I’ve been skiing the Catskills my entire skiing life, starting in the 1970s. The Catskills are my home mountains for outdoor recreation. Over the past few seasons, I’ve taken up landscape photography while skiing. My hope is to share the beauty of Catskill skiing through these images.
Over the past 15 years, Hunter became my home mountain, hands down. Once known as the “Snowmaking Capital of the World”, Hunter still knows how to cover the mountain with good man-made snow. This early morning shot captures a typical winter scene at Hunter with the low sun trying to peek through the clouds, and the early-season guns blasting.
Across the Schoharie Valley from the ski area, the Blackhead Range forms the iconic viewshed from Hunter’s frontside slopes. Every day the view of these three local giants can change based on the weather and lighting. From left-to-right, Thomas Cole, Black Dome and Blackhead mountains are the 5th, 3rd and 4th highest Catskill peaks respectively.
There’s nothing like a winding road to lead the viewer’s eye off to the distance — in this case Windham Mountain. From a photographic perspective, Windham provides great head-on views from the hills north of the ski area. Windham used to be my go-to ski area in the Catskills, but it’s been a few years since I skied there.
Over the years, the idea of a top-10 list of Catskill ski trails has rattled around my brain. That list includes these three gems from Plattekill Mountain. Straight shots, with perfect pitch top-to-bottom, taking in 1000 feet of vertical. The charm of Plattekill is well-known on these pages. Plattekill is an annual must-visit for me as it takes me back in time and away from the crowds of corporate skiing. Skiing at Plattekill puts a smile on my face every time I visit.
My recent visit to Plattekill included bluebird skies and great scenes of the ice-covered trees at the top of the mountain. Skiing at Plattekill feels like you are out in the woods with your skis, allowing you to truly experience the mountain and nature. It’s just got a different feel to it, and I really like that.
This is a shot from Belleayre in March 2020, just before the Covid closing. Belleayre is an enigma in a way, with modern high speed lifts including a gondola, combined with this old classic chair that brings me right back to my teen years in the 1970s. How many ski poles were broken at this mid-station?
Plattekill’s location in the far western Catskills combined with its view to the east provides a great view of some of the higher Catskill peaks. The gentle contours of Plattekill’s lower slopes in the foreground contrast nicely with the high peaks in the distance. Slide Mountain, the highest in the Catskills is visible in the center of the image in the distance.
By February, the sun peeks over the slope a little earlier and higher at Hunter North, illuminating the icy trees and casting long shadows on the slopes. The pristine bluebird sky was highlighted with these amazing clouds that rolled in by late morning. This is one of my favorite images.
Looking northwest from the slopes of Hunter North, I often wondered if there’s a spot where you could see both Windham and Hunter Mountains. After skiing Hunter one day, I headed out towards the foothills of the northwestern Catskill escarpment. From directly north of Windham, I kept heading west towards Ashland and the slopes of Huntersfield State Forest.
The view exists, and I captured it with this multi-image pano shot. This is my favorite shot from the 21-22 ski season.
All images click to enlarge.
Steve Aaron has skied the Catskills his entire life. He’s an avid skier, hiker, cyclist and photographer, always armed with a camera. Steve’s landscape photos have appeared in Backpacker Magazine, Hudson Valley Magazine, NY Newsday and the Albany Times Union. His work is also featured in pieces for Ulster County Tourism, Scenic Hudson, The Trust for Public Land and other outdoor oriented organizations. Every August, Steve publishes a wall calendar featuring beautiful landscape images from the Catskills and Shawangunks. For more information on the calendar, join Steve’s mailing list.