Catskill Mountain Ski Areas
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catskills
June 29, 2004
Member since 06/29/2004 🔗
53 posts
Nice forum here. This is my first post.

I did some searches on some various Catskill Mtn ski areas here at DSski. I was surprised there was very little mentioned about Catskill resorts. When I ski Hunter, Belleayre, Windham, and Plattekill I very often run into people that live in the DC area. Strange because these resorts are not that far away.

Here is some little tips about some of these resorts.

I see Plattekill was mentioned here. Plattekill is probably one of the best places to go on a weekend fresh powder day. The reason is there will still be powder late afternoon and even powder the next day because very few people ski Plattekill. The uphill lift capacity is very low. Also there are some trails that are almost as challenging as Hunter. The negative don't expect great snowmaking.

Hunter recently put in a new Learning Center building. Outside of that Hunter has not changed much.

Belleayre on the other hand has had some BIG changes in the last few years. Two new fixed grip quad lifts and best of all excellent snowmaking. If you have not skied Belleayre in 5 years you should take another look. Great weekend place to ski. One person from Maryland that I rode up on the lift aid to me Belleayre is the best kept secret in the East. Very low number of skiers on each trail and voted a great place for families to ski. he Belleayre snowmakers know how to make quality snow ALL year long. Still very little crowds on weekends with great snow conditions and state owned cheap ticket prices. Kids season pass is under $200. Check out this Belleayre article Belleayre Mountain - Classic NY Skiing in the Central Catskills

Nothing much changed about Windham. Its still a another great place to ski in the Catskills.

Bobcat is another very cool place. This is like going back in time. Its almost impossible to determine when and if this place is open. When it is open its a classic. Here is another good read. Time Stands Still at Bobcat
JohnL
June 29, 2004
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
quote:
Also there are some trails that are almost as challenging as Hunter.
I'm a little surprised at that comment - based on my own very limited NY skiing experience. I've only skied Hunter once, but I didn't think it had anything that was that challenging. (Not everything was open, but I got a good look at closed expert trails from the lift.) I would have thought that Plattekill is much more challenging.

Plattekill is near the top of my to-ski list. I got the impression that it was a little Mad River Glen, with the "ski it if you can motto" being relevant. I've also heard that Plattekill has a legitimate CVD - continous vertical drop. I'm curious as to your thoughts.

Ever been to Blue Knob in PA or Timberline in WV?
JohnL
June 29, 2004
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Definitely post here often. A lot of the NY areas are not much farther than Snowshoe in West Virginia.

Are you associated with Snow Journal?
catskills
June 29, 2004
Member since 06/29/2004 🔗
53 posts
JohnL you should definitely try Plattekill, which should be on everyone's to do list. Plattekill is very much like MRG where the snow conditions are part of the challenge. Plattekill's trails like Blockbuster will challenge the best skier. They say Blockbuster is the steepest in the Catskills. I was having so much fun on that trail the day after they made velvet snow on it I am not sure how steep it is. To tell the truth it did not seem that steep but then again the moguls were tame that day due to the excellent snowmaking. It was challenging I will give it that. Its strange but you notice one thing at Plattekill. Everyone and I mean almost everyone is an extremely good skier and rider there. Also, Plattekill has probably the lowest number of skiers/riders per trail area in probably the entire east coast.

On your day at Hunter it sounds like you were there early in the season. If you rode up the main HSQ lift at Hunter and looked down your right you probably did not see any trails that were a challenge. On the other hand, the west side of Hunter Mtn (skiers left) probably was not open. Hunter West has Z lift for starters and right under Z Lift is one of the west side trails that you should find extremely challenging. Lower K27 (not upper K27) on the east side of Hunter is also challenging. I don't think there is anything in the Catskills that compares to degree of difficulty like Jackson Hole's well known Tower 3 or Alta Chutes . On the other hand when you throw in bad east coast snow conditions then many of the Catskill Mtn resorts have trails that can be far more challenging than Alta Chutes or Tower 3 with powder. Either way you better know how to self arrest when you fall.

BTW I am not affiliated with Snow Journal but author James Michaud is a good read. I am not affiliated with author Michaud either.
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JimK - DCSki Columnist
June 30, 2004
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,727 posts
Thanks for interesting input catskills. I too have heard the good vibes about Plattekill, but only in the last couple years. Where has that place been all our lives? Has it been around a long time or is it a more recently opened ski area? Also, how much further off of I87 is Belleayre and Plattekill compared to Huntah? Am I correct in thinking the vertical at Bell and Plat is only around 1000'?
catskills
June 30, 2004
Member since 06/29/2004 🔗
53 posts
JimK Plattekill replaced their T-Bar a few years ago with Belleayre's double chair (Lift 6). That improved Plattekill significantly except for the people that love real long T-Bars.

