Ted Blazer, president and CEO of Olympic Regional Development Authority, with Olympic hopefuls Haley Johnson and Lowell Bailey, Scott Brandi, president and executive director of the Ski Areas of New York, and Olympic hopeful Tim Burke
With more than 1,000 trails, New York was the fourth-most skied state in the 2008-2009 winter season (ahead of Utah). While some may find such information surprising, it was common knowledge at First Tracks winter media night in New York City. I LOVE NY and the Olympic Regional Development Authority organized the event, and were proud to report that attendence nearly doubled this year as 11 New York ski resorts were represented, up from six last year. In attendance were 2010 Olympic hopefuls Haley Johnson, Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke.
New promotions range from state-wide, to regional. Celebrating it's fourth-best status, the state is offering fourth-grade students from anywhere in the country to ski for free at 30 New York resorts this winter. Meanwhile the Catskills region is introducing its new My Cats Card, where a $25 purchase gets you multiple discounts at five mountains— Hunter Mountain, Belleayre Mountain, Plattekill Mountain, Windham and Holiday Valley.
With each of the resorts offering new season deals, there are (at least) 11 reasons now to ride or ski in the Empire State.
1. Belleayre Mountain— Owned and operated by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the mountain celebrates its 60th anniversary this year after receiving accolades from Ski Magazine as one of the top five places to learn to ski and from Newsweek as one of the top 10 family ski destinations. Enhancing the experience this year, Belleayre is offering "snow therapy" holistic and therapeutic sessions to ease the body after a day on the slopes.
2. Catamount Ski Area— Not only is the resort celebrating its 70th birthday by allowing all 70-year-olds free skiing for the year, it is reiterating its vast amount of acreage this coming summer when it opens the largest aerial forest adventure park in North America. Designed by Swiss alpine mountaineers, to refer to this park as a zipline would be beyond insult. Learn more about the upcoming park at www.catamounttrees.com.
3. Gore Mountain— Gore will actually add 200 feet to its vertical drop this season, bumping it up to 2,500 feet, as it connects the North Creek Ski Bowl to the mountain, adding a triple chairlift to access new terrain for skiers and riders of all abilities.
4. Greek Peak Mountain Resort— The largest Central New York ski resort is making some huge upgrades this season with the new Hope Lake Lodge, a 106-unit, four-star hotel-condo which will include a spa, three new resort dining options, and the Cascades Indoor Waterpark. Imagine a day in the powder outside followed by some watersliding inside at the end of the evening.
5. Holiday Valley— Drawing clientele from Cleveland, Toronto, Pittsburgh and beyond, this western ski resort is welcoming a major expansion this year. The Tamarack Club (not affiliated with the Tamarack Lodge at Mammoth Mountain, but just as nice) is a $40 million, 166,000-square-foot condominium hotel project that will feature 138 units and rooms, a 3,200-square-foot spa, conference rooms, a 138-seat restaurant and bar, and indoor/outdoor heated pool and hot tubs. The property opens in December.
6. Hunter Mountain— The season will begin earlier than ever for skiers, riders and tubers this year, thanks to Hunter's new 20 snow guns. In addition to opening the mountain sooner than usual, the new additions will immediatly help the mountain cover up and/or rebound from any inclement weather, ensuring solid slopes for the season.
7. Whiteface Mountain— Celebrate the 2010 Olympics by visiting the home of the 1980 Olympics up in Lake Placid. While there, ascend to the top of the mountain and you'll be at a higher elevation than Stratton or Stowe in Vermont and even higher up than Vail in Colorado.
8. Plattekill Mountain—Snow conditions will be better every day this year, and at the same price, as the mountain increases its snow-making by 30 percent and maintains the same lift ticket prices as last year.
9. Thunder Ridge— Recognizing a skier/snowboarder's need to save cash on gas to spend more on the slopes, Thunder Ridge has teamed up with Metro North Railroad to provide travelers with savings on a discounted train ride to the Patterson, NY station, free roundtrip transfer to and from the mountain, and $5 off rental equipment. It's only 90 minutes by rail from New York City.
10. Tuxedo Ridge— If you can't wait for more than an hour to get some skiing in before being back in time for a Broadway show in the Big Apple, then consider Tuxedo Ridge. A 30-minute train ride from New York City's Penn Station to Tuxedo, NY and you're there. The staff will pick you up from and drop you off at the statin for free, and they'll even announce when trains are leaving over the loudspeakers at the mountain.
11. Windham— After a $5 million base lodge upgrade, the resort is ready to open a new fire pit, barbecue and bar to improve the outdoor dining experience. Upgrading current snow guns and adding new ones has already added extra powder to the mountain. Plans to expand a local pond in 2010 will work with the cold air to bring more "natural" snow as well.