Wanna ski this year? Gotta leave the city


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Photo by Bob Nesoff
Photo by Bob Nesoff

The Northeast hasn't had this much snow yet, but indications seem to say that it will be a stellar ski season.

With few exceptions most of New York City is a pretty flat area.  Granted there are some small hills in Brooklyn and Queens and perhaps a slight rise in Manhattan, but nothing that would sustain the tens of thousands of skiers from the five boroughs.

Fortunately there are numerous ski resorts close enough for a day on the slopes or a weekend away.

Under ordinary circumstances most of the resorts, with the notable exception of Killington, open post Thanksgiving Day.  Killington prides itself on being the first to open and the last to close each season.  If they could stay open to July 4, they would do so.

Weather reports appear to indicate that most areas will be able to open earlier than usual.  According to Sam Champion and Lee Goldberg, snow has already begun falling in sections of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  If that is the case, this could be one of the best seasons in years.

From most any point in the five boroughs there are a dozen ski resorts in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania that are an easy run for a day on the slopes.  Most of them either have accommodations on site or nearby for those who prefer extending to a weekend or longer.

In New York there are three main ski areas easily reachable by car: Belleayre, Hunter and Windham.

Belleayre in Highmount, NY, is an example of how government should be working.  It is run by the state DEP and has a fully professional crew of ski instructors and maintenance people who keep the slopes open and in top notch condition.  Lifts are upgraded on a regular basis and the slopes have something for everyone.

Easily reached vie the Thruway to Exit 19 and then about a half hour west on Rt. 28, Belleayre.  There is ample parking although the main lot requires an uphill walk.

The resort is divided into Upper Mountain and Lower Mountain.  Parking at the Upper offers a shuttle from the lot to the lodge.  The lower section is primarily Blues and Blacks with a dose of moguls thrown in.  The lower mountain is green with a very small and easy blue section.  Boarders have a terrain park.

There are no accommodations at Belleayre but Emerson Place, about 15 minutes east has great restaurants and rooms.  Accommodations in nearby Margaretville are somewhat less than stellar. Check the website http://www.belleayre.com/ for additional accommodations, ski conditions and lift pricing.

Hunter Mountain is best visited during the week and non-holiday periods.  It is arguably the most popular ski/board destination for high school and college students.  During the week it is a bit quieter.

Off Thruway Exit 20 in Hunter, the eye appeal starts on the road to the resort.  This is a true country drive with beautiful scenery for the 25 minute drive.

Hunter’s runs are a terrific mixture of green, blue and black as well as ample challenge for snow boarders.  Equipment rentals for those who don’t own are on a par with the other nearby ski resorts.  All offer first class rentals in excellent condition.  Their ski schools can hold their own with any in the country and often produce top ski athletes.

Hunter has one thing the others do not: a zip line and adventure park.  The zip is perhaps the most exciting line of any in the Northeast.  The most challenging of the lot is one that runs more than 600 feet over the valley floor from the top of the mountain for more than 5,000 feet.  Click here for more information.

Windham Mountain, off Thruway Exit 21 in Windham, NY, is an excellent venue for skiers and boarders.  The off-slope facilities here are amongst the best anywhere.  The lodge, although crowded as most are, especially on weekends, is still comfortable with affordable food.  The upper level of the lodge has one of the better restaurants at a ski area and a bar that is often packed with those who’ve either come off the slopes or never made it there as they watch football and other sporting events.

There are a variety of lifts serving a range of slopes for all skill levels and some pretty fast moving lifts.

Windham has accommodations nearby (Windham Arms) as well as a host of choices within a few minutes of the slopes.  The same holds true for Hunter for those looking for a weekend of fun on the slopes.  For additional information, visit http://www.windhammountain.com/.

The driving time for all three is a bit over two hours from the George Washington Bridge with easy access to the Thruway. There are buses from Port Authority on 42nd Street.  Check the individual slopes for schedules.

Tune in next week for Pennsylvania and New Jersey ski resorts.