Ski North: Winter Fun Awaits you

By: Lisa Shaw

Mountain skiing - what a great place to be, to bring your family, to ride the endless white stuff, all providing exhilarating trips down enchanted slopes. More and more, ski areas are focused on making your second home vacation spot a wonderful and thrilling outdoor place.

Many areas remain committed to making the sport affordable and fun for families. And now the weather is no longer a controlling factor as many areas have developed snowmaking and grooming techniques that will assure its patrons of great skiing even if mother nature doesn't want to cooperate.

2ndhome® Journal selected several medium sized ski areas in the northeast, that live up to the promise of a great time for all. Full enjoyment while on the mountain, great accommodations and permanent second home spots, shopping and after-hours entertainment are all in ready supply at reasonable rates.

In New York, there is Hunter Mountain.JessicaPezak,Communications Director, says that Hunter 'has provided skiers and riders with a genuine mountain experience for 49 years.' This Catskills' premier winter resort boasts a renowned terrain, award-winning facilities and luxury mountainside accommodations, while producing some of the best snow conditions in the East! 'Hunter offers 240 acres of sparkling white terrain. Eleven lifts and tows access 54 unique trails, with a vertical drop of 1,600 feet,' says Pezak.

'Each year, 125 inches of natural snow fall, in addition to machine-made snow that lets you ski into April,' according to Pezak. And this year Hunter will offer new programs, a new gladed area, specialty days and huge savings. Its Pinnacle condominimum project will be complete, offering seven luxury condos atop Hunter's base lodge.

Pezak says that 'Hunter's expert terrain will challenge any thrill-seeker, and its Learning Center offers beginners a variety of award winning, learn-to programs.' Guests can stay at Hunter's Kaatskill Mountain Club, a four-seasons slopeside resort with ski-in, ski-out access, or take advantage of the luxurious High Peaks Club and the Kaatskill Mountain Club. It's family-fun for all ages where you can plan a snowshoe journey with close friends.

'The Kaatskill Mountain Club,' said Pezak, 'is Hunter Mountain Resort's largest improvement to date, complete with 109 guest rooms, VanWinkle's Bistro, an outdoor heated pool, fitness center, health club, Mountain Spa, and a number of other special amenities, plus direct ski-in, ski-out access. An around-the-clock staff tends to bell service, concierge, business services and valet parking - all standard amenities at the club. Guests have their choice of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units, each outfitted with a full kitchen finished with granite countertops, a gas fireplace and private terrace, in addition to Mission-style furnishings and floor to ceiling windows.'

Lift side village condominiums are also available which offer deluxe, family-friendly amenities like private kitchens, fireplaces and personal balconies, plus washers and dryers. The Mountain's Snowtubing park is in walking distance.

Then too, says Pezak, there is Hunter's Learning Center, 'a recently built 33,000-square-foot building, a state-of-the-art, nationally recognized center that caters to families, beginners and skiers and riders whose ultimate goal is to improve! Inside the Learning Center, you will discover an exceptional team of snow sports instructors, the latest rental equipment, a friendly and knowledgeable staff and a multitude of lessons, packages, seasonal programs and specialized workshops for every member of the family, plus the specially designated beginner terrain of Hunter One. The Learning Center will carry new camps and workshops this winter, as well as a program for three year olds, and an improved rentals system.'

For reservations, information and special lodging offers throughout the season, dial 800-HunterMtn or visit or visit

Maine's Shawnee Peak, in Bridgton is celebrating its 70th year and is the longest running ski area in Maine. 'We are the original ski and snowboard mountain,' says Melissa Rock, Marketing Director. The Peak is Maine's largest family-owned ski mountain and is home to the most night skiing in New England, with the largest lit terrain park/halfpipe combo along with 98 percent snowmaking coverage.

'Since purchasing Shawnee Peak in 1994, Chet Homer, a Kennebunk businessman, has focused on fine tuning the mountain's infrastructure by adding lifts, lights and trails, improving snowmaking, buying a fleet of new Pisten Bully groomers, and adding innovative family pricing packages, says Rock. Homer has kept costs down and offers customers value for their Shawnee experience, which has encouraged continued family participation in the sport.

