Ellicottville in New York state is, simply, quaint. It’s one of those towns that surely must be the backdrop to one of your favourite family movies. It’s home to lovely little shops, family-friendly restaurants and a ski resort called Holiday Valley — which should be a duty-free zone. After all, it caters to as many Canadians as it does Americans! Indulgent TMOM Andrea Traynor’s family visited recently to bring you the inside scoop.
There’s something especially charming about Ellicottville, NY, and its allure extends to the local ski hill, Holiday Valley.
It’s not the biggest hill we’ve skied, nor the most luxe. And the snow can be rendered a bit slushy when the weather takes a warm turn as it did the weekend we were there. But it doesn’t matter. Because Holiday Valley is the personification of warmth and friendliness.
WHERE TO STAY AT HOLIDAY VALLEY
If you come to Holiday Valley to ski or snowboard, I suggest staying onsite so the trails are at your doorstep.
If your family is most comfortable in a condo-style property, or requires multiple bedrooms, check out the Tamarack Club. You may also prefer this location if there are beginners in your group because you walk out to the foot of the hill and it puts you closest to the Magic Carpet.
However, if you need a king-sized bed like we do because my husband is a giant, or you want ski-in/out access for those who’ve moved beyond the novice stage, the Inn at Holiday Valley is your best bet.
We loved the free breakfast (which is somewhere between continental and a full buffet), the indoor-outdoor heated swimming pool, the roaring fire in the lobby and the staff who were only too pleased to help with any request.
TravelingMom Tip: For some extra mommy and daddy private time, the Inn’s presidential suite is the answer. With soaring cathedral ceilings and a master bedroom that features a sprawling ensuite with a hot tub built for two, you’ll be able to put the kids to bed and sneak off together. Even if it’s only to the next room.
SKIING & BOARDING AT HOLIDAY VALLEY
With a 750-foot vertical and 58 trails, Holiday Valley isn’t tiny.
It’s an incredible hill for first-time ski families because of its dedicated lift just for the easiest green runs. But it happens to offer some pretty nail-biting runs for experts, too, like The Wall. (Trust me, it looks exactly like an actual wall.) Just add a few bumps for some double-black-diamond fun.
After a weekend of skiing, we still didn’t manage to hit every nook and cranny at Holiday Valley, which obviously means we’ll need to return. And that’s great news for those who do choose to return again and again, because there’s a lot of terrain to explore.
There’s a ski guide tour on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays that meets at 10:30 a.m. at the clock tower. This three-hour jaunt takes intermediate to advanced skiers and boarders on a fun journey through some of the more off-the-beaten-path trails. It also stops for hot chocolate on the way. Oh, and both the tour and the hot chocolate are on the house.
The snow is a mix of natural and man-made machine-groomed powder. However, a good dumping of natural snow can offer some thrilling glade skiing at Holiday Valley for the truly adventurous. (I’m just citing what friends who ski here often tell me, though, because I am in no way ready for glades!)
LESSONS AT HOLIDAY VALLEY
Nervous kids, like my eight-year-old son, will thrive at Holiday Valley’s Snow School. Instructors are warm and gentle. They respected my son’s anxiousness and worked with it instead of doling out tough love.
Fast forward an hour into my kids’ ski lessons. I was on a chair lift and looked down to see that my fearless daughter, who’s six, had taken quite a tumble. That mama-bear heart-pang disappeared quickly because I could see her instructor genuinely caring for her.
These are the kinds of things you want to know are going on behind-the-scenes when you may be nowhere in sight.
Both kids agreed that Holiday Valley’s instructors are their favourite to date.
WHERE TO EAT
We had lunch at Holiday Valley one day at Tannenbaum Lodge, which you can reach by ski or board or — our preferred method with kids who didn’t want to brave blue trails — any of the free shuttles circling Holiday Valley’s grounds.
The food wasn’t outlandishly priced and was tasty to boot. I had a beef brisket sandwich with curly fries for about $8. A hot dog ran $3.50.
But you should definitely to go into town to grab a treat, bite or a bevvy:
- Daily Grind (38 Washington St., downtown Ellicottville) — an awesome coffee shop with lovely pastries and yummy breakfast sandwiches. Try the hot mocha after a chilly day on the slopes!
- Gin Mill (20 Washington St., downtown Ellicottville) — our kids loved sitting near the arcade games at the back of this restaurant. We enjoyed everything we tried, but the deep-fried pickles, potstickers and Gin Mill burger really stood out
- The Depot (6094 Route 219 S, right across from the Inn at Holiday Valley) — the eclectic décor and bustling atmosphere here are complimented by one of the most delicious pizzas we’ve ever had
- Watson’s Chocolates (27 Washington St., downtown Ellicottville) — we walked past this little shop during a downtown Ellicottville stroll one day and just had to stop in for some chocolate. The dark chocolate coconut patty was so good!
The verdict? We’ll be back.