Two little ski areas in New York State

27th February 2014, by Abi Butcher

The view from Plattekill Mountain, New York State

The view from Plattekill Mountain, New York State

This week, I am skiing in New York State. It’s not the first choice for Brits heading to the US to ski, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. New York has more ski areas than any other in the US — 53 to be precise (though it used to have 106). Over the course of this week I am skiing six — three areas in the Catskills and two ski resorts in the Ardirondacks.

We flew in to New York and drove three hours north to ski Plattekill Mountain, a family-run resort in the Western Catskills with 38 trails and a vertical descent of 1,100ft (335m). When you first walk in, Plattekill base lodge feels like the Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead. There are children everywhere and it’s small — with lockers for your belongings and “Skiers Bistro” bar and café upstairs. Plattekill markets itself as having four lifts, but the two (rather slow) chairs — a double leading to Northface and a triple leading to Upper Face — are the main source of uphill transport.

Pistes are cut through the glades at Plattekill

The views from the summits are spectacular and my favourites runs were lovely greens on the boundary of the area — Overlook and Powder Puff — which are scenic and just fun to ski. A few double black diamonds aren’t really worth their expert rating, but they are more challenging than the blues – graded “difficult” but not really so. There’s also a terrain park. Nothing takes that much time to get down in comparison to a European ski resort, with a summit at 3,500ft (1,067m), but there’s enough nice terrain to keep you ticking over for a day. Much of the snow is artificial, but it’s perfectly groomed as you’d expect in the US and good to ski on.

Laszlo Vajtay – the charismatic owner of Plattekill Mountain

The real charm of this place is its owners, Danielle and Laszlo Vajtay. Laszlo started working as a ski instructor in Plattekill aged 15, worked his way up to be ski school director then bought the entire resort 20 years ago when it went into receivership. It’s now open three days a week, Friday to Sunday, and has a wonderful welcoming atmosphere — much like a club but with none of the cliqueness. The bar serves excellent local and craft beers and the sandwiches, chilli and soup in the bistro are tasty and range between $5 and $10 — you can’t go wrong with that.

Next we skied Belleayre Mountain, a slightly larger area close by, owned and operated by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA). New York State passed over ownership to the ORDA following the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. Belleayre has 55 trails and eight lifts — including the State’s only high-speed quad “Superchief”. There’s a whole area reserved for beginners at the bottom, but head up Superchief (for yet more stunning views) and a range of single and double black diamonds await you, all accessed from a blue trail along the summit. You get a 360-degree view from there, and if the wind blows it’s chilly. Again, I loved a long blue called Deer Run that ran down the edge of the area.

Belleayre is crazy about its moguls and there are areas reserved to the side of the piste for big bumps, and bumps in between the trees. It was busier here, on a Sunday, but even so the slopes seemed relatively quiet. We queued for no longer than five minutes at each lift and enjoyed some good cruising around the area before lunch — in the rather soulless main lodge. Sadly, New York State is no different to many other ski areas in the US in having large, uninviting canteens but the food is good — New England clam chowder and filing, fresh wraps. This lodge has a huge fire at one end, beside which you can bask while drinking bottles of Samuel Adams beer and eating fresh popcorn.

Après-ski Belleayre-style: Samuel Adams and popcorn

That night we stayed at Emerson, an upmarket hotel and lodge before heading to Hunter and Windham for our final taste of the Catskills. More in the next blog…

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