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Holiday Valley, New York

Like you, I had never heard of Holiday Valley Ski area either. When doing a search for solid eastern ski areas, Holiday Valley showed up a few times as one of the best. Going north from Maryland into the snow belt just off Lake Erie seemed like a no-brainer. With the kids being off on a Monday, the 5-hour drive to Holiday Valley was doable for a long weekend. So, we grabbed the boys early from school and hit the road.

I thought the drive was going to be a mind-numbingly boring drive. In reality, it was an interesting drive through many small, old towns of central Pennsylvania. I guess it did not hurt that we were all dialed in and listening to the 6th and 7th book of the 39 Clues book series. This book series has been our go-to audio book for long rides. (highly recommend this book series for road trips with kids). We rolled into Holiday Valley in the early evening with the kids ready to bounce off the walls. We dropped our stuff at The Inn at Holiday Valley, our ski in / ski out room and headed to Ellicottville for dinner. If you are looking for the closest thing to a western ski town on the east coast you will find it in Ellicottville, NY.

Ellicottville is about a mile down the road from the ski area. We lucked into a good parking spot and rolled a few blocks to Finnerty’s Tap Room. If you find yourself in this neck of the woods you will find a great atmosphere and tasty vittles at Finnerty’s.

We turned in early Friday night with dreams of carving some turns before the rain would dampen the day on Saturday. Yes, we planned a trip to the snow belt and found a forecast dotted with rain.

Our rooms were not exactly ski in/ski out but were certainly close enough to walk to the Sunrise Quad lift to get us started. After loading up with the extensive continental breakfast (really tasty granola) we hit the slopes with some sunshine being overtaken by cirrus clouds. Although it had not snowed in the days leading up to our arrival and warmer temps, conditions were actually quite good on the groomed runs. We made our way to the Cindy Quad and did a few runs off of it then made our way to the Mardi Gras lift.

The first run we took off the Mardi Gras lift was the namesake run just under the lift. The Mardi Gras run is a long run with few feeder runs which allows for a distraction-free, wide run. After many turns on Mardi Gras, we headed over to Peppermint Lane to end up at the Spruce Lake Quad and the Tannenbaum Quad. Before we ventured to the other lifts, we had to stop at the waffle hut at the bottom of the Mardis Gras run for warm, chocolate smothered waffles.

At the top of the Tannenbaum Quad, again, there is an aptly named run called Tannenbaum that is smack in the middle of a tall, old spruce forest. Having skied all over the world, it means something when I say this is one of the prettiest and most serene runs I have ever taken.

After pit-stopping at the Yodeler Lodge for lunch, our youngest was not feeling so hot (ate too fast). So, with the beginning of the rain coming we called it a day around 2:00pm. We laid around for a little and then hit the indoor/outdoor heated pool for a little while.

Somewhere in the course of our first day on the slopes at Holiday Valley, our two oldest sons realized that almost every chairlift had a golden chair at chair number 50. With very few lift lines it became a mission to ride the gold chairs when we could. The gold chairs were from the resorts 50th-anniversary celebration.  Note the gold bars in the picture below.

Day two on the slopes was a little more adventurous. We immediately made our way over to the Mardi Gras lift and then to the Tannenbaum area. After skiing by the mountain coaster a number of times we took a ride on the coaster. Once resuming skiing, I took Braden and Chase down the black diamond Yodeler run while Tracy and Griff did a few more Tannenbaums. We ended the day moving back over to the Mardi Gras lift the Morningstar Lift. We discovered the wide blue diamond Morningstar run and put that in the memory bank for our last day of skiing.  From our three boys’ perspective one of the highlights of the day was discovering all the bras, Mardi Gras beads and old telephones hanging in the trees lining the Yodeler lift.


Most of our last half day was spent in the haunts of the last two days.  We all wanted a few more runs on the otherworldly Tannenbaum run.  Braden and Chase, as usual, wanted more black diamond runs.  So, I took a few runs with them.  We rounded the last day off with a good number of runs down and around Mardi Gras and Morningstar.

Let’s face it nobody ever wants a good vacation to end.  Anytime we go on vacation Chase and Griffin get a little sad and never want to go home. This time was no different. Chase’s silence and Griffin’s request to return to Holiday Valley were the telltale signs of another good ski trip.

The drive home was pretty uneventful.  Check that.  We did stop in Bradford, PA for dinner and stumbled upon an old Carnegie Library that has been turned into a restaurant – Beefeaters.  I highly recommend Beefeaters not only for the atmosphere but the awesome roast beef that they are famous for.

A few photos for your viewing pleasure.  Cheers!

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