Adirondacks, Catskills ski areas in summer; Elsewhere, too; Mountain towns seize the sun – Travel 2023

Road switchback in mountains
The toll road up the Whiteface Veteran's Memorial Highway takes a few sharp corners on the way to the summit.
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TRAVEL 2023 – Looking for something to do this summer?

Check out some of the ski areas in our region — they’re not just for winter anymore.

At one time, the warmer months at ski areas were mainly for maintenance and construction. But then chairlifts began to spin in summer, and what were ski runs in winter became hiking and mountain bike trails from June through September. Then in 1976, Stig Albertson brought the first alpine slide from Europe to Bromley outside Manchester, Vermont, and the idea of special attractions and year-round activities at ski areas took off.

Area operators recognize the year-round value of what they have: space, and the appeal of a mountain environment for tourism and special events. Weddings and other celebrations have become popular at many mountains, and today almost all areas host a range of special events, from adventure activities to concert entertainment.

With visitor-friendly facilities already in place, there are a wide range of outdoor warm-weather options at or nearby ski areas in our region these days. Here is a sampling of some that are just a car ride away.

For more than a century, Lake Placid has been a popular year-round destination. These days it is even more so, with some $750 million dollars of investment recently by New York state to upgrade and improve facilities and infrastructure in the village and at venues including Whiteface Mountain, Mt. Van Hoevenberg and the ski jumps at Intervale.

Whiteface, one of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks, has always been there for hikers. Not ready for that? You can also drive (or bike) up Whiteface via the Veterans Memorial Highway and take a short walk to the mountaintop castle for an orientation on the region’s weather. As the first mountain in the Northeast to get weather from the Great Lakes and Canada, not only do you get great views, you can also get a first look at the forecast for your holiday in the mountains. Afterward, if you’re still up for a hike from the Whiteface base, think about a picnic on the deck of the new mid-mountain Legacy Lodge that has replaced the old lodge, which was destroyed by fire a few years ago.

Have time for some fly fishing? The Ausable River, which runs right through the ski area parking lot, is a blue-ribbon trout stream.

Back in the village of Lake Placid, take a stroll down the newly resurfaced and redesigned Main Street, and perhaps continue around Mirror Lake, an easy three-mile stroll. Plan to spend some time at the Olympic Center, the famous site of the Miracle on Ice hockey victory by the U.S. men’s hockey team over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The newly renovated Olympic Museum on the first floor of the building is a must-visit for a history of the Olympics in town. The exhibition includes a replay of the Miracle game. The outcome never changes, but the video remains exciting no matter how many times you watch.

No visit to Lake Placid should skip the spectacular makeover of facilities at Mt. Van Hoevenberg six miles outside of town. The new base lodge is exceptional and serves as the center for competition in five Olympic sports: bobsled, skeleton, luge, cross country and biathlon. These competition sites are always buzzing with athletes training in summer. Of special interest is the refrigerated push track for the sliding sports competitors, located on the third floor of the lodge.

Want to get a feel for bobsled? Just outside the base lodge is the finish of the Olympic bobsled track. There you can pile in a sled, get pulled up to the start and take a ride on a rail constructed to match the run from the 1980 Winter Olympics. To amplify the experience, former competitor John Morgan, a local native, narrates your run through all its zigs and zags. It is a unique experience.

Want to take it a little slower? There are several hiking trails that start from the Van Hoevenberg base and offer great views of the surrounding High Peaks. Try the 1.4-mile Lover’s Lane loop for starters. And there’s food in the lodge when you get back.

Still want more? Try out the zip line at nearby Intervale, where the ski-jumping events are held, or the high ropes layout at the Outdoor Experience on the road into town.

Want to add some golf to your outing? There are several options in and around Lake Placid, but if you are willing to drive an hour north the Malone Golf Course is a hidden gem. This 36-hole, Donald Ross-designed layout is a championship track and is available in a stay-and-play package with the nearby Titus Mountain Ski area.

Want to try your hand at catching dinner for your stay at the hill? The entry road to the ski area crosses over the Salmon River and there is great stream access from the bridge.

More interested in a day trip? North Creek, home of Gore Mountain, has two exciting options: whitewater rafting on the Hudson River, and rail biking on tracks from the train station in the village both north and south along the Hudson River.

Rather remain on foot? Try the 4.7-mile Schaefer Trail starting from the North Creek Ski Bowl that intersects the Cloud Trail to the top of the Gore Mountain ski area. If you choose, you can hitch a free ride back to the base of Gore via the mountain gondola (when it’s running; check with the mountain before heading out on the trail).

If you want to leave home after breakfast and be home in plenty of time for dinner, plan a trip to West Mountain off Northway Exit 18. The Aerial TreeTop Adventure Park alpine ropes course is just a short walk from the top of the main area chair lift. There are instructor-guides on site, and courses for adults and kids of all skill levels.

Headed in the other direction? Windham Mountain in the Catskills offers on-hill activities of the summer variety and includes free Friday-night concerts by the base lodge. Nearby Hunter Mountain has a fly-fishing school on its menu of attractions.

Of course, ski areas are not limited to New York, and winding Route 100 in Vermont offers access to many of our favorites, from Mt. Snow, to Stratton, to Bromley, to Magic, to Okemo, to Pico, to Killington, to Sugarbush, to Smugglers’ Notch, to Stowe and finally to Jay Peak near the Canadian border. All operate throughout the summer.

