No one ever said that learning to ski or snowboard is particularly fun or easy. 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 unpleasant or frustrating as it used to be.
Nor is it particularly expensive, thanks to all-inclusive learn-to-ski/board packages. For between $100 and $135 on weekends and holidays (generally less midweek), you’ll 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 in getting you far enough out onto the learning curve that you can spend the rest of the day getting the hang of it. By your third or fourth time, you should be a bona fide skier or boarder.
So if seasonally-affected, downward mobility is something to which you have long aspired, why wait any longer? Profiled below are seven small-to-medium-sized resorts (no sense "going big" until you actually need more mountain) within 125 miles of Long Island, each with group learn-to-ski/board programs and comprehensive snowmaking capabilities. Which way down is up to you.
COVID-19 Protocols: To minimize the risk of inadvertent spread, all resorts have adopted certain basic safety precautions, most notably restricting the total number of daily/nightly guests (and requiring online pre-purchase), mandating face coverings and safe distancing in all indoor spaces, reducing seating capacity on lifts, and limiting the size of group lessons. Specific details can be found on each resort’s website.
1. Campgaw Mountain, Mahwah, New Jersey
Only 18 miles from the George Washington Bridge, Campgaw Mountain is the nearest true resort. It’s also the smallest, but that’s immaterial to 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.
Additional features: 10 tubing chutes, night skiing.
INFO: 201-327-7800; skicampgaw.com
2. Mountain Creek, Vernon, New Jersey
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 part of a mixed-ability group and/or spending the night.
Learn to ski/board packages: $109.99 ages 7-18, $129.99 ages 19 and up; $200 for three sessions.
Additional features: 30 tubing cutes, night skiing, base accommodations at The Appalachian Lodge.
INFO: 973-827-2000; mountaincreek.com
3. Thunder Ridge, Patterson, New York
The nearest resort in New York state, Thunder Ridge features both a dedicated snowsports school area with two magic carpets, and a separate beginners’ area with one magic carpet and one double chair.
Learn-to-ski/board packages: $131 Mon.-Thurs.; $147 Fridays; and $161 Sat., Sun. and holidays.
Additional features: night skiing, complimentary shuttle service from the Patterson Metro-North station with purchase of ski package.
INFO: 845-878-4100; thunderridgeski.com
4. Mount Peter, Warwick, New York
New York’s oldest resort 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 group lesson on weekends with purchase of lift ticket.
Additional features: tubing
INFO: 845-986-4940; mtpeter.com
5. Mohawk Mountain, Cromwell, Connecticut
Scenically isolated 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.
Additional features: 8 tubing chutes, night skiing.
INFO: 800-895-5222; mohawkmtn.com
6. Catamount, Hillsdale, New York
Despite the slightly additional distance, (about 155 miles from Long Island) 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 (includes two lessons): $65 weekday, $85 weekends and holidays. The Return to Learn package gives you two more days for $95 combined.
Additional features: night skiing, base accommodations at the Swiss Hutte Inn.
INFO: 518-325-3200; catamountski.com
7. Shawnee Mountain, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Nestled in its own 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: $115 midweek, $125 weekends/holidays.
Additional features: 6 tubing lanes, night skiing, ski and stay packages available at the historic Shawnee Inn (3 miles away).
INFO: 570-421-7231; shawneemt.com
In a category by itself is Big Snow American Dream, North America’s first year-round indoor skiing/boarding center with real snow. Located right off the New Jersey Turnpike in East Rutherford, Big Snow (973-864-6600; bigsnowamericandream.com) is primarily a novelty for experienced skiers/boarders. Beginners, however, benefit from the uniformly mild "weather" and may find that its Terrain Based Learning program, with "as needed" instructors available at each sequential station, allows them to advance at their own pace. Learn-to-ski/board packages: $69.99 includes equipment rental, one-hour of Terrain Based Learning, and two-hour access pass. Any three days for $150.