This ranking is based on an average of four different categories, each scientifically scrutinized on a 5-star scale. To be sure, Hunter Mountain is not being compared to Mont-Tremblant. It's all relative to these other, very very mediocre, but very very charming mountains, just so we're clear.
Now without further adieu... the categories:
- Number of Trails
- Chicken Tender Quality
In absolutely no particular order...
1. American Dream Mall, NJ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Full disclosure, Tim told me about this place while I was writing this piece. Here's what I'll say: I'll never hate on anyone trying to ski inside. You wanna buy a hat from Lids and then wear that 5 minutes later on a hill in a mall? Very cool. Wanna go right from shredding a 50 yard hill to surfing 1.5 foot waves in an artificial wave pool? Sounds exotic. How about immediately following that up with a ride on a Nickelodeon themed roller coaster? Wait. Where am I?!? ...You're in New Jersey and your mom's here to pick you up.
- Drive time: 32 minutes (5 stars)
- # of Trails: 2 (2 stars)
- Conditions: Pristinely groomed "snow" (3.9 stars)
- Lodging: Take a nap on the bean bags in a defunct Toys R' Us (5 stars)
- Chicken Tenders: Ain't no tendy like a food court tendy (5 stars)
2. Hunter Mountain, NY ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The weakest strong man at the circus, Hunter is the best nearby mountain given its ability to offer something for every level of skiier/boarder. Low to no frills - their focus is on trail quality rather than expensive gondolas (who needs em'?!). Easy to get up and down the mountain regardless. Getting there isn't super difficult. Lodging and local AirBnB quality is v v solid.
- Drive Time from NYC: ~2.5 hours (4.25 stars)
- Number of Trails: 67 (4.8 stars)
- Conditions: Icy (2.0 stars)
- Lodging: Many houses with jacuzzis (4.5 stars)
- Chicken Tender Quality: Gotta go to Coop & Jerry's... The main marketplace only has Chicken Tendies mid-week. IYKYK. (4.7 stars)
3. Camelback Mountain, PA ⭐️ ⭐️
Would I go back to Camelback? Maybe if I wanted to drive almost two hours to wait in a 15 minute line to then ski down the longest slope in about 3 minutes flat. It's also great if you want to get overcharged for things like parking, just like in New York City! On the whole, the slopes are meh, but you can find some pockets of fun here and there. Not a glowing review, for not a glowing ski mountain. Ps. it's not open for skiing until 2023.
- Drive time: 1.5-2 hours (4 stars)
- # of Trails: 39 (3 stars)
- Conditions: Not well maintained (2.2)
- Lodging: There's an indoor water park at the local hotel in case you have a gaggle of 5 year olds with you (3 stars)
- Chicken Tender Quality: They're $13. Inflation knows no bounds. (2.2 stars)
4. Windham Mountain, NY ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Everyone starts somewhere, and this is one of the best beginner mountains in the tri-state area in addition to having a couple of the steepest slopes in the Catskills. Trails are well-groomed and designed in a large group-friendly way making it harder to lose track of your merry band of city slicking snow blazers. Also, every trail begins with a W, which I think is a win?
- Drive time: 2.5 hours (4.24 stars)
- # of Trails: 52 (4 stars)
- Conditions: Well maintained (4 stars)
- Lodging: No frills, limited shopping (3 stars)
- Chicken Tenders: Big fan of these tendies (4 stars)
5. Gore Mountain, NY ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Make no mistake, Gore isn't a beginner mountain, and I'm here for that. About 45% of the trails are black or double black diamonds. Glades galore. Long trails for speed PR's. A mountain for letting loose, east coast style.
- Drive time: 4 hours (1 star but maybe listen to 4 episodes Fast and Loose)
- # of Trails: 103 (5 stars)
- Conditions: Classic east coast - soft on top, hard on the bottom, don't make it weird. (4 stars)
- Lodging: Nothing fancy (3 stars)
- Chicken Tenders: Nothing fancy, but that's how we tendy (5 stars)
6. Mountain Creek, NJ ⭐️⭐️
If you live in the Jerz or simply want to keep your drive within an hour and half, I guess it's maybe worth heading to Mountain Creek? The trails are short, and the ice is slippery. They have; however, turned a majority of the mountain into a very capable terrain park, which is great if you're under 21 with strong knees and a slightly worrying addiction to Monster Energy.
- Drive time: 1.5 hours (3 stars)
- # of Trails: 44 (3.4 stars)
- Conditions: Watch out for the dirt spots! (2 stars)
- Lodging: Honestly, they pay more attention to lodging than the mountain (4 stars)
- Chicken Tenders: Served with honey mustard. I'm into em' (4 stars)
7. Belleayre, NY ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Skiing Belleayre takes me back to my home mountain of Bousquet. It's a small unpretentious mountain with just enough difficulty to keep you entertained. It will for sure get repetitive, and fast. Good for beginners looking to test their skill level and the staff cares about keeping the mountain well-groomed.
- Drive time: 2.5 hours (3 stars)
- # of Trails: 50 (5 stars bc it's a nice even number)
- Conditions: A very well maintained mountain (4 stars)
- Lodging: Underwhelming (2 stars)
- Chicken Tenders: Are y'all still with us? (4 stars)
8. Shawnee Mountain, PA ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A mostly beginner to nearly intermediate spot, but charming and fun. A cute lil hill, if you will. Night skiing is on the menu here, which can be a good time if the mood strikes. That's about all we got for Shawnee. So average you can taste it.
- Drive time: 1.5 hours (# stars)
- # of Trails: 23 (3 stars)
- Conditions: They try their best (3 stars)
- Lodging: The Shawnee Inn has The Shining vibes (3 stars)
- Chicken Tenders: Straight down the middle fingies (3 stars)
9. Whiteface Lake Placid, NY ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
There's a high level of expectation when a mountain hosts an Olympic games. Whiteface meets and exceeds those. Their 3.5K vertical drop is no joke and the conditions are some of the best on the east coast due to a consistently deep base of actual snow, combined with their snowmaking machines that wield an impressive 99% mountain coverage.
- Drive time: 5 hours (1 star if you hate driving, 5 if you love it)
- # of Trails: 91 (5 stars)
- Conditions: Solid and one of the few areas that support off-piste skiing (5 stars)
- Lodging: Some swanky options for fancy folk (4 stars)
- Chicken Tenders: Relatively gourmet. Olympic athlete approved. (4 stars)