This summer Gore Mountain, in North Creek, N.Y. will replace its 30-year-old Adirondack Express with a new high-speed detachable quad. The new lift is expected to offer guests a smoother, faster, and more reliable ride out of Gore’s primary base area. The plan includes a new unloading zone near the mid-mountain Saddle Lodge which will be lowered and restructured for easier access to the slopes.
According to the Olympic Regional Development Authority, which manages Gore Mountain, the new Adirondack Express will have a capacity of 2,400 people per hour, 300 more than previously. The lift is expected to operate 38% faster than its predecessor, and to have eight fewer towers and padded chairs for a smoother ride. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Summer Playhouse puts a unique twist on the musical “Cabaret” in three performances this weekend on Gore Mountain. The production, which runs July 11-13, takes place in a modern “Spiegeltent,” an Austrian mirrored circus tent, offering classic German beer and goodies such as knödel, bratwurst, sauerkraut, sausages and pretzels.
“Cabaret” is set in Berlin in 1931, as the Nazis are rising to power. It focuses on nightlife at the seedy Kit Kat Klub and revolves around the 19-year-old English cabaret performer Sally Bowles and her relationship with the young American writer Cliff Bradshaw. Overseeing the action is the master of ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub. “Cabaret,” which made its Broadway debut in 1966, won eight Tony Awards; a Broadway revival in 1998 won four Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards. The show was adapted into a film in 1972 starring Liza Minelli. » Continue Reading.
It’s happened again. The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has eliminated a permit condition for advance studies to assure no harm comes to sensitive wildlife from new development on four mountain summits.
The entire project – a new Emergency Communication system for Essex County – could have still gone forward and been completed by next winter according to New York State Police – even with the permit condition in place. It’s remarkable how little pressure is required to cause APA to abandon its statutory purpose to protect delicate biological and physical resources of the Adirondack Park. » Continue Reading.
State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli says his office will launch a full financial audit of the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) after a report by his office found that financial issues persist at a time when its operations have been expanded to include the Catskills-based Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.
“ORDA’s venues have long been an essential part of the North Country economy, which heightens the need to ensure its stability and accountability to the public,” DiNapoli said in a statement issued to the press. “We will examine selected financial management practices related to payroll, procurement and other areas.”
DiNapoli’s “By the Numbers” ORDA report, released today, details operational losses and a reliance on a line of credit from a private bank, among other sources, to meet its spending needs. » Continue Reading.
New skis for Christmas? If so, your timing is about perfect. Snow conditions at Adirondack ski areas are arguably the best we’ve seen so far this season, and trail counts have been steadily expanding. If the storm that is predicted to drop a foot of snow region-wide tonight and tomorrow delivers as promised, ski conditions will be ideal.
We skied Sunday and Monday at Gore, where roughly 30% of the mountain’s trails were open. Snowmaking crews were at work getting more expert trails ready to come online. A very dense natural snow base on the unopened trails and in the glades means that trail counts could expand significantly with some natural snow. Recent reports from Whiteface show similar conditions there. » Continue Reading.
It may be hard to believe that we’re a month into the ski season, but Whiteface kicked things off on November 17 with its earliest opening in nearly 10 years. Following rain and warm temperatures last week, snowmaking and grooming crews have been able get trails resurfaced quickly, and skiers heading to the slopes this weekend should see some of the best conditions of the season so far. I skied at Whiteface on Wednesday (you can read my report here), and was amazed at how good the skiing was just 36 hours after last Monday’s rain. Other skiers that I’ve spoken with report similar current conditions at Gore. » Continue Reading.
Maybe it’s pent-up demand following last year’s lackluster ski season, but skiers seem more excited than usual about the approaching ski season. Adirondack ski areas are eagerly anticipating a bounce back from last winter’s disappointing snowfall too, and have been busy with upgrades and improvements all summer.
Snow this weekend meant some tentative trips down the Whiteface Memorial Highway, and cold temperatures last night have kicked-off snowmaking at Gore and Whiteface. » Continue Reading.
Gore Mountain is introducing new activities and installing several new attractions for visitors this spring, with a Grand Opening slated for Saturday, July 7. Several amenities have become available during June weekends, including “The Rumor Climbing Wall,” the “Wild Air Bungee Trampoline,” disc golf, and daily hiking excursions.
