Click. Click. Click. That's the sound of Holiday Valley moving up in the resort rankings each of the past three years. Jumping from No. 17 to 9 to 6, The Little Resort That Could continues to be "the best ski area in the East outside of New England," one reader claims. Even if it's a bit short on vertical-750 feet-Holiday makes up for its short stature with expansive breadth, stretching almost three miles from portal to portal. And its well-designed lift system and distinctive terrain give it a variety lacking in most resorts of similar size. The 175 inches of Lake Effect snow that annually squall off Erie and Ontario beat the totals of many New England resorts. If it's a thin snow year, Holiday's extensive snowmaking ensures a fine skiing surface for a ski day that stretches 14 hours on weekends (until 10:30 pm). But there's more to Holiday Valley than marathon skiing. The historic, bustling town of Ellicottville-site of New York's first ropetow in 1936-is just three miles from the mountain. Great restaurants (the Silver Fox, Tip's Up), boisterous bars (the Gin Mill, Foster's Pub, Madigan's) and unique boutiques (Earth Arts, Kazoo II) make Ellicottville a great walking town. Or spend a day-make that weekday-at the town's "other ski area," nearby Holimont. The largest private ski area in the country in terms of membership, Holimont is open to the public Monday through Friday. But it's Holiday Valley that racks up a robust 450,000 skier visits each winter, the most in New York. "Definitely a first-class resort," one satisfied reader says.
WHAT'S NEW Yodeler Lodge replaces Middle Chalet and includes a large cafeteria, two bars, additional seating and expanded deck; beginner halfpipe added on Snoozer.
A GOOD DEAL Kids 17 and under ski and stay free when parents buy a non-holiday, midweek package at Holiday Valley properties. Call (800) 323-0020.
MEDALS SILVER Grooming, Value, Lifts, Lodging, Dining, Après-Ski, Nightlife, Family Programs.
HIGH/LOW RANK Après-Ski (15), Family Programs (17), Dining (21); Scenery (69), Terrain (70), Challenge (75).
DON'T MISS Take flight at Ellicottville Elevation, a balloon-assisted weightless experience. Call (716) 699-5883.
READER REMARKS (+) "Great town close to slopes, friendly, excellent lifts." (-) "Easy, short trails, lack of ski-in/ski-out accommodations."