I’d never heard of Malone, New York; that is until Titus Mountain Family Ski Center – neatly tucked into the Adirondacks of upstate NY – got in touch with news that it was offering the Canadian dollar at par on lift tickets and at participating accommodations. (Good news for Canadians since it’s only 20 minutes from the border in Cornwall, Ont., saving us 25 to 30 per cent when you consider the exchange rate.)
We’ve travelled by car as far as Mont-Tremblant – which takes us 5.5 to 10 hours from Clarington depending on road conditions – and Vermont, which is about a six-hour road trip, so when Google Maps told me Malone was less than 4.5 hours away, it was an easy YES to accept a visit over the holidays and check out the mountain and facilities.
The drive was an easy one for us – we’re about 45 minutes east of Toronto so it gives us a bit of a head start versus those smack in or west of the city. The kids, having been through a 10-hour trip to Tremblant thanks to a particularly treacherous snowstorm throughout our entire drive last year, barely blinked at this journey. Skiers from Ottawa or Montreal are closer still with a mere 1.5- to 2-hour drive to reach Titus Mountain.
When we arrived, I felt an immediate sense of welcome. There’s a quaint, cozy charm about Titus that seeps in at every corner – from the front desk and ticketing staff to the instructors to the resident season’s pass holders (most of whom turned out to be fellow Canucks who’ve been going to Titus for many years and begged us not to tell TOO many people about this hidden gem).
This homey vibe was palpable throughout our stay, and only enhanced by the genuine friendliness we encountered from beginning to end.
CANADIAN $ AT PAR
As I touched on earlier, Titus Mountain Family Ski Center is inviting Canadian visitors to ski and stay with Canadian dollars at par. So, our Canadian dollars equal U.S. dollars in packages that include lift tickets and lodging at select nearby hotels. The resort has teamed up with local hotels, motels, and bed & breakfasts so this should work for a variety of budgets. The packages also come with coupons for tubing, lessons and rentals.
SKIING AT TITUS MOUNTAIN
Titus Mountain, though it feels like a smaller place at first glance, boasts 50 runs across three mountains – one topping 2,000 feet at the summit – and is serviced by 10 lifts. There are plenty of runs available for beginner through expert, with some of the greens being simply TOO easy for even my nervous nine-year-old.
Perhaps my favourite feature of all is that once you’re off every lift at Titus, there are green runs available. So you can never get stuck and worry whether you’ll get back to ground zero without risking your comfort level.
I found the green/blue/back distinctions much more similar to Ontario standards than I have in neighbouring Quebec and Vermont. A green in Ontario feels the same as a green at Titus, whereas some greens in Quebec or Vermont feel like Ontario blues.
The snow quality was beautiful. And we were told time after time how Titus somehow manages to escape the typically icier conditions that are often a mainstay of skiing in the east.
I wondered aloud several times about how few people seemed to be on the runs with us, and the regulars assured me that although it wasn’t as busy as usual thanks to the bitter cold snap, that it’s not uncommon to feel like you have the mountain to yourself. It’s lovely because you can focus on the scenery and hone your skills without worrying about avoiding others. (This is just one of the reasons they really, really didn’t want me to tell you how great it is at Titus…)
If you can get to the summit but you’re not a particularly skilled skier yet, know that you can take a nearly flat “run” back to the Lower (main) Lodge from there. It’s more like cross-country skiing most of the time BUT it does get you to the top to take in the beautiful summit view and you’ll come across a couple of fun tunnels through which you ski as well as a really pretty bridge. These alone were worth the sweat that came with the flat skiing to get back “home.”
Oh, there’s night skiing, too. But it was too darn cold for us to brave it.
LESSONS + TUBING AT TITUS MOUNTAIN
We always try to take lessons at every ski resort, because they’re all priced and operated differently from one place to the next – and they’re not all executed equally either. Titus Mountain Family Ski Center’s private lessons are well-priced at $55 an hour (plus an extra $25 per person, making it a reasonable $80 an hour for two people).
My kids did a lesson together, as did we. Our instructor (Chris) was fun and easy to hang out with, and he helped us get our ski legs back after a long break – reminding us of our posture and giving us the confidence to loosen up and enjoy the runs. I liked that he focused on skiing for fun rather than being too technical – especially since this was our first time back on skis since March last year.
Our kids have had both positive and challenging experiences with lessons over the years, so we know as soon as we’re within 20 feet of them after a lesson what it was like. You can just see it in their body language. So as we skied down to greet them following our lessons, I was relieved and delighted to see them (a) still on skis and (b) moving around joyfully and chatting with their instructor (Ethan) while they waited for us to arrive.
I don’t know how he did it, but in ONE HOUR Ethan managed to not only teach both kids to lower and raise the chair lift bars all on their own and give the aforementioned Nervous Nelly kid of ours the confidence to ski only blue runs. Going into our third ski season, this is the first time any instructor has ever convinced him to leave the greens – much less start on the blues.
