By Andy Johnstone
Hunter Mountain and Tannersville
Weekend after weekend, we come home cold, sore, and exhausted — and best of all, we pay to feel this way. Sure, it takes a special breed to truly love winter sports. But the beauty of Hunter Mountain and neighboring post - ski destination, Tannersville, is in their ability to please the warm - and cold - blooded alike.
Nestled into the northeastern Catskill Mountains, Hunter Mountain and its 1600-foot vertical drop offer one of the better skiing challenges in New York state. To make the journey, hop on Interstate-90 East to Interstate-87 South and take the Hunter exit. You’ll find all the signs you need from there.
As an Adirondacker born and raised, I was hesitant to believe the Catskills could match the quality slopes and lively mountain-town atmosphere of the North. But after a few hours, this place delivers. First stop, the Summit Lodge. Perched atop Hunter, this three-story structure is filled with antique skis, fireplaces, and a dining area far more relaxed than the main lodge. From there, the only direction is down, and the mountain’s great-for-the-East-Coast conditions make for quick and exhilarating runs. Even if “jibbing” sounds foreign to you, don’t hesitate to learn the art of sliding on anything non-snow (think boxes and rails) in any of Hunter Mountain’s three terrain parks. The Nike 6.0 Car Jib , which resembles a full-scale hearse, would be a centerpiece in any top-tier park. And remember to keep your eyes open for Hunter’s park crew. These 20-somethings not only impress in the park, but they’re also the perfect “in” to the area’s young and fun-loving mountain crowd.
Though the area caters to skiers, snowboarders, and tubers, there’s no shortage of off-slope activities. North-South Lake, a 10-minute drive from Hunter, is a cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling heaven. Also nearby, you’ll find the highest waterfall in the state at Kaaterskill Falls, which boasts some of the Catskills’ finest mountain views.
When the sun sets, take the short drive east to neighboring Tannersville for its après-ski warmth. Though it’s home to only 500 year-round residents, tourists from the New York metropolitan area keep the small town incredibly energetic.
The hungry will love Last Chance Cheese, an eclectic restaurant that doubles as an antique store. With a beer menu that clocks in at more than 300 selections and a French onion soup so cheesy it (honestly) requires a knife, you’re guaranteed to undo any calorie-burning from earlier in the day. For dessert, the s’mores are as much of an experience as they are a meal; the kitchen provides the mini-stove, you do the roasting.
Although the area can be tackled in a day, consider an overnight. As the town settles into the evening, The Boarding House Bar comes to life. Self-described as “Hunter Mountain’s Only Dive Bar,” the Boarding House has hosted events such as a Thanksgiving Eve mashed-potato wrestling match, Halloween rail jam, and weekly snowboard giveaways. Come summertime, the bar will include hostel-style lodging with rooms sponsored by Red Bull and Ride Snowboards to complete the snowboard-and-party package.
Despite my sense of Adirondack civic pride, I must admit that Hunter and Tannersville pull out all the stops. Placing skiing and snowboarding center stage with a supporting cast of one-of-a-kind restaurants, bars, and slope-side lodging, these Catskill gems will satisfy the green-circle cruiser or black-diamond bomber in anyone.
For more on Andy's trip to the Catskills, click here.