How To Do A Catsklill Ski Weekend With Kids

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By Eileen Gunn

You can make skiing a day trip from the New York City metro area – if you want to get up at the crack of dawn and spend about as much time driving round-trip as you do skiing.  But just once, why not try a weekend in the Catskills instead? With hotels in a range of budgets and activities to suit a variety of interests, you can enjoy a relaxing mini-break instead of an exhausting day out.

Here’s an itinerary we suggest:

Day one: Hitting the Slopes

You’ll still have to rise early to get to Catskill ski slopes like Plattekill, Windham or Belleayre in time for morning lessons.

We were invited in January to try out Belleayre*, 40 minutes west of Kingston, to check out recent improvements that include a new magic carpet and rental equipment. I immediately saw the benefits of new grooming equipment. Despite single-digit temperatures, the slopes all had a slight crunchy but very skiable corduroy.

belleayres schoolI’ve been told their weekend ski classes can be large, but on a cold Friday, thing were slow enough that TT went out on her own with an instructor in the morning and with three kids and two instructors in the afternoon. The mountain has several green slopes and the instructors actually got TT, a capable but nervous skier, off the bunny slope and onto a ski lift and real ski run for the first time.

The mountain has two classes worth noting. One is an all-day ski camp, available on weekends and holidays for $116 with rentals, it’s a good value.

The second is a one-hour class that kids ages 4 to 7 can take with a parent. It’s $25 ($59 with child rentals). Six or 7 year-olds would benefit from a longer class where they really learn. But this is a good opportunity to introduce a younger child to skiing and to learn how to ski with him or her.

If your kids get cold before you’re done skiing, drop them at the Tiger Den for babysitting. Then go have some fun; Belleayre is known for having some longer runs than you’ll find elsewhere in the area.

Where to Spend the Night

There are a collection of family oriented value hotels around Kingston.  The Hampton Inn and Garden Plaza Hotel each has an indoor pool.

Regal_Bed_LighterFor something more upscale, the Emerson Resort* offers a rustic lodge, stylish inn (the latter recently opened to families), a playground, dog run, 2 restaurants and the world’s biggest kaleidoscope (free to guests, $5 otherwise). If you’re into quirky roadside attractions, the kaleidoscope is worth checking out. Rates are reasonable during the week; a sizable splurge on weekends.

I stayed at the Inn with Tiny Traveler, the first journalist to stay there with a child. I admit that at first glance, the chic canopied beds, whirlpool bathtub, fireplace and waiting bottle of local red wine made me think I would have made much better use of the room with my husband. But the room and bathrooms were very big. With two queen beds there was still ample space for a travel crib, toddler cot or air mattress. The room would easily work even with 2 or 3 kids.

There’s a casual sit-down restaurant where we got coffee and English muffins to go. A country store that sells coffee and baked goods would have been very handier for breakfast, but it didn’t open until midmorning.

The one thing the Emerson doesn’t have is a pool. For indoor swimming in an upscale, clubby environment try the Hanah Mountain Resort in Margaretville.

Day Two: Making Your Way Home

The next day, you could take the morning to let your kids practice what they learned on the slopes the day before. Afterward, stop at rustic bakery Bread Alone  on route 28 for a snack on the way to the thruway.

Abe-No-WiresIf you’ve had enough of skiing head south on the same side of the Hudson, stopping to explore the Walkway Over the Hudson, a railroad-bridge-turned-mile-long park with stellar river views (it’s bike and scooter friendly). Then drive to New Paltz to peak at the old houses on Huguenot Street and enjoy an inexpensive college-town lunch on Main Street (our favorite spot in the Gilded Otter, which offers excellent house-brewed beer and a chalk board for kids upstairs).

Or you can cross the Hudson to explore artsy River towns like Red Hook, Rhineck, Beacon and Cold Spring.

If your kids are old enough to be studying US history, visit Hyde Park, Franklin Roosevelt’s Hudson Valley Estate, where kids can explore the house and grounds as junior secret service agents. Afterward, have lunch in the kid-friendly café at Terrapin, a GMO-free restaurant in a former church. The kids menu is a la carte and more expensive than most, your kids will actually eat a fruit or veggie with their meal.

If history isn’t your thing, head south to Beacon, specifically to Dia: Beacon. This modern art space, set in a former Nabisco box-printing factory, is roomy enough for kids to explore without bothering the other visitors, and it’s always amusing to see how kids react to modern art. In Beacon, the lunch options include a vegan café, an appealing burger joint and a soul food diner with good prices and impressively good chicken and waffles.


The roomy kid-friendly Galleries at Dia.

Even with all this, you can be back home by dinnertime, but with the sense that you’ve really been away, and hopefully with the notion that skiing with the kids is relaxing and fun rather than exhausting.

* We were guests of Ulster County Tourism at the Emerson Resort and Belleayre. Our opinions are always entirely our own.

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4 Responses

  1. Interesting story. I made a few trips into the Southern Catskills near the Pennsylvania border when my wife’s aunt lived in the area.

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  2. What fun, and some great tips too. I remember our skiing days in Europe, and our kids just loved it.

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  3. What a great family getaway. The rooms at the Emerson sound outrageously lovely.

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  4. Great article! Glad you and TT enjoyed the slopes! Bread Alone has the best hot cocoa, soups, of course bread, and cafes in Rhinebeck and Woodstock too.

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