Night lift tickets offer several advantages at Holiday Valley: lower cost, fewer crowds, and views of twinkling lights in the town below. What are the advantages - and disadvantages - to skiing at night at this resort?
Skiiable Areas at Night
The vast majority of Holiday Valley is well lit and open at night. Only two lifts cease operation once the sun goes down: the Snow Pine Quad (access to the Wall, Bear Cub, Last Chance, and Bobsled runs) and Eagle Chair (access to upper Woodpecker, Falcon, Eagle, Hoot Owl, Gobbler's Glade, and Raven) both close at 4:30 pm. Night lift tickets start at 3:30 pm, so if these runs are important, get to these chairs as fast as possible to get a few runs in before these quads close for the day.
Most of the rest of the runs are well lit and open for night skiing, with the exception of Happy Glades. For obvious reasons, skiing trees at night is not allowed.
Cost of Night Lift Tickets
An 8 hour day ticket costs $88 at the ticket window ($78 if purchased online in advance). A 6.5 hour night ticket (from 3:30 pm - 10:00 pm) costs $40 at the window ($35 if purchased online in advance). Saving $48 per person is a significant incentive to ski at night. For a family of four, this difference is $192 - the difference is night and day (forgive the pun).
In addition, once-per-week night passes can be purchased for the season. The Ultimate Flex Passes cost around $200 for eight night tickets, usable on any day of the week. This results in an average cost of around $25-$30 per lift ticket, which is the most affordable way for a family to ski.
Conditions at Night
The snow quality is generally quite good, as the temperatures in Western New York remain cold throughout the day in the winter. There is little freeze-thaw that occurs to create an icy top crust (this is a common problem with night skiing in places like California).
One issue that may occur is the scraping off of the top snow to reveal the icy base. This can be an issue at night, after an entire day's worth of snowboarders and skiers have slid down the center of the run. We find better snow on the sides of the run, and stick to the less-traveled trails (the runs off the Chute quad tend to be in decent condition). Narrow runs face this issue more than wider runs that can better disperse the skiers over the surface.
Early in the season, there may be some snow-blowing on the runs at night as the resort tries to build up its base. These aren't generally very bothersome, and most aren't located near the lifts. We haven't found this to be much of an issue, though we once had a very cold lift ride up Mardi Gras with the blown snow hitting our faces! We only had this issue happen once in the many years we have skied at Holiday Valley, however, so it is not a common problem.
Temperatures may be cold, but in this area of the country - the daytime temperatures are often just as frigid! The lack of any sunlight can make you "feel" colder, though, and is something to consider. Wear appropriate clothing and use hand warmers to help if the weather is going to be especially biting.
Crowds at Night
The biggest crowds of the entire day occur between 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm at Holiday Valley. This is due to the overlap of 8-hour day guests who are still skiing with the arriving night skiers who can hit the trails at 3:30 pm.
School ski clubs frequent the resort on Friday nights, along with the college crowds on Friday and Saturdays. Avoiding these days is recommended, if possible, in January and February. Since the cost of the tickets is cheaper at night, many college students hit the slopes as the weekend approaches and the crowds increase significantly. Choose to ski on a Sunday night instead, as the crowd level will be much lower. All weekend days (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) will be packed on holiday weekends.
Weeknights (Monday-Thursday) are nearly empty and the lift lines non-existent. For locals, this is definitely the time to visit the ski area!
My personal opinion is that I prefer daytime skiing for the light - getting outside and exposed to daylight is important in the long winter months. The cost of daytime skiing, however, outweighs my preference for sunlight. We generally opt to ski at night for the significant cost savings and to ensure we get as many trips as we can during the winter season. Night skiing is exceptional in New York due to the well-lit trails and good conditions, and should be considered by any family looking for a budget-friendly ski trip.