SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING
WARWICK, N.Y. – A dozen or so families from Our lady of Good Counsel Church on Staten Island wanted to spend the Martin Luther King school holiday this week skiing. So Cyd Downing piped up and suggested they visit Mt. Peter, a smallish pint-sized ski area nestled alongside Route 17A here in Warwick, a few miles from New Jersey.
The families, many with two, three or four excited children, arrived here early and headed straight to the ski school. Like a growing number of other families – and even adults -- from the tri-state area, they knew that ski and snowboard lessons for beginners here at Mt. Peter are absolutely, positively free!
With a summit elevation of only 1,250 ft. and a vertical drop of a mere 450 ft., Mt. Peter (www.mtpeter.com) continues to draw a steady stream of beginner skiers and snowboarders. Fact is, Mt. Peter, now in its 76th year, is the oldest operating ski area in New York State, and one of the few remaining family operated ski areas in the country. It was opened in 1936 by Macy’s department store to show off and sell its ski clothing.
Don and Gail Sampson, and their daughters Aimee and Rebecca, have owned and operated Mt. Peter since 1970.
In the trade, this relatively small ski area, with a sole focus on giving youngsters their first taste of skiing and snowboarding, is known as a feeder mountain.
“I suggested we come here to Mt. Peter because I know they offer free lessons,” said Downing, who was accompanied by her husband, Rich, and 11-year-old son Robert. “With the economy the way it is, each family in our group saved a lot of money by not having to pay for initial lessons. And Mt. Peter is small enough so the kids can go off on their own. They can’t get lost because every trail leads back to the base lodge.”
Mt. Peter has 11 ski trails, spread over 60 skiable acres, ranging from beginner to expert, serviced by three double-chairlifts. It features a terrain park for snowboarders and a variety of school racing programs. The area provides 100 percent snowmaking, and it remains open for night skiing.
“The best way to describe us is that we are a family resort where your kids learn how to ski,” says Rob Gallo, the mountain school director since 2003 who’s been at Mt. Peter for the past 20 years. “Once we get you down the hill we’ll keep you.”
Gallo goes on to say that free ski and snowboard lessons for beginners is Mt. Peter’s chief marketing tool. The mountain school (it’s not called a ski school any more because instructors also teach snowboarding) offers free lessons on weekends and holidays to first-time skiers and snowboarders age five and older, he says. Free lessons are usually given at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.