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Bristol Mountain
Bristol Mountain in autumn 2009
Bristol Mountain in autumn 2009
Location Bristol Mountain, 5662 NY 64
Nearest city Canandaigua, New York 14424
Coordinates 42°44′42″N 77°24′16″W / 42.745°N 77.404444°W / 42.745; -77.404444
Vertical 1,150 feet (350 m)
Top elevation 2,150 feet (660 m)
Base elevation 1,000 feet (300 m)
Skiable area 160 acres (0.65 km2)
Runs 35
Longest run 2 miles (3.2 km)
Lift system 5 chairlifts (two detachable high-speed), one surface lift
Lift capacity 10,200 passengers/hr not including surface lift (1,500 pph)
Terrain parks One advanced and one beginner
Snowfall 130 inches (330 cm)
Snowmaking near 100%
Night skiing near 100%

Bristol Mountain, formally known as Bristol Mountain Winter Resort, is a ski resort located in South Bristol, New York in the Finger Lakes region. It is located 30 miles (48 km) from the center of Rochester, New York, the nearest major city to the resort, and about 10 miles (16 km) from Canandaigua on NY 64.

Bristol Mountain features many trails ranging from easiest (green circle) to difficult (double black diamonds). Bristol Mountain has a vertical rise of 1,200 feet (370 m), claiming to have the highest vertical of any ski resort between the Rocky Mountains and the Adirondacks. Bristol also offers two terrain parks and cross country skiing at the resort's summit. Also at the bottom is a ski shop and rental facility. Bristol Mountain Resort operates Bristol Mountain Aerial Adventures & Zip Line Canopy Tour, Roseland Waterpark, and Roseland Wake Park.

January 2018: Bristol Mountain celebrates as two athletes who grew up in the Bristol Mountain Freestyle Program are named to the 2018 US Olympic Freestyle Team. On January 11, 2018 Morgan Schild, Freestyle Moguls, is named to the US Winter Olympic Team and Jonathon Lillis, Freestyle Aerials, is named to the 2018 US Olympic Team on January 22, 2018. (Source: Team USA and US Ski And Snowboard Team). Both learned their sport early under the direction of Bristol Mountain Freestyle Coach John Kroetz. Schild and Lillis will compete in PyeongChang, South Korea, in the 2018 Winter Olympics, and are part of the Bristol Mountain Super Six which is composed of six US Ski and Snowboard Team members who came out of the Bristol Mountain Freestyle Program.

As of 2010, the resort has two high speed detachable chairlifts. The Comet Express lift was installed for the 1999/2000 season and the Galaxy Express for the 2009/2010 season. Both make a full pass in about four minutes. In the autumn they offer Fall Sky Rides using the Comet Express High Speed Quad chairlift slowed to take 15–20 minutes. Once at the top the riders may stay on and ride, hike down the trails, or reembark at the top. The Bristol Mountain Arial Adventure Park, a high ropes course at the top of the mountain consisting of various climbing obstacles and zip-lines, was added in 2014.


Bristol Mountain was established in 1964 after the land was bought in South Bristol, New York by Fred Sarkis. 50 of 360 acres (1.5 km2) was cleared, the base lodge built for the December 12 opening. Snowmaking capabilities and a new lift was added in 1965. In 1967, then Senator Robert F. Kennedy skied at Bristol. In 1968 Bristol Mountain was the world's largest illuminated ski resort. By the 1970s, Bristol was getting over 100,000 skiers per year and opened seven days a week. They progressively made snowmaking improvements and by 1985 they had 100 percent coverage and guaranteed over 100 days of skiing per season. Water is drawn from retention ponds fed by Mud Creek, a tributary to Ganargua Creek.

In 1969 the rate for skiing was seven dollars, with four dollar nights. Even then they had the longest vertical drop between the Adirondacks and the Rockies. However, back then they only claimed the drop to be 1,000 instead of 1,200 feet. Surprisingly, they were open later then, closing at 10:30 instead of 10:00.

Bristol Mountain base housing
Housing at base of mountain

In 1999, the first modern chairlift was added, the Comet Express high speed detachable lift, which is now the main lift that allows access to nearly all trails.

In 2009–2010, the new high speed detachable chairlift (Galaxy Express High Speed Quad) was added. A new trail, Lower North Star, which ends at the bottom of the Galaxy chairlift was added for the 2010–2011 season. The new lift replaces an older, non-detachable, lift that started halfway up the mountain in the same place. The new trail is 2,600 feet long and 120 feet wide, adding a little over seven acres to the mountain.

