Here's a bet that's easy to win: When you board a lift at Windham Mountain, at least one of your seatmates will be between the ages of 7 and 17. The follow-up bet? Once the safety bar is down, he'll yank a cell phone from his pocket and text-message his friends.
Conventional Catskills wisdom has held that Windham is the family-oriented mountain, while Hunter-just seven miles away-attracts the party crowd. Hunter's matured over the years, but Windham has kept its Mayberry-tinged flavor intact (with the inevitable addition of certain technological necessities). And with the exception of a tree strewn with, well, unmentionables, below the high-speed quad, there's nothing racy about Windham. What you see is what you get.
Even if your 7-year-old doesn't have a cell phone, the mountain's layout makes it easy to stay connected. There are only two midmountain lifts, and all runs feed down to the base. Beginners and intermediates have their choice of groomed runs, including What's Next, which boasts a new snowmaking system. But experts can find challenges, too: The Why Not lift is dedicated to steeps, and Upper Wipeout is a tricky double-black.
The absence of many slopeside options after dark forces you into town, a mile away. That's not a bad thing: A recent renovation of "downtown" has made tiny Windham even more quaint than before. But don't mistake charm for activity-it's mostly antique and gift shops that fill the Victorian-style buildings. So while Windham makes for a nice evening stroll, expect the town to pull the blanket up to its chin and kill the lights early.
Where to Stay
>Winwood Inn Windham's own lodge is-surprise-great for families. Not only is it equipped with a movie theater and game room, but the old hotel rooms have been transformed into swank condos. The muted colors don't offer much personality, but rooms are spacious and the kitchenettes are a boon for larger groups. Bonus: A free shuttle runs to the mountain, a mile away. $93-$429; 518-734-3000; winwoodinn.com
>Albergo Allegria If you enjoy-or at least can tolerate-frills and flowered wallpaper, this Victorian-style B&B in town is the area's most elegant place to stay. Climb the charmingly squeaky stairs to find down comforters on king beds or queen beds, bathroom heat lamps, fireplaces and, in some rooms, enormous jacuzzi tubs. Descend for the indulgent gourmet breakfast, or anytime to raid the kitchen. $73-$299 per night, including breakfast; 518-734-5560; albergousa.com
>Scribner Hollow Lodge The area's most unique lodge, across from Hunter Mountain, has been upgraded from its 1960s beginnings. Today rooms and suites boast varied features like exposed beams and Southwestern decor. While it's not heated-bathroom-floor luxurious, some rooms have fireplaces, balconies with mountain views or cathedral ceilings. There's even a basement grotto with hot tub and pool-surrounded, interestingly, by fake rocks and trees. $115-$250 per person, per night, including breakfast and dinner; 518-263-4211; scribnerhollow.com
>Hotel Vienna A bed-and-breakfast-style hotel minutes from the base of the mountain, the Vienna has 29 newly renovated king and queen rooms, plus an indoor pool and a jacuzzi. $90-$205; 518-734-5300; thehotelvienna.com
Where to Eat
>Chalet Fondue Grab a table in the wood-rich Alpine room and order up a stein of German beer, a plate of potato pancakes and Wiener schnitzel. Back that up with imported sauerkraut and homemade spaetzle, then chase it all down with warm apple strudel. Or stick with the restaurant's namesake and dip into the cheese fondue, followed, of course, by the velvety chocolate version. 518-734-4650
>The Prospect A meat- and wine-lover's paradise set in a windowed dining room in the Scribner Hollow Lodge, the Prospect serves up all manner of game-from ostrich to elk, pheasant to venison. The excellent cuisine is unapologettically American, with a focus on local ingredients and regional specialties, but the 12,000-bottle wine cellar spans the globe. 518-263-4211; scribnerhollow.com
>La Griglia Set in the Windham House Inn, La Griglia serves up northern Italian and more in a simple, classic dining room. Start with the capellini al mare, stocked with seafood, then move on to the salmon steak or chateaubriand. And don't skip dessert; it's made in the adjoining bakery. 518-734-4499; windhamhouse.com
Where to Play
>Mountaintop Adventure Park While Windham's tubing hill isn't hugely steep or long, barreling down on a canvas-covered tube is still a thrill. $15 for two hours; 800-754-9463
>Windhaven Pub & Restaurant Rich wood, stained glass and a fireplace make one of Windham's few bars a cozy place to relax with a local microbrew. You won't find any aprè3 drink specials, but there's a good munching menu. 518-734-4428
>Tequila's For a more raucous crowd-and live music-you'll have to drive to Hunter. The bar side of this Tex-Mex joint is more Bud than Heineken, and spontaneous bouts of ill-advised dancing have been known to erupt. 518-263-4863
>Legends Located in the base lodge, Legends is the no-frills aprè3-ski spot for those who don't feel like getting in the car. 800-754-9463
>Windham Mountain Business Center When work is unavoidable, the business center, equipped with private work stations, phones, computers with T1 lines, secretarial services and complimentary coffee and newspapers, is a huge plus. Open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; $14 per day; 800-754-9463