In retrospect, you have to wonder what took them so long. For decades, all that ski resorts were good for in the summer were scenic chairlift rides. These days, however, almost all good-size ski resorts in the Northeast -- including those closest to New York -- offer a summerlong menu of downwardly mobile activities, especially in the adventure sports category.
Ski resort-based adventure sports take various forms. The greatest crowd-pleasers tend to be the adventure parks -- specialized amusement parks featuring alpine slides (brake-equipped wheeled luges that run down a banked concrete trough), mountain coasters (wheeled sleds on twisting, above-ground tracks), water slides (all shapes and sizes), climbing walls and Euro bungee trampolines, in which harnessed-in riders twist and flip as they jump. Patrons, generally teens and younger children, pay a single, all-inclusive entrance fee and then ride, slide, climb and bounce to their heart's content.
Considerably narrower in scope but generating much higher adrenaline rushes are zip line (or canopy) tours in which securely harnessed-in and guide-led daredevils fly through the trees (and over valleys) with the greatest of ease, suspended from wire cables. Not surprisingly, the trend in zip line tours, which last from two to three hours and cost upward of $90, has been toward increasingly longer and higher zips.
This has left an opening for what are now generally known as aerial adventure parks in which -- after a little basic training -- safety-line-equipped youngsters are turned loose on a series of tree-based courses of short zips, rope and cable bridges, ladders, and cargo nets, each having different degrees of difficulty. Tickets are typically valid for two to three hours.
Now that you know what's up in the world of ski-resort-based adventure sports, you can start planning your trip. The options below are all within 150 miles of New York City and potentially doable in a day.
Age, height, and in the case of zip line tours and aerial adventure parks, weight restrictions (both minimum and maximum) typically apply. They also can vary from ride to ride and among activities, so be sure to check the requirements on all proposed activities before you go.
Where: Bromley (3984 State Rte. 11, Peru, Vermont)
What you'll find: Across the border in southern Vermont is Bromley, one of the true pioneers of the adventure sports industry. Today, Bromley's Mountain Adventure Park has 14 rides, including three 2/3-mile long alpine slides, a giant swing, space bikes, a water slide, a climbing wall, and a 100-foot zip line, while its aerial adventure park offers five separate courses. Complementing both is the half-mile-long Sun Mountain Flyer ZipRider (a zip line in which riders "sit" in a suspended nylon chair) that can reach speeds of 50 mph. Mountain Adventure and Aerial Adventure passes (good for 2 1/2 hours) cost $45 each, both for $59. Add $10 and get one ride on the Sun Mountain Flyer (otherwise $20 per ride.) Stay and Play packages also are available.
More info: 802-824-5522, bromley.com
Where: Hunter Mountain (7740 Main St. (Route 23A), Hunter, New York)
What you'll find: For nearly four years, New York Zipline Adventures has been operating the longest (4.6 total miles) and highest (over 600 feet) zip line tour in North America at Hunter Mountain in the Catskills. The marquee Skyrider tour includes equipment, training and five separate zips ($119 a person weekdays, $129 weekends). More down-to-earth thrill-seekers can take the Mid-Mountain Tour, which features six zips (the highest "only" 60 feet), four rope bridges and a rappel course. ($89 a person anytime). Both tours last three hours.
And if you're only interested in an aerial adventure park, consider either: -- Catamount (Hillsdale, New York; 518-325-3200, catamounttrees.com). Twelve separate, self-guided courses with 170 elements, including 50 zip lines. ($51 ages 12 and older, $46 ages 10-11, and $39 ages 7-9) (tickets good for three hours)
-- Magic Mountain (Londonderry, Vermont; 802-659-0854, timberquestparks.com). Two self-guided TimberQuest challenge courses and 20 zip lines. ($44 ages 13 and older, $39 ages 12 and younger) More info: 518-263-4388, ziplinenewyork.com
Where: Jiminy Peak (37 Corey Rd., Hancock, Massachusetts)
What you'll find: Located in the Berkshires of northwest Massachusetts, Jiminy Peak is a true something-for-everyone destination, even mountain bikers. Its Mountain Adventure Park features 14 rides, including twin alpine slides, a Euro Bungee trampoline, the Soaring Eagle (a two-person zip), and a mountain coaster. Aerialists have three hours and six self-guided courses of differing abilities to choose from. Passes for each park are $49 over 54 inches tall, $29 under 53 inches. Combination passes are $65 and $43, respectively.
More info: 413-738-5500, jiminypeak.com
Where: Camelback (Resort Drive, Tannersville, Pennsylvania)
What you'll find: The Poconos' Camelback has made up for its relatively late entry into the summer adventure sports scene by offering the area's most extensive lineup of activities. First and foremost is 37-ride Camelbeach, Pennsylvania's largest water park, featuring three kinds of slides (tube, mat and raft) and the Flo Rider Boogie board wave pool. (Admission: $40 for those 48 inches and taller, $30 for those under 48 inches.)
And there's lots more, including an Adventure Zone ($7 per attraction); the state's only mountain coaster ($10 a ride); the Treetops Adventure Course ($40 full course, $30 junior course); tandem 1,000-foot zip lines (one ride for $15, 2 for $20); Mountain Segways ($50 for a 1½-hour tour); and last, but hardly least, the longest ZipRider in North America, which, at 4,000 feet in length allows you to hit speeds of 60 mph ($35 a ride). Various combination tickets are also available.
More info: 570-629-1661, camelbeach.com
What you'll find: By far the most adventurous of ski resort-based summer adventure sports is mountain biking, in which well-protected thrillseekers escort their wheeled steeds up on chairlifts, then plunge downhill with the same reckless abandon they would on skis or snowboards. With 45 miles of trails and a 1,700-foot vertical drop, Killington is the biggest player in the Northeast. Closer to New York, however, are three other resorts where even novices can give it a whirl.
Mountain Creek Bike Park (200 Rte. 94, Vernon, New Jersey; 973-827-2000, mountaincreekbikepark.com). Full-day lift tickets: $41 ages 13 and older, $32 ages 12 and younger. Lessons and rentals available.
Mount Snow (39 Mount Snow Rd., West Dover, Vermont; 802-464-4040, mountsnow.com). Full-day lift tickets: $38 adults, $30 ages 6-18. Lessons and rentals available.
Jiminy Peak (see above). Full-day lift tickets $29 (no rentals available)
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the name of Mountain Adventure Park at Bromley.