Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Adirondack Ski Resorts: What To Expect Around The Region

Downhill skiing and riding in the Adirondacks could begin as early as November 27 at both Whiteface and Gore mountains, if freezing conditions allow for making snow this month. But the biggest news in snow sports this winter is the return of two long dormant ski areas (reported here at the Almanack last month), Hickory Ski Center and Big Tupper.

Hickory Ski Center, a 1,200-foot resort for expert skiers outside Warrensburg, will reopen this winter for the first time in four years. The legendary Adirondack slope has only a dozen trails, mostly black diamond, and a T-bar and two Poma lifts (famous for breaking down regularly). But the sixty-year-old resort is beloved by hundreds of hard-core skiers. Last year, William Van Pelt, a Saratoga native who now lives in Houston, decided to invest in the property. He’s added some snowmaking and plans to add grooming. Visitors can expect the usual old-fashioned atmosphere of a tiny resort, combined with a few nods to the 21st Century – such as WiFi in the homey base lodge, and a $45 lift ticket.

Meanwhile, in Tupper Lake efforts are under way to open the long-dormant Big Tupper Ski Area. The resort, with about 30 trails and more than a thousand feet of vertical, closed around a decade ago. More recently, developers included the resort in the massive Adirondack Club and Resort, a plan for 600 high-end vacation homes and a hotel. But with the controversial project held up in the permitting process, some locals under the name ARISE, or Area Residents Intent on Saving their Economy, pushed to open at least part of the ski resort on their own this year. According to the web site, lift tickets will be a mind-blowing $15, although that’s subject to change. Plans are to open the resort Dec. 26 on Friday-Sunday as natural snow permits.

Further to the south, McCauley Mountain in Old Forge plans to open on December 12th and another troubled ski resort, Oak Mountain in Speculator, will open the day after Christmas (though tubing begins a month earlier). Oak Mountain, run by the Germain family for five decades, was taken over by the village three years ago. Now owned by the local Industrial Development Agency, the resort is staffed mostly by volunteers. The IDA still hopes to sell it to a private operator – asking price two years ago was $2.4 million. It’s a terrible market now, admits Mayor Neil McGovern. “But a tremendous value.”

Adirondack Ski Resort Details:

Gore Mountain, North Creek
Phone: 518-251-2411
Cost for adult: $71 weekend/$64 weekday
Vertical drop: 2,300 feet
Trails: 82

Best deal: Coke Wednesdays ($38 lift ticket with a can).

What’s new: Gore’s Burnt Ridge opened last year to mixed reviews (their chairlift can be awfully windy and the base lodge access trail is rather flat and tough for snowboarders) — but new terrain is always welcome. This year, the mountain has expanded its Cirque Glade trail and will be running a shuttle bus from the North Creek Ski Bowl to the resort (which means adventurous skiers can ski from the Gore summit all the way down to the bowl, and then catch a ride back). It’s a prequel to an interconnect between the two areas that should be open next winter, and which will vastly increase Gore’s vertical drop.

“Whiteface Mountain”, Wilmington
Phone: (877) SKI-FACE
Cost: $74/ $74 ($79 on holidays)
Vertical drop: 3,200 feet
Trails: 80

Best deal: Same as Gore, plus $35 Sundays on Dec. 13, Jan. 10, Feb. 7, March 14 and April 4.

What’s new: Lookout Mountain, open for the second year this winter, will have a new glades area. Look for the National Alpine Championships, here for the first time sine 2003, from March 20 to 23, with men’s and women’s slalom, giant slalom and super G competition.

McCauley Mountain, Old Forge
Phone: (315) 369-3225
Vertical drop: 633 feet (count ‘em)
Trails: 21

Best deal: $8 lift tickets on Friday, except holiday periods.

Oak Mountain, Speculator
Phone: 518-548-3606
Cost: $28
Vertical drop: 600 feet
Trails: about a dozen

Best deal: what, $28 for a lift ticket isn’t good enough?

What’s new: they’re still open.

Hickory Ski Area, Warrensburg
Phone: 518-623-5754
Cost: $45 (open weekends only)
Vertical drop: 1,200
Trails: A dozen, nearly all hard

Best deal: If it snows on a weekday, you’ve got fresh powder on Saturday.

What’s new: Open again after four years!