Needless to say, I’m a big fan of the Titus lessons and strongly encourage anyone to take advantage of excellent instruction during their stay.
I mustn’t forget to mention the tubing situation at Titus. There are two LONG paths that offer kids and adults a bit of an adventure when skiing or boarding is done for the day. But the best part is that you don’t have to hike your tube all the way back to the top (as is usually the case with these tubing parks). Nope; not at Titus.
Here, you simply take your tube over to what I assume was once the original bunny hill’s resident T-bar, hop in and get pulled up.
ACCOMMODATIONS AT TITUS MOUNTAIN
We got to stay in one of four brand-spankin’ new ski-in/out cabins, perched just a stone’s throw from the bunny hill and its kid-friendly lift. At $275 a night, our two-bedroom Sugar Bush cabin was adorable and more than enough space for our family of four. There are both less and more expensive options available – onsite AND in neighbouring communities that are only a short drive away.
And as the very first guests, we also had the privilege of providing some feedback to the owners to help them make future stays for others even more comfortable. For the time being, there are no TVs in the cabins – though I’ve been told there’s a meeting next week about this and there ARE plans for them soon.
If you stay in the slopeside cabins, here are some other things you’ll want to note to prepare for your stay:
- WiFi is free but can be spotty; if you need to work, just head down to the main lodge where it’s strong and reliable. Bonus: they serve Baileys coffee down there and it makes working with mountain views in front of you even more wonderful
- Because of said WiFi and (temporarily) no TV, bring some books and a board game for days when conditions might not be perfect for all-day skiing or snowboarding
- There’s a small bar-sized fridge and a microwave plus cutlery, plates and glassware in the cabins but no cooktop of any kind (nor sharp cutting knives or scissors so far), so be mindful of that if you plan to pick up any groceries en route
- Don’t ski across the parking lot as there is gravel underfoot, not all of which may be covered by enough snow to protect your skis. It’s an easy walk to the ski-out area, don’t worry!
- The two-bedroom cabins have a double bed in each room and a small pull-out sofa in the living room; the one-bedroom cabins have a king-sized bed in the bedroom and a small pullout sofa in the living room
- If you’re generally quite cold at night, be sure to keep the fire on in the living room and the heat on. You may also want to be sure you bring warm PJs for you and your kids. Bring slippers, too, as the floors can be cool even when the rooms are comfortably warm
FOOD AT TITUS MOUNTAIN
On-mountain food is pretty good and reasonably priced. In addition to designated seating areas for those who’ve brought bagged lunches or dinners, you have two options: cafeteria-style in the lower level of the lodge and restaurant-style on the main level.
We tried both throughout our stay. There’s only one choice for breakfast since the restaurant doesn’t open until 11 a.m. each day, so head downstairs and Chico will take good care of you. I gather he’s been running the kitchen at Titus Mountain Family Ski Center’s “Shredding Betty’s Bistro” for years because all of the regulars kept telling me that I absolutely had to include Chico when I wrote about Titus. He’s an institution. And he didn’t disappoint! Chico is exactly what you need to get your day off to a great start, and he makes a mean breakfast sandwich.
Prices downstairs are a bit cheaper than McDonald’s, which – if you’re a regular ski family – you know is often not the case. It can be exorbitantly expensive to eat at mountain-side restaurants, and this is beyond reasonable. (PRO TIP: split a hot chocolate order between two cups for your kids – they’re pretty big and once you add some creamers, more than enough for one sitting.)
We ate at the Moon Valley Grill in the main lodge – which has a roaring fire near one seating section – a few times and tried to have a variety of things. You know, in the name of research. Prices are pretty good overall and much of what we had was enjoyable. Here are some thoughts:
- There’s a kids’ menu, so ask for one if it isn’t offered. We didn’t know this until day two when our server brought them over. We would have saved a lot had we known this on day one
- If you’re ordering soup as a side for your main, be sure you mention that upfront or you’ll be given fries automatically and served a soup for your appetizer – and be charged full price for it
- The poutine is made with shredded mozzarella cheese by default but you can request it be made with cheese curds instead because they do have them to make the fried cheese curds on the menu; just be sure you clarify that you don’t want them breaded and fried IN the poutine. #RookieMistake
Actually, I lie. There is a third option and that’s another cafeteria-style place in the Upper Lodge. We saw it only from the outside, so I can’t tell you much more about it.
If you want to take a break from Shredding Betty’s Diner and Moon Valley Grill, head into Malone proper and visit Mo’s Pub & Grill – a nice change-up from the usual chain restaurants that has decent prices and good eats. We especially enjoyed the Reuben, which came with to-die-for homemade chips!
In a nutshell — we’ll definitely be back.