A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
There’s a swath of more than 80 ski areas stretching across the Mid-Atlantic states from New York to West Virginia that sometimes can jump off your radar. Well, we say, put them back on. Here’s why:
While most of these resorts don’t rival the much bigger and more famous resorts of the Rocky Mountains, they more than hold their own for diverse terrain, family-friendliness, snowmaking capability, quality lodging and just plain fun. They are easily accessible within a reasonable drive, so a weekend of week-long ski vacation comes without the expense or hassle of airline travel.
Whiteface (Lake Placid, N.Y.) is perhaps the most famous of all the Mid-Atlantic resorts because it has been the site of two Winter Olympic Games (1932 and 1980). The latter Games will be most remembered as the U.S. Miracle on Ice hockey team that defeated Russia enroute to its gold medal. Today Whiteface, at 3,430 feet, offers the largest vertical drop in the East. Some 90 trails cover 288 skiable acres. There are also 35 acres of in-bounds, off-piste, double-black diamond wilderness terrain along with 53 acres of glades. And the Olympic facilities remain in use in town.
Windham (Windham, N.Y.) is another Empire State resort you’ll want to visit. It’s just 2.5 hours north of New York City. Millions have been invested in capital improvements here in recent years. The Children’s Learning Center includes a “Magic Carpet” conveyer lift. There are 12 lifts altogether including a high-speed quad serving 54 trails on 254 acres of skiable terrain. A good lodging option is the Winwood Inn, a mile from the mountain. Diversify your vacation by adding a few days at nearby Hunter Mountain.
Greek Peak (Cortland, N.Y.) is the largest ski area in Central New York and well worth your visit. The ski area in the Finger Lakes area off I-81 has been a standout since 1958 with 56 trails of diverse ability levels and terrain parks for freestyle fun. The Trax Pub and Grill restaurant in the main ski lodge includes a giant 6,000-square-foot outdoor deck for those sunny winter and spring days. The new Go Pass is a RFID card that replaces the traditional pass and ticket, speeding up the chair loading process considerably.
Seven Springs (Seven Springs, Pa.) This resort about 100 miles southwest of Pittsburgh is among the very best in the Mid-Atlantic and, for that matter, in the entire Northeast and Midwest. This is Pennsylvania’s largest ski resort and a place where, should you want something very different, you can actually traverse to the summit on skis. There are 33 slopes and trails, seven Terrain Parks and ten lifts. The Terrain Park program has been long recognized as one of the best on the East Coast. Seven Springs recently completed a sale to Vail Resorts.
Camelback (Tannersville, Pa.) Many consider Camelback the ideal family resort with 60 skiable acres and an 800-vertical-foot drop. It has won awards from the National Ski Area Association for its beginner programs and Terrain Based Learning programs and hosts the largest snow tubing park in the country. There are laser-lit lanes and even a LED light show. Warm up those ski bones in the Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, one of the largest in the country.
Whitetail (Mercersburg, Pa.) This popular resort, opened in 1991, has an 1,800-foot elevation with a 935-foot vertical drop. Whitetail is home to southeast Pennsylvania’s only high-speed quad chairlift. The ski area keeps adding terrain parks and restaurants. A great place to stay is the Mercersburg Inn, a nice bed and breakfast about 10 minutes from the lifts.
Wisp Resort (McHenry, Md.) This is a favorite resort of the military (think Fort McHenry and the Battle of Baltimore that inspired the writing of the Star Spangled Banner). A popular promotion is the Military March with significant discounts on lodging, lift tickets and more the entire month and longer if the snow lasts. Wisp sits at 3,115 feet high with a 700-foot vertical drop and 132 skiable acres. There’s also a Rossignol Concept Shop with demo equipment and apparel.
Snowshoe Mountain Resort (Snowshoe, W.Va.) is arguably among the best resorts in the Mid-Atlantic states, along with Whiteface/Lake Placid and Seven Springs. The resort is “upside down,” meaning no cold lifts to ride to the summit on those cold mornings for first runs. The big base lodge isn’t at the base at all. It’s at the summit. Park your car, grab a cup of Joe, click into your skis and whoop down the mountain. This is the closest to a western ski resort you’ll find in the region and well worth your long weekend or winter vacation. There’s an average annual snowfall of 180 inches (powder, too) with a vertical drop ranging from 1,500 feet. The resort is also home to the Spa at Snowshoe.
Wintergreen (Nellysford, Va.) Under an hour from Charlottesville, the picturesque resort of Wintergreen has a vertical of 1,000 feet with 24 trails. This is a relaxing ski resort with nice cabins and fireplaces and condos on the mountaintop. Don’t pass up the spa or a soak in the hot tub watching the sun set.
Mountain Creek (Vernon, N.J.) The main gig in New Jersey is a good one, too. Mountain Creek Resort, just under an hour from Manhattan, offers 167 skiable acres and 1,000 vertical feet across four interconnected peaks and is fun for all ability levels. There are three terrain parks, some good groomers and night skiing, too.
If you live anywhere in the East, you are well aware of those powerful storms called "Nor'easters." Tracking along the coast, these storms cause strong northeast winds which create wind and water damage sometimes similar to category one hurricanes. So watch the weather forecasts and let the snow settle.
Cold high pressure is usually centered over Quebec or northern New England, providing a rich source of cold, dry air into the Mid-Atlantic states. Heavy snowfall, sleet and wind can, of course, hamper travel, so be prepared.
The biggest and probably the best ski town in the region is Lake Placid near Whiteface. Much of the Olympic facilities remain, there are plenty of restaurants and lodges. Nightlife is abundant and be sure to check out Top of the Park and Smoke Signals. The elegant Mirror Lake Inn is a perfect place to stay and you’re hosted by Andrew and Deja Weibreach. Andrew is a former U.S. Ski Team champion.
Hunter, N.Y. is one of those old-school ski towns with lots of lodging and nightlife in the Catskill Mountain Tradition. You can stay right on the mountain at the Kaatskill Mountain Club and Spa, Liftside Village and Pinnacle Condos.
Lake Harmony is a beautiful reservoir in the western Poconos in northeastern Pennsylvania. The Pocono Mountains boast eight ski resorts of which three are situated within an hour's drive of Lake Harmony. Plentiful local accommodations are available, ranging from rental homes to luxury hotels. Some of the lodging is a bit kitchy, but if you and your honey are into heart-shaped tubs, you can’t go wrong.
The biggest cool town, of course, is Manhattan and you can ski Mountain Creek in N.J. under an hour away and come back and catch any type of entertainment you can possibly desire. Choose from many thousands of “lodges.”