Big Tupper Ski Area, Tupper Lake
Cost: $15!!
Vertical drop: 700 feet will be available this year
Trails: 30, but not all of the mountain will be skiable this year

Best deal: at $15 per ticket (or $400 for a season pass for the whole family) this could be the cheapest ski deal in the Northeast.

What’s new: Open again after a decade, albeit with only one lift. Wish them luck.

Royal Mountain, Caroga Lake
Phone: 518-835-6445
Cost: $350/season, $35/day
Vertical drop: 500 feet
Trails: 13 served by three lifts, including expert-only glades

What’s new: Three-year, $400,000 upgrade of snowmaking and grooming is now complete.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Almanack Welcomes New Contributor Alan Wechsler

I’m pleased to announce the addition of Alan Wechsler to the Adirondack Almanack. Alan will be covering the outdoor recreation beat and his regular posts will run on Wednesdays at noon. Alan has been coming to the Adirondacks since his uncle took him on his first backpacking trip—with wet snow, followed by temperatures down to zero degrees—at age 15. He says he still hasn’t learned his lesson.

Today, his frequent adventures into the park include mountain-biking, skiing (cross-country and downhill), hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and climbing (both rock and ice). A long-time newspaper reporter and avid outdoor photographer, he also writes for a number of regional and national magazines about the outdoors and other issues. Alan’s recent piece for Adirondack Life, Ski to Die, is an International Regional Magazine Association first-place feature-writing winner.

Got an Adirondack outdoor recreation story idea? Contact him at alwechs at juno dot com.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Gearing Up: Snowshoe Season is Almost Here

Winter is nearly upon the Adirondacks and it’s time to blow the dust off your cold-weather gear including your snowshoes. Snowshoeing has increased in popularity and practicality in stride with technology. Gone are the days when the only choice was hand woven wood frame shoes. The framing, decking, cleats (crampons) and bindings are now made with high tech materials specialized for various conditions and preferences.

The first question becomes one of purpose. What environment will they be used for? Deep powder snow and packed trails are drastically different underfoot. Designs with increased length and width increase surface area and offer more stability and flotation in unpacked conditions. They are a bit less maneuverable, however, it tighter areas. They can also be used on packed trails in many instances. More compact models save weight and increase maneuverability when snow depth is minimal.

Specialized conditions sometimes require specialized shoes. Ascending to higher elevations via steep grades may require traverse through changing conditions: packed trail, unbroken powder, steep inclines with ice flows, summits with mixed conditions where, perhaps, crampons would be most valuable. Most models offer some crampons with varying degrees of aggressiveness for traction. MSR, for instance, offers a very specialized and maneuverable line of shoes that include aggressive crampons, metal “teeth” either around the circumference or in rows, a heel elevator to alleviate leg fatigue on inclines and an optional flotation tail to increase length and thus versatility across terrain.

No matter the environment, it’s also important to know which shoes perform best for your personal traits as well. Manufacturers usually have a weight chart to help choose between models or sizes of a particular model. Forums and product review sites can offer guidance on the positive and negative aspects of each.

As an aside, please remember that in the High Peaks Wilderness area, you “must possess and use skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered with eight or more inches of snow”. This helps reduce preventable rescues and protects both the wearer and other hikers alike.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Top Mountains of Initial Ascent for Adirondack Forty Sixers

As many know, Adirondack Forty-Sixers, or just Forty-Sixers, are people who have climbed the 46 mountains of New York State traditionally considered to be at least 4,000’ in elevation. Membership numbers took nearly a half century to grow from the club’s first recorded member on June 10, 1925 to 1,000 in 1974. Since then, numbers have increased dramatically to 6,385, according to the Forty-Sixer website’s last roster update. Perhaps you too have contemplated exploring the peaks but don’t know where to begin. A good guidebook and some research help, but footprints from the past may also serve as a guide.

Numbers based on the membership roster yielded the four most popular peaks for first ascent:

1. 1,370 or 21.5% people began with Marcy.
2. 1,097 or 17.2% began with Cascade.
3. 593 or 9.2% began with Algonquin.
4. 588 also about 9.2% began with Giant.