Other attractions coming soon include a huge inflatable obstacle course, base area and Bear Mountain interpretive walks, several educational opportunities featuring cooking classes, yoga retreats, photography camps, and jewelry workshops, and Friday evening Happy Hours. The Northwoods Gondola Skyrides and downhill mountain biking will also be open. » Continue Reading.
It’s official. The 2011-12 ski season was the worst in 20 years. That’s according to the National Ski Areas Association’s (NSAA) preliminary end-of-season survey released last week. Nationwide, skier visits were down by more than 15%, to their lowest levels since the 1991-92 ski season. The season was characterized by low snowfall and mild winter weather across nearly the entire U.S.
All this comes as no surprise to skiers or anyone who enjoys winter outdoor recreation in the Adirondacks. Natural snowfall was sparse, and a lack of cold temperatures hampered snowmaking operations all season long. By the end of March, every ski area in New York State had closed for the season, casualties of the month’s record-setting warmth. Jon Lundin, Public Relations Coordinator for the Olympic Region Development Authority (ORDA), which operates the Gore and Whiteface Mountain ski centers, estimates a 14% decrease in visitation across all of ORDA’s venues for the 2011-12 season. » Continue Reading.
It’s no secret that it’s been a difficult start to the ski season. Besides a notable lack of snowfall, the cold temperatures that ski areas need for snowmaking operations have so far been hard to come by.
I started my ski season on Thanksgiving weekend, when both Gore and Whiteface opened for the 2011-2012 season, and I’ve now got several days at both mountains under my belt. Although trail choices have been limited (both mountains are about 20% open as of this writing), conditions have been surprisingly good, thanks to efficient snowmaking plants and modern grooming equipment. You can check out my most recent visits to Gore and Whiteface here and here. » Continue Reading.
A plan to spend $100,000 to fund free ice skating in the City of Albany is drawing the ire of a local Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) workers who have been without a contract for nearly three years.
“CSEA workers at Gore, Whiteface, and the other Olympic facilities have spent the last three years without a contract making wages commensurate to the working poor,” says a mailing that arrived in local mailboxes this week from the Civil Service Employees’ Association (CSEA), the union that represents ORDA workers. “As they struggle to support their families here in the North Country the ORDA CEO Ted Blazer is spending $100,000 for an ice skating rink in the City of Albany!” » Continue Reading.
The Black Mountain Lodge is a motel, restaurant and bar located just minutes from Gore Mountain on Route 8 in Johnsburg and just around the corner from Peaceful Valley Road. The restaurant and tavern are located in the center of the strip of motel rooms, with plenty of parking. Built in 1953, the unassuming chalet exterior reflects that history, but the warm Adirondack lodge style of the restaurant and bar reflect recent updates. Kip MacDonald has owned the Black Mountain Lodge for the last six years and can be credited with the tasteful improvements.
Tiffany style lights and sconces add an air of sophistication and the heavy weave of the textured moose-themed curtains enhance the Adirondack flavor. Three-quarter pine paneled walls are accented by painted upper walls in a muted persimmon shade. An upended canoe suspended above the bar serves as overhead glassware storage. The stone fireplace, centered between the restaurant and bar, adds warmth to all patrons. Rustic pub tables provide seating beyond the dozen barstools at the bar. The angular, C-shaped bar is made from a pine slab with rough bark edges and occupies the back end of the restaurant. A deck off the back of the bar offers outdoor seating for up to 12 people in the summer season. A collection of 50 or so caps adorns the wall and ceiling near the bar. The story goes that one person tacked their cap on the ceiling and it just snowballed. Not to be excluded, we left a Happy Hour in the High Peaks hat for the collection. Tasteful outdoor-themed signs and beer advertising adorn the walls, accented by a display of antique woodworking tools.
