Cleveland Ski Guide 2019: What’s new at 15 ski resorts in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland


Fun in the snow at Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia. (Courtesy Snowshoe)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Last month’s early blast of cold and snow yielded cheers from the region’s thousands of snow-sports enthusiasts, eager for an extra-long ski season.

Snow Trails, just south of Mansfield, opened Nov. 22 — the earliest in its 59-year history. Holiday Valley, in western New York, and Seven Springs in southwest Pennsylvania also opened last weekend, offering local skiers some pre-Thanksgiving fun on the slopes.

The early opening dates aren’t the only thing that’s new and noteworthy about the upcoming ski season. Several major developments in the off-season will impact skiers and snowboarders in Northeast Ohio and beyond:

  • Vail Resorts, the largest ski resort operator in the world, bought Northeast Ohio’s three ski areas — Brandywine, Boston Mills and Alpine Valley — as part of its purchase of Peak Resorts in September. The new owner is expected to make substantial investments in the parks in the coming years. (Read more: Brandywine, Boston Mills and Alpine Valley should see improvements next season after purchase by Vail Resorts)
  • Cockaigne ski resort, in New York’s Chautauqua County, will reopen this year, after being closed since 2011. The resort is planning a Dec. 14 opening day. (See related story:  Cockaigne resort in western New York plans mid-December opening)
  • Timberline, a ski resort in West Virginia, filed for bankruptcy last spring and was sold at auction last month. It is not expected to open this season, but could reopen in a year.

Meanwhile, regional ski areas continue to invest in their resorts, adding new terrain, energy-efficient snowmaking equipment and programs designed to encourage beginners.

Here’s what local skiers and boarders can expect on the slopes this season:

  • New terrain at Snow Trails, which has added two new black-diamond trails, the Chute and Outer Limits, to its lineup.
  • New retail options at Boston Mills, Brandywine and Alpine Valley, which have taken over operation of their resort shops from Buckeye Sports Center. The new shops are filled with new branded merchandise.
  • A new family lesson special at Peek’n Peak in western New York, for families who want to learn to ski together. These lessons are in contrast to most group lessons that are based on age. Each participant receives rental equipment, a beginner-area lift ticket and a 90-minute lesson for $50 (weekdays) or $55 (weekends).

Meanwhile, many resorts are adding to their arsenal of snowmaking equipment to help Mother Nature and smooth out the erratic weather patterns in recent winters.

Jane Eshbaugh, director of marketing for Holiday Valley, said western New York still gets a lot of natural snow — an average of 180 inches per year — but cold periods are increasingly interrupted by prolonged warmups.

This year, the resort added more than 100 new automated snow guns to its slopes, which can be turned on and off remotely, when the weather conditions are just right. “The result is a greater quantity and better quality of snow made using less energy,” according to the resort.

Also new this year at Holiday Valley: a tiered ticket priced, which is priced cheaper if you buy a week or more ahead. Eshbaugh said the resort is trying to encourage skiers to plan ahead, and to not be dissuaded when conditions aren’t perfect at home.

“Sometimes if people look out their back yard and there’s no snow, they change their mind,” she said.

Jake Campbell, the new general manager of Boston Mills, Brandywine and Alpine Valley, is also constantly countering the argument that no snow at home means no skiing.

“Just because you have grass at home and you’re not shoveling your driveway doesn’t mean you can’t ski,” he said. “I always say our biggest competition is Netflix.”

Thomas Conti, director of marketing at Brandywine/Boston Mills, said that Northeast Ohio winters are meant to be enjoyed, not merely endured. “It’s all about perspective,” he said. “Mother Nature is offering us a gift. We should enjoy it and embrace it.”

Here’s what’s new at area resorts: 

Courtesy Alpine Valley

Ohio: Alpine Valley, Munson Township

Alpine Valley offers seven slopes and four lifts about 25 miles east of Cleveland in the heart of Northeast Ohio’s snow-belt.

New this year: Alpine Valley is one of the most economical places to practice your moves, with a $29 Saturday late-night special and $35 Sunday evening deal (includes rentals and four-hour pass). A small halfpipe was a popular addition last season and should return this year.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $44, $38 ages 5-12

Rental: $32

Also here: Polar Blast tubing park

Distance from Cleveland: 25 miles

John Kuntz, cleveland.com

Ohio: Brandywine/Boston Mills, Peninsula

Sister resorts Brandywine and Boston Mills, in northern Summit County, have 18 slopes, 16 lifts and four terrain parks across 88 skiable acres.

