A Family Playground at Greek Peak Mountain Resort

By Jeff and Stephanie Sylva

Where can families go for vacation to enjoy a day of tubing? Why, many places, of course. But at how many family resorts can you enjoy the thrills of riding a tube down a snowy slope and tubing through a water slide into 84-degree water - all on the same day? Families looking for these family vacation thrills and a host of other family fun activities will find them all at Greek Peak Mountain Resort and the Hope Lake Lodge & Indoor Waterpark in Cortland, New York, where families will find a fantastic lineup of four-season fun.

Great Skiing and More

Winter blues are forgotten when the family arrives at Greek Peak and the Hope Lake Lodge. Greek Peak Ski Area has 32 trails over 220 skiable acres and a vertical drop of nearly 1000 feet. It's not necessarily the big mountain that avid ski hounds are seeking; but families looking for a safe and family-friendly ski area will find Greek Peak to be perfect.

With 3 terrain parks and just the right blend of easier trails, long cruisers (like the 1½-mile Arcadian Gate trail), and some heart-pumping steeps (like 40-degree Olympian black diamond trail), Greek Peak offers families a great skiing experience. The ski resort has a Junior Ski & Ride School offering ski lessons for kids ages 3 - 14, babysitting services, and even night skiing - just in case some family members didn't get enough runs in during the day.

Great Family Fun - All Year Long

We visited Greek Peak this year to check out the experience. After a morning of skiing, we headed over to the Adventure Center for an afternoon full of more outdoor fun. Our favorite activity was the Nor'easter Mountain Coaster, an alpine slide/roller coaster hybrid that offers a thrilling ride down the mountain and through the woods. Those looking for more relaxing, scenic attraction can get exactly what they desire, as riders can control the speed of their coasters.

For more adrenaline-pumping action take the guided Zip Line Tour and soar across the Adventure Center's 4 dual ziplines. Guests can race at speeds up to 40 miles per hour on the 1,300-foot long zipline. While we were at Greek Peak, we opted for mountain snow tubing. Getting to the top of the tubing chutes was easy on the Sun Kid surface lift. Greek Peak's snowmaking capability, chute grooming, and night lighting made the snow tubing experience fun for the whole family.

When the weather warms up, the Adventure Center adds even more excitement with a High Peaks Challenge Course and a Euro Bungy attraction.

More Fun in the Snow

For even more ways to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, head over to the resort's Nordic Center. With more than 10 miles of groomed and ungroomed trails, the Nordic Center has x-country skis and snowshoe rentals.

During the warmer months, trail and mountain biking - as well as hiking, become the ways to experience the resort's great outdoors. Fall leap-peeping season is a great time to experience the area's natural beauty. Bike rentals are also available at the Nordic Center. Hope Lake has a sandy beach for swimming and volleyball and is stocked with a variety of fish for some great trout fishing. Non-motorized boats are available for rent.

Year-Round Waterpark Fun

Once the family has had their full of outdoor fun, move inside (like we did one day during our stay when temperatures dipped into the single digits) and enjoy cavorting in the comfortable confines of Cascades Indoor Waterpark. With its welcoming 84-degree waters, Cascades is perfect for families. While it caters to the entire family, Cascades Indoor Waterpark has a number of attractions specifically designed for small children as well.

Families can enjoy swimming year-round in the heated outdoor Northwoods Pool, or just relax in the indoor/outdoor hot tub. We certainly spent a lot of time there. The White Water Wavepool has two wave patterns and a zero-depth entry, which is great for small children. Cascades provides life vests, showers, towels, and changing rooms at no cost. Kids will also love having the huge Starlight Arcade directly adjacent to the waterpark.

Daily Family Fun Activities

Hope Lake Lodge has a superb activities team that organizes and conducts daily activities such as guided hikes; water aerobics; kids yoga; Arktos's Craft Hour; outdoor games like ladder ball, relay races, kick ball and more; Scientific Creations; complimentary cookie and face painting; and a nightly campfire if the weather permits. S'mores supplies can be purchased in the gift shop.

Families can drop in to the Bearfoot Den Activities Center to enjoy a variety of family play such as puzzles, games, crafts, children's story time, scavenger hunts, and more. The Children's Nightly Programs (fee applies) runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and includes dinner and an activity such as Movie & Munchies, Pajama Jam, Greek Olympics, or the popular "Night Owl" Program. Babysitting service is also available for a fee.

Relax in Northwoods Style

Accommodations at Hope Lake Lodge are great for families. The Lodge and its condo-type rooms are designed in a Northwoods style which captures the rustic charm of the north country mountains. A variety of room configurations are available, with the largest accommodating up to 10 people - and all with fully-equipped kitchens, making it easy for family dining.

During your stay at Hope Lake Lodge, make time for at least one dinner at the Lodge's Acorn Grill. Located just off the Lodge's timber framed Grand Lobby, the Acorn Grill is a family-friendly restaurant with a menu that is both simple and imaginative. The Acorn Grill features some comfort food choices like Roasted Chicken Pot Pie and a variety of burger and pizza options. On the other hand, more imaginative choices include the delicious Grilled Elk Burger topped with grilled zucchini and Gorgonzola cheese or the Roasted Pork Medallions with a maple cranberry-pecan-apple salsa. A typical children's menu is also offered.

Parents may want to take advantage of the babysitting services or the Children's Nightly Program to enjoy a wonderful dinner at the Acorn Grill - or possibly an ultimate escape at Waterfalls Spa, where the ancient principles of Feng Shui promote a harmony and balance sure to provide the ultimate relaxation experience. Waterfalls Spa offers a full range of spa treatments and salon services all performed in its soothing, serene ambience. Chromatherapy LED lighting is used in most of the spa's treatment rooms. The therapeutic use of different colors of light has been determined to have a positive impact on overall health and well being. We enjoyed some treatments at Waterfalls and were more than pleased with the attentive and professional staff.

Hope Lake Lodge received an exclusive award from TripAdvisor for 2012 - the Travelers' Choice Certificate of Excellence Award. This award is presented to less than 1% of all accommodations listed on TripAdvisor.

If You Go

  • Package Deals: A variety of packages are available at Hope Lake Lodge and the offerings change monthly. Visit www.hopelakelodge.com or call 1-800-955-2754 for complete information on packages, rates, and all activities and amenities.

  • Greek Peak Ski Area: Visit www.greekpeakmtnresort.com for more information or for general mountain questions, call 800-955-2754. For mountain conditions call 800-365-7669.

  • Rentals: Visit the Greek Peak website and click on "The Mountain" for information on ski and snowboard rentals.

  • Nordic Center: Rentals of cross-country skis, boots and poles and snowshoes are available at the Nordic Center. Contact: 617-835-6562 (Fri.-Sun.) or 800-955-2754 ext. 6441 or ext. 6442 (Mon.-Thurs.). People new to these sports can try the Peak Experience Package, which includes a Nordic Pass, equipment rental, and a two-hour guided tour.

  • Location: Hope Lake Lodge is located in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York, just a few miles from I-81 in Cortland, NY. Philadelphia - 195 miles; NYC - 210 miles; Baltimore - 270 miles.

  • Nearby Airports: Ithaca Tomkins Regional Airport (ITH) - 17 miles; Greater Binghamton Airport (BGM) - 30 mi.; Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) - 48 mi.

Jeff and Stephanie Sylva are parents and retired high school teachers who have been travel writers for over 24 years. Jeff and Stephanie love the outdoors and enjoy playing tennis, hiking, biking, swimming, skiing, snowshoeing, and of course, traveling.

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