Progression. Innovation. Development. Since Holiday Valley’s genesis, these are the nouns we use to describe the resort. Every off-season, it’s all hands on deck - from management, to Mountain Operations, to Food & Beverage - to make a concentrated effort to make an already stellar product even better. When you speak in terms of national recognition, resorts like Snowbird, Mammoth Mountain and Okemo are names you hear often. But you’d be shocked at how many people across the North American continent know, and love, Holiday Valley.
Appealing to skiers and snowboarders of all ages and ability levels, Holiday Valley’s strategic geographic location draws visitors from metro areas like Buffalo, Toronto, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. If you’re on the western edge of Ohio, you can drive 20 hours to Colorado ... or 5 to Ellicottville. If you’re in metro Toronto, you can jet down the QEW and be here in less than 3 hours, all the while experiencing a ski-town vibe that rivals those of our West Coast counterparts. From snowmaking, to lodging, to customer service, to apres, Holiday Valley and Ellicottville provide it all.
It is these reasons why SKI Magazine, in its perennial resort rankings, gave Holiday Valley the 3rd Overall ranking for the East Coast. It is the 3rd year in a row that HV has placed in the Top-5. Refusing stagnancy, leadership at the resort - under tenured President Dennis Eshbaugh - constantly pushes itself to give visitors the best experience possible.
While some changes are quite noticeable (like the new Holiday Valley Road, more on that later) it is the subtle nuances that provide subconscious, positive effects. For instance, installation of automated HKD Snowmaking guns allow the resort’s snowmakers to make the best snow where and when it’s needed. Of the various rankings, here’s how HV stacked against the competition: Lifts, Lodging, Dining, Kid Friendly, On Mountain Food (#2); Apres, Off-Hill Activities (#3); Service (#6); Terrain Parks (#7); Overall Satisfaction (#8); Value (#9); Character (#10). Since 1994, the resort has reinvested over $118 million in itself.
NEW FOR THIS SEASON
If you’ve been to Holiday Valley, you’re aware of the road that takes you up the hill, past the Main, to Yodeler and beyond. A drastic change at the resort for the upcoming season is the renovation and rerouting of the current road. Crews from J.D. Northrup Construction have been diligently working all summer to prepare the road for the upcoming winter, and completion date is scheduled for mid-October.
“The new road is the big one for this season,” Holiday Valley Director of Marketing Jane Eshbaugh said, referencing the $4 million in overall capital improvement funds. “It’s a multi-year project that will improve access to the resort, parking, traffic and pedestrian safety. Now, the main parking area will be where the current road sits, and the road will take you up and around and exit by the Valley Village condos.”
The addition of more HKD Automated Snowmaking guns is also in progress. Already in place around a large portion of the resort, count Tannenbaum and Fiddler’s Elbow as the newest recipients. The guns, which use on-hill weather centers to calculate temperature and humidity levels, allow snowmaking crews to flip a gun on or off - with the simple tap on the iPhone.
“We now have 237 automated HKD guns, and those additions are why we rank so high in SKI Mag’s snowmaking category,” Eshbaugh said. “In total, the resort has over 611 snowmaking guns. It makes it far easier to give our visitors an awesome product if Mother Nature decides not to cooperate.”
The Inn at Holiday Valley, located right at the base of the hill, received new furniture for the decks, outdoor seating areas, a redecorating of the Presidential Suite and a resurfacing of the pool.
PARKS, SKI SCHOOL AND MOVES
The relocation of one of the terrain parks to Fiddler’s Elbow last season was a huge hit. Although the snow (either natural or man-made) was always top-notch, park lovers will be happy to hear that automated snowmaking guns are being placed strategically down the run. This way, there will always be the best possible snow being made at the right times.
NASTAR, the racing course open to the public, used to reside on Cindy’s. This season, however, it’s being bumped one run over to Foxfire. New construction began on the starting gate in mid-September, so it’ll be ready to rock by the time the snow flies.
Longtime ski school director Ron Kubicki is retiring this year, capping an absolutely stellar tenure in which the various programs grew and developed into what they are now. Bob Armour, a ski resort veteran, will take the reins.
“Bob has extensive knowledge in ski school programs, as he worked at Peek n’ Peak for over 30 years,” Eshbaugh said. “He’s been a supervisor here for the past two seasons, so he’s already acclimated to the vibe of the resort. We’re really excited to have him on board as the new director.”
In an effort to continue the mission of environmental consciousness, there are multiple runs where the lights will be replaced with high efficiency LEDs. If they work well, you might just see the resort replace all of the lights.
“LEDs are very efficient in terms of energy usage, and we want to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible,” Eshbaugh said. “Think of this year as a trial run. If the runs with the LEDs work well and ski well (in terms of lighting) then we’ll talk about continuing the process of replacing the entire resort with them.”
The advent of smartphones has made companies quickly learn that a highly interactive, mobile-friendly website is the key to staying relevant. Burlington, Vermont-based web design firm Propellor has been contracted by the resort to build an entirely new website - from scratch.
“The website is something we’ve been looking at for a couple of seasons, and we’ll be going live with it very soon,” Eshbaugh said. “It’s a radically different look - lots of video integration, easier navigation and much more ‘wide open.’ We know how important social media is, so there’s going to be a section on the homepage with a revolving Instagram feed - both from our current account (@holidayvalley) and those of our visitors who upload.”
The trail map is also getting a facelift, with an interactive version available on the new site. Many of you know and love the webcams - constantly checking what’s happening - so there will be live feeds on the new site as well.
JOHN HARVARD’S BREW HOUSE
Half the fun of hitting a ski resort is the apres! After a strong day on the slopes, a cold beverage is the perfect way to end it. John Harvard’s Brew House, home to over 20 beers on tap, has views of the slopes and a (very cool) concrete bar. Bartenders will ask you how your day on the slopes went, all the while keeping you satisfied with drinks and food.
“The food and drinks are excellent, but nothing makes a good apres experience like an awesome bartender,” said Franco Brady, Holiday Valley’s director of food & beverage (of CenterPlate). “The brick oven (for pizzas) is always hot, and the views of the slopes - especially when they’re lit up at night - complements the experience so well.”
John Harvard’s square-shaped bar allows you to communicate with other visitors and swap stories. Or, if you’ve got the family, there’s tons of additional seating. Your favorite beers are all on tap, including seasonals from Ellicottville Brewing Company and Southern Tier Brewing.
The Cabana Bar, a favorite of visitors in the summertime, got a makeover and now boasts a hard-top roof (compared to the tent-style it was before). Cabana will be open for special events and parties throughout the winter, so if you’re interested in hosting one, make sure to call the food & beverage department.
MOUNTAIN COASTER / TUBING PARK
Two very underrated activities at the resort are the Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster and the Tubing Park. The coaster, located at Tannenbaum, takes you up the hill in a two-person sled and then loops and twirls back down through the trees. Bonus? You control the speed with two hand brakes.
“The coaster is a huge hit,” Eshbaugh said. “Parents can ride with their kids (as long as the combined weight is under the limit) and it’s a great time, especially at night. If you’ve done the coaster and want to experience some more high-speed thrills, the Tubing Park is for you.”
The Tubing Park, located just a short drive down Route 242 east of the village, has 22 lanes with quality snowmaking to match. When it’s super cold, put those goggles on - because you’re going to go fast, Ricky Bobby.
There’s a special vibe around Holiday Valley and Ellicottville that’s validated by SKI Magazine’s Resort Rankings. If you haven’t been to experience it for yourself, we highly encourage you to come visit.