New York Family Ski Vacations
New York has more mountains than any other state in the entire country, and therefore offers the largest amount of ski areas in a single state. From Whiteface Mountain, host of the 1980 Winter Olympics, to Hunter Mountain, the world's first ski resort to produce top-to-bottom snowmaking, the Empire State's ski resorts are rich in history, culture and family-friendly fun.
The best-known ski resort in New York's Finger Lakes region is Greek Peak. Founded in 1958, the fun-filled, four-season resort offers 32 trails, 13 of which accommodate new skiers. Group and private lessons are offered for various age ranges, including college students, who can learn to ski or ride for just $25. Greek Peak's Adaptive Snowsports Program helps those with disabilities learn to ski. Skiers ride the slopes during the day and at night, seven days a week, utilizing the resort's six lifts. Additionally, families enjoy tubing, snowshoeing, babysitting services (seven days a week) and five onsite dining options.
Another major draw of Greek Peak is Hope Lake Lodge, located just across from the slopes. The Northwood-style hotel features a 41,000-square-foot indoor waterpark and luxurious spa.
Bristol Mountain's 1,200-foot vertical rise is the highest in the region. Situated on 138 acres of skiable terrain, the mountain features 34 trails and six lifts, which include two high-speed detachable quads. Ski lessons are offered for all levels; Junior (ages 4 to 12) and Adult (ages 13 and up) classes are offered at the Snowsports School. Snowboarding lessons are also available. Youngsters spend time at the Child Care Center, open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., which houses an indoor playground, rather than TV's and video games. Families also enjoy tubing and dining at four onsite eateries.
Hunter Mountain earned its claim to fame in 1967, when it became the world's first ski resort with summit-to-base snowmaking. Set on 240 beautiful acres in New York's Northern Catskills region, it continues to offer an exceptional ski experience, with 58 trails, 10 lifts and a 1,600-foot vertical drop. Families also enjoy snowboarding, snowshoeing and tubing.
Hunter Mountain also offers extensive accommodations for families and new skiers and snowboarders. Rookies utilize several specialized programs at the Learning Center, housed in its very own building. Little ones, ages 6 months to 6 years, spend time in PlayCare, located beneath the Learning Center.
Hungry families have several dining options, including the Family Vacation Critic favorite, Van Winkle's Restaurant (at the Kaatskill Mountain Club), and Scottie's Summit Lodge Cafe, which serves up comfort foods like soup and chili.
A short distance from Hunter Mountain, Windham Mountain features 49 trails, eight of which are open at night. It offers ski lessons for everyone in the family, from the toddler to your grandpa. The Children's Learning Center provides lesson options for all children ages 12 and under. Children between the ages of 4 and 7 are eligible for the Mini Moguls classes, and children between the ages of 8 and 12 utilize lessons through the Mountain Master Skiers and Riders Program. For those age 50 and up, Windham Mountain has a program that focuses on improving your skiing skills and enjoyment. Mom and dad can enroll in adult classes as well.
Children ages 2 to 7 hang out at the Children's Learning Center, where they enjoy indoor games, crafts and more. Families can choose from several onsite dining options, including The Waffle Cabin. Additionally, Windham Mountain owns Winwood Inn & Condos, located just a few minutes from the mountain. Complimentary shuttles are offered.
Situated in the Western Catskills, Plattekill Mountain offers plenty of traditional skiing, snowboarding and tubing. What sets it apart from other New York resorts, however, is its small-mountain charm. A family-owned resort, Plattekill Mountain receives smaller crowds, claiming a prime spot for learning skiers and snowboarders. Rookies also love the newly added Beginner Learning Center, as well as Powder Puff, the resort's easiest and most famous trail. Experts enjoy 1,100 feet of continuous vertical on Blockbuster, one of the steepest trails in the region.
Tiny tots can spend time in Childcare, priced at $70 per day or $15 per hour, and non-skiers should try their hand (well, feet) at snowshoeing. Consider visiting the mountain during its discounted days, on which each guest can ski for just $15, or during its themed events, which include a St. Patrick's Day Festival.
Belleayre Mountain, also known as New York's Winter Snow Park, is rich in history: Skiers used to hike more than 3,000 feet to mark their tracks on unnamed trails, which later became the foundation of Belleayre Mountain in 1949. It opened with just five trails, a small 300-car parking lot, a temporary base lodge with dirt floors, and a chairlift, which was the first in the state.
Today, the resort has 55 trails, eight lifts, plenty of thrilling parks and glades, and a following of thousands -- more than 175,000, to be exact -- from all over the world. Of course, it also has a special place for new skiers, called the Learning Zone, where both adults and kids can take lessons or enroll in camps.
There's a reason everyone returns for "More Gore!" Gore Mountain features more skiable acres than any other mountain in New York State, with 2,537 feet of vertical terrain. Four mountains -- Gore, Bear, Burnt Ridge and Little Gore Mountains -- are accessible by 14 lifts.
Gore Mountain has traditional learning programs for beginners, but recently saw the addition of its Mini Learning Park, where small snow features encourage faster development of balance and control for children ages 4 to 6. Gore Mountain also offers Holiday Camps (Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend and President's Day Weekend) to families, which feature two or three days of learning and exploring the mountain for one price.
Made famous by the Olympic Winter Games in 1980, Whiteface Mountain is located in the charming town of Lake Placid. Both skiers and non-skiers flock to the mountain just for the Olympic Center, where they watch figure skating competitions and the Saturday Night Ice Shows. Guests also enjoy ice skating on one of four rinks (three of which are indoors).
As for skiing, the mountain has it all -- 86 trails (a third of which are rated for expert skiers) and 11 lifts, which include a gondola. The resort's Play-n-Ski program is perfect for little ones. Kids are grouped according to ability and are out on the snow for hour-and-a-half increments. Between lessons, they are supervised in the Bear's Den Nursery, where they enjoy arts and crafts and games. Various other programs are offered, including the Junior Adventure Program, Teen Experience, and even a Future Medalist Program.
Unique to Whiteface Mountain is its Bobsled Experience. With a professional driver and brakeman, you'll speed faster than you can in a car through town, and want to do it all over again when you get to the finish line! Tubing, snowshoeing and boarding are also offered.
Holiday Valley consists of 58 slopes (37 are open at night), 13 lifts and three base lodges. Located approximately 45 miles from Buffalo, the resort also offers tubing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides and free guided mountain tours.
Unique to Holiday Valley is the Mountain Coaster, a low-to-the-ground ride that's completely controlled by you, utilizing levers on the sides of the car. Children must be at least 3 years old and stand 36 inches to ride.
Holiday Valley offers nine different learning programs for kids, as well as daycare services. Adult lessons are offered.