The closest skiing to NYC may be in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, but the for the best skiing within a day's drive of Manhattan head to the Catskills. Many skiers zoom past the Catskills each week on their way to Vermont, pausing only to read the signs for "Catskill Ski Region" along I-87. However, skiing in the Catskills offers high base elevations and long vertical drops just a quick drive from the New York metro area.
Plattekill Mountain in Roxbury, NY - the snowiest resort in the Catskills
Skiing in the Catskills is a wonderful alternative for skiers who live in or are visiting New York City. All four ski areas profiled below are no more than two and a half hours from Manhanttan. The Catskills' ski resorts receive between 100" and 180" of snow per winter, comparable to New Hampshire or southern Vermont. Base elevations also tend to be higher than many of the region's competitors, ensuring consistent snow conditions all winter long.
There are four major ski resorts in the Catskills: Hunter, Windham, Belleayre and Plattekill. Each resort offers a unique experience totally unlike the others. Hunter and Windham have the biggest two vertical drops at 1,600' each. Plattekill is the snowiest while Belleayre is the closest. Below you'll find a brief writeup of each resort, but be sure to click through to see Ultimate-Ski.com's full review of each.
Belleayre is the closest major ski resort to NYC. At only two and a half hours from Manhattan, it's easy to see why so many New York City residents love to visit Belleayre. Belleayre's 1,404' vertical drop is sizeable, but a bit misleading. The resort is split into an upper mountain for intermediates and experts and a lower mountain for beginners. It is difficult to ski the entire vertical drop in one run. There is no on-site lodging currently available, but plans are in the works for a major redevelopment that would add two hotels and reincorporate terrain from the currently-closed Highmount Ski Center next door.
If looking solely at terrain, it's hard to argue that Hunter Mountain has the best skiing in the Catkills. Hunter's 1,600' drop and three distinct faces make it a large ski area by Northeastern standards. However, Hunter is no secret to New York metro area skiers and can be hugely crowded. To quote famous New Yorker Yogi Berra, "No one goes there anymore, it's too crowded." That said, Hunter's massive snowmaking system ensures deep snow and highly consistent snow conditions from November through mid-April. Few resorts in the world can match Hunter's ability to recover from adverse weather events.
Plattekill is the powder capitol of the Catskills. Plattekill occupies a uniquely wintry microclimate in the western edge of the Catskills. When the snow falls in this tiny box canyon, it does so at a clip that surpasses all of Plattekill's competitors. Of the Catskill ski areas, Plattekill is the only one built for its snowy location as opposed to ease of access. As a result, Plattekill is marginally (10-15 minutes) farther than Hunter, Belleayre or Windham. However, those extra minutes are well-spent because Plattekill's high elevation, north-facing trails and deep natural snowfall make it the best Catskills ski resort for serious skiers.
Plattekill Mountain ski resort is located in a uniquely snowy box canyon in the Western Catskills. Of all the Catskill ski areas, only Plattekill was built in its location for snow as opposed to ease of access. Consequently, Plattekill isn’t as easy to reach as Hunter, Windham or Belleayre, but is worth the drive because of its high elevation, north-facing slopes and abundant natural snowfall.
Plattekill has two main lifts – the Sunshine Triple and the Northface Double. Both lifts depart from the base area and head to separate peaks along a ridgeline. The two peaks are connected to one another via a saddle. From the summit, Plattekills 38 trails plunge back steeply to the base area with absolutely no run out.
The double chair is Plattekill’s main lift. It reaches the resort’s taller summit and serves Plattekill’s full 1100’ of vertical drop. The triple chair offers slightly less vertical than the double and is home to Plattekill’s wider and gentler slopes.
Crowds are never an issue at Plattekill as the resort restricts the number of lift tickets it sells so as not to overburden its lifts. Plattekill is typically only open Friday through Sunday, but it also opens on midweek days where Plattekill receives more than 12" of snow.
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With 1,600' of trails to schuss, Windham is big mountain skiing and is great choice for families. The terrain and crowd are both more mellow than nearby Hunter, but the vertical drop is the same. Amenities like valet parking have led many to label Windham "country club skiing" and they wouldn't be wrong. Great groomers and a decidedly relaxed atmosphere make Windham a popular destination for skiers from wealthy New York suburbs in Westchester, Connecticut and New Jersey.