KidsOutAndAbout reviews Swain Ski Resort
by Stacy Curtis
SWAIN RESORT, WHERE FAMILIES PLAY!
“Whether you conquer the black diamonds, meander to the bottom on a wide-open trail, or savor the thrill of hitting the rails in The Proving Grounds, Swain’s NEW terrain park, Swain has something for all ambitions and abilities. They are even home to Gunny’s Gorge Tubing Park, a 750-foot Tubing run that’s perfect for those family members who don’t ski or who are looking for a great place to host a birthday party or youth group outing.”
One of the most family-friendly ski places in Western New York is Swain Ski Resort.
Swain has had skiing for over 60 years. We recently traveled there from sunny Texas (of all places) to spend a few days. We enjoyed ourselves immensely!
Situated in the beautiful northern Allegany County, in the lake-effect snow region, Swain Resort provides affordable wintertime fun for the entire family. Our family had a wide range of ski experience: A novice, a very experienced skier, and the kids (an indoor-loving 13-year-old and an adventurous 14-year-old) with previous ski lessons under their belts. Surprisingly, we ALL had a blast! Swain is truly a resort for every level skier and snowboarder.
Satisfying All Levels of Skiers:
Eight black diamond trails await those who enjoy a challenge. The experienced skier in our group was never bored. He did a few blues too, but the black trails were varied enough that each time down was a new experience. Some were narrow, some wide, but all were too dangerous for me.
Our 13-year-old and I (the novices) loved the fact that there were enough green trails to keep us happy too (although I did try a blue or two). My ski style is more cross country tour, take-as-long-as-possible-to-get-down-the-mountain, stop and take a selfie with black diamond sign, and smell the roses along the way. My favorite was Upper Mile Sweep and Lower Mile Sweep, though I did wonder if it was truly green there toward the bottom.
Our adventurous 14-year-old discovered she enjoyed her first black diamonds, and then she took a snow board lesson from one of Swain’s professional instructors. She was up and snowboarding in no time! Now she prefers snowboarding to skiing (fellow snowboarders know that happens frequently). The grin on her face at the end of the day was all I needed. Her instructor was patient and helped build her confidence until she snowboarded like a natural.
We didn’t try The Proving Grounds professional terrain park, but the kids shredding the park below our ski lift looked like they were having a blast. They have varied trails, moguls, table tops, jumps, boxes and rails.
Swain is a fabulous family trip to make whether you live within a couple of hours and want to make a day or overnight trip, or if you've come from much further away and want to spend a while here.
What we loved:
Swain tends to be family-friendly with both their business philosophy as well as their terrain. They are also one of the least expensive places to ski in all of New York!
Their First Turns Learn to Ski or Snowboard package is the perfect entry-level lesson package and is extremely popular. You can get a beginner lift ticket, an hour-and-a-half lesson, and rentals, all for only $49! It’s a great and inexpensive way to be introduced to the sport, and the package can be tailored for any age.
During the 2013 summer, Swain made significant changes to their snowmaking system effectively doubling the amount of snow they can make throughout the season. Double the snow means double the fun. Now you know there’ll be snow no matter what!
The lifts run through 9pm each night. This gave us a chance to try out night skiing. What a fabulous experience! The quiet ride on the lift up showed a different landscape than during the day. Skiing down the lighted slopes felt like we were sneaking out in the middle of the night and going somewhere we shouldn’t….so we did it both nights we were there. If you haven’t night skied before, give it a try!
What you should be prepared for:
The weekends and holidays are the busiest times at Swain (of course!). Their season typically begins in early December and runs to the beginning of April. School clubs make up a big part of their business, so weeknights can get pretty busy as well.
As for gear, even though one of the days we stayed mother nature gave us subzero weather, we still had fun! Be sure to wear sock and glove liners and long johns with your winter gear and appropriate ski mask under your hat. I also found snow goggles to be invaluable. If you forget something, the ski shop will come up with something to make your experience awesome.
Be sure to bring a bit of cash or your card so you don't need to trek back to your car. We enjoyed skiing for a while, then warming up with hot cocoa at Espresso Lift Café or by the fire at the Shawmut Grille where we had lunch or dinner depending on the time of day. They have a great selection of foods and it was delicious!
Swain also has a game room which is filled with pinball machines, air hockey, and other fun for folks who want to remain indoors for a while.
One of our favorite moments was the live acoustic guitarist they had on Friday night. We tucked my teens in with their wireless internet, a deck of cards, and the TV remote...then we grownups wandered across the parking lot to the Shawmut Grille for adult beverages and local entertainment.
Other fun nearby:
Swain is 15 minutes from Letchworth State park, which is quite an amazing scenic park with their waterfalls - during all four seasons. Within a short driving distance you’ll also find Corning Glass Museum, Finger Lakes Wineries and Stony Brook State Park, as well as camping, motocross, golfing and fun Conesus Lake in season.
What can you do at Swain in the summer?
During the rest of the year Swain offers mountain biking and scenic lift rides. They also do a quite a few of weddings since the mountain setting is so beautiful. In the fall they host the Western New York Archery Festival.
Swain has numerous overnight accommodations from bunk rooms to entire houses. They are adding more overnight properties over the next several seasons. There are several bed and breakfasts nearby (you can check their website for details). We stayed at Swain's Mountainside Inn which is a ski-in-ski-out facility composed of two houses with four units each. Families can rent out one or both houses if you plan to bring the whole gang. The rooms are spacious and electric fireplaces were a warm welcome. And, yes, they have wireless!
When you call, ask about their “stay and ski” package which gives you a substantial discount.
To book your own family-friendly, budget-conscious ski trip to Swain, you may contact them at:
2275 County Rd 24
PO Box 44
Swain, NY 14884
Fax: (607) 545-6228
Swain Snow Report: (585) 234-SNOW
(607) 545-6511 ext. 3025
(607) 545-6511 ext. 3000
Stacy Curtis is editor of KidsOutAndAbout Houston.