Sure, you’ll find more snow and more serious skiing if you fly to Colorado or even drive up to Vermont, but there are plenty of ski hills located in New York State, including several located within a one-and-a-half to three-hour drive of Manhattan. To be frank, the main thing these hills have on their side is their proximity to New York City. If you want to reenact a trip to the Alps or Aspen, you’re going to be disappointed, but if you want to plan an affordable day or overnight ski trip, skiing in the Catskills region can be a great option. Gov. Andrew Cuomo last fall gave ski resorts the go-ahead to reopen, seen as a safe outdoor activity during the coronavirus pandemic. However, there are COVID-19 restrictions at each resort, including mask mandates, social distancing and disinfection requirements, and 50 percent capacity limits indoors. Ahead, we break down five of the best ski resorts less than 150 miles from NYC, along with everything you can expect when hitting the slopes this year.
What to expect?
With the exception of hills located further north in the Lake Placid region where one will find real snow and serious elevations (remember, the 1980 Winter Olympics took place there), most New York State hills are best for beginner- to intermediate-level skiers. Let’s put it this way—the summit at Snowmass in Aspen is over 12,000 feet but in the Catskills, summits range from 1,550 to just under 3,800 feet. But once again, if you’re a New Yorker and you want to get up at 6:00 a.m. and be on the slopes by 9:00 a.m., you have to take what you can get. But what do you get?
First, be prepared for a lot of fake snow. It does snow in the Catskills (on average, 44 inches per year), but not enough to provide an adequate or consistent base. As a result, most ski resorts in the region rely nearly exclusively on snow manufactured on-site. While the fake snow is a bit icier and not nearly as deep as the snow you’ll find on hills further north (Lake Placid’s annual snowfall is 104 inches), the fake stuff does do the trick. Just don’t plan on any off-piste skiing—if you veer off-trail, you’ll most likely end up skiing on mud or grass.
Second, if you’re hoping to walk into a scene that looks like a page torn out of the Northface catalog, skiing in the Catskills is likely not for you, but this is also one of the best things about it. On an average day, you’ll find people from all backgrounds on the slopes busting their best moves.
Since this isn’t the Alps, Aspen, Whistler, or Mont-Tremblant, you’ll need to be realistic about your aprés-ski options. There are a few resorts designed to appeal to people with more upscale tastes, but the Catskills region is not exactly an oasis of Nordic spas and high-end resorts. You’ll primarily find rundown motels, modest resorts, and a few fun hipster accommodations.
Finally, because of COVID-19, expect a different winter experience than in past years. Most of the resorts are offering online-only advanced tickets, which usually come at a discounted price depending on the date you book. And all mountains have protocols in place that include mask mandates while not skiing, limited capacity, and lift restrictions.
Five ski resorts less than 150 miles from NYC
The following ski resorts are all located 150 miles or less from Grand Central Station. If you leave early on a weekend morning or holiday in decent weather, it is possible to reach all these ski hills in just two to three hours.
1. Holiday Mountain Ski and Fun
Distance from Manhattan: 90 miles
Elevation: Summit—1550 feet; largest vertical drop—400 feet
Number of trails: 6
Cost: Adult lift tickets—$27 (half-day) to $42 (full day)
At Holiday Mountain, the fun is more reliable than the skiing. Less than 100 miles from Manhattan, this hill certainly gets points for being close to New York City, but this also poses a problem—unlike hills just a bit further north, Holiday Mountain often can’t even produce enough artificial snow to open in the middle of winter (if you plan to go, always call ahead to confirm). When Holiday Mountain is open, you can ski down short and gentle slopes or just tube down a hill instead. If you’re trying on skis for the first time or teaching a child to ski, it could be a good option. As an added bonus, the lift tickets and rental prices are by far the best bargain in New York. Under the resort’s COVID-19 rules, face coverings must be worn at all times, lift tickets, lessons, and rentals must be booked and paid for in advance, skiers that arrive together can ski and ride lifts together, and social distancing is required.
