The Ultimate Guide to Skiing In New York State
These picturesque lodges are calling your name.
Published Dec 10, 2017 5:15 AM
There aren’t just a handful of skiable areas in New York State—there are over 50. Out of the best weekend getaways from NYC, skiing might just be the sportiest. Sure, ski boots are as flattering as headgear, but stepping into skis and speeding down the slopes? That’s mother nature’s runway, and there’s no competing.
From the Catskills to the Adirondacks, a flurry of boutique hotels, shops, and restaurants add a touch of oomph to the state’s best peaks, while a handful of long-haul resorts make for yet another reason to escape to New York’s wine country—and beyond. On and off the slopes, here’s where to ski, strut, and sleep.
Hunter Mountain is just over two hours from NYC, making it one of the closest, most worthwhile ski trips in the Northern Catskills. And it goes the distance, with over 240 skiable acres and 58 trails, ranging from beginner to expert status. Skilled and swift skiers aim for the curvy Jimmie Heuga Express and its panorama of the Catskill Mountains. Not down for the black diamonds? Hunter doesn’t let up: It’s also home to New York’s largest snow tubing park, as well as the country’s longest, highest zip line canopy tour. (Hold on to your beanie, because it’s open year-round.)
One of many hotels in charming upstate’s Hudson Valley, Scribner’s Catskill Lodge is perched on the hillside, across from Hunter Mountain. Formerly a 1960s motor lodge with dire 1980s decor, Brooklyn’s Studio Tack refashioned the forlorn building with interiors that make the heart go pitter-patter. Its 38 rooms are painted white and fresh as snow, most with freestanding fireplaces, and some with sunken living rooms: Every nook and cranny is handcrafted and cozy. Scribner’s seasonally-forward restaurant, Prospect, is no less attentive. A new après-ski menu brings bubbly fondue to the table, while s’mores and hot chocolates—crafted in partnership with Brooklyn’s Raaka Chocolate—are the sweetest way to warm up the wind down.
There’s subtle rivalry between Hunter Mountain and Windham Mountain Resort, because at 10 or so miles apart—and with similar stats—they take turns in each other’s shadow. But Windham Mountain measures up, with 269 skiable acres and 54 trails. It’s also pumping $2 million into its automated snowmaking system, which means skiers are covered when mother nature is light on snow. The highlight, however, might just be its nightlife: Unlike most ski resorts, Windham offers night skiing—all the more reason to stay over for a weekend in the Catskills.
After hitting the slopes, drive around state routes toward nearby towns and hamlets. En route, the prettiest of pitstops is Phoenicia Diner, a revamped 1960s diner that feels quite like a movie—and that’s not surprising, considering the fact that its Brooklynite owner once built movie sets. Beneath globe lights and bright red bottles of ketchup, picture perfect classics are next-level, with farm-sourced flavors rendered in dishes like buckwheat pancakes drizzled in locally made syrup, and eggs any way. (Naturally, breakfast is served all day.) Move on from diner mugs to Pacama Handmade’s showroom in Woodstock, where the designer’s handcrafted timber furniture is on display next to hand-sculpted cups and saucers that will make any cabinet swoon. And, as Windham Mountain is conveniently a stone’s throw away, head through the woods and over the river toward Hudson—where antiquing dreams come true.
Adirondacks’ Lake Placid
At the very least, Lake Placid is New York’s most credentialed ski town—it hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932, and again in 1980. Aspiring medalists head to the Adirondacks’ darling, Whiteface Mountain, where a 3,430-foot vertical is higher than any other resort’s in the East. Graciously, its 87 trails leave more than enough room for beginners, too. Here, history is on loop—a half-mile bobsled track at the Olympic Sports Complex is an alternate thrill to the slopes.
While the town is full of buzzy A-frame joints and charm, the point to traveling so high up—over five hours from NYC—is to hide away. At Lake Placid Lodge just outside of town and perched on the edge of Lake Placid, the main lodge is rich with glamour. (It’s designed to evoke the mega Gilded Age lodges that were once popular in the Adirondacks.) Hide out at Buck, the property’s most coveted standalone cabin: Its two guest rooms overlook the lake, making it a rustically luxurious escape for a pair of friends, or a romantic set of couples bound to call dibs on the deep soaking tub.
While northern New York is home to the most accessible mountains, heading west is a perfectly convenient excuse to visit the Finger Lakes region—better known for its vineyards, it also has its share of slopes. Chief among them, Greek Peak Mountain Resort has ramped up its terrain after a round of upgrades worth a cool $5.5 million. A whole swath of gladed runs are skiable this season, increasing the resort’s trail count from 42 to 54. In the midst of wine country, it’s a sensible stop to ski—preferably before you sip.
Ithaca is a worthy basecamp, just 30 minutes away from Greek Peak and surrounded by frozen waterfalls and tasting rooms. Here, Argos Inn takes the cake: Formerly the mid-century headquarters of Duncan Hines, the 1800s-era home has been restored as a 10-bedroom boutique, with pared-down interiors dotted with turn-of-the century furniture. It’s worth staying for the speakeasy-style bar, where Manhattan-worthy mixologists serve crafty cocktails—spotlighting the Finger Lakes’ penchant for distilling as much as winemaking. While in Ithaca, stick to the classics by sifting through 7,000 square feet of vintage finds at FOUND in Ithaca—browse the extensive collection of old-school wedding gowns to check off something old—or book a table at Moosewood, a formative restaurant that, decades ago, dug the roots for plant-based cuisine.
Although it’s even further west, the chocolate-box town maintains its moniker as the Aspen of the East. Of two ski resorts, HoliMont Ski Area and Holiday Valley, the former is members-only (except on weekdays), so the latter steps up. Over the years, Holiday Valley has increased its trails to 60, and thanks to a recent multi-million dollar investment, the slopes are better than ever. If you’re so inclined, The Wall is one of the resort’s favorite trails—and also the steepest in western New York— while along Mistletoe, the trail is lined with Norway Spruce trees that were planted during the Depression. When they’re covered in snow, it’s peak winter bliss.
The blink-and-miss-it town is the postage-stamp definition of adorable, with a population shy of 400. Tucked in town, Brickstone Suites are all new and as modern as the quaint town gets: a clutch of five apartments; some with exposed brick walls, all with WiFi and privacy. For a rustic evening, the lodge-y Ellicottville Brewing Co. is the town’s classic micro-brewery—think eclectic brews, like a Chocolate Cherry Bomb stout—while its most stylish night out is certainly Dina’s, fresh with a chic makeover to complement its menu of cozy classics.
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