Even for people in the Northeast, New York doesn’t always come to mind when it comes to skiing, with many choosing to visit New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. But New York has more ski resorts than any other state! We checked with the locals, and here are the 8 best ski resorts in New York!
- Easy to get to, 2.5-3 hours drive from New York City
- Good snowmaking
- Great night skiing
- Basic lodge and cafeteria
- Small size
- Modest vertical
Set right on the Massachusetts state line and easy to get to from both New York City and Boston, Catamount offers a family-friendly experience nestled in a picturesque bowl in the Berkshires.
Great Bet for Beginners
In addition to its children’s programs, part of Catamount’s family-friendly cred comes from its beginner terrain. There are three magic carpet lifts, a Snow Sports Learning Area, and the Meadows Learning Area – a safe area off to one side where novices can practice in peace. In all, a third of the 36 trails are rated for beginners, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is left out – almost half of the terrain is blue heaven for intermediates. While that doesn’t sound like there’s much for advanced and expert skiers, one of its two double blacks claims to be the steepest run in the Berkshires. Plus, snowboarders and freestylers will appreciate the selection of terrain parks!
Bright Future for Catamount
Admittedly, it’s a small mountain without much vertical and the 305 m base elevation doesn’t always make for the best snow. But what it lacks in big mountain stats it makes up for with a relaxed and friendly vibe, both on the slopes and in the nearby town of Hillsdale. Also with 32 of 36 trails covered by snowmaking, they’ve hedged their bets with Mother Nature while plenty of lights make for great night skiing. Although some find the base facilities rather basic, in the spring of 2018 Catamount was sold to the owners of Berkshire East Mountain Resort and renovations are on the way!
Getting there: 2.5 to 3-hour drive from New York City, less than 3 hours from Boston.
- Modern lift system
- Great snow-making
- Low elevation
- Lack of natural snow
- Relatively expensive
In the western Finger Lakes region of New York, south of Rochester and east of Buffalo, Bristol Mountain boasts 366 m of vertical descent. That’s the biggest between the Adirondacks (think Lake Placid) and the Rocky Mountains. Yes, those Rocky Mountains!
Upstate Getaway and Locals’ Favorite
With its ease of access, Bristol is where skiers and snowboarders in the Rochester call home. It’s also not too far from Albany and Syracuse, and a nice option for folks in the big city who want to get a little further away from it all. Despite that, it avoids a big resort vibe – and big resort crowds. The local area, including the town of Canandaigua, maintains a relaxed, authentic vibe. You can’t go wrong staying there, or you can choose townhouses at the base of the resort for ski-in/ski-out access.
Making the Most of What It’s Got
Bristol is relatively low, with its base at 305 m and its peak at 671 m; there’s even a Nordic skiing centre at the summit, which you definitely won’t find out west! But Bristol makes up for its lack of natural snowfall with a top-notch snowmaking system, covering 100% of the terrain. A third of the terrain is well-suited for beginners, half of it for intermediates, but with a handful of blacks, advanced skiers might get bored easily. Nevertheless, almost all of the trails are lit for night skiing! Its learning centre has an excellent reputation, and there’s childcare in the lodge making Bristol Mountain another good choice for families.
Getting there: 45-minute drive from Rochester, 1.5 hours from Syracuse, less than 2 hours from Buffalo.
- Relatively good snow
- Small-town vibe
- Lively après
- Numerous amenities
- Icy in the afternoon
- Small vertical
At 117 ha, Holiday Valley is the largest in Western New York by acreage even though its 229 m vertical is rather modest. Don’t let that put you off, though – the resort definitely makes the most of what it’s got to deliver something that feels like a big-mountain experience with modern lifts, slopeside lodging and dining, and much more.
Thank You, Lake Effect
Due south of Buffalo and 48 km from the shores of Lake Erie, Holiday Valley benefits from “lake effect” and gets more natural snow than most ski areas in New York. Just to be safe, though, 95% of its 60 trails are covered by snowmaking. The difficulty levels of trails here are split pretty evenly, so there’s a little something for everyone and enough acreage that you can ski there for a couple days before things even start to feel repetitive. Follow a mountain ambassador around on one of the mountain tours to check it out yourself!
