Two more New York State resorts: Hunter and Windham

7th March 2014, by Abi Butcher

Hunter is an austere, cold mountain but 2.5 hours from downtown Manhattan

Hunter is an austere, cold mountain but 2.5 hours from downtown Manhattan

After skiing Plattekill and Belleayre, we next stopped at Hunter Mountain, which boasts New York’s largest tubing park (we didn’t try it) and where the slopes are 100 per cent manmade snow. If we’d driven here direct, it would have taken 2.5 hours from Manhattan. It claims to be the largest major ski resort close to the city — with 10 lifts, 240 skiable acres, a 1,600ft (488m) vertical drop and a summit elevation of 3,200ft (975m).

The godfather of snowmaking, David Slutzy, lives here – he and his family own the mountain. There is a huge mural on the inside of the baselodge of him standing beside a piste basher, with a white dog in the cab. David explained (with a twinkle in his eye) that his dog (Casper) once let off the handbrake and ran him over.

The day we arrived it had frozen hard overnight — dropping 10 degrees Fahrenheit from the previous, slushy and sunny day. The result was treacherously icy conditions and bitter cold — New York State and the East Coast have experienced the same extraordinary winter this year as we have had in the UK.

Hunter Mountain has its own beginner lodge and area, with a $79 (about £47) package that includes a day lift ticket to the beginner area, equipment rental and a 1.5hour group lesson. (An adult one-day weekend lift ticket is $72 – about £43, not including rentals or lessons.) As with many US resorts, the beginner area is linked to the rest, but also segregated — so faster skiers have no need to whizz through and terrify those learning.


The peculiar Summit Lodge at the top of Hunter Mountain

We began the day by taking the high-speed six-man Kaatskill Flyer up to the summit — where a weird round Summit Lodge appeared to huddle against the cold. There are a variety of single and double black diamonds down form here, or a more gentle blue winding through the trees called Belt Parkway, which we opted for. From the base, on this cold day, the mountain looked quite austere, and it wasn’t long before I wanted to warm up with an all-American “Cwafee” with vanilla half and half (cream and milk). There is steeper skiing off the back, but the snow cover was light and conditions too icy when we were there so it was closed.

We overnighted in the ski-in, ski-out Kaatskill Mountain Club, which has a range of one, two and three-bedroom studios, Jacuzzi baths and an outdoor pool and hot tub. It’s not quite luxurious, but it’s a nice enough place to stay and the food in the on-site VanWinkle’s was good, reasonably priced pub fayre — tender stews, huge ribs, crunchy caesar salads followed by huge slices of cheesecake.


Windham Mountain is New York State’s most upmarket “boutique” resort

Next it was on to Windham Mountain, New York State’s most upmarket “boutique” resort, where New Yorkers head for a weekend away fromt the city. Here there are 52 trails over 278 skiable acres, served by 12 lifts, with a top elevation of 3,100ft (945m) and a vertical drop of 1,600ft (488m).

Everything about this place oozes money — except the soulless base lodge, again! American resorts just don’t get the need for charming on-mountain dining, however good the food is that comes out of their canteen-style kitchens.


A slopeside lodge for sale in Windham — anyone got a spare $8 million?

Joining fee for the exclusive Club at Windham is $50,000 (about £30,000) — with an annual membership on top. Slopeside lodgings prevail here, but they are all private houses. We skied past one that is currently on the market for a cool $8 million (£4.8m).

After the groomers had been out on the previous day’s icy slopes, the snow was in superb condition and the glade-lined trails were excellent fun. Of decent length, they covered two main areas — East and West Peak. There are blues running from the top of each, but we had great fun skiing The Wall, Wolverine and the ominously named Upper Wheelchair — all single black diamonds.

I got really cold by lunchtime, and seeing me look chilly, the waiter suggested I have a shot of Fireball whiskey (cinnamon whiskey) in my hot cider — I highly recommend it, it warmed me from head to toe.


After the Fireball whiskey came the nachos: now that’s a plate of nachos

We overnighted in North Creek, at the charming Alpine Lodge with huge, luxurious beds. North Creek is a slightly hippy but all-American town, with weatherboard houses and bakeries, delicatessens and outlet clothing stores. And a couple of bars — my favourite of which was Bar Vino, which offered around a dozen choices of red, white and rose wines by the bar. Dinner was in the Trapper’s Tavern, where I had my first taste of pulled pork nachos — absolutely delicious.

The next day it was on to Gore Mountain and Whiteface in the Adirondacks.



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