Whether you’re a first-time skier or practically a pro, you can find the perfect slope close to home
Like the city dweller who has never visited the Empire State Building, many Valley residents are only vaguely aware of the many ski and snowboard areas that surround us. It’s time to open your eyes: “New York has more ski areas than any other state in the country, and is fourth in skier visits,” says Scott Brandi, president of I SKI NY. In our region, we have everything from big and bustling Catskills resorts to much smaller operations in the rolling hills of eastern Putnam County, and near the Appalachian Trail in the Warwick Valley.
Brandi quickly ticks off reasons to ski the Valley, rather than heading to Vermont and other points north. “It’s simple, close to home, there’s night skiing if you’re at work all day, and there are great learn-to-ski opportunities and children’s programs.” We’ll add the obvious: Lift tickets are cheaper, too.
I SKI NY is also the organization behind the wildly popular Kids Ski Free program, which introduces third- and fourth-graders to the sport, as well as Discover NY Ski Day (January 8 this season), when $12 lift tickets are available at many mountains. On your way to the slopes, you might even spot the I Love New York Bus on the road. This new tourism initiative departs from New York City and offers day trips to Hunter or Windham.
Even if the white stuff isn’t in your backyard, rest assured, snow will prevail on the slopes. Over the last few years, ski areas have been ramping up expanded snowmaking, not to mention other modern marvels like magic carpet lifts, improved night lighting, and cushy indoor amenities. On top of it all, they are diversifying, with many adding snow tubing, terrain parks, and snowshoeing. Heck, even the dining options are rapidly improving, with craft brews and a wide variety of waffles popping up all over the place. This month, if you’re lucky, you may even get to zip down the slopes next to Mr. Claus himself. So what are you waiting for? Time to strap on this skis!
# of trails: 58
# of lifts: 12 (1 six-passenger, 3 quads, 2 triples, 2 doubles, 1 poma, 1 carpet)
Skiable acres: 240
Longest run: 2 miles
Vertical drop: 1,600 feet
Full-day adult weekend lift ticket: $76
2, includes half pipe, rails, jumps
3 distinct ski areas, tubing, snowshoeing, ski shop, lessons, spa, 13 eateries, hotel with full-service restaurant, childcare, 3 bars, slope-side lodging
Hunter Mountain is the king of firsts: It was the first ski area in the world to feature summit-to-base snow making in 1967; in 1980, it achieved 100 percent snow making coverage (another world’s first); and nine years later, it became the first in North America to have an automated snow making system. Last year it added automatic robotic guns to the mix. If you’re hungry but don’t want to get off the mountain yet, slide over to Pika’s Waffle Stop and chow down (and warm up) on their scrumptious Belgian waffles. And after a long day of schussing, it’s great to unwind at the full-service spa or grab a great meal at Van Winkle’s Restaurant or one of the many other eateries — anyone up for a trip to the sushi bar? Don’t feel like skiing? Head to the snow tubing park — the largest in the state — and slide down some of the 18 chutes. Best night to go is Friday to buy a family fun pack: $52 for four admission tickets, 32 percent off the regular price. And if discounts don’t draw you to the mountain, we don’t know what will.