'Located just two hours from Boston,' says Rock, 'the Peak offers more than 40 trails, four gladed areas of all ability levels, two terrain parks - including the NEW 12' 20' Monster Wall, a 400-foot halfpipe, five lifts, with an unprecedented big-mountain experience combined with small-mountain value.' The Peak boasts Maine's Largest and Best Kept Lit Halfpipe, at more than 400 feet long and 44 feet lip to lip. Freestyle skiers, snowboarders and snowbladers play day and night in the Pipe and Park, consistently and expertly maintained with Shawnee Peak's Pisten Park Bully.

And located slopeside, just a short slide from the base lodge, the Peak offers brand new two-bedroom luxury condos available for rent and sale.

The mountain overlooks scenic Moose Pond, and offers great views of New Hampshire's Mount Washington and the Presidential Range to the west, and the Lakes Region of western Maine to the east. The Peak's gladed terrain allows intermediate skiers to experience the thrill and beauty of skiing among the trees of Shawnee's Sherwood Forest area or graduate to the advanced and expert terrain in the famous gladed areas off the mountain's East Side.

Rock pointed out some new changes at the Peak. There is an environmentally oriented snowmaking pump, making more snow, using less energy! Also there is the improved 'Happiness Is' trail - a popular beginner slope, widened by 75 feet.

'Plus there is value at The Peak,' says Rock. Everyday there is a special ski offering...some samples are, Monday - Carload Dayz: Arrive before 11 a.m. and everyone in your vehicle skis 'til 9 p.m. for just $64 per vehicle; or Wednesday - Family Day: buy an adult ticket and get a junior ticket for just $5 more, one adult and one junior, $39; or Saturday - Saturday Night Fever: ski 7 to 10 p.m. for just $12. Rentals, $13; or Sunday - Ski Sunday Afternoon (noon to 4:30 p.m.) just $23. Add rentals, $21.

For beginner skiers and families with young children, the beginner surface lift is just $10 - and can be credited toward a full-price lift ticket later in the day. Children five and under ski free anytime at the Peak when accompanied by a paying adult. 'There is also the nationally-acclaimed SKIwee program for ages four to five, says Rock, with other children's programs that include the Junior Mountaineers and the MiniRiders snowboarding program for ages 7 to 12.'

The Mountain also has the Peak-A-Boo Day Care Center which offers care for children ages three months to six years. For events and vacation information, (207) 647-8444 or go to

Burke Mountain in Vermont is renowned for its breathtaking views and ski racing heritage. Says David Gwatkin, Marketing Director, 'Burke Mountain, located in the village of East Burke, is the best kept skiing secret in the Northeast. The area is home to Burke Mountain Academy, the preeminent ski academy in the country with 40 Olympians to its credit. And the Mountain features sweeping, winding trails, an average of 248 inches of snowfall each year, 45 trails and glades on 250 acres of terrain, and a vertical drop of 2,011 feet (among the elite eight in Vermont with more than 2,000).'

There have been major upgrades to its snowmaking system that provide 80 percent coverage for novice, intermediate, and expert trails. Burke also has four terrain parks to keep the freestylists in your family busy all day long.

'The Mountain offers the Snowsports Learning Center, the ski school which introduced the revolutionary 'carved turn'', adds Gwatkin. There is also the Tamarack Grill restaurant and bar, a retail shop, and a cafe. The Grill is known locally for superb food and offers an extensive wine list and a variety of Vermont brews, including its very own Tamarack and Bear Den Ales. The Mid-Burke Lodge, featuring the Bear Den Lounge, captures the essence of the character of Burke Mountain, with its field stone fireplace, exposed wooden beams, solid pine tables and skis from days gone by displayed on its walls.

Also, Burke Mountain 'offers a variety of season-long programs for children and aspiring ski racers,' says Gwatkin. 'The Snowsports Learning Center features its Burkie Explorers and Freestyle programs for children from ages four to 12. These programs are available to both skiers and snowboarders. Burke Mountain also partners with Burke Mountain Academy to offer its Junior Race Program, available to racers in the J3 to J7 classes. Young racers train and race throughout the season under the tutelage of BMA's world-class coaches, some of whom are former Olympic and US National Team members.'

Beyond the resort, families can partake in ice-fishing on one of the region's magnificent lakes, ice skating on a secluded pond, sledding, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, dog-sledding or take a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.