Cascade is the most conservative choice for those unsure about their performance over an extended distance. It’s still a challenge with a five-mile round trip covering 2,000’ elevation gain. Porter Mtn. sits alongside and can be added to the day for a minimum of effort. Giant is a rugged and unrelenting round trip of a bit over five miles from Chapel Pond. Elevation gain is over 3,000’ vertical. A side venture to Rocky Peak Ridge can add another high peak to the day, but costs a good bit more in effort. Algonquin jumps to an eight-mile roundtrip over about 2,400’ in ascent. A side spur ascent up Wright or trek over Boundary to Iroquois can make the Algonquin trip either a double or triple header high peak day with multiple choices for descent. Marcy weighs in at about fifteen miles in total with over 3,100’ vertical. Various other destinations can be added if you’re particularly fit and up for the challenge.

All four choices boast open summits with stunning 360 degree views. Marcy is 5,344’ in elevation and overlooks a large percentage of the high peaks being the highest and nearly centered in the grouping. Cascade climbs to 4,098’ with views of Whiteface to the north and most of the peaks from the McIntyre Range over to Big Slide. Algonquin is the second Highest Peak at 5,114’ and is placed a bit to the west. It offers views of numerous mountains including the remote Wallface, Marshall and Iroquois as well as a breathtaking view of Mt. Colden’s incredible slide array down to Avalanche Lake. Giant is aptly named at 4,627’ and delivers views spanning from Lake Champlain and beyond as well as the Dix Range to the east. Each peak is equally rewarding.

So, in deciding how to begin, it’s nice to reflect upon past statistics as well as current sources. Once you’ve wet your feet on Adirondack trails, perhaps you’ll have a taste for more explorations and even more difficult challenges. Stay “tuned” for more on the High Peaks, including one of several ways to accumulate over 10,000 vertical feet in a day hike.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report (Fall 2009)

These DEC Forest Ranger reports are to good to pass up. They are a slice of the Adirondack experience that is almost never reported, and since the last one was so popular, we offer you the October 21st report in its entirety:

Essex County

Town of Keene, High Peaks Wilderness Area

On Wednesday, September 30, at approximately 7:28 PM, DEC Dispatch received a call reporting an overdue hiker from Mount Marcy, Table Top and Phelps Mtn. James Cipparrone, 29, of Berlin, NJ, was last seen at approximately 4:15 pm Monday, September 28, departing the lean-to at ADK Loj to camp in the interior. Last known contact with Mr. Cipparone was on Tuesday, September 29, in a phone conversation with his father he stated that he was on top of the mountain, but eight miles from his group. Based on the description of the gear the he was carrying, it was decided that he could spend one more night out. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two Adirondack Almanack Debates You May Be Missing

We often have some outstanding discussions here at Adirondack Almanack, debates that carry on long after the story has left the main page. I thought I’d take a moment to point readers to two active and interesting debates that have recently slipped off the main page.

The first involves Mary Thill’ s October 8 post “Posted Signs Do’s And Don’ts” which has 21 insightful comments on navigation law, trespass, private property and paddlers.

A second post also generating a lot of discussion is the recent announcement I made about a planned North Creek to Tahawus Rail Trail on October 14. There you’ll find nearly a dozen comments on the subject of abandoned railway easements and the Forest Preserve. Both discussion are enlightening—take a moment to check them out.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Upper Hudson Rail Trail Planned: North Creek to Tahawus

There is a movement afoot to transform the northern end of the Upper Hudson Railroad into a multi-use trail. Although the project has only just begun, Friends of the Upper Hudson Rail Trail have met twice so far in the North Creek area and according to organizers indications are good the new trail will become a reality. The entire route, from the North Creek Railroad Station to the Open Space Institute’s 10,000 acre Tahawus Tract is owned by NL Industries (National Lead, the former operators of the mine at Tahawus), who have been reported for several years to be eager to dispose of the property and salvage the rails. Access points are owned by Warren County, Barton Mines, and the Open Space Institute.

The route would be 29 miles long in three counties (Warren, Hamilton, and Essex) beginning along the Hudson to a bridge just below the gorge, then along the Boreas River, Vanderwalker Brook, and Stillwater Brook before rejoining the Hudson River near Route 28N in Newcomb and finally crossing the Opalescent River and into the mine area. Riders could continue past the restored iron furnace along the Upper Works Road to end at the Upper Works, a southern trailhead to the High Peaks and Mount Marcy. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Longest Adirondack Rivers

How many times have we seen the Adirondack mountains ranked by height, the tallest 46 separated into a revered category of their own?

