Summer in the Finger Lakes is a time when the lakes themselves are the star recreational attraction for visitors and residents alike — both directly through such activities as swimming, sailing, fishing, boating, sightseeing, etc. and indirectly through tours of the vineyards and wineries that exist on the slopes surrounding the lakes solely due to the micro-climates created by the lakes.
In the winter, ice fishing and ice sailing continue to draw some hardy souls to the lakes, but the primary recreational focus of the region shifts to the hills and mountains set a bit back from the lakes. It is there that a thriving ski industry exists. No one on the East Coast need travel to Colorado or Idaho to experience the exhilaration of downhill skiing or try their hand at the increasingly popular sport of snowboarding. New York can provide it all much closer to home.
“There are more ski areas in the state of New York than in any other state in the country — fifty of them, in fact. New York is the hot spot of the skiing industry,” says Dirk Gouwens, Executive Director of Ski Areas of New York (SANY), a statewide (but not state-operated) association of all ski areas in the state, both public or private. In fact, New York state ranks fourth in the nation in terms of numbers of skier visits, according to Gouwens.
The Finger Lakes region is home to six major ski resorts. Each of them offers a variety of trails and instructional opportunities geared to the full range of experience and expertise, from novice to expert. All allow snowboarding on their trails. All have mechanized lifts for transporting skiers and snowboarders uphill. All have lighting on at least some of their slopes to permit night skiing. All have downhill ski and snowboarding equipment available for rental. And all have snowmaking capabilities on the majority of their trails.
“If we had to rely on natural snow, we wouldn’t have nearly the number of ski areas operating and the seasons would be much shorter,” Gouwens explains, adding: “Certainly the ability to make snow has changed radically over the years. All the resorts are constantly upgrading their snowmaking equipment and techniques.”
Yet each resort has its own unique character and flavor. And each, of course, has its own hours of operation. Here is a thumbnail sketch of the various Finger Lakes area ski resorts.
Bristol Mountain Ski Resort
5662 Route 64
Canandaigua, NY 14424-9382
Telephone: (716) 374-6000
Web site: http://www.bristolmountain.com
Bristol Mountain Ski Resort bills itself as “the highest vertical of any resort between the Catskills and the Rockies.” It has a vertical drop of 1,200 feet, and its longest run is two miles in length. It was established in 1965 and is currently owned by Daniel Fuller.
There are a total of 30 trails at Bristol Mountain, with 30% suitable for beginners, 50% classified as intermediate level and 20% suitable for experts. The resort has snowmaking capabilities on approximately 98% of its trails, and lighting for night skiing on virtually all the trails.
There is a special Terrain Park with bumps and jumps available to skiers and snowboarders alike. For the more daring, the resort also has a special Half-Pipe area set up. There is no cross country skiing at Bristol Mountain, and no snow tubing facilities.
Lodging is available through Canandaigua Inn on the Lake, Econo Lodge, and Bristol Harbour The resort also manages a number of privately owned townhouses at the base of the slopes and rents them out. No camping area is available, and there are no RV hook-ups. There are, however, two heated lodges at the resort itself, each offering cafeteria-style dining and a place to relax and warm up. Daycare is available at Bristol Mountain from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for children 18 months old through 12 years of age.
The ski season at Bristol Mountain will open on Thanksgiving, November 22. However, the resort is unique in running lifts on weekends from mid-September through the end of October for those who wish to view the fall foliage from a new vantage point. The lifts run from 12 noon to 4 p.m., weekends only, during this period, and they run at a much slower speed than in the winter. A journey which, in ski season, would (on the high-speed quad lift installed two years ago) take a mere four minutes, takes a leisurely 20 minutes on the autumn runs. Visitors have to get off at the top, and then have the option of hiking down the slopes or returning via the lift.
Early and late ski season hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. During peak season, the resort is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Ticket prices range from $23 to $40.
Toggenburg Ski & Snowboard Center
PO Box 162, 1100 Toggenburg Road
Fabius, NY 13063
Telephone: (315) 683-5842
Web site: http://www.skitog.com
Founded in 1953 by the Hickey family, Toggenburg Ski & Snowboard Center enjoys the distinction of having been the first ski resort established in Central New York. The family still owns the resort, with the oldest son, Jim Hickey, currently serving as General Manager.
Toggenburg has a vertical drop of 700 feet, and its longest run is 1 mile in length. It has 24 trails, with an additional trail soon to be added. Eight of the trails are novice level; eight are intermediate level; seven are advanced level; and there is currently one double diamond (extremely difficult) trail in existence with a second double diamond trail in development and expected to be completed in time to open this season. There is snowmaking capability on 95% of the trails, and about 97% of the trails have lights for night skiing. The resort has six mechanized lifts.
Toggenburg prides itself on being the first ski resort in the area to allow snowboarders on the ski trails, and the first to develop a Terrain Park. It is also one of the few ski resorts in the region to have facilities for snow tubing, with four to six chutes available in its Snow Tubing Center (depending on snowfall) and one tow. There is no cross country skiing at Toggenburg, however; no lodging at the resort; no campground or RV hook-ups available. There is one cafeteria there, as well as a sports bar and restaurant.
“We’re mostly geared to families,” says Office Manager Cyndy Sisto. “We try to do things that are fun for the family. We have special activities such as face painting, magic shows, bubble shows and special games for kids on weekends.” Daycare is available for children aged 18 months and up Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The season at Toggenburg opens as soon after Thanksgiving as temperatures allow. Ski hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range in price from $20 to $33.