And there is summer time too on the mountain. Gwatkin mentioned that the 'area offers a bevy of activities for the outdoor enthusiast. Over a third of the state's ponds and lakes are in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont's expansive, least populated region, offering wonderful paddling and angling experiences. The village of East Burke is home to the Kingdom Trails, an internationally acclaimed network of over 150 miles of mountain biking trails stitched across the area's pastoral landscape. For those interested in viewing wildlife either by boat or on foot, seeing loon, moose, deer, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, peregrine falcons, and the cagey red fox is hardly uncommon.'

Burke Mountain's parent company, the Ginn Company, based in Celebration, FL, is currently in the planning stages for a development that will include condominiums, single-family homes and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. Give a close look at

Ski Butternut, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts is described by SKI Magazine as 'a true family mountain' and 'family gem', that offers skiers and snowboarders from across the northeastern United States an affordable, fun-filled winter sports experience. With 1,000 feet of vertical, Ski Butternut's 110-skiable-acres of slopes and trails provide snow-sport enthusiasts of all abilities a unique and memorable winter experience. 'And thanks to a newly upgraded snowmaking system,' says Matt Sawyer, Marketing Director, 'the mountain can now pump out 200 percent more snow this winter than in previous years, as long as Mother Nature cooperates!'

The mountain, located in the beautiful Berkshire mountains of southwestern Massachusetts, is a relatively short drive, less than four hours from Philadelphia or New York City, with directions provided on Ski Butternut's informative website

'Ski Butternut affords skiers and snowboarders of all abilities a diverse sampling of terrain,' says Sawyer. 'Our trails include an easy yet fun-filled beginner trail which winds from top to bottom through virgin forests of Pine, Hemlock, Beech and Maple.'

Unlike other mountains located much farther north, all trails safely funnel back to the base area, so families can reconnect and share the winter fun more easily! At the mountain's base are two modern base lodges and a separate but easily accessible learn-to-ski area featuring gentle first-timer and beginner slopes with their own easy-to-learn-and-use chairlifts, and a gentle Wonder Carpet ride for the very youngest skier or snowboarder!

'Elsewhere on our mountain,' adds Sawyer, 'sliders will find a variety of wider, intermediate trails, perfect for relaxed cruising and linking long, carved turns. Other skiers and snowboarders wanting a bit more of a wild ride, will enjoy Ski Butternut's two terrain parks. The more advanced park offers a selection of challenging 'hits' and jumps, scattered across and down our 'Twist' and 'Westway' expert trails. For those just learning terrain park features, a smaller version is located in Ski Butternut's beginner area. '

In keeping skiing and snowboarding costs affordable, Butternut offers savings and great value. For instance, season passes, if purchased by November 30th, are only $229 for adults, ages 14 to 65; $179 for juniors, ages seven to 13; and just $69 for kids, six-years and under. After that, season prices revert to their regular rates ($279 for adults, $209 for juniors and just $79 for kids).

'If you are not ready to commit to season passes,' says Sawyer, 'consider purchasing Ski Butternut's Lift-Ticket-3-Packs. These blocks of three daily lift vouchers can be used interchangeably, individually or together...and if purchased by December 20, will save you $10 per ticket! And skiers and snowboarders who don't yet have their own gear, can rent complete sets of equipment for the season for just $99 for kids and juniors, and only $139 for anyone over the age of 14!'

You can also save by skiing Monday through Thursday, when lift tickets are just $20 ($20 tickets are not valid during holiday periods). Also there are First-Timer and All-Mountain packages, which include lift, lesson and rentals. Economical ski and stay packages are also available at more than 30 country inns, bed and breakfasts and motels near the mountain, starting at just $45 per person per day! 'This price includes both your lodging and your daily lift ticket,' adds Sawyer.

The Mountain has more than 200 qualified ski, snowboard and adaptive instructors under the guidance of Einar Aas, director for the past 44 years.

Many youngsters learn, practice and improve their skills best through Ski Butternut's SKIwee and miniRIDER learning programs. These special programs, which provide young skiers and snowboarders a lift ticket, lesson and snacks for the day, can be extended for five days to maximize savings.

So wherever you are in the northeast, there is plenty of quality, family snow sport fun without needing a hefty bank account to do it. Beautiful, exciting and rewarding the winter mountain experience awaits you.

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