New this year: Big changes are coming to these northern Summit County sister resorts, but not until next season. These two parks, along with Alpine Valley and Mad River Mountain, were included in the September sale of Peak Resorts to Vail Resorts. This year, looked for enhanced snowmaking to keep the parks’ slopes open longer. In addition, the parks now control their own retail shops, complete with new, branded merchandise.

Also here: Polar Blast snow tubing park (Brandywine)

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $44, $39 children 5-12

Rental: $32

Distance from Cleveland: 20 miles

Courtesy Mad River

Ohio: Mad River Mountain, Zanesfield

Located about 50 miles northwest of Columbus, Mad River offers the highest skiable terrain in Ohio, at 1,460 feet. The resort’s 20 slopes, 12 lifts, four terrain parks are spread across 144 skiable acres.

What’s new: Mad River Mountain has invested in upgrades to its snowmaking system for the upcoming season; expect more changes next year, as new owner Vail Resorts begins capital projects at its new properties. Season passholders at Brandywine, Boston Mills and Alpine Valley can ski here for free.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $49, $39 children 5-12

Rental: $32

Also here: Avalanche tubing park

Distance from Cleveland: 180 miles

Courtesy Snow Trails

Ohio: Snow Trails, Mansfield

Just south of Mansfield, Snow Trails has 19 slopes, eight lifts and four terrain parks, plus a 300-foot vertical drop.

New this year: Ohio’s oldest ski resort is adding two new trails this year, The Chute and Outer Limits, which will offer the park’s steepest terrain. Also new: additional snowmaking capacity, lighting, lodge improvements and more.

Also here: Vertical Descent snow tubing park, featuring Glow Tubing  in the dark.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $52, $42 children 6-12

Rental: $37, $27 children

Distance from Cleveland: 75 miles

Courtesy Bristol Mountain

New York: Bristol Mountain, Canandaigua

Bristol Mountain offers 38 slopes and trails, six lifts and two terrain parks, plus the highest vertical drop in western New York, at 1,200 feet.

New this year: In March, the resort will host the 2020 U.S. Aerials Freestyle Championships on Mikey’s Jump, named after the late Mikey Lillis, a local skier who died in 2017. Also: new snowmaking, the widening of some trails and parking improvements.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $79, $64 children 8-12

Rental: $35, $25 children

Distance from Cleveland: 280 miles

Courtesy Cockaigne

New York: Cockaigne, Cherry Creek

Closed since 2011 when a fire destroyed Cockaigne’s historic lodge, the ski area is reopening this year in the heart of western New York’s snowbelt. In addition to 15 slopes and trails, the resort is opening a new Snowmobile Adventure Park, which circles the property. (Note: You must bring your own snowmobile.) Also here: the resort’s new Base Lodge, with a pub menu and live music.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $45, $35 children 5-17

Rental: NA

Distance from Cleveland: 150 miles

Courtesy Holiday Valley

New York: Holiday Valley, Ellicottville

Holiday Valley, just three hours east of Cleveland, consistently ranks among the best ski resorts in the eastern United States. Among the reasons why: 60 slopes, 13 lifts, five terrain parks and 750 feet of vertical drop, in one of the most fun ski towns you’ll find anywhere.

New in 2019: expanded snowmaking, a new groomer, plus LED lighting on several slopes. The resort is also trying a new pricing structure this year, with cheaper rates if you buy in advance.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $78-88, $62-$70 children 7-11

Rental: $38-$42, $31-$35 children

Also here: Snow tubing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain coaster, spa, dining, lodging and more.

Distance from Cleveland: 186 miles

Courtesy HoliMont

New York: HoliMont, Ellicottville

Down the road from Holiday Valley is HoliMont, the nation’s largest private ski resort. It’s open to the public during the week, when you’ll find short lift lines and uncrowded slopes. The resort offers 52 trails and eight lifts across 135 skiable acres.

New this year, the resort has made some improvements to its beginner area, making it more user-friendly.

All-day lift ticket: $62, $50 children 6-11, weekdays only

Rental: $28, $23 children

Distance from Cleveland: 186 miles

Courtesy Kissing Bridge

New York: Kissing Bridge, Glenwood

Kissing Bridge, just south of Buffalo, offers 39 runs, nine lifts and two terrain parks across 255 skiable acres.

This year, a family of four can learn to ski for $265, including rentals, a 90-minute lesson and beginner slope lift ticket.

Also here: guided snowshoe tours and Colden Tubing Co.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $65, $55 ages 6-13

Rental: $35, $25 children

Distance from Cleveland: 190 miles

Courtesy Peek’n Peak

New York: Peek’n Peak Resort, Clymer

Peek’n Peak, the closest overnight ski resort to Cleveland, offers slope-side lodging, dining, a pool and spa. Returning this year: Lunar Lights Tubing After Dark and the popular Peak Five Pass (buy four lift tickets, get one free; must be purchased by Dec. 15). New this year at the Peak — and this is something every resort should emulate — a helmet is included in the price of all rental packages.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $64, $50 children 6-11

Rental: $35, $29 children

Distance from Cleveland: 120 miles

Courtesy Hidden Valley

Pennsylvania: Hidden Valley

More family friendly and less crowded than sister resort Seven Springs, Hidden Valley features 26 slopes and trails, nine lifts and two terrain parks across 111 skiable acres.

New at Hidden Valley this season: additional snowmaking and grooming equipment. Again this year, visitors can buy a Highland Weekend Ticket, offering three days of skiing or boarding at Hidden Valley, Seven Springs and nearby Laurel Mountain.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $71, $57 children 6-11

Rental: $40

Distance from Cleveland: 190 miles

Courtesy Seven Springs

Pennsylvania: Seven Springs, Champion

Located about an hour south of Pittsburgh, Seven Springs offers something for every member of your group: indoor mini golf, bowling, roller skating, sleigh rides, snowmobile tours — plus 33 slopes, 10 lifts and seven terrain parks. It consistently ranks among the nation’s top resorts for terrain parks.

Returning this year: a 12- to 14-gate giant slalom course, open to the public for a modest charge ($6 for two runs or $15 for the day). Skiers race each other and clock their time on a dual course.

New this year: Improvements to snowmaking, lighting and lifts.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $89, $70 children 6-11

Rental: $52

Distance from Cleveland: 200 miles

Susan Glaser, The Plain Dealer

West Virginia: Canaan Valley, Davis

The state park system operates the resort here, with 47 slopes, four lifts and a terrain park across 91 skiable acres.

Also nearby: The fun town of Davis, Blackwater Falls State Park and the White Grass Ski Touring Center, with 40 miles of maintained cross country trails. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, there’s an outdoor ice skating rink here, plus snowshoe rentals.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $70, $44 children 6-12

Rental: $38 adult, $28 children

Distance from Cleveland: 280 miles

Courtesy Chris McLennan

West Virginia: Snowshoe Mountain, Snowshoe

About six hours from Cleveland, Snowshoe is a bit of a drive from Cleveland, but worth it — for its varied terrain and variety of activities on and off the slopes. In addition to 60 trails, 14 lifts and five terrain parks across more than 250 acres of skiable terrain, Snowshoe offers snowmobile tours, horseback riding, off-road adventure tours, a spa and more.

Unlike most ski towns, the lodging and restaurants at Snowshoe are located at the top of the mountain.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $109, $98 children 13-22, $93 children 5-12

Rental: $54 adult, $30-44 children

Distance from Cleveland: 330 miles

Courtesy Wisp

Maryland: Wisp, McHenry

Located in the Deep Creek Lake region of far-western Maryland, Wisp offers 35 slopes, 12 lifts, three terrain parks across 172 skiable acres. Also here: tubing, snowshoeing, a mountain coaster and more.

Last year, the resort finished a three-year, $3.7-million remodeling of the 169-room slope-side Lodge at Wisp.

All-day Saturday lift ticket: $84, $59 children 6-12

Rental: $39

Distance from Cleveland: 230 miles

Courtesy Snowshoe Mountain

Ski/snowboard visits, 2018-2019

National: 59.3 million

Midwest: 6.5 million

Northeast: 12.5 million

Southeast: 4.3 million

Rocky Mountains: 24.4 million

Pacific West: 11.7 million

Which states have the most ski areas?

New York (51)

Michigan (43)

Wisconsin, Colorado (31 each)

California, New Hampshire (30 each)

Pennsylvania (26)

Vermont (25)

Maine, Minnesota (20)

Ohio has 5.

Source: National Ski Areas Association

Courtesy Alpine Valley



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