The Black Mountain Lodge is a favorite among winter skiers and spring and summer rafters. A seasonal homeowner we interviewed describes it as reasonably priced, good food and family friendly, but did note that the bar and restaurant can get very busy during ski season. No official happy hour is offered, but some drink specials are available throughout the year. A selection of flavored vodkas inspired Pam to try something new suggested by the bartender, Sarah. A few draft brews are normally available, though the taps weren’t working at the time of our visit. Kim was disappointed, but chose something from the long list of the reasonably priced domestic bottled beers. The restaurant menu includes sandwiches, burgers, seafood and home-cooked favorites like chicken pot pie and meatloaf and, for the more sophisticated, duck and prime rib.
Live entertainment on a small solo or duet scale is occasionally provided. The Black Mountain Lodge is closed for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but otherwise is open 7 days a week year-round, serving dinner from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. If you’re staying in the area, the motel boasts 25 no-frills, clean, comfortable rooms at a fair price.
Well known by Gore Mountain skiers, the Black Mountain Lodge almost escaped us. We’re glad it was recommended to us. With friendly, welcoming patrons and staff, it is an Adirondack venue worth a visit any time of year.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.
In a recent editorial, the Glens Falls Post-Star stated “it’s time for officials to re-think the financial and ownership model” underlying the New York State-owned winter sports facilities managed by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), including the Gore and Whiteface Mountain ski centers.
The Post-Star argues that declining taxpayer support for these facilities (the state currently contributes $4.6 million dollars to ORDA’s $30 million annual budget, down from a $7 million contribution in 2008-09), jeopardizes their future viability. “For the sake of the Adirondack economy and for the towns and counties that thrive on the successful operation of these venues” the Post Star’s editorial staff suggests “a different approach is needed.” » Continue Reading.
The first few snowflakes of the year have already dusted the highest peaks of the Adirondacks, and skiers and riders are looking forward to opening day. Here’s a preview of what’s in store for this winter at downhill ski centers in the Adirondack region.
At Gore Mountain, 130 new high-efficiency tower guns will provide a major improvement in the mountain’s snowmaking capabilities. The new guns will be installed on trails that constitute some of the mountain’s most popular intermediate terrain including Sunway, Wild Air, Sleighride and Quicksilver. The new guns will also be installed on Sagamore, the expert trail which forms the core of Gore’s Burnt Ridge terrain pod that opened in 2008. Emily Stanton, Gore’s marketing manager explained the significance of the new guns: “It’s huge. Not only will the new guns allow us to better utilize our pumping capacity to make more snow, they will allow us to devote snowmaking resources to other parts of the mountain more quickly. It’s the biggest upgrade to our snowmaking plant since we tapped the Hudson in 1996.”
There will be expanded glade terrain at Gore this winter as well, with two new black diamond glades at the Ski Bowl and an extension of the intermediate Chatterbox glade. The entire Ski Bowl terrain pod and the Chatterbox glade were themselves new last year. The new glades at the Ski Bowl will provide a by-pass to the headwall section of 46er, the expert trail that follows the line of the Hudson Chair. That headwall section of 46er was unskiable last year due to unfinished trail grading and a lack of snowmaking, and unfortunately it will likely remain unskiable this year. Stanton explained “with all the other work that’s been going on, we just weren’t able to get to 46er this year.”
Gore’s base lodge will see a complete renovation of the Tannery Pub, a new outdoor grille, and a new lower level patio. The grooming fleet has also been upgraded with the purchase of a new groomer at the end of last season.
And last, Stanton mentioned excitement over the Saratoga North Creek Railroad’s ski trains this winter. “The train isn’t just transportation, it’s an experience. They’ve really done a first class job. Ski packages for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, late December through late March, are already set up on the railroad’s website. It’s is a wonderful marketing opportunity for us, and a year-round asset for North Creek too.”
At Whiteface, General Manager Bruce McCulley and ORDA Public Relations Coordinator Jon Lundin gave an overview of what they’ve been working on during the summer months. In the lodge, the rental shop and retail store will be extensively re-modeled, as will the kitchen for the J. Lohr café. The rental shop will also be outfitted with new “rockered” Rossignol skis. Rockered skis are a recent ski design trend that allows for easier turn initiation, a plus for beginners.
A new winchcat groomer has been added to the fleet, terrain in the Sugar Valley Glades has been expanded, and four new high-efficiency automated fan guns have been added to the snowmaking plant. The fan guns are considered state-of-the-art in terms of their automation, consistency, and ability to make snow in marginal conditions over a large area.
