Belleayre Ski Resort

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Belleayre Mountain Ski Center is one of the Catskills largest ski resorts. Owned by the State of NY, Belleayre offers affordable big mountain skiing close to New York City. With a respectable 150” of annual snowfall and 1,404’ of vertical drop, Belleayre is a favorite day trip resort for New York City metro area skiers.

There can be something uniquely enjoyable about visiting older ski resorts. Building a ski resort before the advent of snowmaking required founders to be careful to select locations that combined high annual snowfall and lofty base elevations. Moreover, trails were generally cut by hand and closely follow the natural terrain of the hillside. Those natural advantages are no less attractive now than they were then – Belleayre’s 3,429′ summit catches 141″ of natural snowfall a year and skiers still flock to the resort to experience its hand-cut trails.

Founded in 1949 by the state of New York, Belleayre was built to spur economic activity in the Catskill Mountains. Winter pursuits (and paricularly skiing) were already popular in post-war America and the Catskills provided an easy-to-reach retreat for a growing New York City suburban market increasinly equipped with automobiles.

Although Belleayre has been around since the Truman administration, the resort is in the midst of a renaissance. The state-run resort was recently put under the control of the Olympic Regional Development Authority, which also runs Whiteface and Gore ski resorts in the Adirondacks. The future looks also as plans are underway to link Belleayre to a neighboring closed ski resort – Highmount Ski Center. Highmount’s terrain is less monotonous than Belleayre’s, with continuous pitches over its roughly 1,000′ drop.

Belleyare’s skiable terrain is spread out across a long ridgeline with the resort’s main base area actually at midmountain. All the trails above this midmountain area are intermediate or expert. Below the midstation are green, beginner runs. As a consequence, almost all of Belleayre’s runs follow a predictable sequence. The run will start as a short, steep black or double black diamond headwall, continue for another 400-500 vertical feet as an intermediate trail, and then end as a long but interesting beginner trail.

This layout nicely separates beginners, intermediates, and experts. However because the gradient of the hillside is relatively constant all along the face of the ridge, it can also be monotonous. Even for veteran Belleayre skiers, it can be difficult to distinguish one upper mountain trail from another. Two of the three chairlifts serving the upper mountain have midstations which allow intermediate skiers to disembark before the chairlift continues on to the summit.

Navigating Belleayre is simple to understand, but can also require some poling. The resort has 2 base areas. The first is at the Discovery Lodge at the bottom of the hill. Beginners should park here. The second (main) base area is found at mid-mountain near the Overlook Lodge. Both lodges offer full ticket services, rentals and food. Our insider’s tip to Belleayre, however, is to park at neither of these two bases. Instead, when the lift is running, park in the small lot at the uncrowded base of the Tomahawk Quad. There is a small ticket window and a much shorter walk to the lifts.

Belleayre Pros and Cons

+ closest ski resort to New York City with over a 1,100’ drop

+ high elevation and good natural snowfall predisposes Belleayre to good snow conditions

+ one of the best beginner areas in the Northeast

+ historic 1940’s charm in base lodges

– no base-to-summit lift makes laps on the full 1,404’ vertical drop impossible

– parallel upper mountain trails are borderline identical and unmemorable

Belleayre Beginner Skiing

Belleayre's large lower mountain full of winding green trails and uncrowded slopes makes it one of the best resorts for beginners in the East.

Belleayre Beginner Skiing 660X260

The resort's beginner area offers 13 trails in a dedicated novice area. The vertical drop in the beginner areas is roughly 500' and is serviced by a pair of double chairs. Three surface lifts service terrain for first time skiers at the very bottom near the Discovery Lodge.

Unlike many resorts whose beginner terrain consists of one main bunny slope and few scattered green trails, Belleayre's novice area offers a real skiing experience. From the top of the twin double chairs, beginners can experience the sense of adventure that draws so many to the sport. Lots of ways down varying trails means that beginners have an opportunity to explore and wander. In many ways, the experience is similar only to Copper Mountain and it's "naturally separated terrain." By compartmentalizing the beginner skiing experience on the lower mountain, Belleayre offers beginners the best of both worlds - a safe, separate ski hill to learn on and a big upper mountain full of more challenging runs to advance to.

Another great feature of Belleayre's beginner terrain is its lack of crowds. Due to the fact that Belleayre does not have a base-to-summit lift, expert skiers rarely venture into the lower mountain beginner area; no skiers whizzing by terrified novices here! Be advised, however, that there are no green trails from the summit. Beginners will be confined to the lower mountain. While that makes for a great learning experience, it can pose problems for groups of mixed ability levels trying to ski together as more advanced skiers will almost certainly want to stay on the upper mountain.

