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Connecticut & Rhode Island Skiing

Three small family ski areas in beautiful northwestern part of Connecticut, and one in Rhode Island.

Southern New England Ski Resorts Map

When I set out to inspect Connecticut ski areas, I didn't expect much.

I was pleasantly surprised at how good the facilities are and how much fun skiers, snowboarders and snow tubers could have here. They are particularly good for families as they are small, making it easier to keep track of the kids, and they have fewer hot-doggers racing down the slopes crashing into other skiers.

Obviously, the greatest advantage of Connecticut's ski areas is their accessibility: they are much closer to Hartford, Providence and New York City than the larger, more elaborate ski resorts of northern New England.

Highway signage to the ski areas is always adequate and generally very good in Connecticut. For Mount Southington Ski Area, for example, signs on I-84 indicate that Exit 30 is the best one for reaching the ski area. After that, small "Ski Area" signs point the correct direction all the way to the slopes. (Believe me, good signage is not the rule in all New England states.)

Because these are mostly day-excursion ski areas, there are no lodging facilities at the ski areas themselves, though you will find charming country inns and bed-and-breakfast houses in the beautiful towns near the ski areas.

Mohawk Mountain Ski Area

46 Great Hollow Road, Cornwall CT (map)
Located in a sunny valley at the end of a pretty drive near West Cornwall CT in the northwest corner of the state, Mohawk Mountain has Connecticut's longest vertical drop (650 feet), most Intermediate-skill ski trails (24), and most chairlifts (5). It's a family business located in Mohawk State Forest State Park, which is under the control of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

Mohawk Mountain Ski Area

Mohawk Mountain Ski Area was founded in 1947 by Skiing Hall of Fame member Walt Schoenknecht. The following year it is said that he invented snowmaking here.

The summit of the mountain is 1600 feet (488 meters), with a vertical drop of 650 feet (198 meters) to the base at 960 feet (293 meters). Of the 350 acres (142 hectares) in the forest-park, 107 acres (43 hectares) are open to skiing.

The 24 ski trails (longest is 1.25 miles/2 km) are served by six lifts: 1 triple chair, 4 double chairs and a Wonder Carpet. Twelve trails are illuminated for night skiing, and snowmaking covers 95% of the trails to supplement the average 8 feet (2.44 meters) of annual snowfall.

Equipment rentals are available. Skiing and snowboarding lessons also are available for everyone, down to children 3 and 4 years old. A spacious cafeteria keeps you fueled up for the slopes.

Mohawk State Forest-Park has cross-country trails for Nordic/cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, but they are separate from the downhill ski area.

Ski Sundown

126 Ratlum Road, New Hartford CT (map)
Set in a steep valley just outside the charming town of New Hartford CT, 21 miles (45 minutes) northwest of Hartford, Ski Sundown's 625-foot vertical drop is Connecticut's second-longest, and all but one of its 15 trails are lit for night skiing.

Ski Sundown's 625-foot vertical drop from a 1075-foot summit is Connecticut's second-longest.

Ski Sundown Trail Map

All but one of the 15 downhill trails on 65 skiable acres are illuminated for night skiing. The longest downhill run is 1.5 miles (2.4 km), annual snowfall averages 5 feet (1.5 meters), and snowmaking covers the entire skiable area.

Half of the trails are classed for Beginners, with Intermediate and Expert splitting the rest, and all are covered by the 100% snowmaking capability.

Sundown's slopes are served by six lifts, including three triple chairs and a double chair.

Ski Sundown has two terrain parks, and lessons are available for all ages and abilities, including potential skiers and snowboarders with disabilities.

New Hartford, by the way, would place high in any contest for Most Beautiful Town in Connecticut. Do allow an hour or two to enjoy the town when you visit.

Ski Mount Southington

396 Mount Vernon Rd, Plantsville CT (map)
Off I-84 Exit 30 southwest of Hartford, Mt Southington is easy to reach, and fun, with a 450-foot vertical drop, 14 trails, and 3 chairlifts.

Mount Southington's 14 ski trails (33% Beginner, 42% Intermediate and 25% Expert) are served by seven lifts, including two triple chairs, two double chairs, a handle tow, and two carpet lifts. Some of the trails are illuminated for night skiing.

The longest trail on the 51 skiable acres, Dom's Way, is just under a mile long down the 425-foot vertical drop.

Mount Southington Ski Area, Southington CT

Snowmaking covers the entire skiable area to supplement the annual average snowfall of 7 feet (2.13 meters).

Two terrain parks serve snowboarders, the Turkey turn Park with a flat rail and flat box for beginning snowboarders, and the Drop Zone Park with a 30-foot flat down box, 16-foot round bar, rails, boxes and down jumps for experienced riders.

Ski and snowboard equipment rentals are available, as are lessons in the two sports. The Red Barn Cafeteria provides food and drink.

Yawgoo Valley Ski & Sports Park

160 Yawgoo Valley Road, Exeter RI (map)
Rhode Island
is the least of New England states when it comes to skiing, and that's no surprise: the highest point in the state is Jerimoth Hill at a modest 812 feet (247 meters) above sea level.

  Yawgoo Valley Ski, Snowboard & Snow Tubing Park, Exeter RI
  Yawgoo Valley: it's for real.

But Rhode Island does have its own ski, snowboard and snow tubing area, with 12 trails, four ski lifts, and all the necessary facilities. It's Yawgoo Valley Ski & Sports Park in Exeter RI: skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing within a half-hour's drive of Providence.

On my first visit, I was prepared to be unimpressed, but that's not what happened.

Yawgoo Valley is a real ski area in beautiful country. Okay, its founders did identify what must be the steepest and best slope in all Rhode Island, with a vertical drop of 245 feet (75 meters). Then they built comfortable facilities for you to enjoy on 30 acres of terrain, with four lifts serving 12 trails. They knew what they were doing.

There's even a terrain park for snowboarders, and a really fun snow tubing area.

Needless to say, Yawgoo Valley is a favorite destination for very young, first-time, and family skiers for whom its modst slopes, small size and friendly atmosphere are bonuses, not drawbacks.

Of course its greatest advantage for citizens of Rhode Island is its convenience: it's only 26 miles (42 km) south of Providence.

Otherwise, the nearest ski areas to Providence and other parts of Rhode Island are in Massachusetts:

Blue Hills, just south of Boston

Wachusett Mountain, one of Massachusetts's most popular ski destinations, with a 1000-foot vertical drop and plenty of illuminated trails for night skiing

Pine Ridge and Bradford, two more small Massachusetts ski areas