Last year, Whiteface was plagued by a number of lift malfunctions, and the Little Whiteface double chair was taken off-line in late February for the remainder of the season. That lift has been extensively renovated this summer, including new towers from mid-station up. McCulley elaborated: “That lift had an awful lot of hours on it. Some of the towers were as old as 1958, others went back to the 70s. We’ve gone through the entire mechanism, overhauling or replacing just about every component. Functionally it’s the same lift, but the mechanism is essentially new.” The Little Whiteface double serves a key role as an alternate for when the gondola is on wind-hold, and as an option for skiers who wish to access upper mountain terrain without returning all the way to base to ride the gondola.
Whiteface had one of its most successful seasons ever last year, as measured by skier visits and revenue. “It was a perfect storm” said ORDA’s Lundin. “We had a favorable Canadian exchange rate, and all it did from Christmas until spring was snow.” Marketing efforts helped as well, with programs like the Whiteface Road Warriors and recognition as the East’s #1 ski resort (Ski Magazine, December 2010). Lundin is clearly excited for this winter: “We’re looking to ride the wave of last year’s snow and follow up with another blow-out year.”
Not every skier is looking for the big mountain experience – and price tag – offered by Gore and Whiteface. Mount Pisgah in Saranac Lake and McCauley Mountain in Old Forge are excellent small-to-medium sized alternatives. At Mount Pisgah, the ski area’s 1940s-era T-bar is being replaced with a new T-bar lift. The lift replacement is expected to be completed by November, along with new lighting for night skiing. Big Tupper is another alternative for skiers, and the area is expected to be run again this winter by community volunteers. Surprisingly, there is even free skiing to be found at small, municipally operated hills like the Indian Lake ski slope and Dynamite Hill in Chestertown. The importance of these small- and medium-sized “feeder” areas can not be underestimated: besides providing an opportunity for beginning skiers to learn the sport, these areas also provide a positive regional economic impact.
Hickory Ski Center, in the southern Adirondacks, was recently brought back to life after having been shuttered from 2005 to 2009. Since the area re-opened in January, 2010, the lodge has been renovated, new grooming equipment and an electronic ticketing system have been purchased, and the lifts have been refurbished. Hickory relies exclusively on surface lifts (2 Pomas and a T-bar) to serve its 1200’ of vertical, and the lift upgrades have virtually eliminated breakdowns.
Historically, Hickory never really had adequate grooming capability, but a state-of-the-art winchcat purchased last year now allows the ski area to provide groomed corduroy conditions on its mid- and lower mountain terrain, broadening the area’s appeal to beginners, intermediates and families. Hickory’s challenging upper mountain terrain and its natural snow conditions (no snowmaking) have long appealed to advanced skiers, but Hickory is looking to emphasize the area’s appeal to families. “We’ve had many families associated with the mountain for a long, long time and I think that’s one of our strong suits,” said Bill Van Pelt, a shareholder. “Our target market is absolutely families.”
Just outside the Blue Line, West Mountain and Willard Mountain have been busy with improvements and upgrades as well. West is adding several high-efficiency automated fan guns (West’s snowmaking operation is 100% fan guns), and is looking to leverage its electronic lift ticketing system (new last year) to provide skiers with more convenience and flexibility. Willard is also adding fan guns to their snowmaking plant. Like most ski areas, both Willard and West make investments in their snowmaking operations every year. Chic Wilson, Willard’s GM and owner, calls snowmaking “the most important part of our business,” a sentiment echoed by Mike Barbone, GM at West Mountain.
ORDA’s Lundin summed up what every skier is already feeling: “Get out. Ski. It’s gonna be a great year.”
Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.
There were radically different stories being told last week in two Adirondack communities located below state owned ski resorts. In Wilmington, residents were talking about their community’s newly recognized esteem in the bicycling world. With the help of ORDA’s Whiteface Mountain, the DEC, local bicyclists, bike businesses and local officials, Wilmington is on the verge of becoming one of the premiere mountain biking destinations in America. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to Almanack founder and editor John Warren.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.