), but with all the services of a luxury hotel (Copperfield Inn, 307 Main Street, North Creek, NY 12853, 518-251-9808, www.copperfieldinn.com). North Creek is a charming village with several delightful bistros and shops, and the village offers a free shuttle bus to the mountain, less than 10 minutes away, every 20-30 minutes throughout the day, in season.

This visit was an easy day trip for us, but after realizing what a special destination Gore is, we will definitely be coming back for a longer stay.

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

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

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

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

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

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

Here are some of the highlights for the winter season: 

Hunter Mountain

Empire Park at Hunter Mountain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Windham Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Mountain 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greek Peak 

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

Mountain coaster at Greek Peak.

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

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

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

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

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

Thunder Ridge Ski Area

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

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

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

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

I Ski NY

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

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

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

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

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

See also:

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

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

 

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

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

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

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

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

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

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

Whiteface Mountain, Lake Placid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gore Mountain

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

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

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

Skiing Gore Mountain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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

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

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

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

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

Belleayre Mountain 

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

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

This season, Belleayre opens the new Catskill Thunder gondola.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Ski NY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gore Mountain is New York’s World-Class Ski Destination

Gore Mountain offers skiing amid the magnificent Adirondack wilderness © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Gore Mountain offers skiing amid the magnificent Adirondack wilderness © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman & Dave E Leiberman

I feel I have discovered a new ski destination, even though Gore Mountain, in New York’s Adirondacks  is one of the oldest in America, now in its 81st season. It doesn’t have the cachet of Whiteface Mountain, an hour further north in Lake Placid, which has been around since the 1930s and has hosted two Olympics. But for purists whose focus is the best skiing and riding, Gore Mountain is a spectacular discovery. I suspect that the regulars – some who are third generation Gore Mountaineers – want to keep Gore “their mountain.” That community now includes me, because Gore Mountain is a place I want to return to again and again. There is so much to explore here. And you feel such peace and clarity amid these Adirondack Mountains. In fact, skiing Gore was the closest I’ve had in the Northeast to feeling like I was skiing in the West – looking out from the peaks at a great expanse of pure wilderness; taking long cruisers down.

The surprises begin with how easy it is to reach Gore Mountain -up the New York Thruway, to the Northway, then about 20 miles off the highway, going through some quaint towns – about 4 1/2 hours from New York City, which is equivalent to coming into southern Vermont.

But this is the mighty Adirondacks, much more rugged than the Catskills Mountains, even more rugged than Vermont’s Green Mountains.

Gore Mountain offers tremendous variety of terrain, including long cruisers © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Gore Mountain offers tremendous variety of terrain, including long cruisers © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Gore, with 2537 vertical feet, offers the 6th greatest vertical in the East – a greater vertical drop than such famous mountains as Stowe (2360), Sunday River (2340), Okemo (2200), Jay Peak (2153), Mount Tremblant (2116), Loon, (2100), Mont-Sainte-Anne (2050), Mad River Glen (2037), Stratton Mountain (2003) and Mount Snow (1700).

Gore is also the biggest ski destination in New York State, with the most skiable acres (446 acres), 107 trails, 27 glades (Gore was one of the first eastern ski areas to develop gladed terrain)+, six freestyle areas. Six of its trails are longer than 1 1/2 miles, with the longest run 4.4 miles. In all, Gore offers 42 miles of skiing.

Gore is actually nine faces of four mountains, each with their own character: Gore Mountain is the highest, at 3600 ft., and biggest; Bear Mountain rises to 3200 ft., Burnt Ridge Mountain rises to 2735 ft. and Little Gore Mountain goes up to 1900.

Among them is an astonishing array of terrain, not to mention views and the fact that if conditions are not the best in one area, or are too crowded (not likely because of the way skiers are dispersed), you can simply move to another.

There is terrain to satisfy all abilities: 10% are classed as easier, or green; 50% are intermediate, or blue; and 40% are most difficult, or black trails.

