Holiday Valley is the best ski area close to Pennsylvania, Ohio, and in Western New York. Many skiers from Ontario, Canada also visit the resort. Here are a few tips and tricks for avoiding lift lines and getting away from the crowds on holiday weekends!
1) Avoid the Mardi Gras Lift Entirely
The Mardi Gras lift seems to be the only way to access the beginner and intermediate runs that comprise the greatest number of trails at the resort. There is an alternate way to get to these slopes, though!
Take Cindy's quad lift and ski the very flat cat-track named the Explorer or take the Cross Country Walking Trail. This does require some skating or poling (if you can't skate). I recommend Explorer as it does point downhill and requires less skating. Ski down Lower Falcon if you are an intermediate or advanced skier. For skiers that can only handle green runs, it is better to take the Cross Country walking trail to Woodpecker and down, These runs will empty at the base of the Morning Star high speed quad lift. Take this lift up and ski down Independence (for intermediate and advanced skiers) or Peppermint Lane to Laurel (beginner skiers). These trails end at the base of the Tannenbaum lift.
We often use this strategy to avoid the Mardi Gras lift. We can be up Cindy's and across to the Eagle Chair before we would have even loaded onto Mardi Gras. Sometimes the lift line to Cindy's looks a bit long, but the longer line is usually for the waffles sold next to the chair. This lift rarely has a longer line because few know how to access the rest of the mountain from this point.
2) Ski Early - or Late at Night
If you can handle a later night, skiing from 6 pm to 10 pm is a fantastic option. The resort really clears out after this time. In my experience, the most crowded time of day is between 3:00 pm- 5:00 pm, when the 8-hour day tickets overlap with the incoming night lift tickets. Everything from parking to slope crowds is a major issue during this overlap time, so avoiding this particular time period is helpful. If we are skiing on a day lift ticket, we'll often get an early dinner at 4:00 pm to avoid the excess crowds during this time period. If we are skiing on a night ticket, we go up Cindy's and stick to the chairs that are less crowded (namely, Eagle Chair before 4:30 pm and the Chute lift).
3) Advanced Skiers: Use Eagle and Chute Chairs
The Eagle Chair is located next to Morning Star, and accesses several black runs. Falcon, Eagle, Hoot Owl, and Raven can be skied with few crowds from this lift. One green and one blue are also accessible (Upper Woodstock or Woodpecker, respectively). Be careful if you decide to take Upper Woodstock - I once made a wrong turn and ended up back at the base of Cindy's Run instead of Eagle Chair! The black runs all return directly to Eagle. This chair does close at 4:30 pm, so night skiers should make a beeline here if they want to ski these trails.
Chute is located off the main Mardi Gras run, and can be accessed by skiing partway down Mardi Gras, staying to the left of the island of trees that occurs in the top 1/3 of the run. The only way to easily access this chair is to ski the black runs down - Firecracker, Chute, or Edelweiss. We absolutely love this chair as an alternative to Yodeler, as that lift is absolutely packed most of the night.
The problem with the Yodeler lift is that it is the only way back to the main lodge for all beginner skiers hanging out on the Tannenbaum lift, and is currently not a high-speed quad. The lift generates massive lines and often stops as a beginner doesn't know how to load on a standard quad chair. Fortunately, this chair is being upgraded to a detachable express system in spring of 2021. For more advanced skiers, however, I highly recommend skiing off the Chute chair. There are almost never lines here!
4) Ski the Last Day of a Holiday Weekend
The three day weekends of winter generate massive crowds. The Christmas/New Year's holidays, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend, and President's Day weekend generate huge crowds. If possible, ski on the Monday to avoid crowds. Many families pack up and leave early to return home on the Monday of this break. Visiting in the afternoon can yield significantly lower crowds - of course, this may only be possible for those who live in Western Pennsylvania or New York, but is a good alternative on holidays for those who can swing it. Being tired at work on Tuesday is a fair payoff for lower crowds!
5) Ski on Super Bowl Sunday
This may be sacrilege to some, but Super Bowl Sunday is one of the best days to ski. We record the Super Bowl and watch it later. The resort is nearly empty on this day. Of course, if the Bills ever make the Super Bowl, all bets are off and we would probably need to stay home to watch the game. On the other hand, we might just listen to it live on the radio while getting in as many ski resorts as our legs can handle with zero lift lines.
It is possible to get more ski runs in on crowded days by using these strategies. We absolutely love Ellicottville and Holiday Valley, and want to get as many runs in as we can before the season ends!