Are there powder days in Western New York? Can Pete Widger yodel?


Yes, to both. In fact, septuagenarian Widger, the voice of Holiday Valley’s Snow Phone, will lace his conditions report with his trademark vocals every powder day of the season.

Holiday Valley’s powder comes compliments of Lake Erie’s snow machine, the same lake-effect system that gives Buffalo its arctic reputation.

Holiday Valley, in Ellicottville, Cattaraugus County, averages about 180 inches of snow per season. In addition, the resort’s snowmaking staff is able to cover 95 percent of the resort’s terrain with its 611 snow guns.

Holiday Valley’s peak elevation is 2,250 feet, a rise of 750 feet from its 1,500-foot base elevation.

It boasts 60 trails, served by 13 lifts (including three high-speed quads) over 290 acres. Green trails make up 37 percent of those runs, blue, 25 percent, black, 37 percent and double-black, 2 percent.

For a good warmup, take the Mardi Gras lift for a slide down Candy Cane, a green trail, with options for a blue Crystal Bottom. Or start blue with Independence or even black with Yodeler or Champagne. North Wind upper and lower trails are also accessible from this lift as are a variety of other lift-and-trail combos.

On the facing hillside, Cindy’s Run, accessible by Cindy’s Quad, is a challenging blue. Cindy’s can lead to black options such as Foxfire, Wall Top and the double-black Wall.

It is easy to spend a day at Holiday Valley mixing your trail colors and lifts. Most every skier will find challenges and satisfaction.

Comfy lodge at the bottom. Trails for all abilities at HV. Credit: Craig Melvin

The resort’s beginnings can be traced to the late 1930s when enterprising enthusiasts built a tow from an old truck and built a little warming hut. The operation has moved from slope to slope in the Ellicottville area. The current lodge site was established in the 1960s and the resort has grown from there.

The club atmosphere of those days has endured, said Jane Eshbaugh, director of marketing at Holiday Valley, “Especially in this part of the country, skiing is very social, we see many senior groups skiing together or having coffee or dining.”

“We have so many generations at Holiday Valley. We really market to families, but that includes parents, grandparents and great-grand parents,” Eshbaugh said.

One perk for senior pass holders is the ability to add a grandchild at an additional family rate.  At Holiday Valley, loyalty pays. Skiers 65 to 69 can receive 5 percent of a Classic Pass. But if a senior skier has purchased a Season Pass or Ultimate Pass for the past five years, the discount goes to 25 percent. For those 70-plus, the initial discount is 10 percent and 50 percent for those with pass purchases the past five years.

Holiday Valley gets regular snow dumps from lake-effect storms. Nice coating on trees. Credit: Craig Scott

Holiday Valley’s employment rolls are well-populated with seniors. From office and maintenance to on-slope duties such as Ski Patrol, Ski School Instructors and Safety Patrollers.

Because Holiday Valley lies close to Canada (about an hour from the Canadian border), there are often as many Ontario plates in the parking lot as those from New York. The resort features, Canadian Friendship Week, during which lift tickets and rentals are at par with Canadian cash. It’s hard to ride the lifts on a busy day that week without meeting fellow skiers from, say, Toronto or Niagara Falls.

Lift lines, however, are rather rare at Holiday Valley. The lifts are efficient and only on the busiest days are there people waiting to ride.

Holiday Valley offers a number of lodging and dining options, and nearby Ellicottville is a friendly and hip little Eastern ski town.

The nearest large airport is Buffalo International, about 60 minutes away. Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Rochester are about two to three hours away by car.





  1. Year after year this is one of the highest rated ski resorts in the east. We try to visit once a year. The runs are just the right length for my geezer legs, especially the blacks. The 3 lodges are nice, there is always food, hot cocoa or coffee waiting at the bottom of a run. I can take a break anywhere while my son skies and I can then join him after a break. Prices are reasonable and the 5-bean chili exceptional. Their craft beers are also very good. Ellicottville is quaint and fun place.

  2. Kelli Majiros says:

    I LOVE Holiday Valley! I remember skiing there every other weekend when I lived in the Finger Lakes in the late 90s and early 2000s. My favorite place is the pine tree covered area served by the Tannebaum lift as well as “Birdland” (especially Hoot Owl). Oh, yes, and downtown Ellicottville bars, especially Ellicottville Brewing Company (EBC).

  3. Ellicottville is a nice little town too. Kind of a little New England ski town transplanted in Western New York. Also- HV’s neighbor is Holimont. A private ski club that opens it’s slopes to the public during the week. A wonderful, well run ski area with perfect grooming. A great addition to a visit to EVL.

  4. Coming out of Cleveland Ohio it is the best skiing next to Holimont, the private area one ridge over. During the week you can ski Holimont and for a 2 or 3 day trip these two will keep you entertained. Then there is the town of Ellicottville, it is hard to find a nicer little ski town within many, many miles.
    My only complaint is Holiday Valleys lack of a reasonable Senior Discount on daily lift tickets, it does not start until age 70. I would think they could do something for us 65 to 69 year old’s even if it was just during the week days when they are slow. I usually wait for a bus trip for the group discount but this winter that will most likely not be an option.
    That is if they will even allow us Ohio-ins to enter New York? And on that note PLEASE EVERYONE WEAR A MASK! I want to see you all skiing for years to come!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *