Northeast Skiing

Yeah, you know all about New England skiing. Cold and icy, right? Wrong. Take another look with our quick guide.
  |  Gorp.com
Vermont Mountains
Vermont Mountains (Hemera)

Northeastern skiing. Too often it takes a bad rap. Too cold. Too icy. Too crowded. Too old fashioned.

Wrong. While it's true that northeastern skiing and boarding can be any and all of these things, more often than not, it's none of them. In fact, here are some descriptions that more consistently apply: convenient, full-variety, and even, at times, international. Northeastern skiing stretches from the foothills of Pennsylvania to the wide-open spaces of northern Quebec. In that span lies some of the most user-friendly beginner hills, family-friendly destination resorts, smile-inducing cruising runs, and adrenaline-pumping glades found anywhere in the United States. And remember this: it's an age-old adage that people who ski the Northeast can ski anywhere else with ease.

Working from south to north, the region unveils an avalanche of assets. In Pennsylvania, the skiing hub rests in the state's eastern Pocono Mountains. Although the Poconos are more famous as a clichéd honeymoon destination, these classic Appalachian hills offer everything from easy access for learning, to more advanced terrain for improvement.

Next door, New Jersey may surprise you. Some of the country's best racers and at least one Olympic gold medalist got their start skiing here. The downhill is largely a day-trip affair, but there's no shortage of runs.

The Empire State is huge. So, too, are the skiing options. From tiny day areas to the Olympic complex, New York has it all. The Catskill Mountains lure big weekend crowds from the New York City metro area. The Adirondaks—home to the country's largest natural preserve—may not attract the same mobs, but the hills are big league, the scenery peerless, and, in Lake Placid especially, the other winter sports offerings are unmatched anywhere in the east.

In Massachusetts, most skiing is found in the Berkshire Mountains, on the state's western side. Wachussett Resort, 50 miles west of Boston, is the exception to that rule. The Berkshire's offer small-mountain skiing, extensive family programs, and the inexorable charm of New England villages like Lenox, Stockbridge, and Great Barrington.

No eastern state is more strongly associated with skiing than Vermont. From bottom to top, the state is littered with ski areas large and small, some which rank among the most famous in the world. The state draws weekend skiers and riders from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Canada, which means crowds can be a factor. But the major Vermont ski areas have developed into such large, well-equipped facilities that lift lines are usually negligible and on-slope traffic is readily dispersed. Look for the full range of skiing experiences here—from radical steeps to mellow learning slopes, from quaint country inns to modern hotels; from quiet, fine dining to bustling après-ski bars; from rustic backcountry settings to readily-accessed shopping emporia.

New Hampshire is the cradle of American skiing—the sport dates back to the last century here, and it is the site of the country's first ski school. While it doesn't have Vermont's reputation for panache, New Hampshire skiing is in no way lacking. The state offers a wide variety of mid-sized resorts, ones that present a good selection of trail options while remaining user-friendly and hospitable. And if you travel with non-skiers, Mount Washington Valley resorts offer easy access to North Conway, the outlet-mall capital of New England.

As for Maine, well, admit it—when you think of wintertime Maine, you think sub-zero temperatures and backwoods isolation. Few people understand how large Maine really is, or that the resort skiing, including two of the east's premier mountains, takes place in far more reasonable climates to the south.

Finally comes Quebec—a North American destination with international flair. This Canadian province oozes history and European quaintness. The Laurentian Mountains, north of Montreal, contain the densest accumulation of small ski areas in Canada—some 20 in all—in what must rightly be considered the night skiing capital of the world. Les Cantons de l'Est (the Eastern Townships) are situated near Vermont, which results in a delightful mix of French and English cultures. In some towns the locals speak French; in others it's English. But in all of them, they speak skiing.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 18 Oct 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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