For the summer of 2014 Bristol Mountain Aerial Adventures was introduced. It is a three-acre aerial park consisting of 7 challenging courses with nearly 100 tree to tree elements and 10 zip lines, situated within the forest canopy at the summit of the mountain. There is also a dedicated kids course for ages 4–7. This season is from May to November which enables Bristol Mountain to operate as a year-round attraction.

With an abnormally cold and snowy winter that included the Rochester region's coldest month ever (February 2015), the 2014-2015 season saw prosperous snow-sport conditions, with local ski resorts including Bristol Mountain predicting the season to extend through April. With a November 20 opening, the season ended up lasting 139 days.

Winter of 2015-16

Following a banner year, in 2015 Bristol had a very late, limited opening in mid December on the first day of winter (December 21st) after two days of artificial snowmaking. Only one intermediate trail (Sunset) and a single lift were open, only for day skiing and at a discounted price, but had to close by Christmas after a Christmas Eve that saw widely broken temperature records over the entire eastern seaboard (mid 60s to 70 in Upstate New York). November and December set monthly average temperature records in the northeast amid a very powerful El Niño expected to last the entire winter. In Rochester, it was the third warmest November, warmest December, and warmest late autumn on record. On December 29 the Sunset trail reopened after roughly thirty hours of favorable snowmaking weather. The base of the trail was as little as 6 inches (15 cm) with widely variable conditions. Forecasts more favorable to snowmaking wouldn't arrive until the weekend after New Year's. A wider opening with normal pricing didn't take place until January 5, 2016, after some normal and below average weather, meaning that the "2015-2016 season" didn't really begin until 2016.

Nonetheless, Bristol Mountain was one of the earliest resorts in New York to open, and had more trails and a greater percentage open than any resort outside the Adirondacks in mid January; by the end of the month they approached 100% open. As of early February, the winter was one of the mildest ever seen in the Rochester area as far as temperature and snowfall, and nearly all snow and ice-based winter activities were inhibited, with alpine skiing relying heavily on available artificial snowmaking capabilities. By mid February, a total of only about 30 inches of natural snow had fallen in the region, though with the unusual warmth, did not last. The season ended with a very warm March and spring forecast for the northern United States, and set records for both the warmest and least snowiest winter in several locales in the region, including Rochester, Binghamton, and Cortland County. By comparison to many of the state's resorts, Bristol fared better, with a decent base that allowed the majority of trails to remain open until March 9, just 77 days into the season. The season ended the 100th day on April 1, 2016, just days before a late-season snowstorm and cold front the following weekend. 120 million gallons of water was converted into snow during the season. Favorable conditions for snowmaking call for temperatures below 25 and low humidity.

2017 season

Sparse snow, utility work on alpine ski trail
Thin cover and no natural snow between trails in February 2017.

2017 saw another mild winter in western New York, by mid January there was no snow-pack after a rainstorm, followed by a significant thaw with temperatures in the 50s on January 21. Area ski resorts including Bristol had already made enough snow to have nearly all trails open through the warm spell, though with below average base depth and spring conditions. While Bristol only had to cut a few trails after the weekend, well under half of the 50 ski resorts in the state opened for the week of January 23. Bristol opened for the season on December 11, 2016, after snowmaking and the first significant natural snow occurred in late November. Early February saw more mild temperatures and rain that again eliminated the small amount of natural snow in the region. The trend of warmer and more sporadic winters in the 2010s led many ski country resorts to add off-season features such as aerial parks and chairlift rides to move towards being four-season entities. In late February, as parts of the region broke 70 degrees, breaking records for the warmest February temperature ever in some locations, as well as rare mid-winter thunderstorms, a high school Nordic skiing event was moved from Bristol to Gore Mountain due to the poor conditions, while the alpine event remained. In mid March, the area saw a late-season peak with the March 2017 North American blizzard (Stella), which allowed for greatly improved conditions and trails to reopen.

2017-18 season

The 2017-18 season started out well, with an early partial opening featuring one trail by November 11, their earliest opening since 1991, and the earliest in the state for that year. Throughout ski country, the season was good up through early February, with low temperatures and a fair amount of natural snow. However, record warm temperatures in late February, when much of the area again hit 70 degrees F, followed by a record warm February night around 60 degrees, causing them to close about half their trails amid poor conditions. For a second year in a row, a state Nordic skiing event was moved to Gore Mountain amid the bad conditions.