It is more useful, though to divide Gore into its different areas (as the Gore people do): the Straight Brook Area on Gore Mountain is where you will find a variety of challenging terrain and glades; it is also where you will find The Rumor, rumored to be the steepest train in the East (unconfirmed). but there are also a couple of intermediate trails – like Cloud – which will connect to other blues and greens to come the whole way down. In all, this area has 10 trails, 4 glades and 54 acres accessed by a quad lift.

“The Dark Side” of Gore, known as the High Peaks Area so very popular with experts, is “Classic Adirondack” skiing. There are 12 trails, 2 glades on 30 acres, accessed by a double chair.

Bear Mountain offers the Northwoods Area, where I confess I spent most of my time most enjoyably, taking the long cruisers, accessed by the Northwoods Gondola and Gore’s newest lift, a high-speed detachable quad. You can take a green trail Sunway, 2.2 miles down to the base; my personal favorite was a blue trail, Twister, which was long, wide and forgiving, and beautiful, lined with trees and with lovely views of the Adirondacks. (The gondola is marvelous, and they cleverly post these interesting historical notes in each car.) This area offers 29 trails, 3 glades,, gondola, detachable quad, double and four surface lifts on 154 acres.

The North Side is off the beaten path, and offers an array of easy-going cruisers and gorgeous views of High Peaks. It’s considered the best bet for families (9 trails, 2 glades on 37 acres serviced by a quad).

Burnt Ridge area is one of Gore’s four peaks of development, which is noted for its geology and great views of North Creek and the Hudson River – six trails, four glades on 70 acres, serviced by “one of the most luxurious rides” on the mountain, a high-speed quad.

North Creek Ski Bowl is where they offer night skiing as well as tubing (8 trails, 5 glades, on 47 acres, serviced by two triples. This area has its own base lodge and parking lot, plus half pipe and terrain park. That means you can drive up in the day, arrive in the late afternoon, and purchase a night-skiing ticket; or if you purchase a multi-day ticket, you purchase an add-on for night skiing (3-9 pm). Night skiing is offered Friday, Saturday and Sundays, and daily during holidays, until 9 pm.

All of this is accessed by 15 lifts, including a wonderful, high-speed eight-passenger gondola, four quads (the newest is a high-speed detachable quad with comfortable cushions, which replaced the oldest detachable quad in North America), plus three triples, two doubles, four surface lifts and a tubing tow.

Gore started off as a destination ski area – after all, it wasn’t that easy to reach. But over time, especially as the New York Thruway and Northway made it so easy to reach from Albany, Saratoga Springs and Glen Falls and even Montreal, Gore became more of a day trip.

But that is changing again – and for good reason – as people are discovering what a special destination Gore is. There is so much skiing here. The Adirondack area is breathtaking, and significantly, relatively undeveloped. You also have some marvelous resorts and lodging – the grand, historic Sagamore Resort on Lake George is 45 minutes away (they offer a shuttle bus), and in North Creek, the Copperfield Inn is as intimate as an inn (only 31 rooms), but with all the services of a luxury hotel (the town offers a free shuttle bus to the mountain, less than 10 minutes away, every 20-30 minutes throughout the day, in season).

And even if Gore Mountain, itself, doesn’t offer all the bells-and-whistles of apres-ski and non-snow activities of a destination resort, the area, itself offers many delights – unique natural and heritage attractions –  which demand a longer stay to properly explore and experience.

Indeed, that is Gore’s major charm.

A Proud Tradition

The new high-speed quad, Adirondack Express II, brings you up through a particularly scenic area © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The new high-speed quad, Adirondack Express II, brings you up through a particularly scenic area © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Gore Mountain is now in its 81st year – in fact one of the oldest commercial ski areas in North America.

“North Creek was a mining village – trains came up from New York City,” Michael Platt, Gore’s general manager, relates.

