During the winter, there are plenty of places to ski in and near Central New York. And when you want a little something more than a few runs down the mountain, you don’t have to go too far.
New York State boasts 51 ski areas – the most of any state in the country. Hardcore skiers and snowboarders might not need much more than a lift ticket, trail map and some fresh powder. To appeal to more visitors, many of today’s ski areas have become year-round resort destinations with activities and amenities for everyone in the family.
In the winter, visitors can enjoy a full slate of outdoor adventures from snowshoeing to tubing to Snowcat tours and after a day in the cold, roaring fireplaces, saunas and massages await. Drive just a few hours from Central New York in any direction and you’ll bump into a ski area. Here’s a look at four.
Down Route 81 in Cortland, Greek Peak Mountain Resort is the largest ski area in Central New York with 55 trails, four terrain parks and a 952-foot vertical drop. A dedicated beginners’ hill features a magic carpet for easy transport to the top. More than 15 miles of groomed trails await cross-country skiers and snowshoers at the nearby Nordic Center. At the Outdoor Adventure Center, thrill-seeking guests can choose from snow tubing, zip lining, bungee jumping, riding the mountain coaster or navigating the ropes challenge course.
Visitors can thaw out at Cascades Water Park in Hope Lake Lodge. Cascades features an indoor and outdoor pool and hot tub, with slides and fun for all ages, all heated to a balmy 84 degrees. If it’s serenity you seek, head directly to Waterfalls Spa. The full-service spa features everything from a haircut to a body scrub or a balneotherapy tub soak, a treatment enhanced with LED light and vibration therapy.
Call it a night in one of Hope Lake Lodge’s standard rooms or suites. With Northwoods styling that features natural wood and stone walkways, Hope Lake Lodge is rustic yet luxurious. There are casual dining options both mountainside and within the lodge. The resort offers both daily and overnight packages.
Exciting news from Hunter Mountain, located three hours southeast of CNY. The resort is celebrating its 60th anniversary and was recently acquired by Vail Resorts, an American mountain resort company that owns 27 ski areas, including Vail and Stowe. That means Epic Pass holders now have plenty more options.
Hunter North, the resort’s fourth full ski face, opened in December. It adds five new trails and four new glades accessed by a high-speed six-passenger lift – only 3.5 minutes to the top. This brings the resort’s total to 67 rails and four freestyle/terrain areas.
While those new trails serve intermediate and expert skiers, Hunter is well known for its attention to new skiers, with Hunter East dedicated to first timers. The resort is so enticing to beginners, the national Ski Areas Association once awarded it “Best Program to Grow the Sport to New Participants.”
Try Hunter’s Winter Belay & Stay guided scenic ice and rappel adventures. Visitors take a lift to the summit (3,200 feet) and then explore various climbing routes and ice faces. Sounds daunting, but it’s geared for participants of all levels, even beginners.
There’s also snow tubing of course, and on Friday and Saturday nights, visitors can ride shotgun with one of Hunter’s groomers in a Snowcat tour to get a unique look at the trails and an inside view of snowmaking and grooming.
Hunter offers slope-side lodging at The Kaatskill Mountain Lodge, which offers a four-season pool, two outdoor hot tubs and the Mountain Club Spa. Dining options are plenty at Hunter, which offers 13 bars and restaurants in the resort and on the mountain. At the top, skiers can take in the view while they enjoy chili or a burger at Scottie’s Summit Lodge Café or a Belgian Liege waffle at Pika’s Waffle Stop slope side.
Drive three hours southwest of Syracuse to find Holiday Valley, located in the lively town of Ellicottville. Holiday Valley is a full service resort. The mountain may be small in stature with just a 750-foot vertical, but Holiday Valley looms large in the latest SKI Magazine Reader’s Poll. The magazine’s readers ranked it No. 10 in the East thanks to its massive snowmaking (with 95% coverage), family friendly atmosphere, accommodating staff and its proximity to Ellicottville, one of the coolest aprés-ski towns around.
The mountain itself features 60 trails, four terrain parks and 13 lifts, with extensive snowmaking and excellent grooming keeping the trails in great shape. There are hidden surprises for kids – a fort hidden in the woods they can ski to and a Clan Rock scavenger hunt that teaches them about the eight clans within the nearby Seneca Nation. There’s also tubing and a mountain coaster, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The Inn at Holiday Valley and the Tamarack Club are located right on the slopes, with heated outdoor pools that keep kids happy after skiing. Choose from three spas – the Ellicottville Oasis at the Tamarack Club, plus two more in the village, one mile away.
SKI Magazine’s readers describe Ellicottville as the best ski town east of the Rockies. With 20 restaurants, 20 shops and 10 bars, there’s always something happening here. This season, check out the Winter Blues Weekend, Winter Music Jam or the Mardi Gras celebration (March 14-15).
Great food options abound: John Harvard’s Brew House, located at the Tamarack Club, is a fan favorite and can be accessed right from the slopes. In town, top picks are Dina’s, Ellicottville Brewing Company, Finnerty’s and the Gin Mill.
Head four hours northeast of Syracuse to Lake Placid and the place SKI Magazine called the hidden gem of the East. They wrote that it’s bold, challenging, beautiful and safe, but never overcrowded or pretentious. Readers agree, ranking it No. 5 in the East. Indeed, Whiteface offers some of the most challenging terrain with spectacular views of the Adirondack High Peaks.
At 3,430 feet, Whiteface offers the greatest vertical drop in the eastern states. Its 90 trails encompass three peaks and stretch over 25 miles, including the longest intermediate trail in the East. Whiteface offers something for every skier. Stunning views from the summit that reach as far as Vermont and Canada don’t hurt either.
Nearby Lake Placid offers many adventures off the trails, too. It’s teeming with shops, restaurants and Olympic history. For the thrill seekers, there’s the public toboggan run and Olympic bobsled and skeleton experiences. A more laid-back type? Skate a few laps around the speed-skating oval or explore 50 miles of trails at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, another Olympic venue. At the Olympic Jumping Complex, take the elevator 26 stories to the top of the chute to pretend you’re a ski jumper. If you time it right, you might catch top athletes training or competing. The center also offers tubing.
After your adventures, you can find everything from budget to luxury accommodations in town. Dining options range from pizza to a gastro-pub while shopping includes national outlets and interesting boutiques.
Within just a few hours’ drive, enjoy fresh powder and much more at the many places to ski near Central New York. Who needs Aspen?
A version of this article originally appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of Central New York Magazine