Many Happy Returns

Travel East
Many Happy Returns 0204

Beware the New Yorker who so readily divulges his hard-won navigational triumphs—he may have ulterior motives. That goes double if he's a skier blazing a Friday night trail to his favorite weekend playground. For Howard Berman, that's Jiminy Peak. His route? Straight over the Throgs Neck Bridge from his home on Long Island—giving the slip to traffic on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and dropping him onto the lightly traveled upper reaches of the Taconic Parkway. From there, it's an almost straight shot into western Massachusetts and the Berkshires.

As for motive, Berman, a Jiminy Peak habitué since the birth of his first child, is simply feeling generous these days, seeing as there's more Jiminy than ever to go around.

Roughly equidistant from New York City and Boston, Jiminy Peak's strength lies in its accessibility, its proximity to dyed-in-the-wool New England enclaves such as Stockbridge, Williamstown and Great Barrington, and its great family programs. Throw in growing lodging options and this season's base-area additions, which have doubled the size of the village, and Jiminy makes a supremely doable weekend jaunt.

Consider your average midwinter Friday night: The resort's main entrance can be easily mistaken for a late-model-SUV expo as eager carloads of fleece-clad Northeasterners beeline to their slopeside condos. Tomorrow, your first ride up the Berkshire Express high-speed chair will double as a primer on the Northeast's finest urban accents. ("It took us almost fouh owwahs cuzzava smashup on the Mass Pike.)

As at all the best family resorts, Jiminy's runs are grouped so a wayward beginner won't wind up staring down a double-diamond run such as Jericho, or any of the other steep pitches that shoot down from the top of the Express lift. Jiminy's flanks are dominated by long, satisfying avenues such as West Way and Upper and Lower Fox, and the confidence-building eastern side features Panorama and Left Bank, an ideal kids' zone.

Berman's son, now 15, spent many a winter here as the family evolved from weekend lodgers to seasonal condo renters to owners. And as the Berman family has grown up, so has Jiminy. Over the past seven years, the resort has added 30 homes and condos as well as the Bentley Brook, a complex of timeshare villas 200 feet from the lifts. More recently, the hillside across from Jiminy has lit up like a Rocky Mountain town thanks to yet another housing development: The all-suite (and unimaginatively named) Vacation Village in the Berkshires comprises 102 suites, each with access to the pool and sun deck.

Jiminy Peak's expansion apes the trend at most eastern ski areas: The battle for families is on. This season, the curtains come up on two facilities, the 10,000-square-foot Burbank Children's Center and the 8,500-square-foot Paul Major Welcome Center. The new additions were shoehorned into the layout of the old village, forming a courtyard that resort planners envision as a picnicking spot on sunny spring weekends.

Swing by the shiny new Burbank center at about 9 a.m., where the helmet-capped, bib-wearing SKIWees pooling inside give a nod to the resort's rep as a learn-to-ski destination. The space corrals up to 350 in the SKIWee and Explorer programs, and more than 40 non-skiers in the playroom. The youngest skiers get additional V.I.P. treatment: a rental shop full of pint-sized equipment and an enclosed cafeteria.

Across the courtyard in the welcome center, a recently liberated set of parents sips lattes in Corey's Cafe while poring over a trail map and sussing out the perfect place to linger over lunch later that day. (Founders Grille at the base is your sit-down, upscale option; Hendrick's, at the top of the express chair, serves up light snacks along with a good view.) But when it comes to grown-up sensibilities, the pièce de résistance is a wood-paneled clubhouse-style locker room, open to members only via a new thumbprint-recognition system.

"It's very James Bond, saays marketing director Sally Ann Johnstone. But 007 aside, this new addition, where Jiminy regulars stash their daypacks, boots and such, reflects the resort's dedication to its core weekend contingent. Like Berman.

"Jiminy Peak has changed over the years, he concedes. But he'll also tell you how it's stayed the same—at least where it really matters. "There's still the overriding fact that, when you get here, you don't have to worry about your kid.

Who needs better motive than that?

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