“In the 30s, 40s and 50s, enthusiasts would come by train – Saks Fifth Avenue at one point sponsored the train. They would ride up [in taxis and buses] and ski down. They would be brought up from the back side of Gore – where there is an old garnet mine (still).”

In fact, the Adirondack Branch of the railway survived the Great Depression due in part to the ski trains that ran from Schenectady and New York City in the 1930′s. Skiers flocked to North Creek and to the first downhill ski center in New York State, which was constructed at the Ski Bowl on the slopes of Gore Mountain, the North Creek Depot Museum notes.

Gore has steadily grown and improved over the years (it is allowed to add one trail a year) and you can trace the remarkable development of Gore Mountain resort over its 81 year history in posters at the food court in the base lodge.

Most recently, “Little Gore” (actually one of the first areas ever opened to skiers), was connected to the other three mountains, and today has its own base lodge, where they offer night skiing (Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and daily over holidays, 3-9 pm), a terrain park, half pipe, as well as tubing.

This year, Gore replaced the oldest high speed quad in North America with a new high-speed detachable quad, the Adirondack Express II. “A fat man’s chair,” Pratt jokes, offering the smoothest, most comfortable cushioned seats.

Also, Gore replaced a 1940s T-bar (in honor of which they named a trail the 46-er). Other improvements for this year include more snowmaking and four more glades.

The improvements have been spearheaded by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), which took over operation of Gore, one of three mountain destinations owned and operated by New York State, from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation in 1984. ORDA was formed around the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid took over management of Whiteface; it took over operations of Belleayre, Highmount, in the Catskill Mountains, just two years ago.

DEC is great at environmental conservation, but ORDA are “ski people” – they know how to operate a mountain and the improvements it brings to the mountains can be seen in the lift operations, snowmaking and lessons.

ORDA this year introduced a new learn-to-ski program, called Parallel from the Start  – an updated version of a method used at Whiteface for 20 years – that uses specially designed skis by Head which are much shorter, even for adults. The idea is that you feel more confident, are able to turn easily and keep skis parallel from the start, and then transition to longer skis.

Parallel from the Start (for skiers) and Learn to Snowboard (for snowboarders) are specifically geared toward those ages 13+ looking to get into the sport. The three-day all-inclusive programs include three days of beginner lift tickets, lessons and rentals for only $169 – a deal that can’t be beat considering that you can use these three days anytime consecutively or not consecutively throughout the season. In addition, skiers and riders in the program receive a free Frequent Skier Card at the end of their third day that gives them discounts on lift tickets for the rest of the season.

Gore offers a race program with trails that are “homologated” for FIS and USSA standards for slalom,  giant slalom and Super G.

Another key advantage of the three mountain destinations – each with their own special appeal and character – being owned and operated by ORDA and New York State, in practical terms, it means that season passes and even multi-day tickets can be used at any of the three mountain resorts – Whiteface is just an hour away.

“Heritage is powerful,” says Michael Pratt, Gore’s general manager.

“The attractiveness of Gore is that the people who come – sometimes three generations – consider it ‘their mountain’. Ownership is powerful. They find it their personal destination.”

And Gore is so big – there is no way to ski the entire area in a day – and with so many faces and variety, even if you’ve skied here your entire life, you couldn’t get bored. The serendipity of weather and snow conditions and all the other factors will change the experience each time you take a trail.

“We are returning to being a destination mountain,” he says. “Our bread and butter are the families.”

Gore has everything the most persnickety skier/rider would want and none of what they don’t need. There aren’t the bells and whistles – no posh restaurants on the mountain, no waffle shacks, or snowcat sightseeing.

The food court at the base lodge serves really excellent fresh and homemade food at very fair prices – Rosie’s egg salad (fabulous), freshly made soups (chicken vegetable, cream of vegetable, clam chowder, chili, $5.50 a bowl, $2.50 more for a bread bowl, excellent). Also, the Ski Bowl Lodge at the base of North Creek Ski Bowl, offers meals and snacks from sunup through twilight to accommodate the night skiing and tubing. And the Tannery Pub & Restaurant in the upper level of the Base Lodge offers drinks and live entertainment.