Greek Peak Mountain Resort
2000 NYS Route 392
Cortland, NY 13045-9541
Telephone: (607) 835-6111
or (800) 955-2SKI
Web site: http://www.greekpeak.net
Greek Peak Mountain Resort has been in existence for about 45 years. It is owned by Peak Resorts, Inc., has a vertical drop of 950 feet, and its longest run is 1.5 miles in length. The 29 trails include 12 novice trails, eight intermediate trails and nine trails classified as difficult. There is also a separate teaching area, and a Terrain Park for skiers and snowboarders, with a Half Pipe set up as well. Greek Peak also has a special area for snow tubing with six chutes and a tow. The resort has snowmaking capabilities on approximately 83% of its downhill trails, and there is also lighting on 83% of the trails, making night skiing possible in those locations.
Unlike most of the other ski resorts in the region, Greek Peak does offer cross country skiing opportunities, with 20 kilometers of trails available during the season.
Overnight lodging in local hotels can be arranged through the resort, with “Ski and Stay” packages available at special rates. There are two cafeteria-style dining areas at Greek Peak, along with a pizza shop, a bar and lounge, and a pub-style restaurant. No campground or RV facilities are available.
Daycare is available for infants and children up to the age of 10 Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Greek Peak ski season begins the first weekend in December, weather permitting. Hours of operation run from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, and 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets range in price from $20 to $41.
Labrador Mountain Ski Area
6935 Route 91
Truxton, NY 13158
Telephone: (607) 842-6204
Web site: http://www.labradormtn.com
Labrador Mountain Ski Area, founded in 1957 by Robert Wilson and currently owned and managed by his son Bruce and Bruce’s wife Sue, has a 700 foot vertical drop and its longest run is one mile. It has five mechanized lifts serving 22 downhill trails divided evenly between novice, intermediate and expert levels. Snowmaking is carried out on approximately 85% of those trails. Twelve trails are equipped with lighting for night skiing.
There is a Terrain Park for skiers and snowboarders and a Half Pipe set up, but no facilities for snow tubing or cross country skiing.
Labrador Mountain resort has a bar and lounge, a restaurant (with live music on Saturday nights during ski season), and two cafeterias. No lodging is available on site, but there is a campground with RV facilities. There is also daycare available for children 18 months and older from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
The season at Labrador Mountain opens sometime around Thanksgiving, depending on the temperature. During the season, the resort is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets cost $15 to $30.
Song Mountain Resort
PO Box 149, Song Mountain Road
Tully, NY 13159-0149
(Route 81, Exit14)
Telephone: (315) 696-5711
Song Mountain Resort has been in existence for approximately 36 years. It was established by the Chapman family, and two generations of the family operated the resort until it was sold to its current owner, Peter Harris, who has opened the slopes to snowboarders as well as skiers. There is now a Terrain Park for skiers and snowboarders with plenty of bumps and jumps but no Half-Pipe yet.
Song Mountain has a vertical drop of 700 feet, its longest run is 5,260 feet, and there are a total of 24 trails, including three expert, eight intermediate and 13 novice slopes. Snowmaking takes place on 80% of the trails, and 75% of them are equipped with lighting for night skiing. There are no snow tubing or cross country skiing facilities at Song Mountain; no lodging or RV support on site. There is a cafeteria, a bar and lounge, and a restaurant at the resort, as well as a private lodge open to members only. Daycare is offered on site for children aged 3 to 11, and is available daily during the ski season from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Song Mountain begins its season in mid to late November. “We wait ‘til Mother Nature supplies some snow,” says General Managing Assistant Charlene Palladino. Hours during the season are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets range in price from $14 to $28.
Hunt Hollow Club
7532 County Road 36
Naples, NY 14512-9240
Telephone: (716) 374-5428
Web site: http://www.hunthollow.com
The Hunt Hollow Ski Area is unique among Finger Lakes region ski resorts in being a private club. You have to become a member, although non-members can call ahead and make a reservation to visit the club. There are a number of different membership options available: weekday, student, family and corporate.
Hunt Hollow has a vertical drop of 825 feet. Its longest run is one mile. There are two lifts serving 18 trails, six trails at novice level, three at intermediate level and seven at expert level. Snowmaking takes place on all the trails, and eight of them have lights for night skiing. Snowboarding is allowed on all trails, and there is a Terrain Park. There are also cross-country ski trails open, whenever Mother Nature supplies enough snow, but no cross country equipment is available for rent. Hunt Hollow has no snow tubing facilities.
There is a heated lodge where a caterer offers a selection of soups, sandwiches and dinners. The lodge is equipped with tables, chairs and several fireplaces for warmth and atmosphere. There is no lodging on site, no camping or RV hook ups available, no day care (though there is an area set aside for children in the lodge for those who bring their own babysitters), and there is no bar in the lodge (though members are free to bring their own liquid refreshment).
Hunt Hollow Ski Area is scheduled to open the first Saturday in December. It will be open only on weekends until the Christmas break, and thereafter will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The resort is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, except for major school holidays. Tickets cost $20 (if purchased before December) to $40.
“Skiing is growing in popularity in leaps and bounds. And snowboarding is the fastest growing sport in the country,” says SANY Executive Director Dirk Gouwens, summing up the outlook for New York’s ski resorts. “New York’s ski resorts had a record season last winter, with more than four million skier visits statewide. And we look forward to a good year and a good future.”
by Peggy Platonos
Peggy Platonos has lived in the Finger Lakes region since 1973. She is editor of the Steuben Courier-Advocate, a weekly newspaper published in Bath, New York. She also edits the Waterside Weekly, a seasonal magazine focusing on Keuka, Waneta and Lamoka Lakes.