There’s something so pure, so untouched, so dreamy — so utterly un-Philly — about the Adirondacks that it’s easy to feel like you’ve wandered into a Robert Frost version of a vacation, all log cabins, crackling fires, and snow that looks like glitter as it drifts from the sky. At the epicenter of this six-million-plus-acre mountain range is small, charming Lake Placid: snow-sport haven (home to both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics) and all you could hope for in a ski town, whether you’re a serious schusser (last winter, the place got upwards of 225 inches of snow) or more the stay-in-and-drink-toddies type (there are countless restaurants and tons of retail). The hot season for skiing here is January and February, but there’s fresh snow falling well into April, so by our reckoning, March is a perfect time to go, with a little more space on the slopes and even reduced rates for rooms at many of the upscale hotels. Our pick? Downtown’s behemoth High Peaks Resort, which despite its vastness manages to offer a cheery upscale-ski-lodge feel, with lots of hardwoods, fireplaces, and easy access to Whiteface Mountain’s 80 trails, 300-plus acres of skiable area, and the greatest vertical drop east of the Rockies. (Whee!) 2384 Saranac Avenue, Lake Placid, New York, 518-523-4411, highpeaksresort.com.
Expect to pay: A direct flight from Philly to Albany in March tends to book at around $300, and a rental car for the weekend, about $90. High Peaks room rates start at $209 double occupancy, but this place has loads of packages. One to watch for is the Weekend Ski Getaway deal: For $144/night per person, you get deluxe accommodations for a Friday and Saturday, lift tickets to Whiteface Mountain for Saturday and Sunday (usually $55 apiece on their own, plus $40 for equipment rental), and breakfast each morning. Figure in about $12 a day for lunch at the resort, $4 for each latte break, and as little as $2 for each end-of-the-day beer. Dinner varies (see below).
Be sure to: Go bobsledding. The $75 price tag for the minute-long ride is extravagant, but totally worth it for this once-in-a-lifetime thrill. The original Olympic track feels like a water slide … that you take at 60 mph … pretty much sideways … on a sheet of ice (Route 73 and Bobsled Lane, 518-523-1655, orda.org).
Eat at: Downtown’s Great Adirondack Steak & Seafood (2242 Main Street, 518-523-1629, adirondacksteakandseafood.com). You’ll go for the hearty steak and seafood dishes (in the $25-per-entrée range), but you’ll stay for the homemade brews. There’s also the Dancing Bears, which offers three wallet-friendly (nothing over $17) meals a day and is conveniently located right in High Peaks Resort. The inexpensive, cozy Lake Placid Pub has classic bar food, a great lineup of housemade microbrews, and an everybody-knows-your-name sort of vibe (813 Mirror Lake Drive, 518-523-3813, ubuale.com).
Take this advice: Even if you’re planning on spending the weekend après-skiing, bring snow pants and waterproof boots for an impromptu sleigh ride or winter horseback jaunt.
Mountains appeal but the plane ride doesn’t? Try this! Make the two-hour drive to the Poconos. The Inn at Jim Thorpe is a sprawling Victorian-style 45-room manse with great ski-and-stay packages as low as $185 per person per weekend, with access to nearby Blue Mountain — which has 33 trails (for all abilities) and the highest vertical drop in Pennsylvania (24 Broadway, Jim Thorpe, 800-329-2599, theinn-atjimthorpe.com). If the slopes are just part of your idea of a winter wonderland, make the three-hour drive to the Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, a stunning resort with five-star gourmet health food, spa treatments galore, snowy mountain views, and nearby skiing and snowshoeing for an all-inclusive rate of $475 per person per night (109 River Birch Lane, Hawley, 866-953-8500, the-lodgeatwoodloch.com).