Many beginner skiers choose to park at the Discovery Lodge at the base of the resort as opposed to continuing up to the main base at mid-mountain. First timers should definitely park here as the learning terrain is at the bottom of the hill and not accessible from the mid-mountain except by more difficult green trails.

Belleayre Learn to Ski

Belleayre Green Trails 660X260

Belleayre is amongst the best ski resorts in the East for learning how to ski. Belleayre's ski school caters to busloads of first time skiers coming up from New York City and is well-versed in teaching children. The first class beginner area (described above) provides an incubator for novices to grow in their technique without encountering many of the elements of the sport that scare or intimidate. There are no steep runs to accidentally turn down, no out of control intermediates flying by and are, to borrow a turn of phrase Goldilocks, "Not too short, not too long - just right."

 

Belleayre Intermediate Skiing

Belleayre's blue trails are found mainly on the upper mountain below the steep summit headwalls.

Belleayre Intermediate Skiing 660X260

Intermediates have 58% of Belleayre's terrain to sample. However, options from the summit are limited because almost all of the summit trails begin with black or double black diamond headwalls. This can be frustrating for intermediates because it limits the vertical drop skiable in a single run. Moreover, the advanced trails are legitimately steep and progressing from blues to blacks is difficult at Belleayre since there is a stark difference in difficulty.

There are two main intermediate routes from the summit that wind their way down the periphery of the resort. The first main route is on the looker's left side of the mountain. Here skiers fin the Ridge Run/Roaring Brook Trail - a rather bland blue whose only notable feature is a single switchback. Alternatively, blue skiers could try Horseshoe Pass or Howe's Highway. The former is a spur which connects to the main Ridge Run/Roaring Brook trail, while Howe's Highway is a connector run which is unfortunately quite flat and has the distinct disadvantage of crossing no fewer than 15 trails.

The second main intermediate summit trail is on the looker's right side of the hill nearer the Tomahawk Quad. The Deer Run trail (and its various spurs) is the most interesting blue run on the mountain and winds its way through a beautiful part of the mountain whose topography is also more undulating.

Belleayre Expert Skiing

Belleayre's expert terrain consists mainly of short steep pitches from the summit and great mogul skiing.

Belleayre Double Black Diamond 660X260

Expert skiing at Belleayre is a good news, bad news proposition. The good news is that the ski resort is laid out across a wide ridgeline and the top roughly 1/3 of the the ridge is quite steep. This means that expert skiers can enjoys 300-450' descents down a long row of legitimately steep headrows. The bad news is that these headwalls are short and all have long blue runouts.

Additionally, there is little to differentiate one trail from another. Although Ultimate-Ski has visited Belleayre at least a dozen times, we find it incredibly difficult to remember particular upper mountain runs. Beyond moderate variations in pitch, the only real differences amongst the expert trails is whether or not they have been groomed.  All the headwalls are generally the same pitch and width. Moreover, they are simply too short to be anything but straight.

That is not to say that the black diamond runs at Belleayre are boring. In fact, they tend to be challenging, particularly when moguled. Belleayre receives sufficient snowfall (141") that moguls tend to form on many of these runs and mogul skiers will find Belleayre's bumps to be the best in the region. High elevations and lower skier numbers than nearby Hunter and Windham combine to form wonderful, soft bumps. Belleayre (quite rightly in our opinion) leaves a large number of trails ungroomed and expert skiers appreciate these short, but fun black diamond runs.

Lastly, Belleayre puts its natural snowfall to good use by opening up large portions of the mountain for gladed skiing. The resort even offers hike-to terrain on the periphery of the resort. When conditions are good, the 10-minute climb to ski the double black diamond Cathedral Brook trail is well worth the effort. Visit our Belleayre Backcountry & Glades page for a more lengthy discussion of Belleayre's tree runs.

Belleayre Backcountry & Glades

Belleayre offers the closest real tree skiing to New York City. Few other areas within a day trip of Manhattan can match Belleayre's woods. Backcountry skiing is popular in the areas adjoining the resort.

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Belleayre Glades

For a number of years, Belleayre offered the Catskills only cat-skiing. However, the resort has discontinued the operation and there are no plans to restore it at this time. However, Belleayre does have several marked tree runs and with 141" of annual snowfall, they are usually skiable from mid-January through the end of March. Additionally, the resort's high summit elevation and northern exposure tend to keep the snow that piles up in the trees in better shape than just about any resort in the region with the exception of nearby Plattekill.