While skiing at areas along this route dates back some 90 years, wide-ranging summer activities are more recent. But today they are just as widespread as winter sliding.

At Bromley, that first Alpine Slide was a hair-raising ride from near the top of the ski hill while seated in an open sled on a narrow concrete track to the base of the area. Nearly 50 years later, a milder version of the original Alpine Slide starts lower on the mountain and has been joined by a host of other outdoor options such as the Giant Swing for four passengers; a four-lane rock-climbing wall; three trampolines; a Big Splash water slide; and several high-ropes courses.

The Georgia-to-Maine Appalachian Trail hiking route goes through Vermont and passes up the east side of Bromley, interconnecting with the ski layout at the Runaround trail for those wanting to hike back down to the area base. One event of special interest at Bromely this summer will be a presentation by the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences. The center’s reptile residents will visit Bromley on Saturday, Aug. 19.

Of course there is The Beast in summer. Like its Green Mountain State neighbors, Killington has a full program of activities that this year will serve as an introduction for many to the impressive new K-I lodge that opened this past winter at the base of the main mountain. Biking is a major feature here, with 30 miles of trails on the mountain. There will be the Outerbike expo and demo days July 7-9, and there are e-bike tours of the sprawling base layout daily. All this will be capped by the U.S. Open mountain bike competition Sept. 21-24.

But Killington in summer is not just biking. There is an adventure park at the Snowshed base area that features a mountain coaster, a maze, trampoline and a rectangular obstacle course, a mild version of the American Ninja challenge. And there are free music performances all summer on Saturday afternoons. The Killington Wine Festival is set for July 21-23, and a festival featuring area craft beers will be held at neighboring Pico in August.

If special activities for the kids are an important consideration, Smuggler’s Notch near Burlington deserves a look. One of the first on-mountain ski communities in the region, Smuggs has earned a national reputation for its winter programs for kids, and that specialty has carried over to year-round activities. These include multiday organized programs geared to specific age groups and specific interests. Unique to Smuggs is the Ozone, an indoor center designed especially for kids — and kid wannabees.

Want golf in the getaway? Stratton has a golf school as well as three nine-hole courses. There are also mountain courses at Mt Snow, Okemo, Killington, Sugarbush, Jay Peak and Stowe.

While New York and Vermont offer a full platter of outdoor activities, for those wanting to travel a little farther, New Hampshire has plenty of activity, too. Two ski areas that are especially busy are Bretton Woods and Gunstock.

Across the street from the Bretton Woods ski area is the elegant Mt. Washington Hotel, which was home to the International Monetary Conference in the 1940s. If your summer wish list includes horseback riding, top-flight tennis facilities and fly fishing in a beautiful setting at the base of Mt Washington, this is worth the trip. There is great hiking right from the hotel and the golf course is steps away from the front door.

As far as special events are concerned, none in the region is quite like the annual Laconia motorcycle rally near the Gunstock ski area. As part of the event, the area hosts motorcycle shows and an uphill climb June 14 at their 70-meter ski-jump landing hill. For those who want more conventional activities, the area has an adventure park featuring a mountain coaster, a zip line from the top of the mountain and a five-level high-ropes layout, There are 250 campsites on the mountain, and Weir Beach and Lake Winnipesaukee are nearby.

Quebec is also an option for those with several days to spend. The village square at Mt. Tremblant north of Montreal has been the center of summer activities for a quarter century. The pedestrian village offers a wide array of outdoor activities, especially bike tours, and for those who want to try e-bikes, rentals are available. There is great golf nearby and the village center is host to a summer-long schedule of music events, including the International Blues Festival July 12-16 and the Festival of Country Music July 20-23.

For those willing to drive farther east, Le Massif, an hour beyond Quebec City, is a wonderful ski area in winter and a special place in summer. Linked to the founder of the famous Cirque du Soleil, this area along the St Lawrence River this summer will debut the Le Vol De L’Olseau, an evening sound-and-light show viewed from a six-mile aerial chairlift ride. It promises to be spectacular.
Le Massif, home to the only all-inclusive Club Med in North America, is a day’s drive from the Capital Region, but is an interesting option for those who want the international appeal of the Quebec City area without the challenge of air travel. In addition to a full menu of outdoor activities on site, there are whale-watching expeditions nearby on the St. Lawrence River, and the neighboring community of Baie St Paul is an interesting artists’ colony that features more than 30 galleries within an easy walk.

With longer days and warmer weather, the appeal of a road trip grows steadily. Fortunately, we have plenty of options, ranging from easy adventure-and-home-for-dinner excursions to multiday safaris with plenty of activities.

When planning your itinerary, keep regional ski areas in mind. Typically they will have lodging on site or nearby and a variety of activities to fill their areas in summer. And since they rely on websites and social media to keep skiers informed in winter, most will keep those communication channels up to date in the warm-weather months.

Check your favorites online. Even better, with winter travel not an issue, venture a little farther afield and take a look at opportunities throughout the region. Where there is fun in winter, chances are very good there is plenty of fun in summer, too.

Travel 2023: Off the beaten path; 16 ideas and more for summer getaways (16 articles)

Categories: -Sports-, Life and Arts, Life and Arts, Sports, Travel 2023

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