Little Gem: 1,000 Feet of Fun

Travel East
Little Gem 1200

As mom-and-pop ski area owners go, Laszlo and Danielle Vajtay-like the ski area they own-defy stereotypes. Sure, they run their area as a boot-straps-up, self-financed small business. But neither has reached age 40; they're childless (for now); and Ski Plattekill, N.Y., is no kiddie hill.

Laszlo was 32 when he chucked a successful corporate career in his native New Jersey and bought the area at a 1993 bankruptcy auction. He had learned to ski here at age 7, become its youngest instructor at 16 and met his wife here in 1985, when Danielle's family were regulars from Connecticut and he was the dashing ski school director. Now they work 18-hour days to survive in the shadow of regional giants, such as Hunter and Belleayre.

The Vajtays bill Plattekill as a family ski area, but the kind of families that would be most comfortable here might be the Mahres, McKinneys and Moes. Sure, there are a couple of extra-long green circles. But it's the genuine 1,000 feet of continuously tilted, twisted, old-time vertical that makes Plattekill a must-visit for serious skiers.

And Laszlo exhibits a skier's heart. While the area is normally open Friday-through-Sunday and holidays, he spins the T-bar on Powder Daize, any weekday when snowfall tops 12 inches. That happens more than you'd think: On the western fringe of the Catskills, the area sucked down 218 inches of lake-effect last year. That was good for eight Powder Daize.

The Vajtays have upgraded snowmaking to ensure good conditions. But the kitty is a bit short to execute their dream of replacing the workhorse T-bar that services the black diamond-studded North Face. They've already bought the chair, and the liftline has been cut, adding 100 vertical. "We just need the financing to buy towers and do the install," Laszlo says. "So if you know anybody out there who wants to own part of a true gem, tell them to call," he says. That's 607-326-3500, folks. "My extension is 8," Laszlo adds.

SKI Plattekill, Roxbury, N.Y.

STATS 1,100 vertical feet, 32 trails; one triple chair, one T-bar, one handle-tow. Longest runs: Powder Puff and Overlook (2 miles). Average annual snowfall: 165 inches.
INFORMATION 607-326-3500.
LIFT TICKETS Adults $35, children $24, juniors (13-18) and seniors (over 61) $27; under-7 and over-70 ski free. Season passes: $299, children (7-13) $249.
A GOOD DEAL Powder Daize, $20.