Photograph by Jane Eshbaugh, Holiday Valley Resort
GPS: 42°16'N 78°40'W
The International Mountain Biking Association is pretty fussy when it comes to designating a fat-tire hot spot as "epic," but a network of trails just outside of Ellicotville, a hour south of Buffalo in the Allegheny foothills, has earned its coveted IMBA stripes (www.imba.com/epics). Once the snow falls, all that gnarly singletrack makes for great Nordic skiing. Not only that, but it wraps around behind Holiday Valley, an unassuming little ski resort that SKI Magazine consistently ranks among the top ten in the East.
The trail network has bloomed to 40 miles (64 kilometers) of singletrack, so the options are many. "Some are fast and rolling, but there’s some real rocky stuff," says Dennis Baldwin at Ellicottville Bike Shop, where you can pick up a trail map and rent a Kona hardtail ($25; www.ellicottvillebikeshop.com). Dennis suggests one day on the Big Merlin Loop, an intermediate 10-miler/16 kilometers (the ride to the trailhead from town adds five/eight kilometers), and another on the Pale Ale trails, a playground in three segments worthy of three hours of riding. Powder hounds can truly make a day of it at Holiday Valley, which sells all day, 14-hour (!) passes. Hit ’em early to carve your own trails, break for lunch at any one of three lodges, then be king of the mountain when you start your final descent at 10:30pm (all-day passes from $50; www.holidayvalley.com). Locals have tried to keep a tight lid on HoliMont’s private, pristine runs, which are open to the public on weekdays. It’s right next to Holiday Valley and isn’t half as crowded (all day passes from $45; www.holimont.com).
Ellicottville Brewing Company serves up a robust version of the aforementioned Pale Ale, which is especially tasty after a day on the slopes as winter transforms this very cool little ski town (www.ellicottvillebrewing.com).
With its iconic wraparound porches, backyard fire pit, and outdoor swimming pool, Edelweiss Lodge is a great option for hikers and bikers. Of course, the ski runs loom directly behind the Edelweiss, too, and its chalets are perfect for weekend ski trippers who want to stumble over to (and home from) Ellicottville Brewing at the end of a long powder day (doubles from $75; www.edelweissskilodge.com). Kelly House Lodge has bargain rooms that are especially good for group stays (doubles from $55; www.kellyhouselodge.com).