Rural Radio Network

WVBT Rural Radio Network broadcast area map
Bristol Mountain transmitter coverage map, second from left.
Rrn tx site
Bristol Mountain transmitter

The summit of Bristol Mountain has been a broadcasting site for the Rural Radio Network since 1948, before the ski resort was ever formed. The station now known as WAIO signed on June 6, 1948 as WVBT, licensed to Bristol Center, New York and transmitting from Bristol Mountain on 101.9 MHz. It was the next-to-last link in the Rural Radio Network chain of FM stations broadcasting to farmers across upstate New York. WVBT changed call letters to WRRE and changed frequency to 95.1 in the early 1950s.

When the Rural Radio Network became the Ivy Network under new owners in 1960, WRRE became WMIV. It would retain those calls under the network's next identity, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), broadcasting religious programming from studios in Ithaca between 1968 and 1981. WMIV was sold to Empire Broadcasting and in early 1982, it changed format to adult standards and its call letters to WYLF. This station operated from a studio in a converted house on NY 332 in Farmington.

On July 28, 1986, WYLF was sold and became WZSH. On December 26, 1991, WZSH became WRQI, "Rock-It 95," programming a rock format. In 1993, Rock-It 95 added the syndicated Howard Stern Show to its lineup, bringing the station attention and ratings in the larger Rochester market. WRQI made several attempts to improve its main signal on 95.1 as well, briefly moving from its historic Bristol Mountain site to a tower in Farmington owned by Rochester Telephone Company, but was forced to return to Bristol after interference complaints from the tower's neighbors.

On April 21, 1995, WRQI became WNVE, "The Nerve," a modern rock/alternative station. In 2001, WNVE left its Bristol Mountain transmitter site for the last time, changing city of license from South Bristol to Honeoye Falls, New York in a swap with sister station WLCL (107.3), which took the South Bristol city of license and the Bristol Mountain transmitter site. On July 4, 2004, Clear Channel moved WNVE from 95.1 to the lesser Bristol Mountain 107.3 signal. Replacing it on 95.1 was the former 107.3 classic rock format, "The Fox," with new call letters WFXF. The Bristol Mountain station now broadcasts on 107.3 as WNBL, a country music station.


Bristol mountain view from upper lower rocket run
View from halfway up "Rocket Run" main trail
New York State map showing Bristol Mountain location
Bristol Mountain location

While Bristol is often claimed to have had 160 skiable acres, Bristol states that with the addition of the latest trail they are up to 138 skiable acres. Bristol's new detachable chairlift, the Galaxy high speed quad, will only run during peak times such as afternoons and weekends. Bristol Mountain usually has a winter operating season of about four months (December to March), sometimes opening by late November and closing sometime in April. Early and late in the season only a few trails and lifts are open. In 2010, they opened on December 5, but only the Comet Express lift was running and only Rocket Run was open, from noon to four pm.

Trails: 34; 33% Novice; 49% Intermediate; 18% Advanced

Chairlifts (see heading below for additional information):

  • Galaxy Express High-Speed Quad (new for 2009/2010)
  • Comet Express High-Speed Quad
  • Morning Star Quad
  • Rocket Triple
  • Sunset Double

Surface lifts:

  • Lunar Launch Magic Carpet

Vertical: 1,200 feet (370 m)

Summit elevation: 2,200 feet (670 m)

Skiable acres: 160

Average annual snowfall: 120 inches

Night skiing: 96% of the trails have trail lighting

Snowmaking: 97% of terrain has snowmaking capabilities (all trails except Quantum Leap)

Bristol Mountain relies heavily on their snowmaking capabilities during the snow season. During peak times, they use millions of gallons of water per day, megawatts of electricity, and about 20,000 cu ft (570 m3) of compressed air at 90 PSI per minute.


Bristol currently has installed 5 total, including two high speed detachable chairlifts. There is also a surface lift (conveyor lift) to a beginner slope known as Launching Pad which only rises 60 feet.

