No one ever said learning to ski or snowboard was particularly fun or easy — only that it was something one had to endure before enjoying zipping down snow-covered slopes atop one or two pieces of expensive fiberglass.
But thanks to advances in equipment design, resort technology (especially the development of “magic carpets,” uphill conveyor belts that require only stepping on and stepping off), and instruction technique, it isn’t nearly as painful and frustrating as it used to be. As a result, before the end of their inaugural day, most first-timers will have mastered the basics well enough to get themselves competently — if not necessarily gracefully — down the bunny slopes.
So if seasonally affected, downward mobility is something to which you have long aspired, why wait any longer? Profiled below are eight small-to-medium-sized, and hence minimally intimidating, resorts within 100 miles of Long Island, any of which will serve admirably to get you started on a lifetime of quality downtime.
And there’s no better way to do that than via a reasonably priced learn-to-ski or board package. For between $100 and $135 on weekends and holidays (generally less midweek), beginners get correctly-sized rental equipment (helmets generally $10 extra), an all-day lift ticket, and a 60- to 90-minute group lesson, which is generally sufficient to get them far enough out onto the learning curve so they can spend the rest of the day getting the hang of it. By their third or fourth time out, you should be a bona fide skier or boarder.
COVID-19 Protocols. Resorts are waiting to see how the coronavirus situation is this winter before determining what distancing policies and mitigation practices to implement. Among those expected are significantly reduced numbers overall, mandatory pre-purchasing of tickets and safe distancing restrictions for all lifts and indoor spaces. For specifics, check the website before you go. Prices listed below are from the 2019-2020 season.
1. Campgaw Mountain, Mahway, New Jersey (201-327-7800; skicampgaw.com)
Only 18 miles from the George Washington Bridge, Campgaw is by far the nearest resort. It’s also by far the smallest, but that doesn’t matter for beginners who have their own learning center area, served by three magic carpets, and a separate novice area, served by a double chair.
Learn to ski/board packages: $99 weekday/$119 weekends.
Other features: 10 tubing chutes, night skiing.
2. Mountain Creek, Vernon, New Jersey (973-827-2000; mounntaincreek.com)
A surprisingly good-sized mountain, Mountain Creek caters primarily to intermediate level skiers and boarders, which makes it less attractive for true beginners unless they are going as part of a mixed-ability group and/or spending the night.
Learn to ski/board packages: $110 ages 7-18, $130 ages 19 and up; $200 for three sessions.
Other features: 30 tubing cutes, night skiing, base accommodations at The Appalachian Lodge.
3. Shawnee Mountain, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania (570-421-7231; shawneemt.com)
Nestled in its own picturesque valley, Shawnee Mountain is the closest of the Pocono resorts. A separate learners’ area merges into a small beginner’s area. From there, it’s up to the top for longer beginner runs.
Learn to ski/board packages: $105 midweek, $115 weekends/holidays.
Other features: 6 tubing lanes, night skiing, overnight beginner packages available at the historic Shawnee Inn (3 miles away).
4. Thunder Ridge, Patterson, New York (845-878-4100, thunderrridgeski.com)
A close-in resort that caters to beginners and novices, Thunder Ridge features both a dedicated snow-sports school area with two magic carpets, and a separate beginners’ area with one magic carpet and one double chair.
Learn-to-ski/board package: $96 ages 4 and 5, $110 ages 6 and 7, $108 ages 8-12, $118 ages 13 and up.
Other features: night skiing, complimentary shuttle service from the Patterson Metro-North station with purchase of ski package.
5. Mount Peter, Warwick, New York (845-986-4940, mtpeter.com)
New York’s oldest resort, Mount Peter is also one of its smallest. A separate learning area is served by two magic carpets, after which those proficient enough can take a triple chair to a long beginner run.
Learn-to-ski/board package: $75 (weekdays and Saturdays after 5:00pm), free one-hour lesson on weekends with purchase of lift ticket.
Other features: Tubing.
6. Mohawk Mountain, Cromwell, Connecticut (800-895-5222. mohawkmtn.com)
Small but scenically situated Mohawk Mountain offers beginning skiers and boarders a separate learning area with two magic carpets, two larger bunny slopes, and a separate novice area served by a triple chair.
Learn-to-ski/board package: $89 midweek, $124 weekends/holidays.
Other features: 8 tubing chutes, night skiing.
7. Catamount, Hillsdale, New York (518-325-3200, catamountski.com).
Friendly, intimate and generally overlooked Catamount is one of the better overall options for beginners because of its completely separate beginner mountain, served by two triple chairs, for those who have graduated from the dedicated learner area with its two magic carpets.
Learn-to-ski/board package: $100 weekday, $135 weekends and holidays. The Return to Learn package gives you two more days for $95 combined.
Other features: Night skiing, base accommodations available at the Swiss Hutte Inn.
8. Camelback, Tannersville, Pennsylvania (18372 (570-629-1661, skicamelback.com)
The largest and most comprehensive of the Pocono resorts, novice-friendly Camelback’s wide base allows beginners their own learning area (four magic carpets), and two novice-only areas, both served by chairlifts.
Learn-to-ski/board packages: $100 weekdays, $119 weekends and holidays.
Other features: 40-lane tubing center, night skiing, mountain coaster, base accommodations (including an indoor water park) at the 453-room Camelback Lodge.