The best of these off piste areas is on the looker's left of the mountain - Cathedral Brook. Cathedral Brook is a steep double black diamond run and the woods adjoining it ("The Glen") are fantastic when the snow is good. To access the trail, some hiking is required. A poling traverse from the Sunset Lodge brings skiers to the base of the climb which requires approximately 10 minutes. The hike is definitely worth the effort when snow conditions are good, though.  It seems as if only a handful of skiers a day tackle the climb and powder can remain on this trail for days after a storm.

On the other side of the resort, Belleayre has recently opened the new Dreamcatcher Glade (entrance pictured above on opening day). Here expect to find a more traditional New England style glade with tightly spaced hardwoods and a moderately steep pitch.

Belleayre Backcountry Skiing

Many backcountry skiers enjoy hiking up from Belleayre Beach or the town of Pine Hill to the summit of Belleayre via public-access hiking trails. The two most common uphill routes are the Woodchuck Hollow and Cathedral Glen hiking trail. As they are on public land, these trails are open to snowshoe and uphill skinning traffic. However, skiing down the trails is prohibited to prevent collisions with uphill traffic.

The trees in this area are tight, but skiable by hardy expert skiers and a 2,000 ft descent awaits from the summit of Belleayre back down to Pine Hill/Belleayre Beach. However, be advised that neither NYS nor Belleayre ski patrol check these woods. Ski at your own risk.

 

Belleayre Mountain Restaurants

Belleayre offers several on mountain dining options, the most scenic of which is the 1940's era Sunset Lodge at the summit.

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Overlook Lodge at Mid-Mountain

The Discovery Lodge at the very bottom of the resort offers typical cafeteria food, but can often be mobbed by the beginners that roll in from New York City each weekend on school busses.

We recommend sticking to the Overlook Lodge at midmountain which serves similar fare from the cafeteria on the lower level and has a fantastic sandwich carving station upstairs. Additionally, there is a small bar/restaurant on the top level of the Overlook Lodge that offers upgraded food.

If you prefer a view, the Summit Lodge is open on weekends in midseason and while the food is simple (cold sandwiches, cookies, hot soup), the view from this beautiful stone lodge is spectacular. Snag a picnic table outside and enjoy the long views over the backside of the resort and down to a large lake below.

Belleayre Village

At present, Belleayre does not have a base village. However, a large village is being planned as part of what developers term the "Belleayre Resort." The village has been in the planning stages for the better part of two decades, but appears to finally have turned a corner.

The Belleayre Resort is expected to open in coming years. When open, the village will have hotels, shops, restaurants and a golf course. A ski area expansion to reincorporate the long-closed Highmount Ski Center is also part of the development plan.

The village of Pine Hill is the closest town, about 5 minutes away by car.

Belleayre Activities

Belleayre is primarily an alpine ski resort. However, Belleayre does offer a number free access to cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails.

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Trail Map of Belleayre's Cross Country Ski Area

Belleayre Cross Country Skiing

Belleayre Mountain offers 9 km of cross-country trails. The trails are suitable for nordic skiers of all abilities. However, the trails are not track set, groomed or patrolled. They are as mother natures and previous skiers leave them.

Belleayre is owned by the State of New York and managed by the Olympic Regional Development Authority. As a result it is free to use all of Belleayre's nordic skiing network, but please be advised there is no snowmaking, so please check ahead to make sure the natural snow conditions allow for for skiing. Belleayre publishes a cross country trail report as an addendum at the bottom of its daily conditions report.

Separate parking is available for the cross country ski center below the Discovery Lodge. Aftering exiting NYS-28, turn left off the access road. If you reach the turn off for the Discovery Lodge and beginner skiing area, you have gone too far.

Belleayre Snowshoeing

Belleayre also has a number of hiking trails that are suitable for winter snowshoeing. Again, there is no charge to use these trails, but they are not patrolled. The hiking trails begin either at Belleayre Beach or in the Village of Pine Hill. Snowshoers can take either the Woodchuck Hollow or Cathedral Glen trails until they intersect a flat-ish traverse right which leads to the Sunset Lodge at the top of the Super Chief Express Quad. The vertical rise is almost 2,000 ft from the trails' starting points at either Pine Hill or Belleayre Beach.

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When either cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, be sure to consult a trail map and choose trails appropriate for your level of skill and conditioning. All cross-country skiers and snowshoers are advised that they engage in those activities at their own risk and should not rely on assistance from the alpine ski area.

Belleayre Rating
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  • Intermediates star rating
  • Beginners star rating
  • Ski Lift System star rating
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  • Scenery star rating
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  • Belleayre Statistics
  • CountryUSA
  • StateNew York
  • Beginner22 %
  • Intermediate58 %
  • Advanced20 %
  • Number of ski lifts8
  • Chairlifts5
  • Surface lifts3
  • Riders per hour10980
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