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The best of New York skiing

The skier's need for speed can best be satisfied on a straight, smooth, steep drop. But the top white-knuckle descent is a toss-up in New York.
Little Whiteface
/ Source: The Associated Press

The skier's need for speed can best be satisfied on a straight, smooth, steep drop. But the top white-knuckle descent is a toss-up in New York.

Try Mountain Run on Little Whiteface in the Adirondacks. Smooth and often mogul-free, when there's good snow you nearly fly down the run that ends near Boule's Bistro, where you can stop for a bite at the midsection of Whiteface Mountain. Or visit the first-aid station.

Then head about 150 miles south to K27 which begins at the summit of Hunter Mountain in the Catskills. Another steep, fast run, the resort rates it double black diamond.

The Hunter area, two-plus hours' drive from New York City, draws party crowds on ski weekends. The former Olympic village of Lake Placid, 10 miles south of the former Olympic ski runs on Whiteface, has some humming nightlife in its bars and clubs from less crowded slopes.

Here then, in a completely unscientific survey of ski bums, is a quick guide to skiing in New York.

Best ski area to pump adrenaline and impress your friends: Hunter. One-day adult weekend lift tickets cost $57.

Best ski area to pump adrenaline: Whiteface. One-day adult tickets cost $64.

The double-black diamond slides, which require hiking above the Whiteface summit quad lift, were open only nine days last season due to trying conditions like avalanche threat. That genuine backcountry skiing starts at 4,650 feet, the top of a possible 2.5-mile run to the base, dropping 3,430 vertical feet. Wear your face mask. The reaches of a wind-swept Adirondack High Peak are also the coldest places to ski in New York.

Longest downhill run: Whiteface. From the summit quad, you can ski 3.5 miles on intermediate routes to the base.

Best apres-ski place to eat the food of chefs-in-training: Hotel Saranac, Saranac Lake. The menu prices are reasonable, likewise the standard rooms in the six-story brick hotel, starting at about $75 a night at the rack rate. This central Adirondack village is less upscale and retains more down-to-earth charm than nearby Lake Placid. But get the hotel's $2.50 soup of the day or four-course $18.95 Thursday dinners while they're hot: Paul Smith's College is selling the 88-room property to a family of hoteliers, planning to close the deal early next year. Its culinary students are moving to the Crowne Plaza Resort & Golf Club in Lake Placid.

Ski most like a Finn: Lapland Lake in Northville. At the southern edge of the Adirondacks, cross-country ski on a network of trails at the resort founded 30 years ago by Olavi Hirvonen, after he skied for the U.S. Olympic team. Rent a Tupa, or housekeeping cottage, from $150 per couple for a midweek night, ski lit woodland trails at night or steam yourself in the wood-burning sauna. All-day adult trail tickets cost $15 on weekends and holidays. That's included with cottage rentals.

Ski nearest a vintner: Letchworth State Park in Castile. On the western edge of the Finger Lakes Region, the park is 17 miles long with thick forests and the Genesee River running through its gorges and waterfalls. With 66 miles of hiking trails, the park is open winter weekends and holidays for both cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Gate admission costs $6 per vehicle. Some of the wineries in the region stay open after the snow flies.

Best backcountry outing (only for the very serious): The Adirondack slides, though it's usually a hike on snowshoes or skins to get out and then up there. Free.

A vertical patch of mountain where runoff has cleared the soil and most vegetation, a freshly snow-covered slide is a private alpine run. Some advice: Take an avalanche safety course. Don't go alone. Check the weather and daylight. Bring a map and compass. If the snow looks so unstable you feel the clear need to carry a probe, a beacon and a shovel, maybe you shouldn't go.

Avalanche Pass is a good day trip. Mile-high Mt. Marcy is another, but not for novices.