This article first appeared in the January 10, 2018 issue of The Independent Newspaper
The Bomb Cyclone of 2018 showed us Northeasters just how tough we really are. All that snow had me thinking one thing, getting my butt on a mountain.
As a beginner skier, I couldn’t tell you the last time I pizza-sliced my way down the slopes. But as the saying goes, if you can ski in the Northeast you can pretty much ski anywhere. As I strapped in my boots and essentially ice-skated down trails in five-degree weather (out of all weekends to pick), I concluded my trip wanting more. Likely because I took a refresher lesson and didn’t fall once — success!
If you’re craving a day, or easy weekend, on the mountain, here are places to hit the slopes within driving distance of Long Island (using Riverhead as a reference point).
Shawnee Mountain gets a lot of smack talk by more experienced boarders, but for a beginner I can’t imagine an easier place to go. A three-hour-and-15-minute drive away, it’s a great day trip in East Stroudsburg, PA. Twenty-three trails, 10 lifts, and all-day lift tickets starting at $50 on weekends. I stayed at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort only three miles down the road with an indoor pool and brewery on the grounds. In addition, check out Sarah Street Grill, a local bar under 15 minutes away that was recommended by one of the mountain bartenders. The burgers are delicious, so are the beer fries, and the place is filled with personality- from the people to the building.
Blue Mountain is roughly four hours away, located in Palmerton in the Pocono Mountains. Boasting the highest vertical in Pennsylvania, they have 39 trails and 16 lifts for various level of ski and snowboarders. For beginners, enjoy the largest beginner terrain in the area. For those seeking a thrill, Challenge and Razor’s Edge runs are 3000 feet of double black diamond. An eight-hour lift ticket on weekends starts at $57, night tickets 4 to 10 PM on weekends start at $35.
Closer to three-and-a-half hours away is the more popular Camelback Mountain in Tannersville, PA. For a true family-friendly experience, it has the biggest snowtubing park in America, in addition to being called the best place for beginners to learn. It has 37 trails, the majority of them being the easier ones, ranging to extremely difficult, with 16 lifts. Weekend lift tickets start at $49 for all day or $39 3 PM to close.
Want a full weekend at one price? Head to Jack Frost and Big Boulder, in White Haven, PA. Roughly three hours and 45 minutes away, these two mountains are owned by the same company making it the ultimate two-for-one deal. Jack Frost, the bigger mountain, has 20 trails and nine lifts, open 9 AM to 4 PM in comparison to its more adventurous brother, Big Boulder, with 16 trails and eight lifts, open 3 to 9 PM.
Jack Frost is for all levels of snow seekers whereas Big Boulder devotes 50 percent of its grounds to those needing a thrill in its terrain park. Lift tickets on weekends start at $60 for adults for a single day, both mountains.
Back in New York, Windham Mountain is three hours and 50 minutes away, in the northern Catskill Mountains, but has an impressive 54 trails, 12 lifts, and six terrain parks, with night skiing across 50 acres. Weekend lift tickets start at $68 for youth.
Hunter Mountain in Hunter, New York is three-and-a-half hours away with 58 trails and 12 lifts. The mountain is strategically divided into 30 percent beginner, 30 percent intermediate, 30 percent advanced, and 10 percent expert terrains, making it an all-encompassing place to be for the various levels in a group. With the last lift at 4 PM, it’s good to get there early. Lift tickets start at $66 on weekends.
Lastly, Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall, Connecticut is a mere three hours away with 25 trails and eight lifts. Weekend lift rates begin at $27 after 4 PM and $56 for all day.
Though many people bypass this location as a place to have winter fun, Mohawk Mountain Ski Area was the first place in the world to use artificial snow back in 1952 (thank its founder, Walt Schoenknecht).
Happy snow season. Be safe, wear a helmet. In omnia paratus!