Galaxy Express High-Speed Quad

Galaxy lift Bristol
Galaxy quad

Installed in 2009, the Galaxy Express is the mountain's newest lift. It is a detachable high speed quad chairlift manufactured by Doppelmayr CTEC and installed at the base of Lower Galaxy on the northern side of the mountain. The lift services intermediate to advanced terrain on the "Galaxy-side" of the mountain. On off-peak days, the lift is often closed due to the low number of skiers and snowboarders on the mountain, especially since the Comet Express lift can provide access to the northern trails. The ride takes a little over four minutes and the lift has a capacity of 2,000 passengers per hour. The ride up takes passengers through the woods beside Lower Galaxy and then over the skiable area of Upper Galaxy. Replaces an older non-detachable lift that started at midpoint of Galaxy.

Comet Express High-Speed Quad

Doppelmayr CTEC nameplate 2006
A Doppelmayr CTEC detachable high-speed quad similar to the Galaxy Express lift installed at Bristol.

Installed at the base of Lower Rocket in 1999, this lift is by far the most popular lift at the mountain. Like the Galaxy Express, it is a detachable high speed quad chairlift, but was manufactured by Garaventa CTEC (now Doppelmayr CTEC). The lift services all terrain at Bristol (ranging from easy to expert) and provides access to most of the trails at Bristol. Transporting passengers at a rate of 2,000 per hour, the ride takes a little over four minutes from base to summit. The ride takes passengers over Outer Orbit (black diamond) and Comet (double-black diamond race trail).

Morning Star Quad

A fixed-grip quad chairlift installed mid-mountain that provides guests access to easy to intermediate trails and a terrain park. The lift was manufactured and installed by Garaventa CTEC in 2000. With a 600-foot vertical rise, the ride takes about eight minutes. The lift carries 2,000 passengers per hour over the Morning Star Trail.

Rocket Triple

A fixed-grip triple chairlift installed at the base of Lower Rocket that provides guests access to intermediate to advanced trails. It was manufactured by CTEC and installed in 1984. It was later on removed in 1999 - then rebuilt and relocated in the summer of 2000. It carries 1,800 passengers per hour on its 12-minute ride from base to summit.

Sunset Double

A fix-gripped double chairlift installed at the base of Sunset that provides guests access to easy to intermediate/advanced terrain (depending on whether Challenger is open or closed). It was refurbished and reinstalled by CTEC in 1992, making it the oldest lift currently operating at Bristol. The lift services 1,200 passengers per hour up 400 feet of vertical rise.

Lunar Launch Magic Carpet

A conveyor-lift installed in 2008 that services the Launching Pad located at the base of the mountain for beginners and learn-to-ski students. The lift carries 1,500 passengers per hour up the 60-foot vertical rise to the top of the Launching Pad.


Aerial view of Bristol Mountain Ski Resort trails
Aerial view of Bristol Mountain in 2008 before Lower North Star and Galaxy Express lift.
Bristol Mountain Winter Resort (4190511581)
A skier jumping in the terrain park

Bristol Mountain Ski Resort has 35 slopes and trails, and terrain parks including a progressive terrain park (Shooting Star) and the Morning Star Terrain Park has been relocated to Galaxy trail. New for the 2014-15 season is Family Cross on Orion's Belt and various Rail Gardens on Galaxy and the midpoint between Rocket and Meteor. New for the 2015-16 season is the addition of Lower Universe trail on the North side of the mountain. The longest trail/run is about two miles and is made up of three trails, starting at Milky Way, then to Eclipse, and Infinity. All three are easy trails; this goes around the backside of the mountain.

The trail names all have to do with space. This is due to the fact that Bristol Mountain first opened in the 1960s, during the space race, and is located a few miles from the CEK Mees Observatory. Additionally, Challenger is a memorial trail dedicated to the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster.

Cross Country Skiing

Bristol also has cross country skiing available at the Summit Nordic Center, consisting of two trails, one of which has snowmaking and lights for night skiing. The Summit Nordic Center is not directly accessible from Bristol Mountain's downhill base lodges; visitors must use the separate entrance by driving up the mountain to South Hill Road off of County Road 32.


On February 16, 2010, a Penfield man died in a snowboarding accident at Bristol Mountain. Forty-eight-year-old Elliott A. Eklund was pronounced dead at Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua at 8:20 after striking a tree on Bristol Mountain's Shooting Star run at about 7:30.

In 2001, a 36-year-old Palmyra man died after skiing into a tree.

On February 16, 1988, 17-year-old David Elliot of Penfield died after being injured in a skiing accident at Bristol Mountain.

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