Crowded, but Efficient
Due to its location, Holiday Valley draws visitors not just from Buffalo but also Pennsylvania, Ohio, and even Canada. That means it can get crowded, but fortunately the modern and efficient lift system (with well-managed lines) moves everyone around rather quickly. And despite the crowds, the friendly staff helps to maintain a welcoming, small-town atmosphere in the comfy village. You’ll find a vibrant après scene when you call it a day… or, you can keep making turns into the night under the lights!
Getting there: 1-hour drive from Buffalo
- Excellent steeps
- Panoramic views of the Adirondacks
- Largest vertical in the East
- Can be icy
- Variable weather
- Dated facilities
This is where the likes of Ingemar Stenmark and Phil Mahre made their bid for Olympic glory way back in the days of straight skis, and the Lake Placid area still basks in its well-earned heritage. Many of the venues have been preserved and are open to the public, so when you’re not shredding Whiteface you can check out places like the bobsled track, speed skating oval, and the hockey rink!
Biggest Vertical in the East
You’ve got to go a couple time zones west to beat the 1,045 m of vertical drop that’s on offer at Whiteface. The 113 ha of skiable area includes something for everyone, with both its variety and challenge earning high marks in Ski Magazine’s 2018 most challenging resorts in the East. Beginners can enjoy a nice learning area at Bear’s Den, and there are plenty of blues and blacks coming down each of the three peaks. With steep groomers, bumps, race runs, and trees, just about any expert will find a challenge here – especially in the infamous Slides! Ski Cloudspin, host of the men’s Olympic downhill, if you dare.
Rich in Character
Its unique geography leaves Whiteface relatively exposed, and it’s infamous for variable weather including brutal winds and extreme cold – it didn’t earn the not-quite-favorable nickname “Iceface” for nothing, so be sure to bundle up! While there’s loads of charm and rich heritage, some might find its facilities a bit dated – but a lot has been invested over the years in upgrading the grooming and snowmaking so you can be sure Whiteface still has it where it counts! The town of Lake Placid, just 20 minutes away, offers a range of restaurant and lodging options, and plenty of character of its own!
Getting there: 20-minute drive from Lake Placid, just over 2 hours from Montreal, 2.5 hours from Albany
- Great for beginners and intermediates
- Easy to get to, 2.5 hours drive from New York City
- Reasonably priced
- Relaxed ambiance
- Dated facilities
- Lack of après ski
- Not very challenging
Belleayre is one of the ski areas owned by the State of New York, and it’s one of the largest in the Catskill Mountains. As a government-owned place, it’s rather reasonably priced. It’s also one of the easiest to get to from the Big Apple!
Relaxing Day Trip
True, there’s not that much of an après scene or on-site lodging here. But with as close as it is to the city, getting there and back in a day isn’t out of the question. Once you’re there, you’ll find a laid-back setting and usually decent snowfall. It can feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but within 10-15 minutes you can find places to eat and sleep if you want to enjoy a longer visit. Belleayre tends to favour quiet evenings over the party scene you can find elsewhere, but for some folks – especially families, that might be just the thing!
Future Plans for Improvement
Since new management started operating the ski area for the state a few years ago, there are some big plans for Belleayre's future. Some visitors feel the base facilities are rather basic and dated, and that the advanced terrain isn’t very challenging. But there’s talk of renovating and upgrading the facilities and adding new trails. A new gondola – “Catskill Thunder” – has already been built and seems ideally aligned for new terrain to the west. For now, there’s a decent variety of terrain with most of the intermediate and advanced runs on the upper part of the mountain. The lower half is primarily set aside for beginners to have a relatively quiet place to learn. If by chance you happen to feel like you need even more exercise, there’s Nordic skiing too!
Getting there: 2.5 hours from New York City
- Laid-back and family friendly
- (Relatively) big mountain experience
- Less crowded than Hunter Mountain
- Easy to get to, 2.5-3 hours drive from New York City
- Low snowfall
- Relatively expensive
- Limited après, dining, and lodging
Windham offers breathtaking views and an authentic ski experience conveniently close to New York City. The resort also prides itself on its guest services and learn-to-ski programs.
