Holiday Valley, New York
Over a foot of powder on our first day at Holiday Valley -- hard to believe this is Western New York. We could not have timed this better. For many snowboarders, New Year’s weekend is an annual tradition that fills this quaint town of Ellicottville to capacity.
Just over a week ago, grass was still showing on most runs and we planned to pack our mountain bikes, not snowboards. Alas, eight straight days of snow and round-the-clock snowmaking have produced excellent late-December conditions. Plus, waking up on this cold morning (10F) to another foot of soft powder is not too shabby either.
Normally an easy drive to western New York from any direction, it was a challenge this weekend due to the snowpacked roads. The roads coming down from Ontario were closed for days and the few Canadians that trickled down had amazing stories of five feet of snow along the way in Buffalo. Coming from the west along Lake Erie was not much better in the white-outs on unplowed highways. In the end, shared adversity builds camaraderie.
Having just finished shredding the early morning fresh powder and now enjoying java and a fresh baked cinnamon roll at slopeside McCarty Cafe, there is time to reflect on the past day and a half of riding. For the Midwest, this is an excellent place to snowboard with 58 runs over 1,400 acres served by 11 lifts with a maximum vertical drop of 750 feet.
We shredded all three glades, which were short and shallow but nice, and also created a few of our own. With both terrain parks and half pipes ungroomed yet for the season, we found most riders hanging off Tannenbaum lift doing Ballet or lower Happy Glade, or off Morningstar lift riding Devils Glen or Moon Shadow. A few were hanging off The Wall (the only double black diamond). The runs were nicely groomed each night and plenty of snow laid over the corduroy.
While much of the place is lit for night riding, we called it at dusk yesterday with the snow still falling and hit apres ski at both the Depot and the Brewery. Later after showers, we wandered down Main Street of this mountain town, which has a unique collection of fine restaurants, galleries and a trendy coffeehouse. Luckily, Ellicottville is also known for its gutsy nightlife. Saving the fine dining at the Silver Fox or the Barn for another night, we ventured into the Gin Mill for a few OV Splits and to shoot some pool. The friendly service and lively crowd makes this place a favorite local hangout. By the time the band started, the Canadians were starting to arrive with their stories and parched throats. With the annual "US-Canadian Friendship Week" upon us, we did our part to extend the flage and made many friends, which we later dragged down to the other hot-spot, Mattigans. After a couple hours of techno-hip hop dancing, we returned to close down the Gin Mill.
With the snow still falling, there was talk of getting dressed for snowboarding now and sleeping at the ski area parking lot to insure that we caught freshies, but after walking back down Main Street home, we were ready to crash out.
A foot of powder in the Midwest is an amazing motivation - we were all up and dressed well before first lift at 8:30am. Catching first chair, we cut powder eights down Mardi Gras and then back down Morningstar. Everybody was out early to taste some freshies. All gone, now I'm just finishing this amazing cinnamon roll and latte before heading up to The Wall to meet up with our new Canadian friends.
If you're planning to visit, make sure to sign up for Holiday Valley's weekly e-mail (goes out on Wednesdays I believe), which occasionally has excellent deals on last minute weekend lodging/lift ticket bargains. Try to stay slopeside at The Inn at Holiday Valley, or if on a budget, there's the Telemark Inn across the street. In town, the historic Ellicottville Inn is the place (it has a cool bar, too). The charm of this town and mountain resort will warm your soul.
Website: Holiday Valley Resort (719) 699-2345