Skiing: Head for the New York hills

Skiing at Whiteface

Skiing at Whiteface

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Skiiers don’t automatically think of New York, but Pete Thompson says move upstate and find longer runs than Broadway.

Hurtling down Broadway at a rate of knots, there’s not a soul in sight as I marvel at the New York skyline.

It’s rush hour, but there are no swarms of yellow taxis or sidewalks packed full of theatre-goers, and the only rush I’m experiencing is a surge of adrenaline as I pick up the pace.

Not for a minute had I envisaged combining the buzz of New York with peace and tranquillity, but I’m revelling in the best of both worlds on a glorious Friday afternoon.

I glance over my shoulder to check for traffic, and a figure flies through the air and lands in front of me like a bolt from the blue. He’s a freestyle skier who’s just performed a double back flip and taken centre stage, as I play a supporting role careering downhill at Whiteface resort.

I’m on a road trip skiing in Upstate New York, where I discover there’s no shortage of drama on my tour of six ski resorts in this Empire State, earning its nickname from its vast wealth and variety of resources.

I had never associated New York with skiing, but I find myself tearing down a bobsleigh track, meandering around moguls and taking on the run used for the downhill in the 1980 Olympics.

The clear blue sky is deceptive as the temperature has plummeted to -20C, but I brave the cold and pause to take in magnificent panoramic views of the Adirondack Mountains, and catch sight of the sun reflecting off Lake Placid.

At 3,430ft, Whiteface has the biggest vertical drop in the east of the United States and runs for skiers of all abilities.

You only have to stroll down the main street to see the influence the 1980 Olympic Games has had on Lake Placid.

Speed skaters glide elegantly around the ice rink outside the impressive Olympic Center, which is packed with children.

Resisting the temptation to stay put in my plush three-bedroom suite, I’m rewarded with a succulent steak, followed by whiskey tasting, in the Lodge’s KANU restaurant.

Lake Placid and Whiteface serve up a treat on the final leg of a road trip that has already whet my appetite for another visit to what is unchartered territory for so many skiers and snowboarders.

Located in the western Catskill region and just under a three-hour drive from New York City, Plattekill Mountain has 38 trails and is very much a family resort.

I mark the start of my whistle-stop tour with a cocktail prior to dinner at the Catamount Restaurant in the grounds of the Emerson Resort – a classy hotel and spa where I later sink into a huge four-posted bed.

The following morning, I have a close shave on Mohawk Top, a black diamond run at Belleayre Ski Center, which has the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. But I face the challenge head on and reward myself with a few thirst-quenching steam beers by a huge roaring fire in the Overlook Lodge.

Just a short drive from Plattekill, Belleayre is another resort that’s great for families.

It’s then on to Hunter Mountain, with a single diamond run, christened Hellgate.

If I had visited Hunter on January 28, I would have witnessed five teams of firefighters racing down the slopes in uniform, carrying 50ft hoses as part of an unusual annual ski race to raise funds for New York’s Firefighter’s Burn Center Foundation. But instead, I admire a huge winner’s trophy in the bar.

After a welcome two-night stop at the Kaatskill Mountain Club, a convenient short stroll from Hunter, I’m in for another pleasant surprise at Windham Mountain.

I take in a pleasant blue run through the trees and discover why it was named Windfall, as I pass expensive houses largely owned by wealthy city workers.

En route to Gore Mountain I pass spectacular scenery not too dissimilar to The Alps. There are no queues for the ski lifts and I count a handful of skiers on several runs.

At the cosy Alpine Lodge in the quaint hamlet of North Creek, I peer out of my window at the icy Hudson River, before heading for more culinary delights at the atmospheric Trappers Tavern in the Copperfield Inn.

Three days later, I look down on the Hudson, the Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero and other iconic New York City landmarks in a trance, during a sightseeing helicopter ride of the Big Apple. And I now know it’s not Broadwaythat’s a hard act to follow.

• American Airlines (www.aa.com) flies from London Heathrow to New York JFK, from £515 return.

Kaatskill Mountain Club (www.kaatskillmtnclub.com) offer rooms from $200; Winwood Inn & Condos (www.windhammountain.com) cost $120; the Copperfield Inn (www.copperfieldinn.net) charges $264; and Whiteface Lodge (www.thewhitefacelodge.com) is $305 per night. (All charges per night). Visit www.visitnewyorkstate.net.

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