There’s a club and way of life dedicated to hiking the 46, and a Lake Placid restaurant offers 46 different sandwiches named for the peaks.

For a change, today we list the largest streams in the Adirondack region.* » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Local High Peaks Access Point: The Garden

The “Garden” in Keene Valley is one of the more popular access points to the High Peaks region. Turn west from Route 73 onto Adirondack Street which turns into Johns Brook Lane. The parking lot with a capacity of around three dozen cars (including a centerline of vehicles) is located about two miles from Route 73 at the end of Interbrook Way. A modest parking fee of $5.00/day helps to maintain winter plowing, upkeep and pay the weekend attendants. A seasonal shuttle to and from the southwest corner of Marcy Field, with the last run of this season slated for October 18th, helps with overflow. Further details regarding parking/shuttle rates can be viewed via this link.

The Garden’s popularity is perhaps owed to its proximity to a multitude of High Peaks including those of the Great Range. Johns Brook Lodge sits three and one half miles southwest and can be directly accessed via either the Southside trail or the Northside Trail, both of which parallel Johns Brook. While the grandeur of the peaks tempts many, simple explorations of the immediate area can be equally fulfill whether just a brief walk, snowshoe or ski through a hardwood forest or exploration of Johns Brook itself. The easiest access to the brook is from the Southside trail which deviates south (left) from the Northside Trail one half mile from the parking lot.

For all its familiarity to the hiking community, the origin of the Garden’s name is often a mystery since the parking lot appears to be a far cry from a garden. Its origin is, however, as simple as it sounds. It was derived from a vegetable garden maintained at the site of what is now the parking lot in and about the year 1915, according to the Spring 1971 issue of the Forty-Sixer newsletter. The few hikers that passed through the area at that time used the vegetable garden as a reference point and the name remains today.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Remote and Difficult Adirondack Paddle Trips

The Adirondacks have a number of remote, difficult trips suitable for either long, single-day trips or for multi-day trips. One notable trip is the Cold River, starting at Tahawus and on to Duck Hole, paddling the entire length of river down to the Raquette, and then either upstream to Long Lake or down to Axton’s Landing.

Another involves a paddle down the upper East Branch of the Oswegatchie to Inlet starting from the Lower Dam on the Bog River, up Lows Lake , and over to the Oswegatchie via Big Deer Pond. (I know of one party that got to the upper East Branch from Stillwater Reservoir and then north via Salmon, Witchhopple, and Clear Lakes.) » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Volunteers Needed for Adirondack Fall Trails Day

Adirondack outdoor recreation enthusiasts will have an opportunity to give back to the region’s trail system on Saturday, Oct. 17, when the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) Trails Program holds its 17th Annual Fall Trails Day in the High Peaks Region. Participants can stay at the ADK’s Wilderness Campground for free both Friday and Saturday nights; Saturday begins with a basic breakfast at the High Peaks Information Center near the Adirondak Loj (volunteers should pack a lunch). A list of trail projects is available at www.adk.org/trails/Fall_Trails_Day_List.aspx.

According to the ADK announcement of this year’s Fall Trails Day “volunteers, working with trained leaders, will use hand tools to clean drainage, trim overgrown sections of trail and remove downed trees. This maintenance work will help prepare the trails and their existing erosion-control structures for spring. Once debris is cleared from drainage ditches, the trails will be better suited to withstand rainwater and spring snowmelt runoff.” All maintenance work is done in cooperation with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

For more information or to register, contact the ADK Trails Program at (518) 523-3441.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Paddler and Author Don Morris Joins Adirondack Almanack

Adirondack Almanack is pleased to announce that Don Morris is joining the site as paddling contributor. Don’s posts on all things canoeing and kayaking will run monthly, beginning tomorrow.

Don is co-author of Adirondack Canoe Waters, North Flow, the classic canoeing and kayaking guide and just a great book, period. “Don is an experienced kayaker at home in technical waters beyond the skill of the original writer,” Paul Jamieson (the book’s selfsame original writer) wrote in 1994 as he announced the transition in authorship. Jamieson died in 2006 at age 103. Don has added whitewater routes as well as detail about technical runs to the book. But he says he spends just as much time on flatwater in the Adirondacks and on his travels outside the region.

