Many of the Hudson Valley area ski resorts boast a year-round playground, but it’s wintertime when the area’s mountains are at their (pardon the pun) peak. Our mountains may not hold a candle to the West Coast behemoth ranges and the celebs that flock there; but it’s just the way we like it. The skiing in the area is fussfree, easy to travel to, and often familyowned and operated. From the towering peaks at Hunter and Windham boasting themed-weekends and dining options worthy of a Michelin star; to the line-free lifts of Catamount and the sunny deck at Belleayre, the options go far beyond price and ski level. Most of these resorts open mid to late November and don’t close until April; it’s the areas silver lining to the doom-and-gloom of winter. And oh baby, it’s (about to get) cold outside.
Owned by New York State, Belleayre is a laid-back resort for those who appreciate the skiing and snowboarding as much as the beauty of their surroundings, situated in the middle of the Catskill State Park. The area was declared “Forever Wild” by the New York State Forest Preserve in 1885, protecting the integrity of Belleayre’s natural landscape while providing access to recreation. Belleayre includes the Catskills’ only Cat-access skiing, a halfpipe, and Area 51 Terrain Park. With 47 trails, parks, and glades, and eight lifts, including a new high-speed quad, Belleayre Mountain is a hidden gem with rarely a line in sight. The mountain has expertly been divided in half, the upper featuring trails for more advance skiers and the lower for beginners. They’ve also developed a reputation for a fine ski school. The cozy bar and sprawling deck (often featuring music) is where happy people call it a day over a pint.
Catamount is unique in that the slopes are shared with both New York and Massachusetts, offering some of the most picturesque views of the Berkshires. This family-owned ski area features 32 trails, six lifts, and the longest ski run in the Berkshires, coming in at 2.5 miles. Don Edwards, coowner of Catamount, says, “Catamount is not as crowded the other places in the Berkshires, but it’s larger. There are little or no lift lines.” They offer many different packages, including affordable Monday-Friday lift tickets and a six-week Women’s Wednesday package that includes lessons, lift ticket, and lunch. But it’s the Mountain Cat program that has put Catamount on the map. Children ages 4-12 have become strong skiers due to this instructional program designed to teach young ones the ways of the slopes. Edwards also mentions that night skiing is a big draw at Catamount. “Saturday night is our most popular night for skiing,” he says. Many of their skiers will hit the slopes in the evening and relax at the tavern for a giant cheeseburger.
Hunter Mountain is where you can find some of the best skiing in the Northeast. Boasting a 1,600-foot vertical drop, 11 lifts, and 55 trails, this is one of Hudson Valley’s most popular mountains. Jessica Pezak, communications director for Hunter, says that the lift, called the Kaatskill Flyer, will be operational this winter. It’s the only six-passenger lift in New York State. She also dishes that Hunter has the longest and highest zipline and canopy tour in North America running this season, slated to open Christmas week. This could make for a very handsome holiday. Après-ski, the possibilities at Hunter are endless—especially nightlife. Hunter was once known for being the singles ski haven, but has since grown up a skosh. Pezak says, “Hunter has come a long way since the ‘70s and ‘80s. There is still a legendary bar and club scene and most of the bars are open until 4am. However, the mountain, town, and resort area has much more of a family feel. A lot of the singles here who partied hard in the old days grew up, got married and had kids—and they’re still here today.” And Hunter is taking care of those longtime skiers with their family activities like the Learning Center, Childrens’ Programs and Snowtubing.
Plattekill’s slopes lies in the beautiful mountains of the Western Catskills in the town of Roxbury. This husband-and-wife-owned business has become renown for the family atmosphere and personalized experience. Danielle and Laszlo Vajtay have owned Plattekill for 18 years, and Danielle says, “We have two children and like to think that we know what families are looking for.” With 35 trails, a 1,100-foot vertical, three lifts and a 3,500-foot summit, Plattekill is set up in a ski-bowl layout where all runs meet at one base lodge. Danielle, who also wears the hat as the marketing manager of Plattekill, says, “You might have a parent that doesn’t ski. They often hang out at the lodge and watch their kids from the window.” That lodge has a full cafeteria serving kid-friendly hamburgers and French fries but also has a higher-end bistro that opened last season. She notes, “We have a niche appeal that provides that little extra.” Her favorite on the menu? The avocado-chicken sandwich served on ciabatta bread with chipotle sauce. The bistro has a full bar with nightly entertainment featuring a solo or duet. “They always take requests,” Danielle adds.
This family-friendly ski area in the Putnam County town of Patterson may not look as intimidating as the name sounds, but the mountain has everything that you could want for the perfect day of skiing. Thunder Ridge comes complete with 30 trails, three chairlifts, a T-bar, hand tow, and three magic carpets. With a drop of 500 feet, the mountain is one of the more humble in Hudson Valley, but certainly nothing to sneeze at. This family-owned resort is the closest to New York City and offers a unique package with MetroNorth. Because of this, families and visitors often come for a quick day trip from the city, without the need for a car. Meryl Didio, office manager at Thunder Ridge, says, “We actually have people who come here just to ski a few hours after work.” They’re open until 9pm in case the hankering for a snowy happy hour floats your boat. It’s also one of the most walletfriendly to boot. Families make up most of the mountain and there are lessons for all ages and a fantastic ski school. Babysitting is also available. You’ll see many happy kids (and adults) gathered in the simple cafeteria that serves comfort foods like mac and cheese and classic ski-lodge fare. Didio says that “the curly fries are the most popular item popular on the menu. You just can’t pass them up.”
A palatial mountain in the Northern Catskills, Windham Mountain has it all—and often the crowds to prove it. Boasting a summit elevation of 3,100 feet, there is plenty of air to catch. Forty-six total trails and seven trails for night skiing, 10 lifts and 2 high-speed detachable quads offer premium skiing for both experts and beginning skiers. Windham also has the only Big Air Bag in the Northeast. (Think oversize pillow for crashlanding after gnarly arials.) This über resort has played host to celebs like Uma Thurman, Jerry Seinfield, Adrian Grenier, and most of the Kennedys but remains known more for the family atmosphere than the celeb sightings. Along with skiing and snowboarding, tubing and ice-skating are quite popular for the tots. And when you’re too cold, sore, or tuckered out to hit the slopes, there’s an abundance of après-ski treats. Erika Dewitt, public relations and function sales manager at Windham, says “Rock’n Mexicana is a fabulous new Mexican restaurant on Main Street in Windham serving delicious margaritas, 10 Mexican beers, enchiladas, fajitas, and scrumptious tacos!” Dewitt also says that Cave Mountain Brewery is very popular with skiers. Margaritas and snow might be a new concept, but it’s certainly not one to scoff at.