2. Hunter Mountain
Distance from Manhattan: 124 miles
Elevation: Summit—3200 feet; largest vertical drop—1600 feet
Number of trails: 67
Cost: $62 to $120 for two-day ticket (online only)
A step up from Holiday Mountain is Hunter Mountain. With 67 trails, there are a lot of options for skiers at all levels. There are also a few trails with steeper drops, making Hunter Mountain the ski resort of choice for anyone looking for a challenge in the Catskills region. At the end of the day, you can either drive back to New York City—in decent traffic, the drive will take about two-and-a-half hours—or stay overnight. Because of COVID-19, Hunter Mountain is operating at a limited capacity and tickets must be purchased in advance here (consider book seven days in advance for the most savings). Face coverings are required, all transactions will be cashless at all hotels and restaurants on-site, guests of the same party only can share chairlifts, limited capacity at indoor restaurants will be enforced, and enhanced cleaning measures will be implemented. See the resort’s full COVID-19 safety guidelines here.
3. Belleayre Mountain Ski Center
Distance from Manhattan: 131 miles
Elevation: Summit—3429 feet; largest vertical drop—1404 feet
Number of trails: 50
Cost: Adult lift tickets—$49 to $95 (online only)
Created by New York State itself back in the 1940s, this family-friendly Catskills ski resort is now operated by the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority, which was created by the State of New York to manage the facilities used during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid. While Belleayre is certainly not an Olympic-class ski hill, with a summit at 3429 feet and vertical drop over 1,400 feet, it is still a decent place to hit the slopes in the Catskills region. It is also an efficiently-run and affordable resort. All tickets for this season at Belleayre must be purchased in advance online, face coverings are required at all times except when skiing or eating/drinking, social distancing will be enforced, and skiers that traveled together can ride the lifts together.
4. Windham Mountain
Distance from Manhattan: 141 miles
Elevation: Summit—3100 feet; largest vertical drop—1600 feet
Number of trails: 54
Cost: $60 to $130, varies depending on date
Windham offers a wide range of slopes for the average green to blue trail skier. Again, if you’re an experienced skier, Windham may not offer exciting skiing, but the resort does feature multiple hills that are challenging enough to keep experienced skiers happy for a least a few hours. As an added bonus, Windham has one of the best cafeteria selections of any upstate ski resort. The on-mountain dining options remain reservation-only. Located in a small Catskills village, there are also many places to stay if you do decide to stay overnight. If you want to go upscale, check out the Eastwind with décor that may be best described as Brooklyn hipster meets West Elm in the Catskills. A bit less pricey but still clean and well-equipped is the Winwood—Windham’s own lodge. In addition to the large selection of rooms and condos, Winwood has its own recently updated restaurant, the Tavern 23. Like the others on the list, Windham Mountain encourages guests to buy tickets online as they are offering a limited number each day and can sell out. Face coverings, lift restrictions, capacity restrictions for indoor eating, and all transactions will be cashless, under the mountain’s COVID-19 protocol, laid out here.
5. Plattekill Mountain
Distance from Manhattan: 148 miles
Elevation: Summit—3,500 feet; largest vertical drop—1,100 feet
Number of trails: 38
Cost: $50.75 (online only)
Located just a bit further from Manhattan than the previously mentioned ski resorts, Plattekill Mountain is still in reach if you’re a New Yorker who wants to do a day trip to the slopes. The resort offers access to 38 trails and 4 lifts. Like Belleayre, Plattekill Mountain is home to a throw-back lodge that will make you feel like it’s 1960 again. Lift tickets will all be sold online this year and time spent in the lodge to eat and warm-up will be limited to 30 minutes. Masks, same-group lift rides, and social distancing are all required. There will be limited indoor food and beverage service, but the resort will also offer a heated outdoor deck.
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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post was published on January 3, 2019, and has since been updated.