Photograph: Don Morris and friends paddle Ausable Chasm


Monday, October 5, 2009

Internet Resources for Backcountry Navigation

Navigation through the Adirondack backcountry can be difficult. Out of the way rivers, streams, geologic features, ponds and even mountains are not always accessible by paths or readily described in books. The internet provides a number of valuable visual resources that help take some of the guesswork out of locating and navigating to a remote location. Some of the most helpful sites include ortho-imagery (aerial photographs digitally adjusted for topography, camera tilt and other details), latitude/longitude specifics, compass orientation and 3-D modules.

Flash Earth displays the latitude and longitude in relation to an on-screen crosshair. These details can be input into a GPS to further narrow the margin of error. Several satellite aerial photograph choices with scaling allow an in-depth study of the earth’s features. A compass in the upper right of the screen provides accurate orientation as well as map rotation if desired.

Terra Server USA adds a topographic map to the mix, but narrows the aerial photo choices to one source. Latitude and longitude information is displayed and can be used to display a general location. The lack of a cross-hair or other relative on-screen marker makes it a bit more difficult to tell what section part on the map corresponds to the latitude/longitude.

Virtual Earth uses either a “road” view or an “aerial” view with several powerful features. Latitude, longitude and altitude correspond to the cursor’s location on the image and work in both the two and three dimensional modes. The 3-D module allows the user to truly study the area’s topography by using the zoom, tilt, rotate, pan and altitude functions. A special “Bird’s Eye” view overlays photographs (where available) of specific areas.

State Lands Interactive Mapper or SLIM is located on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s site. Map details are manipulated by about twenty different layer options that can either be added or removed from the map via the map contents pane. Layer choices include trails for mountain bikes, hiking, snowmobiles, horses and cross country skiing. Waterways, roads and areas accessible by persons with disabilities may also be selected. Several boundaries including state land boundaries help the back country explorer avoid private lands. Ortho-imagery or topographical maps may be chosen as well.


Monday, October 5, 2009

A New Hiking Guide for Adirondack Dog Lovers

There are many good reasons to pick up a copy of Dog Hikes in the Adirondacks: 20 Trails to Enjoy with Your Best Friend, a useful and big-hearted little book from Westport’s Shaggy Dog Press: Authors who know the territory offer their favorite places to hike with pets. The book’s editors, Annie Stoltie and Elisabeth Ward, provide tips on introducing young dogs to the trail, rules and courtesies, and veterinary care. Finally, proceeds from the sale of the book benefit animal shelters and humane organizations throughout the Adirondack Park.

“The Adirondack Park remains uncrowded by the grace of location,” the book’s introduction says. “The pet population may well rival that of humans, which helps to explain the number of animal shelters in the park’s 11 counties. As in any predominantly rural setting, these shelters are overfilled and struggling to save abandoned cats and dogs, to educate on proper care of pets, to teach the importance of spay and neuter programs. Often these shelters have to rely on the kindness of the strangers who visit the Adirondacks for their outdoor experiences.”

Cats are an especially big challenge for Adirondack shelters, as Annie Stoltie explains in this Adirondack Life article. The link also provides addresses and contact information for Adirondack humane organizations.

North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann aired a charming on-trail interview with the book’s publisher, Libby Treadwell, last week.

The soft-cover book is 64 pages. To order send $12.95 per copy (price includes tax and postage) to: Shaggy Dog Press | PO Box 318 | Westport, NY 12993. Donations also sent to that address will be forwarded to shelters. North Country Books is distributing the book, so check your local bookstores as well.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

September DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report (Sept 2009)

For the interest of Almanack readers, we present the September DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report in its entirety:

Clinton County
Town of Black Brook, Taylor Pond Wild Forest
On Saturday, September 19, at approximately 2:05 PM, DEC Dispatch received a call from State Police in Plattsburgh, reporting a group of 3 young girls, ages 9, & 10, missing from the DEC Taylor Pond Campground. The girls were last seen at 11:30 AM heading to an outhouse. The girls’ parents searched for 2 hours before reporting them missing. Five DEC Forest Rangers responded, along with the State Police Aviation Unit helicopter. A forest ranger aboard the helicopter spotted the missing group approximately 3 miles from the campground. Another forest ranger searching in the area made contact with the children and safely escorted them out of the woods by 5:15 PM. » Continue Reading.


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