Ski destinations often struggle to keep visitors coming when the white stuff isn’t around. Ellicottville, N.Y., is no exception, but they may have found the perfect formula for making sure the fun times never stop at this picturesque resort town.
Just three hours south of Toronto by car, the road to Ellicottville is a scenic drive through upper New York State. The last stretch along US 219 South can be particularly breathtaking with the fall colours blazing on both sides of you.
As you approach the Village of Ellicottville, you’re likely to notice a buzz in the air. Festivals of all kinds are always livening up the streets around the boutique shops and trendy cafes that are open year-round. On Oct. 6-7, the village’s oldest and largest street party takes over the downtown as the annual Fall Festival kicks off a lively weekend of unique foods, art and crafts, carnival rides, live entertainment and more.
Other notable events on the go this fall include the 9th-annual Beer and Wine Festival at nearby Holiday Valley resort on Nov. 10. And on Nov. 13, Ellicottville serves up the holidays a month early with a day-long celebration of Christmas that turns the downtown into an idyllic scene right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
But if fall colours, beer and Father Christmas aren’t your scene, you can always head up the ski hills for some off-season extreme fun. The Sky High Adventure Park at Holiday Valley ski resort makes good use of the area’s natural terrain with 1.6-hectares of zip lines, challenging wood bridges and rope courses. The entire course is suspended from the majestic trees that line the ski hills and anyone from age seven and up can join in the fun.
Safety harnesses keep everyone from a precipitous fall, and there are courses rated for beginners right up to expert. And as adventurers soon find out, it’s not strength or agility, but balance and nerves of steel that will get you to from Point A to Point B the quickest. The cost per person is $45 for three hours of tree top challenges (kids and adults pay the same).
Along with the aerial park, Holiday Valley also features a Mountain Coaster that offers a thrilling ride down a twisting and turning track from the top of the Spruce Lake chairlift. Up to two people can ride in each coaster car and you can adjust the speed of your descent with levers on both sides of the car. Children must be at least three-years-old and 36-inches-tall to ride with an adult, or eight-years-old and 42-inches-tall to ride alone.
The coaster costs $8 for a single ride but you can save some money by buying all-day passes or combo deals for the Sky High Adventure Park and Mountain Coaster. The aerial park closes Oct. 8 but the coaster runs through the ski season as well.
If you want to relax after all that excitement, the nearby Griffis Sculpture Park in East Otto offers a chance to soak in the beauty of nature as you stroll through 182 rolling hectares of unique large-scale steel works. Many of the sculptures by founder Larry Griffis Jr. and other artists are hands-on and visitors, both young and old, are even encouraged to climb on selected works. More than 250 sculptures in all wait to be discovered along the smooth trails or more challenging hiking paths. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students or seniors, and free for children under 12. The park is open from May 1 to Oct. 31.
NEED TO KNOW
Ellicottville is a three-hour drive from Toronto. Crossing over at the Fort Erie bridge avoids a longer border wait. From there, take Interstate 190 South until you meet up with the scenic US-219 South, which takes you to Ellicottville.
Until Oct. 8, the Tamarack Club Condominium and Hotel at Holiday Valley Resort is offering Summer Fun Packages starting at $252.25 per person, which include one night’s accommodation, two days of golf, admission to the Sky High Adventure Park and rides on the Mountain Coaster. See holidayvalley.com.
Dina’s in downtown Ellicottville is a popular local eatery and a great place for healthy, homemade foods. The Ellicottville Brewing Company is the hot spot for casual dining and craft beer made right on the premises.