in the Hudson Valley 

Ken Roberts and Sharon Marsh Roberts

what's here 

see also[ Cross-country skiing ] 

Our skiing 

Back when we were into bushwhacking around in the Hudson Valley on skis, there cannot have been many people who explored more of the backcountry skiing potential south of Albany than we did.  

Nowadays we do most of our backcountry skiing in other regions of the world.  And when there's decent snow in Hudson Valley, we usually prefer the more reliable pleasures of the the fine cross-country skiing available on the groomed trails.  But when the snow is really deep and good, and our mood is right, we still head for one of our special runs in the backcountry. 

This page's title does not mention snowboarding -- although Ken has a backcountry snowboard (split-board) and has used it in several interesting regions of the western U.S. and Canada.  But neither of us has made a snowboard run yet in the Hudson Valley backcountry.  (Though once we met a couple snowboarding high on the northwest side of Hunter Mountain.) 

Downhill Slopes in the Backcountry

For backcountry downhill skiing in the Hudson Valley, our experience was that we had to get rather lucky with snow conditions.  First to have enough snow to cover the rocks, logs, stumps, thorns, etc.  Second to find a day off from work to get to the snow before a warm sunny day hits it and it gets crusted over. 

But also there aren't many slopes with vegetation and access favorable for a downhill run -- at least back when we were exploring.  If we just went and tried out some slope we hadn't checked out before, we usually did not find good skiing. 

So we spent a lot of summer days bushwhacking around slopes on foot, documenting possible ski runs for winter.  Sometimes we did not actually get to ski a good slope we found until years later.  Back then we found the summer bushwhacking fun in itself -- until the scares about Lyme disease got serious -- and until we discovered how much fun is the road bicycling in the Hudson Valley

In this website, we're not going to say much about the specific "good places" we found for backcountry downhill runs.  In addition to the usual concern about not wanting to see the snow get "tracked out" before we or our friends get there, there's also a problem of few plowed parking spaces for some of the runs.  And the character of the skiing or snowboarding on many of the runs is such that folks lacking a strong enjoyment of exploration wouldn't like them much anyway. 

Hiking Trails in the Backcountry

We have found exploring backcountry trails in the Hudson Valley on skis to be a more reliable outing than going for downhill turns.  But we found we still needed a fair depth of snow, since lots of the Hudson Valley trails have rocks, roots, and ruts.  

We had best results by betting on trails that were pretty gentle, since they are less likely to have severe erosion damage or very difficult short steep sections. 

And often we found that it convenient to have climbing skins for exploring hiking trails.  Because even gentle trails can have little steep sections.  And because on a narrow trail it's often convenient to leave the skins on for going back down it. 

Wider Trailways not groomed for skiing

These might include "rail trails", "trailways", and some "carriageways".

Some of these are listed under Places for cross-country skiing.

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This is the region we found to have the longest downhill runs in the Hudson Valley below Albany.  While not giving away specific runs, we can say that the area with the largest number of possible downhill runs is around Slide, Panther, and Woodland Valley.  And one time Ken skied the slide on Slide Mountain, but it was not great skiing, and it's usually dangerous, and always difficult to access. 

We have not found the Catskills to have much good trail skiing.  Perhaps try around South Lake, and be prepared to share with snowmobiles. 


What the Shawangunk backcountry offers is fun trail skiing.  Much of it is accessible from the groomed tracks of Minnewaska and Mohonk Mountain House, and also from Mohonk Preserve trailheads at the Trapps and Bonticou.   

The only backcountry downhill runs we've made in the Shawangunks were on the old trails of the old "Ski Minne" resort -- which closed sometime back in the 60's or 70's.  Now it's in the Peters Kill area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve.  There was also an old "Bonticou" ski area with two downhill trails that are sometimes very visible from the New York Thruway -- but perhaps also rather overgrown. 

Further South 

We've skied some on trails in Harriman Park.  And sometimes the Park has permitted skiing on the pretty lakes -- which have the obvious danger falling through the ice. 

We found one or two short downhill runs around Bear Mountain and Harriman in our summer explorations, but never got the right winter snow conditions to ski them.  We also did some exploring around Storm King and Black Rock, but didn't find anything we felt like coming back to ski. 

Further North 

We haven't tried much backcountry skiing in the Hudson Valley north of the Catskills -- except a little exploring in the neighborhoods of the Garnet Hill and Lapland Lake cross-country ski areas.  When we've headed way north for backcountry, we've usually gone all the way to the Adirondack High Peaks or northern Vermont. 

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