Road Trip

A primer on Ellicottville’s Holiday Valley, just a three-hour drive from Syracuse

One of my favorite things about snow sports is heading out with friends or family for a two-night trip by car to somewhere within reasonable striking distance. By that I mean a jaunt of three hours of drive time, give or take. Take vacation day(s), sick day(s), mental health day(s), but go during the week to avoid crowds. Go to Holiday Valley in Ellicottville.

You can make the 175-mile trek easily in three hours. If you’re hard core, ski as soon as you get there. Better yet, chill for the evening and head back to town. Be sure to hit the EBC (a.k.a. Ellicottville Brewing Company) for a beer and a burger, or the Gin Mill for the same but with live music.

Whatever you do, take a walk in the downtown area and get a feel for the place. It’s a ski town! Check out the shops (or not), but if you have never experienced a skiers’ ski shop in a ski town, check out Mud, Sweat n’ Gears, a Ski Magazine Gold Medal Ski Shop Award Winner.

The Sunrise quad chairlift provides ski-in, ski-out right next to the Holiday Inn. Work your way over to the Mardi Gras Xpress Quad for a long warm-up run on a nice “blue” groomer. Then go back up and over to the other side of the mountain and rip some black diamonds in the Yodeler and Tannenbaum Lodge area trails, with some great terrain. Lunch on the hill is very good and reasonably priced.

Holiday Valley is unusual. The vertical is not that impressive, at 750 feet. What is impressive is 11 quads (three high-speed detachable) that can move nearly 24,000 people per hour over 300 skiable acres, 58 day trails and 37 night. It’s not tall, but it’s wide. It also has some interesting board parks with a host of features that will entice the boarder or park rider.

Working your way back across the main hill, hitting all the lifts; you’ll find all the blues and greens you will want. Before you call it a day, and if you still have legs, try “The Wall,” a double-black-diamond steep. Ride up The Wall’s double chair to the top of Sunrise again, and you’re back to the Holiday Inn by 4 p.m. The hot tub beckons. For dinner, try Dina’s for a great meal. More nightlife opportunities are available, if you care to imbibe.

For day two and fresh legs, hit the black-diamond trails closer to the inn: Falcon, Eagle, Hoot Owl, Raven and Gobbler Glade. Holiday Valley gets nearly 200 inches of snow a season and has excellent snowmaking, so coverage should be good. Grab a quick bowl of chili at the Holiday Valley Lodge and ski the rest of the day or head out at 3 p.m., hit Buffalo for wings at Duff’s or the Anchor Bar. You’re back home at a reasonable hour.

The journey is the reward, grasshopper.

Scott Launt grew up in Cortland. Much of his misspent youth was at Greek Peak. He is a member of the National Ski Patrol at Labrador and a member of the Onondaga Ski Club.

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