Ski spots perfect for families in the Hudson Valley

From nervous newbies to advanced adventurers, the 3,429-foot-high From nervous newbies to advanced adventurers, the 3,429-foot-high Belleayre Mountain in Pine Hill has a slope for every skier. Photo Credit: Handout

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Looking for a great place to ski with kids? Whether you and your children live and breathe winter sports or just want to dabble in them, the perfect ski spot may be closer than you think.

The Hudson Valley is home to a number of ski areas catering to a wide range of skill levels. Many of these local resorts offer family-friendly perks, like ski lessons for the tiniest of tots, children's activities and baby-sitting services.

"There are so many resorts that offer so much variable terrain," said Jon Lundin, a spokesman for the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority, which operates a number of ski areas in the state. Even a family with both skiers and nonskiers will find no shortage of winter fun.

"There's a really a broad range of on-hill activities for families -- skiing, boarding, tubing," Lundin said.

And local spots offer the one thing many families with youngsters prize above all else: "It's proximity," said Alan Lund, the general manager of Sawkill Family Ski Center in Kingston.

Below are six family-friendly ski resorts that Hudson Valley residents can drive to and from in one day -- and on less than a tank of gas. Rates for lift tickets, rentals and lessons are for 2012-2013 weekends.

For day-trippers: Tuxedo Ridge Ski Center at Sterling Forest

Even the most impatient young passengers won't mind the drive to Tuxedo Ridge, so close to the site of the annual New York Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo Park that it shares the same parking lot (581 Route 17A West, Tuxedo; 845-351-1122; www.tuxedoridge.com).

The mountain is home to a 100-acre ski center, with seven trails, four double lifts and a beginner slope. There's a terrain park for both beginner and advanced skiers and boarders. "Our terrain is easy enough to learn on, and we have trails challenging enough for the whole family to have a great day," said Jim Mezzetti, the CEO of Tuxedo Ridge.

Tuxedo Ridge also stages many family events throughout the season, including scavenger hunts around the mountain and a holiday ski camp. You can even drop off kids ages 7 and up for a day of instructor-supervised skiing while you do your holiday shopping on Drop and Shop days ($35).

And nonskiers can still enjoy the snow by tubing down a lift-serviced hill in the Snow Tubing Park ($20 for 90 minutes on weekends; reserve in advance online).

Rates:

Full-day lift ticket: $42 for adults, $32 for kids 5-12, free for kids 4 and under with paying adult

Rentals: $29 for adults, $24 for kids 5-12, $10 for kids 4 and under (for skis, boots and poles)

Lessons: Group lessons start at $30; private lessons start at $60

Amenities:

Trails: There are three black diamonds (advanced), three blue squares (intermediate) and one green circle (beginner)

Food: Guests can dine cafeteria-style in the lodge, enjoy family-friendly fare (and raise a toast) in the cozy Ridge Pub or pack a lunch and eat at picnic tables outdoors or in the Warming Hut

Lodging: Visit the website for a list of nearby lodging partners offering ski-and-stay packages

For families with varying skill levels: Mount Peter ski area in Warwick

Adventurous teens and toddling tykes will feel equally at home at Mount Peter, a 1,050-foot-high mountain that's home to four lifts, 13 trails and a terrain park (40 Ski Lane, Warwick; 845-986-4940; www.mtpeter.com). At 77 seasons and counting, the family-run resort is one of the oldest operating ski areas in the state.

For families with young children, a two-hour Tiny Tots program will introduce the smallest skiers to the sport. Potty-trained kids up to age 4 will get a fun introduction to equipment, balance, walking, gliding and other skills. The $50 program fee pays for tuition, equipment rental, area lift ticket and even hot cocoa.

For everyone else, beginner ski and snowboard lessons are available to first-timers ages 5 and up with the purchase of a lift ticket on weekends and holidays. There isn't much for nonskiers to do, but at least you can surf the Internet as you sip some cocoa: The lodge offers free Wi-Fi.

Rates:

Full-day lift ticket: $40 for adults, $30 for kids 5-12, $11 for kids 4 and under

Rentals: $28 for adults, $23 for kids 5-12, $18 for kids 4 and under (for skis, boots and poles)

Lessons: Group lessons start at $30; private lessons start at $55

Amenities:

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Trails: There are two double-black diamonds, three black diamonds, three blue squares and five green circles, including a learning terrain

Food: There are two lodges with cafeteria-style dining; warm up and enjoy burgers, beer and other typical fare in the main lodge, or take in the view from the beautiful glass-enclosed, heated Sunrise Lodge

Lodging: Visit the website for a list of nearby lodging partners offering ski-and-stay packages

For novice weekenders: Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland

Rocking Horse Ranch, an all-inclusive resort, opened its newly upgraded Winter Fun Park this season (600 U.S. 44, Highland; 800-647-2624; www.rockinghorseranch.com). Offering ice skating, horse-drawn sleigh riding and snow tubing, the ski area, which has only one slope, offers a great, low-stress way to introduce youngsters to the sport.

On the Big Hill Ski Run, kids can safely ride the new Magic Carpet conveyor to the peak, where instructors are waiting to assist.

"We also have Never-Ever Run, a spot for our ski instructors to teach kids and parents how to ski -- all included with their stay," said Kyle Carson, the sales and marketing director for Rocking Horse Ranch.

