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New Catskills hotels aim for a design-savvy crowd

Above: A room at the Arnold House. Photo courtesy of the Arnold House. 

For over a century, urbanites have found refuge in the Catskills. But the heyday of the grand Victorian mountain hotels is over, and the era of Borscht Belt resort kitsch is passing away. These days, our downstate neighbors are looking for something a bit more off the beaten path in their country getaways.

A new breed of hotel is cropping up in the hills: small, laid-back escapes that cater to a design-conscious clientele. Emboldened by the success of the Graham & Co., a former Phoenicia roadhouse that re-opened as a chic motel last year, several new hotels have seized on the concept of the Catskills as a hipster's alternative to the Hamptons -- a drum New York Magazine has been beating for nearly a decade.  Read more

Year-round mountains: Ski centers shine in all four seasons

Above: The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Windham Mountain, the only event of its kind in the U.S., draws pro athletes from around the globe. Photo by Karl Anshanslin, an honorable mention in the 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide Photo Contest.

One World Cup mountain biking competition featuring 7,000 riders from 35 countries. Three days of yoga. Car and motorcycle shows, skateboard races. Summer concerts starring Buddy Guy, Gretchen Wilson and the brothers Allman and Avett. A chance to taste more than 300 beers made by 70 New York state brewers, zoom above the trees on a zipline or take your kids geocaching.

Welcome to the Catskills ski region, where resorts whose main attractions involve the fluffy white stuff have increasingly morphed into four-season recreation centers with wildly diverse offerings — both indoors and out.

“You have this huge asset — you can’t just shut your doors and wait for it to snow again,” says Troy Ketcham, the sales and marketing director at Windham Mountain in Greene County. “Every mountain is really a year-round mountain.”

Mother Nature smiled upon the winter sports season in 2013-14, with early cold temperatures and bountiful snowfall. Fans of downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing had little to complain about as the snowpack endured into early April.  Read more

This Weekend: Celebrate National Trails Day

Above: The view from Cross Mountain on a brand-new section of the Long Path Trail, which opens to the public on Saturday, June 7. Photo courtesy of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

For 21 years, the first Saturday in June has been reserved for appreciating the nation’s mountain trails and greenery. This Saturday, June 7, Catskill area parks will observe the 22nd annual National Trails Day by hosting outdoor celebrations — welcoming residents and visitors to participate in hikes, runs and restoration projects, as well as the opening of several brand-new trails.

Below: Volunteers install a sign on the new Palmer Hill Trail in Andes. Photo by Ann Roberti.

Palmer Hill Trail opening, Andes, Delaware County  Read more

Between meals: Catskills-style coffee breaks

Above: Phoenicia’s Mama’s Boy Market serves homemade baked goods and a selection of snacks from local purveyors.

Residents of the Catskills are often people who thrive on privacy and peace, but it’s also important that the commons contain ample opportunities to get off of the farm and out of the woods to socialize. Happily, we’re blessed with a fine selection of coffee shops and casual cafés that showcase coffee curation and offer sweet and savory snacks.

Bread Alone Bakery (breadalone.com, multiple locations) has been doing the bakery-café thing for decades, and has two Catskills shops: the main headquarters on Route 28 in Boiceville, and a satellite café in Woodstock. Flour milled to spec, locally sourced fresh dairy and wood-fired ovens are some of the ingredients in its well-loved recipes.  Read more

Scout's Honor: Earn Catskills Badges

This summer, channel your inner Eagle Scout in the Catskills: Earn one of our outdoor badges by hiking a fire tower or paddling a reservoir. (That’s right, “earn”: Our Catskills badges can’t be bought.)

The 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide is proud to present our 2014 Catskills Badge Program, which features two limited-edition embroidered badges: the brand-new Catskill Reservoir Paddler Badge and the popular Catskill Fire Towers Badge. They’re perfect for sewing onto a sash, a backpack or your favorite pair of Carhartts.

The badge program is simple: Boat a New York City reservoir or hike a fire tower in the Catskills, send us proof of your adventure (see details below), and you get your very own real-deal badge. You can’t buy these beauties in a store; you’ll have to earn them the old-fashioned way. So get out there and show us what you can do.  Read more

Severe thunderstorm watch issued for western Catskills

Above: The National Weather Service in Binghamton warns of an eastward-bound line of thunderstorms moving across the New York-Pennsylvania border.

A severe thunderstorm watch was issued Tuesday afternoon for central New York and the western Catskills region, including Delaware and Sullivan counties. The watch is in effect until 9 p.m.

Hudson Valley Weather writes that the storms in the forecast are the result of an incoming cold front that could send temperatures plunging for the next week or so. 

The Catskills region may be in for some fierce storms this evening, which could bring hail as well as rain. But the approaching thunderstorms aren't likely to top 2013's Memorial Day weekend weather, when snowstorms blanketed the highest peaks of the Catskills in white.