These are public lands – you are in the Adirondack State Park, after all, and the area is owned by New York State – which means there is no housing, no villas or townhomes on the side of the trails, and when you look out to the mountain peaks, all you see is an amazing expanse of magnificent wilderness. Gore offers 26 glades, all at elevations in the forest with hardwoods, spruce and birch (you think  you are skiing the Rockies for the expansive views from one mountain to the next). Indeed, the Adirondacks offer that sort of rugged peaks – larger than the Catskills.

“This is America’s last wilderness,” Pratt says.

Gore taps the mighty Hudson River for its snowmaking water, and returns the favor when the snowmelt makes for some of the most fearsome river rafting in the country, rivaling even the Grand Canyon for its vertical drop.

The beauty of Gore is quite literally its authentic wilderness experience. Skiing and riding bring you up to these magnificent peaks.

And North Creek, the nearest village, is part of that special charm.

Five resorts partner with Gore Mountain and the website (goremountain.com) offers 86 properties for lodging. Packages include “Gore Holiday Your Way” (two nights stay, two or more days, from $179 pp); “January Jamboree (from $190pp); MLK Fireworks & Fun (3-nights lodging, 3-day lift tickets, from $263pp); weekend packages from $175 pp.

The Copperfield Inn, in the tiny hamlet of North Creek in New York State's Adirondack preserve, offers the cozy charm of an inn and the luxury of a hotel © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The Copperfield Inn, in the tiny hamlet of North Creek in New York State’s Adirondack preserve, offers the cozy charm of an inn and the luxury of a hotel © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We stayed at the Copperfield Inn, just about 10 minutes up the road from Gore Mountain, on North Creek’s Main Street, with all the charm of an inn and all the luxury of a fine hotel (pet friendly, too). It offers 31  spacious guest rooms & suites, Mediterranean-style selections in Lorenzo’s Restaurant and hearty pub fare & entertainment at Trappers Tavern, plus health and fitness center with spa services, indoor sauna, outdoor hot tub, free WiFi, and in season, outdoor swimming pool and tennis court; 877-235-1466, www.copperfieldinn.com (see story).

North Creek is a quiet country village with many delights, including the Hudson River Trading Company store, and delightful restaurant BarVino on Main Street, and a few miles away, on Rte 28, Basil & Wicks (see story).

If you want a high life, it’s easy to find it in Lake George, 30-45 minutes away. Indeed, the grand, historic Sagamore Resort at Bolton Landing on Lake George offers a shuttle bus to the mountain.

Gore Mountain is very much a four-season destination. Indeed, Gore offers mountain biking, hiking and gondola rides. There is also fly-fishing and the Hudson River offers some of the best river rafting in the country (see GoreMountain.com or GoreChamber.com for outfitters). There are also some spectacular geological formations, such as Ausable Chasm and Natural Stone Bridge & Caves, and all the delights of Lake George, even the Great Escape theme park.

More to do: Scenic train rides on the Saratoga & North Creek Railway to seven stops along the Hudson River in elevated dome cars (SNCRR.com, 877-726-7245); North Creek Depot Museum (NorthCreekDepotMuseum.org); Ski Bowl Gardens (which offers a new hike/bike trail system); Garnet Mine Tours (518-251-2706, GarnetMineTours.com); and Garnet Hill Lodge, a full-service hiking and mountain bike center offering guided history and nature hikes, 600 acres of trails (Garnet-Hill.com, 518-251-2444).

Getting here: NYS Thruway to Exit 24. Take I-87 (the Northway) to Exit 23 (Warrensburg). Follow Route 9 for 4 miles to Route 28 for 16 miles to 793 Peaceful Valley Road.

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

Next: The Special Charm of Copperfield Inn and North Creek

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