To get to Belleayre/Plattekill drive north on I87 (NY Thruway) at mile marker 91 is Exit 19. From exit 19 you take route 28 exactly 40 minutes to Belleayre. Do not speed on route 28 because you will get a ticket. Plattekill is an honest 20 minutes past Belleayre. Just follow the signs. Windham and Hunter are not that far away either.

Here is an excellent link with great information on the area. Catskill High Peaks Information and Lodging
wgo
June 30, 2004
Member since 02/10/2004 🔗
1,367 posts
Man,

I'd love to try some of the catskills areas. But here the difference between living in the dc area and living in c'ville comes into play - I can get to snowshoe in 3 hrs, but getting to Plattekill et al I'm looking at 7-8 hrs [Frown]

Note to self: DO NOT move further south!
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
June 30, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,938 posts
This info about the Catskills has been great. Many thanks.

I think the basic reasons why Mid-Atlantic types don't visit the Catskills resorts more often is as Jim put it: lack of vertical.

Plattekill only has 1,100--about the same as Blue Knob and not much more than Whitetail or Timberline.

Belleayre is really two mountains, and the blue and black terrain again does not offer much more vert. than local mountains.

As for pitch, BK and Timberline have some trails with decent pitch, as does Snowshoe.

As for snow, the Catskills receive less natural on average than WV.

The only mountain that has much appeal there is Hunter because of its bigger vert., but it has the reputation for being crazy busy on weekends.

For most of us, we'd rather drive a few more miles to southern or even central Vermont than go to the Catskills. This is a shame because it sounds like there's some nice terrain at some of the smaller mountains like Belleayre/Plattekill--mountains that are probably a better bet for weekends than Stratton or Mt. Snow.
catskills
June 30, 2004
Member since 06/29/2004 🔗
53 posts
Johnfmh - all valid points. Vertical is not everything. Good snow quality is also a key factor. Whistler advertises over 5000 feet of vertical but nobody skis the wet snow on the bottom half of Whistler.

If you are driving up to Vermont sometime during the day you may want to try Belleayre for a few hours to break up the long trip on the way to Vermont. Belleyre in the last few years I would say has had the best snow quality with a number of trails they let bump if your into moguls. If you like terrain parks Belleayre has a brand new that is is awesome this last season. Hunter of course also has excellent snowmaking and terrain park, but this last year they turned it down a notch or two.

Note sometimes Catskills gets snow and VT does not.

Someday the Catskills will have 2000 foot vertical ski area. We can only hope. [Smile] Until then will just have to make more more and shorter chair lift rides.
JohnL
June 30, 2004
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
I think Plattekill gets more snow than the rest of the Catskills (it's further west, closer to the mid-state snow belt.) From the website (www.plattekill.com/winter), Plattekill got 183 inches last winter. As of April 5, Timberline reported 174+ inches on its web site. Based on my own ad hoc comparisons the past few winters, Plattekill gets comparable amounts of snow as Timberline/Canaan Valley, but less than Snowshoe. All of the above get more snow than Seven Springs and Blue Knob. Blue Knob is far enough east and north that it is out of the "Allegheny Front" snow belt.

For those looking for significantly better cruisers than those found in West Virginia, western PA and MD, I'm not certain if the Catskills resorts are worth the extra drive time. For those looking for a step above the challenges found at Blue Knob, Timberline and Snowshoe's Western Terrority, Plattekill *may* be the answer. I let you know this upcoming winter. (Been saying that for the past two winters.)

The things that intrigue me about Plattekill include:
  • More snow than Blue Knob.
  • Continuous vertical drop - Runs such as Off the Wall, Bold Decision, Eastwind, Ramrod/Gunbarrel while very nice, have steep sections that are just too short.
  • Tremendous hard-core skier culture - may mean cleared out brush in the woods, ungroomed terrain, tolerance for adventerous skiing
  • Total lack of crowds
JohnL
June 30, 2004
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
catskills,

Correct-o about skiing Hunter early season. Way Out was open at Hunter West. Though the Hunter West double blacks were closed, I got a good look at em from the chairlift above. I skied Upper KT-27 (Lower was closed.) Is Lower KT-27 really any more difficult than the steep face on Upper? I did like the narrow ridge run that took you from where the snowmaking stopped on Upper KT-27 to the middle of some groomers. It was tight and pretty bumped up, but a bit flat.

I'm not expecting anything in the Catskills to rival the chutes of Jackson, but rivaling what you get in Vermont would be very nice.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
June 30, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,938 posts
John:

Timberline's web site is not very accurate on snow numbers. Whitegrass is a better source and it reported 196 inches for 03-04 and 224" for 02-03.

