Yes, Holiday Valley. No. 4 in the East. Ahead of Whiteface, ahead of Killington, ahead of Sugarbush, ahead of...well, you get the point. We know this: They’re not doing it with Terrain Variety or Challenge—not on 750 vertical feet, anyway. But that only underscores how successful this not-so-little Western New York resort dynamo is in serving the needs of its constituents. True, lots of Holiday Valley survey respondents aren’t comparing the place to the far-off mountains of, say, Vermont or the Adirondacks. But loyal Holiday Valley skiers are proud of their home hill, and by any standard, the charms of Ellicottville are obvious: real snow (thank you, lake effect), cozy village, lively scene, plenty of soul. “Best ski town east of the Rockies,” asserts one reader. “Great small-town feel,” adds another. All the busy bars and restaurants add up to “awesome après scene” (No. 3 in the East) and a high rank for Dining (No. 4). Meanwhile, the ski area makes the most of what it has: Respondents rank it No. 2 in lifts, for instance. (Admittedly, that’s a little tough to swallow if you’re say, Stratton, which has five high-speed lifts to Holiday’s two; but impressive by local standards nonetheless.) Family Programs rank a respectable No. 4, thanks largely to the efforts of the “awesome, highly knowledgeable” ski school employees. Holiday keeps it real in terms of pricing—and earns a No. 6 for Value. And its Terrain Parks (No. 7) do a great job of keeping the tweens and teens happy and out of trouble. In general, “they do a lot with their 750 vertical feet,” says one reader. “They work hard and keep making improvements,” adds another. Crowds can be a problem. So can the limits of geography. “Need more hill,” one reader admits. But the charms of Ellicottville and the fun, laid-back atmosphere of the mountain—“friendliest mountain staff in the industry”—seal the deal for skiers of Western New York and beyond. Just goes to show, the quality of a ski experience can’t always be measured in vertical feet.
/ What’s New / The $40 million Tamarack Club, scheduled to open in December with 79 condo units, spa, restaurant/bar, indoor/outdoor pool and hot tubs
/ Don’t Miss / A spin through Mud, Sweat & Gears, one of the nation’s better managed and more soulful ski and bike shops
/ Mandatory Run / Happy Glade, a low-angle stand of CCC-planted Norwegian spruces