The Best Western New York Ski Resorts
There are eight ski resorts in Western New York, which is the area west of the Rochester/Finger Lakes area. Two of the resorts, Holimont and Buffalo Ski Center, are private ski clubs. These two resorts only allow access by the general public on select days.
Peek N Peak and Cockaigne are easily accessed by people residing in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Holiday Valley is a slightly longer drive for many, but is centrally located to the Buffalo and Jamestown areas. Swain and Bristol are the ski hills nearest Rochester and the Finger Lakes regions.
Lift Ticket Price Comparison
Skiing in this area of New York is relatively affordable, as lift ticket prices are under $100 for an 8-hour ticket.
Lift ticket prices are for 2021, walk-up window prices. Discounts are often available by pre-booking tickets online.
*Buffalo Ski Center and Holimont are a private ski clubs and require membership to ski on weekends and holidays. Weekday skiing is open to the general public at Holimont. Buffalo Ski Center allows the general public to ski only on Wednesday-Friday evenings from 2pm – 9pm.
**Swain resort offers $29 night lift tickets on weeknights.
The Least Expensive Ski Resort:
Cockaigne is the least expensive resort in Western NY, and is a good place to try out skiing for beginners. With a lift ticket price of $30 in 2021, this small resort is very affordable.
The Most Expensive Ski Resort:
Excluding the two private ski clubs (Holimont and Buffalo Ski Center), the most expensive resort is Holiday Valley. With the greatest number of ski trails and a variety of terrain to please every type of skier, the lift ticket is worth the price and a skier can happily spend 8 hours traversing this mountain.
Skiable Trails Comparison
The Highest Vertical Drop:
Bristol Mountain wins this contest handily, with a vertical drop nearly double the rest of its competitors. Holiday Valley comes in second place, with a decent -for the Great Lakes region- vertical of 750 feet. Holimont is in third place, but is a private ski club resort not easily accessed by the general public.
Greatest Number of Skiable Trails:
Holiday Valley wins this contest easily with 60 managed trails. The terrain at Holiday Valley is varied and quite beautiful with runs tucked among pine trees and weaving through glades. Holimont and Buffalo Ski Center (private ski clubs) offer the next highest number of runs. For terrain accessed by the general public, Kissing Bridge offers 39 managed trails in the Buffalo area of New York.
The Longest Run:
Bristol Mountain wins this contest again, with a run measured in miles rather than feet – at
3200 m, this run is nearly twice as long as Holiday Valley’s longest run. Kissing Bridge comes in second place, and Holiday Valley ties with Swain Resort.
Best Resorts By Skier Type:
The Best Beginner Resort:
Holiday Valley offers the highest number of “green” runs of any resort, and several of these are through beautiful pine trees at the top of the Tannenbaum lift. While Peek N Peak is only listed as having four beginner runs, this resort is not steep in general and many blue runs have a similar pitch to the green runs. Peek N Peak also has two magic carpets, no tow lifts, and an incredible array of instructors. For a first-time skier, I would recommend Peek N Peak, Holiday Valley, or Swain resort due to the number of beginner runs and the easy-to-use magic carpet lifts.
The Best Resort for Advanced Skiers:
Holiday Valley offers the steepest run (“The Wall”) and an excellent variety of blacks with a decent pitch. In addition, the resort offers terrain parks, impressive mogul runs, and tree skiing. Bristol is another great resort for more advanced skiers in this region.
The Best Lift Systems
None of the ski resorts in Western New York have a gondola. Due to the low vertical rise in the general area, the length of the chair lift ride is generally not long, making gondolas unlikely for resorts in the area.
Best Overall Lift Operations:
Holiday Valley has the greatest number of lifts, and has several detachable high-speed quads. The ski area regularly improves the resort and will replace it’s fixed-quad lift on the Yodeler slope with a high-speed quad in spring of 2021. Bristol comes in second place with two high speed quads and a moving carpet in the beginner ski area. The Peek N Peak resort rounds out the selection – while there are no high speed quads, the resort does offer six triple chairs and the lift staff is very efficient, moving the lift lines quickly.
Best Beginner Lift Systems:
For beginners, three resorts (Peek N Peak, Holiday Valley, and Swain) offer "magic carpet" style lifts, which are much easier to use than tow bars. The two private ski club resorts also offer magic carpet style lifts.
Our personal family favorite in the Western NY region is Holiday Valley. We love having access to Ellicottville for off-hill dining (the town is quite charming and fun to explore), the variety of terrain keeps everyone happy, and the number of runs keeps our family skiing for a full day.