In addition to the outdoor wintry fun, Rocking Horse has an indoor water park and a spa. And because the resort is geared toward family fun, there are plenty of activities -- such as character lunches, scavenger hunts and a video arcade -- to keep your whole crew happy.

Inside tip: Bargain hunters should sign up for the mailing list to receive special discount offers by email.

Rates: All-inclusive weekend rates start at $189 per adult per night and $79 per child per night; ski instruction and equipment are included along with lodging, meals and activities

Amenities:

Food: Three all-you-can-eat meals are served daily from a rotating menu at the Longhorn Dining Room

Lodging: Guests stay on-site in one of two lodges; the Main Lodge is connected to all the indoor facilities such as the pool and dining room, or there's the adjacent, two-story Oklahoma Building

For serious skiers: Belleayre Mountain in Pine Hill

From nervous newbies to advanced adventurers, the 3,429-foot-high Belleayre Mountain has a slope for every skier (Belleayre Mountain Road, Pine Hill; 845-254-5600; www.belleayre.com). The resort boasts a total of 55 trails -- including glades, a terrain park and two progression parks -- serviced by eight ski lifts. The longest run is 12,024 feet.

Belleayre holds a number of instructional camps for kids to learn skiing and snowboarding, including a full-day KidsCamp for skiers ages 4-12 and snowboarders 7-12 ($80, $102 with rentals), and two four-day Holiday Camps for freestyle or competitive skiers and snowboarders ($350). Beginners ages 8 and up also can take advantage of the Learn to Ski or Ride program, which offers three days of lift tickets, beginner lessons and rentals for $131.

The resort also periodically offers Scout Days: Scouts pay $37 for a lift ticket and $10 for lessons.

Adults who consider skiing to be a spectator sport can relax with a drink in Overlook Lodge's cocktail lounge or in the Discovery Lodge's bar.

Rates:

Full-day lift ticket: $59 for adults, $53 for college students and teens, $51 for ages 7-12, free for kids under 7

Rentals: $33 for adults, $25 for kids 17 and under (for skis, boots and poles)

Lessons: Group lessons start at $30; private clinics start at $75 per hour, $40 for each additional person

Amenities:

Trails: There are six double black diamonds, 10 black diamonds, 27 blue squares and 15 green circles, in addition to glades and terrain parks for intermediate to advanced skiers

Food: There are four lodges at Belleayre. The Discovery Lodge, located in the beginner area, has a sub shop and a cafeteria. The Overlook Lodge has a full-service cafeteria. The Longhouse Lodge is for private parties and other group events. And the Sunset Lodge, located on the summit at an elevation of 3,325 feet, offers restrooms and vending machines midweek and a full-service cafeteria on weekends and holidays.

For last-minute trips: Thunder Ridge in Patterson

Located just 35 miles from White Plains, this little ski slope is perfect for families who want to ski after school or take a spur-of-the-moment day trip (50 Thunder Ridge Rd., Patterson; 845-878-4100; thunderridgeski.com). Local families might even consider taking the Metro-North Ski Train to Patterson, where a free Thunder Ridge shuttle picks up and drops off visitors at scheduled times. If you buy the Thunder Ridge Ski Package, you can even call for the shuttle on weekdays.

Thunder Ridge has three lifts and four magic carpets to service the 30 trails, which have a vertical drop of about 500 feet and range from gentle beginner slopes to more advanced runs. The longest trail is about a mile.

The destination is small and manageable enough to navigate with tots in tow, and baby-sitting is available in the glass-enclosed nursery inside the lodge.

Kids age 3½-5 who aren't in full-day school yet can take advantage of the weekday Preschool-Kindergarten Program. Unlike the busier weekend classes, these one-hour sessions tend to have only one to two students per instructor, so little skiers can get lots of attention in a relaxed and fun setting.

Rates:

Full-day lift ticket: $50 for adults, $37 for juniors 6-12, $12 for kids 5 and under

Rentals: $35 (for skis, boots, poles and a helmet)

Lessons: Group lessons start at $39

Amenities:

Trails: 17 black diamonds, seven blue squares, six green circles and beginner areas

Food: A full-service cafeteria serves up casual fare, such as hot cocoa and soup

Lodging: Visit the website for a list of nearby lodging partners offering ski-and-stay packages

For beginners: Sawkill Family Ski Center in Kingston

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This little winter recreation center, which prides itself on its terrain's unique suitability for snowboarders, tubers and novice skiers, is located in the Catskill Mountains, not far from Woodstock (167 Hill Rd., Kingston; 845-336-6977; sawkillski.com). The 70-foot vertical drop is inviting rather than intimidating for beginners, and most of the ski area is visible from the lodge, making it easy to keep track of the little ones.

Nonskiers can enjoy a day of snow tubing on the five tubing runs ($15 for one hour, $20 for two hours or $30 for three hours).

Rates:

Full-day lift ticket: $40 for adults, $30 for kids 12 and under

Rentals: $30 for adults, $22 for kids (for skis, boots and poles)

Lessons: $15 for group lessons; $45 for private lessons

Amenities:

Trails: One intermediate, one beginner and five tubing runs

Food: Casual fare such as pizza and hot dogs are served at the snack bar

Lodging: Visit the website for a list of nearby accommodations

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