In any event, snow numbers are often less important than snowmaking numbers. [Wink] In the this category, 7 Springs, Whitetail, Wisp, and Snowshoe blow Timberline away.

I've never skied them, but the lesser known Catskills places may offer a bit more challenge than what we have locally--so-called sustained pitch. They may also offer low crowds. Still, you can get to Killington or Pico from DC in 9 hours. Why drive 7-8 for Platekill? I admit I am playing the devil's advocate because I personally happen to like small out of the way places like Platekill that have a hard-core skiing culture. [Wink]
JohnL
June 30, 2004
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
John,

The '03-'04 T-Line numbers are still comparable to Plattekill. 10-15 inches either way in the course of a winter is pretty similar. FWIW, I recall that Plattekill got some obscene amount of snow during the ice age winter of '02-'03.

The only problem with the 9 hour drive to Killington, is that it ends up at Killington. [Big Grin] (Talk about playing devil's advocate!) I'd rather ski a smaller uncrowded area on a weekend than ski K-Mart. As for mid-week, I'd just as soon use those precious days for Sugarbush, Stowe, Smuggs, MRG, Jay or Utah.

At some point you have to draw the line as to how far you are going to drive, especially for a short two or three day weekend. I'm hoping Plattekill turns out to be more like 6.5 - 7 hours than 8. (I doubt Killington would be only one hour beyond Plattekill. I can make it to NYC in under five hours, and Plattekill is advertised as 2.5 hours from Manhattan.) Plus, you prolly can do some sort of walkabout trip to Plattekill/Northeastern PA (Blue, Elk, Montage) where you drive - ski - drive and don't have to do 7 hours in one sitting.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
June 30, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,938 posts
quote:
The only problem with the 9 hour drive to Killington, is that it ends up at Killington. [Big Grin]
You and my wife share the same attitude towards Killington. [Wink] I'm just waiting for the 2 new resorts two be built in Harman so we can have Tahoe in WV. Then there will be no need to ever go anywhere else again period. [Wink]
andy
June 30, 2004
Member since 03/6/2004 🔗
175 posts
Johnf you took the words right out of my mouth!I have loved checking out the diff ski areas but have always just felt like if WV could just get thier act together I would have no urge to go anywhere else.Skiing at a place you can call home & feel at home is what i have wanted for awhile.Maybe we feel a little diff since we have a vested interest in the state,but then again before i invested in some land up there I dreamed & hoped.Watching a snowflake fall on a west Va slope is (or mid atlantic)is 10 times more enjoying than seeing one fall in CO.The whole area is getting more scenic as the ravages of the early to mid 1900's are getting fixed by mother nature.Remember NE is to cold & CO is too high WV is just right! ALMOST HEAVEN
catskills
June 30, 2004
Member since 06/29/2004 🔗
53 posts
Mapquest says Kingston, NY exit 19 on I87 NY State Thruway is 172 miles or 3 hrs 17 min from Killington, VT. I know you have to drive right pass I87 exit 19 on your way to Killington. Therefore, The Catskill mountain resorts are 2.5 hours closer to DC.

A bit of History. Correct me if I am wrong but you folks are saying that if the Catskills had more vertical you would ski there. Back in the early 60s the Catskills almost had a 2000+ vertical ski resort. It is still for sale if anyone has the spunk and wants to try to build a 2000+ vertical ski resort in the Catakills from the ground up. Interesting read--> The Bearpen Story in the Catskill Mountains near Prattsville

There is a real possibility that witin the next 5 years there will be 2000+ vertical resort in the Catskills. The only question is who will be the first.
JimK - DCSki Columnist
July 1, 2004
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,727 posts
That was an interesting read about Bearpen Mtn ski area with a 2000' vert in Catskills with soap opera elements like patriarch/financier dying on mtn, sly locals playing with titles to property, epic initial snow years followed by not so epic snow years. I couldn't tell if the mtn was ever developed to the point where the full 2000' vertical was lift served or just by motor vehicle transport? And what was the summit elevation, 3600'?

We've had a number of discussions here about what it takes to make a successful ski area...money, geography, vision, lots of luck. In our part of the country a critical subset of the geography element is - lots of water for snowmaking. Sounds like greed and bad luck played in the failed Bearpen story. It makes you wonder how many ski areas in the US could actually claim to have been built where they are because it was the absolute best ski mtn for miles and miles around, as opposed to ski areas built on just an OK mtn, but with better road access, advantageous property rights, favorable demographic issues, etc, etc? Some of the earliest come to mind in best ski mtn category - Alta, Mammoth, Stowe.
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