A quick guide to winter family fun in the Hudson Valley

Winter sports offer a chance for family bonding

Winter family fun

The Hudson Valley offers an abundance of activities for winter athletics whether one is beginner or an expert, young or old. Winter does not have to be a time when families hole up in their houses and forget about the wonders of nature until the thaw of spring. Winter sports offer great opportunities for physical exercise, family bonding and developing new skills. The mountains of Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, and Sullivan counties provide excellent downhill skiing and snowboarding facilities. Local parks offer plenty of hiking, ice-skating and cross-country skiing, while some camps offer winter weekend retreats.

Go shred the mountain

When most people think of winter sports, skiing and snowboarding are likely to come to mind. The region has no shortage of options for neophytes and experts alike. Many ski centers have programs and specials catering to families. Here are the best of them:

The Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland has Winter Fun Park which includes a ski area with instructors. It also has an ice skating rink, snow tubing, trail rides and horse drawn sleigh rides.

Holiday Mountain in Monticello is skiing and snowboarding with the finest surface conditions. They have seven slopes and trails of varying skill levels, from beginner to expert. All of the slopes and trails are lit up for night skiing and riding. There is also a dedicated tubing facility for those looking for another fun and exhilarating way to slide down the snow-covered mountain.

Belleayre Ski Center in Highmount is operated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and is an excellent mountain for beginners and those still learning skiing and boarding skills. They offer skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. There is also a scenic gondola ride.

Snow tubing, cross-country skiing and hiking

If skiing and boarding are not the activities your family members are interested in, there are plenty of other things for them to do in the great outdoors.

Bear Mountain State Park allows families to explore a variety of winter activities and discover which sport they’d like to pursue most. The park has over six miles of marked trails for hiking and cross-country skiing, as well as an outdoor ice skating rink.

The Frost Valley YMCA in Claryville has family sleep away camp programs. Depending on the weather, a full range of outdoor activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and snow tubing may be offered during your getaway.

Lake Minnewaska State Park in New Paltz offers hiking and cross-country skiing, weather permitting.

Preparing children for winter sports

If your child is going to spend hours playing in the snow, it’s important to make certain that he or she is properly prepared. Even in the cold children will break a sweat participating in winter sports, so make sure that they know to keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Experts agree you must stress to your child that falling is not failing and they should expect to fall. 

If kids are attempting to learn a new skill such as skiing or snow-boarding, falling is simply part of the process. So stress to them that when they fall they should just get right back up and try again. Falling is an unavoidable aspect of these activities and instructors can show beginners the safest ways to do so, if they feel they are about to go down.

Dress for success

Some facilities require that children wear helmets, when skiing or snowboarding. Even if the facilities you visit are helmet-optional, helmets are still a good idea. When not wearing their helmets, it’s advisable that children wear hats to keep their heads warm. Water-proof snow clothing is highly recommended, especially water proof ski pants, mittens or gloves. 

It’s also a great idea to bring along a change of clothes to make sure children stay warm and dry. According to Lou Herman, the general director of Rocking Horse Ranch, warm clothing is a primary concern. “If a child is cold and miserable, there’s no way they’ll have a good time,” he says.

James Meyers is a freelance writer living in Kingston. He is a frequent contributor to Hudson Valley Parent.