Northeast Backcountry Ski Getaways
What qualifies as a good ski varies, of course, among skiers. Richard Wolff, who leads trips for the New York-North Jersey chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club, is an accomplished downhill skier, so when he wants speed and challenge, he heads for the lifts. On a cross-country trip, he's looking for the opposite: easy trails that allow plenty of room for daydreaming.
He finds them at Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park Preserve. The two adjacent areas offer enough miles of trail that you can ski all day without retracing your steps."I once did an 18-mile loop, going out on one road and back on another. It's a great big mass of land atop a flat ridge that offers good ski trails through pristine and protected forests."
"One of the great pleasures of skiing here is that these two areas are completely unspoiled," says Wolff, pointing out that Mohonk Preserve is set aside in perpetuity to be forever wild. Aside from two hotels the famous Mohonk and the now defunct Minnewaska Hotel the area has remained undeveloped, except for a few defunct carriage roads.
"Actually, those roads are ideal for skiing," says Wolff. "The roads were built for horses pulling wagons, so there aren't any cliffs to go up or down. And they've been de-rocked and recindered, so it doesn't take a lot of snow to have a good ski."
Wolff recommends several other good skis in the vicinity: Black Rock Forest near West Point, New York; Wawayanda State Forest in New Jersey; and High Point, New Jersey."High Point doesn't have as many trails as the others," says Wolff. "But it is the highest place in New Jersey, and you'll often find snow there when the other areas are muddy and brown."
Location: Minnewaska State Park Preserve (914-255-0752) is located off of New York Routes 44/55, about 11 miles west of New Paltz. The adjacent Mohonk Preserve (914-255-0919) has two offices: Trapps Entry, on New York 44/55; and the gatehouse, located on Mountain Rest Road.
Maps: Check with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (212-685-9699). Minnewaska maps are available at the gatehouse or park office.
Fees: A day-use permit, for a nominal fee, is required for Mohonk; seasonal passes are also available.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication