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If Holiday Valley skiers are not careful, always crowing about how great they’ve got it out there in way-Western New York, their beloved slopes might soon be overrun with Vermonters and Coloradans come to see what the fuss is about. On the other hand, maybe it’d be good for us all to see firsthand how much fun can be had on 750 feet of vertical. Size does matter to Holiday hardcores, and yes, these enthusiastic Midwesterners have been around and skied the big mountains out West and back East. But around here, it’s all about the bigness of your fun, which, judging by Holiday’s No. 1 rankings for both Après and Nightlife, might possibly sometimes be just a little bit enhanced by alcohol. (That’s right, Killington, you’ve been dethroned. Time to challenge the Holiday crowd to boat races?)
With or without beer goggles, no one who’s been to Ellicottville, a charming resort community, argues about its appeal (Local Flavor, No. 3; Charm, No. 4). Visitors enjoy an expansive choice of places to eat and stay (No. 2, Dining; No. 3, Lodging), all within easy reach of the slopes, plus plenty of non-skiing things to do (No. 5, Down-Day Activities). And no, the “Aspen of the East” (discuss) does not rival that other one for vertical drop, but Holiday rippers love what management does with the place, especially the speedy and efficient lift infrastructure (No. 1 in the East).
“Vertically challenged area that maximizes its terrain with fantastic lift capacity and great snowmaking.” And a few of them have even been there when lake-effect powder makes it so that you don’t even have to squint to imagine you’re in Colorado. Take it all with a grain of Midwestern niceness? Maybe. In all the reader comments, here’s the nastiest: “Modest vertical.” Wow, that’s ripping them a new one. — Joe Cutts
SKI Reader Rank of Holiday Valley for 2021: No. 6 in the East
- DOWN-DAY ACTIVITY: Check out the burgeoning Buffalo brew scene—less than an hour away. Thin Man Brewery’s IPAs are beloved by the beer snobs.
- OFF-HILL RESTAURANT: Dina’s has the more sophisticated menu, but Ellicottville Brewing Company still wins the popularity contest. Its best beer: the Imperial IPA, Pantius Droppus.
- ON-HILL LUNCH: Actually, Holiday is famous for its crock-pot tradition. They simmer in the lodge while their owners ski. Copy the locals and bring your own.
See who Holiday Valley beat: No. 7 in the East – Bretton Woods, N.H.
See who beat Holiday Valley: No. 5 in the East – Whiteface, New York
Holiday Valley’s 2020 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey Rank: 10th in the East
It’s not like Holiday Valley skiers never ski anywhere else. They might not live in mountain country, but they know what it looks like, and they’re not going to blow smoke about the terrain or challenge. What they also know is a good time when they see it, and you can trust their assessment of the charms of Ellicottville and the overall good-people-having-good-times vibe of the place.
In this year’s rankings, only Tremblant can top Holiday in the Après department, thanks to the bustling diversity of food and drink establishments in “charming, beautiful” downtown Ellicottville. “Absolutely one of the best après towns anywhere.” Nightlife and dining get similarly rave reviews (both at No. 3 in the East), and readers love the area for its non-skiing offerings as well (No. 7 for Down Day Activities).
On the hill, readers acknowledge the lack of real mountains, but love what Holiday’s management does with what they’ve got, with high praise for the lift system (No. 4) and the overall family friendliness. “Everything you want except longer runs,” says one reader. Another sums it up with high praise indeed: “Comparing Ellicottville to a dozen Eastern resorts, it’s by far the most accommodating.” — Joe Cutts
- DINNER PICK: It might just be the craft beer talking, but skiers love the hearty pub food at John Harvard’s, too.
- LOCAL TIP: Crockpot lunches are a Holiday tradition, welcomed in the day lodges. Bring your own, or cozy up to someone who did.
- DOWN DAY ACTIVITY: One reader suggests nearbyAllegany State Park, and we agree: “Premier cross-country trails, all in the woods, all skill levels.”
SKI Magazine’s 2018 Review of Holiday Valley, New York
Loyal Holiday Valley skiers are proud of their home hill, and by any standard, the charms of Ellicottville are obvious: real snow (thank you, lake effect), cozy village, lively scene, plenty of soul. “Best ski town east of the Rockies,” asserts one reader. “Great small-town feel,” adds another. All the busy bars and restaurants add up to “awesome après scene” and great dining.
In general, “they do a lot with their 750 vertical feet,” says one reader. “They work hard and keep making improvements,” adds another. Crowds can be a problem. So can the limits of geography. “Need more hill,” one reader admits. But the charms of Ellicottville and the fun, laid-back atmosphere of the mountain—“friendliest mountain staff in the industry”—seal the deal for skiers of Western New York and beyond. Just goes to show, the quality of a ski experience can’t always be measured in vertical feet.
- DON’T MISS A spin through Mud, Sweat & Gears, one of the nation’s better managed and more soulful ski and bike shops
- MANDATORY RUN Happy Glade, a low-angle stand of CCC-planted Norwegian spruces