Excellent Choice for Families
Windham’s terrain spans two peaks and caters to beginners and intermediates. Advanced and expert skiers will find their choices limited mainly to charging down headwalls, but it’s some of the steepest terrain in the area. Plus if there are any freestylers in the group, Windham is home to six terrain parks with over 80 features. With a dedicated beginners’ area, some of the region’s best intermediate skiing, and off-the-slope activities at the Adventure Park including tubing, kids snowmobiles, and ice skating, it’s a great place for families to visit. The lack of a real village limits some of the amenities, but there are condos conveniently near the slopes and a range of options within 8 km of the resort.
In addition to its varied terrain and the modern lifts to get you there, Windham offers a relatively pampered ski experience. If you’re looking for custom boot fitting, spacious lockers, and fancy dining, this is the place for you! All of that comes with a price tag, though, and Windham has a reputation for costing a bit more. But if it fits your budget, you’ll find less crowding than anywhere else this close to the big city in one of the best settings in the Catskills.
Getting there: 2.5-3 hours from New York City
- Modern lift system
- Great après scene
- Long vertical on most runs
- Closest big mountain to New York City, 2-3 hours drive
- Weekend crowds
- Bland intermediate terrain
- Lack of character
Also close to the big city, Hunter Mountain draws more of a hard-skiing and partying crowd. It also has an impressive snowmaking system covering 100% of its trails.
Where the Experts Go
Hunter Mountain makes a convincing claim to the best challenging skiing in the area. Almost half the trails are rated for advanced (30%) and expert (10%) skiers. The 97 ha are spread out across four faces, which keeps the beginners’ slopes separated from the faster traffic. It even has an award-winning ski school to help newbies get started! Between the new folks and the experts, though, Hunter Mountain falls short for some who find the intermediate selections a bit on the dull side.
Popular Dining and Après
Hunter Mountain can certainly draw a crowd on weekends thanks to its easy accessibility from New York City. The modern lift system is efficient, but sometimes that can just mean trading short lift lines for crowded runs. Although if you can get there midweek, you’ll practically have the place to yourself! Hunter Mountain doesn’t have a traditional base village, but you’ll find a nice selection of restaurants and even some slopeside lodging – not to mention an après scene worthy of a place so popular with a “city that never sleeps!”
Getting there: 2-3 hours drive from New York City, 1 hour from Albany
- Challenging terrain
- Good value
- Modern and efficient lifts
- Rarely crowded
- Can be tough to navigate
- Flat spots
- Quiet nightlife
- Far drive from New York City, 4 hours away
With terrain spanning four peaks and offering you the chance to ski almost to the Hudson River, Gore Mountain offers over one hundred trails and a fairly decent vertical drop.
Big East Coast Skiing
With over 762 m of vertical, Gore Mountain doesn’t just hold its own in the northeast, it compares favourably with the likes of Northstar, Grand Targhee, and Arapahoe Basin out west! It offers a variety of terrain, from beautiful wide open pistes to glades with trees ideally spaced for leisurely weaving. If you want steeps, you can find challenges here. If you like long cruisers, you can casually carve to your heart’s content on impeccably groomed corduroy. And when you stop to catch your breath, you can take in 360-degree views of the Adirondacks – on a clear day, you can even see Vermont’s Green Mountains and peaks in Canada!
True, Gore Mountain is a long trip from the big cities – but that makes for fewer crowds. And its casual vibe doesn’t mean they haven’t been keeping up with the times! The lodges are modern, the lifts are up-to-date, and there’s an excellent learning area for novices. You’re more likely to find locals’ pubs and taverns for a cold drink or two at the end of the day than hopping nightclubs, but with Gore’s ambiance that’s a perfect fit. Best of all, the relaxed atmosphere and variety of terrain at Gore Mountain come at a relatively low price, making an excellent value for your skiing dollar!
Getting there: 4-hour drive from New York City and Boston, 2.5 hours from Montreal