Celebrating the trout

The 25-foot-long Giant Brook Trout, a creation of local artist Bud Wertheim, is a regular at Livingston Manor’s annual Trout Parade. Photo by Tyler Young; courtesy of Manor Ink (manorink.com).

The Catskills region is renowned as the cradle of American dry fly-fishing. It’s the place where, in the 1800s, local anglers first began to alter English flies into shapes and patterns that mimic our own native insects.

Today, the fly-tier’s art thrives in the Catskills. Roscoe, known as “Trout Town, USA,” boasts several excellent fly-fishing shops and many local fishing guides. Phoenicia, where an important angling history collection was gutted by a 2011 fire at the local library, is now home to a digital trove of local fly-fishing lore, with a detailed hatch chart that tracks the dates of local hatches and the flies used to mimic them (catskillanglingcollection.org).

But in the Catskills, it’s not just fly-fishers who revere the trout. The native brook trout and stocked browns and rainbows that run through the cold, clear waters of the Catskills’ many creeks are part of the soul of the community — and when fishing season rolls around, everyone celebrates.  Read more

The winners of the 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide Photo Contest

Each year, we ask readers of the Watershed Post and our Catskills Outdoor Guide to send us their best photos of the Catskills great outdoors. This year, 68 talented photographers from around the Catskills region entered our 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide Photo Contest

Thanks to our contest sponsor, Peekamoose Restaurant & Tap Room in Big Indian, who generously offered a dinner for two to our grand prize winner. 

Grand Prize Winner

"Eagle Landing," taken in Narrowsburg by Harry Rampe (shown above). 

Second Place

"Kids and Kids," taken at the West Branch Creamery in Delaware County by Dave Turan.

Third Place

“Mt. Utsayantha,” taken from the top of the Mt. Utsayantha Fire Tower in Stamford by Christopher Mooney.

Fourth Place

“Big Indian Leaves,” taken in Big Indian by Michael LoBianco.

Editor's Prize

A special Editor’s Prize goes to Susan Sainsbury, whose photo “Canoeing at the Roxbury Swamp” appears on the 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide cover.

Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions go to the following photos, which appear in this year’s print Catskills Outdoor Guide: “World Cup Mountain Bike Races at Windham” by Karl Anshanslin, “Newman’s Ledge on the Escarpment Trail” by Jessica Wilson, “Canoe On The Lake” by Courtney Ross, “Kayak Fishing on the West Branch” by Ryan Brown, “Delaware River, July 2013” by Jody Bryan and “Diane ‘n Fish” by Sonny Somelofski.

This article originally appeared in the print version of the 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide, our annual publication covering recreation in the Catskills great outdoors. The Catskills Outdoor Guide is distributed across the Catskills region and at select locations in the NYC metropolitan area. Find a copy near you here. 

Below: A Flickr slideshow of all of the entries in the 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide Photo Contest.

  Read more

A five-step guide to boating the Catskills reservoirs

Above: The largest of New York City’s reservoirs, the 15-mile-long Pepacton Reservoir in Delaware County supplies almost a quarter of the city’s drinking water. Photo by John Kocijanski of Catskills Photography.

Four of New York City’s six reservoirs in the Catskills — Pepacton, Schoharie, Cannonsville and Neversink — are open to canoes, kayaks, rowboats and small sailboats from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. The reservoirs hold drinking water for roughly 9.4 million people, and New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is pretty vigilant about keeping them clean. So before you get out on the water, you’ll have to jump through a few hoops.

To boat the reservoirs, you must have a free DEP access permit; if you’re planning on boating more than one reservoir, you’ll need a separate access permit for each. You’ll also need a boat that has been steam cleaned by an authorized steam-cleaning vendor. (Steam cleaning helps stop the spread of invasive plants, animals and other organisms that could harm water quality or the ecology of the reservoirs.) And you must use a DEP-designated launch area for putting in and taking out your boat, which can be only a kayak, canoe, rowboat, scull or small sailboat: No gas-powered boats allowed.  Read more

A view of history: Catskills fire towers

Hunter Mountain Fire Tower. Photo by Gordon Hoekstra, chairman of Friends of the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower.

Once upon a time, 23 steel fire towers dotted the high peaks of the Catskills. They were staffed by fire tower observers, who scanned the horizon for smoke and filled their downtime with shimmying up the steep steel struts, taming bears and sharing space with pet snakes. (Those stories and other fire tower tales are collected in the book Fire Towers of the Catskills by Martin Podskoch, published by Purple Mountain Press.)

The job of the fire spotter vanished decades ago, and the towers fell into disrepair. But between 1997 and 2000, thanks to the efforts of Catskill Fire Tower Project volunteers, five of the original fire towers of the Catskill Park were renovated and opened to the public.

They are:

Balsam Lake Mountain in Hardenburgh
(3,723 feet)

Red Hill in Denning
(2,990 feet)  Read more