Updated: Aug 24, 2021
Many New Yorkers fly west to get their ski fix, but Covid has made traveling problematic this season. And so a carless Brooklynite decided to rent some wheels and go on a road trip in her home state — even adding a pair of 76mm-waisted carvers to her quiver for the occasion. Luckily, it’s been a good season for snow in the northeast so far, providing excellent natural cover for our local resorts. Below are our top tips for a multi-day adventure.
From food trucks to masked moose, NY resorts have made modifications for Covid
If possible, avoid weekends, when New York state resorts — which draw from major urban centers — get crowded. Even with capacities limited by Covid, there can be lift lines and high traffic on the trails. Midweek, on the other hand, means having the place to yourself. The savings can be impressive, too: midweek adult lift tickets start at $49 at Belleayre, $63 at Gore and $85 at Windham, for savings ranging from 30% to almost 50%.
Yes, it’s worth splurging for an SUV when renting a car. First, New York has been having quite a snowy winter and most of the resorts are off of two-lane roads. And if you have your own gear (an asset since rentals require extra planning this season), it’s easy to pull down a back seat and fit in everything. Book ahead and secure a good rate from a discounter like carrentalsavers.com; Costco members get very competitive deals on cars, as, bonus, you can add an additional driver at no extra charge. Weekly discounts often mean the costs are the same whether you rent the car for 4 or 7 days.
Start All the Way North with Gore Mountain
Start your adventure with Gore Mountain, in the southern Adirondacks. Like Belleayre and Whiteface, Gore is a member of New York’s public Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), and is the state’s biggest resort by acreage. It’s worth driving the four hours from New York City the night before so you can start skiing early the next morning. Once on site, boot up in the base lodge, in one of the several large rooms (in the basement and on the main floor) offering free hooks, shelves and trays for shoes and bags.
On Mountain: Begin the day with a warmup run on Twister, a wide blue run off the Adirondack Express II chair, then go back up and make your way to the area off the North Quad, on the mountain’s North Side. Glades fiends should check out the Burnt Ridge area, served by the chair of the same name — which also accesses Echo, a meandering blue run with a great fall line. If you do happen to be at Gore on a weekend or holiday, check out the secluded North Creek Ski Bowl, which has night skiing.
Dining and Lodging. On-mountain lodging does not exist at Gore; the best options are in nearby North Creek, like the high-end Alpine Lodge; budget travelers will be perfectly content at the tidy Super 8 in Warrensburg, ~20 minutes from Gore’s base.
Dining tends to be of the hearty kind. Make sure to pick up coffee, baked goods and maybe even a sandwich for lunch at Café Sarah, a homey North Creek joint. The German-style restaurant and bar Becks is a local favorite, just before the turn to the resort.
As you leave the area for the next stage on your winter road trip, make sure to stock up at Oscar’s Adirondack Smokehouse, a beloved purveyor of fresh meats and cheeses. It’s conveniently located on U.S. 9, just 5 minutes before the ramp to I-87.
Onwards to the Catskills
Onwards to the Catskills, where you can easily hit neighboring Hunter, Belleayre and Windham from a centralized home base. There are plenty of hotels and condos near both Hunter and Windham, covering a wide range of budgets. A good, economical place near Belleayre is the Catskills Season Inn, which has both an inn building and a separate motel-like chalet with direct access to the spacious rooms (many of them with a kitchenette) — perfect during Covid times.
Windham Mountain has spruced up in recent years — it’s now on the Ikon Pass — and its confident yet relaxed vibe makes it a favorite among New York families. It’s the kind of place that has sushi to-go at the cafeteria and a fancy bar under a tent in the base area, but also a taco truck and of course the Waffle Cabin that has become de rigueur at northeastern resorts. Windham also boasts one of the best bootfitters in the state, Marc Stewart at Boot Lab. For convenient and reasonably priced ski rentals, Snowbird Ski Shop has locations at Windham and Hunter. For a multi-day trip, you can even rent from the Windham location and return to Hunter, or vice versa.
It’s worth showing up for first turns because Windham knows grooming: ripping down perfect corduroy never gets old. On weekdays, you can leave your mark on pristine ‘roy well into the morning. While the vertical won’t challenge anybody who has skied west, the long, rolling cruisers are great fun, and will remind anybody of the pleasures of getting skis on edge and carving turns.
Hunter. The Hunter-Tannersville area is undergoing a renaissance with with new restaurants and lodging options opening each season. Though not quite as family friendly as Windham, Hunter is on the Epic Pass and has Vermont quality terrain without the long drive. Its variable weather patterns and conditions keep you on your toes, but its excellent teaching program and dedicated learning center can prepare you in spades. Weekend crowds can be large, so we recommend a midweek visit, though beware some of the restaurants have limited weekday operations. For a more luxurious experience, stay at Scribner's Catskill Lodge with 38 guest rooms and suites right across from the mountain, a locally-inspired restaurant with craft cocktails, a cozy living room to relax, an ice skating rink and fire pits for roasting s'mores.
On Mountain. The Learning Center offers a separate area for those starting out. More seasoned shredders will enjoy the 1,600-foot vertical drop and a wide range of terrain, although the steepest runs only open after sustained snowfall. Hunter North opened in 2018, adding 80 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain. Intermediates will enjoy the aptly named Belt Parkway which wraps around the mountain.
Save Belleayre for last because then it’s an easy two-and-a-half drive back to New York City at the end of the day. Fans of such rugged resorts as Alta or Grand Targhee will get a kick out of Belleayre’s casual, no-frills attitude. Families may want to park at the lower-mountain Discovery Lodge, which is near both the Lightning Quad accessing the green runs and the only gondola in the Catskills, ready for a sheltered ride to the top of the mountain. (The other parking spots are at the mid-mountain Overlook Lodge and by the Tomahawk quad — which mostly runs on weekends and holidays.)
On Mountain: Many Belleayre trails run parallel to one another other, with similar patterns: a black or double-black top that eases up into an intermediate section. Intermediates who want to avoid crowds on the big cruisers at the edges of the resort, like Roaring Brook and Deer Run, can get on the less trafficked blue sections of Winnisook, Belleayre Run, Esopus or Dot Nebel.
A Belleayre asset: mogul runs are well marked and when the snow cover is good, as it’s been this season, they are a great place to practice your bump technique.
Want to receive the latest updates on the weirdest ski season ever right to your inbox? Subscribe to the Avant Ski mailing list!