My family has been enjoying all the fresh snow at some our favorite downhill ski resorts. Sometimes it can be disappointing, after a great day of skiing, to have to call an end to the day. It’s those times that we are grateful for these local mountains that let the fun continue through the night. These family- style ski resorts have special nighttime events or dedicate the week to extended skiing under the lights.
Saranac Lake’s own Mount Pisgah offers night skiing during the week until 8 pm. This multipurpose recreational area also offers tubing and adjacent cross-country ski trails. The lodge has an open view of the lighted trails so parents and caregivers can give children a bit of independence on the slopes while they warm up by the fireplace. » Continue Reading.
Last winter’s mild temperatures and lack of snow left winter sports enthusiasts disappointed, but there is already snow on many summits and die-hards earned turns on the Whiteface Memorial Highway several weeks ago. It looks like the start of the downhill season could be just a few weeks away.
It may seem like fall is reluctant to give up its grip on the northeast, but ski season is just around the corner. Gore and Whiteface are targeting the day after Thanksgiving to start spinning their lifts, with most other New York ski areas following suit shortly thereafter. Here’s a look at what’s new for skiers and riders across the region. » Continue Reading.
It’s a Saturday afternoon and a really rare bluebird day in the Adirondacks, so mild that I have my gloves off. I’m riding up the T-bar lift on Mt. Pisgah, one of the most beloved ski mountains in the North Country. There’s a smattering of kids and grown-ups on the slopes. This is a place where my own son grew up learning to ski and we’ve spent many happy hours here, so it’s kind of a great spot.
Up at the top, I find myself looking over a great little tangle of trails. Pisgah’s not a huge mountain, but there’s a surprising amount of terrain – fun little choices, small crowds, and perfect snow. After pulling on my gloves, I launch. » Continue Reading.
If you’re a skier or snowboarder, the best time of year is almost here. With overnight temperatures dipping below freezing, ski areas around the region have begun firing up their snowmaking equipment to prepare for the start of the 2014-15 ski season.
Crews have been busy with projects all summer and fall, here’s a look at what they’ve been up to. » Continue Reading.
This is the time of year when skiers’ anticipation is at its peak. The first snows have already whitened the higher elevations of the Adirondacks, signaling winter’s approach.
If you’re a die-hard skier, you’ve lined up your season pass and tuned up your equipment. You wear your pajamas inside-out and you’ve flushed a tray of ice cubes down the toilet (trust me, it works) to ensure a winter of bountiful snow.
Maybe you’ve even had a bonfire to sacrifice a pair of skis to Ullr, the Norse god of snow and skiing. All that’s left now is waiting for the chairlifts to start spinning. Ski areas in the region have been busy too, working on improvements and upgrades all summer and fall. Here’s a quick look at what they’ve been up to. » 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.
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.
Two Saranac Lake institutions, Doty’s barbecue and the Dewey Mountain Ski Center, unite 3–8 p.m. Sunday, July 29 for a Summer Ski Jam & BBQ at Mount Pisgah. The idea of a Summer Ski Jam originated with some of the musicians who play Dewey Mountain Recreation Center’s little log cabin on winter Friday nights. They decided to get together in warm weather and put on an outdoor concert to benefit the campaign to build a new base lodge for Dewey Mountain. Performers include the Barn Cats, Big Slyde, Blind Owl Band, Celia Evans, Steve Langdon, and Roadside Mystic.
The Summer Ski Jam & BBQ also features Doty’s signature marinated beef and chicken with all the sides. Together with his parents and brothers, Derek Doty ran the popular Doty’s Country Road Beef butcher shop for 28 years, and he continues to barbecue on special occasions. The community-supper atmosphere will welcome families as well as summer guests. » 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.
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.
Since 1897 the people of Saranac Lake have been throwing a midwinter party – the 109th Saranac Winter Carnival begins today. According to their website:
The Winter Carnival’s origins can be found in Saranac Lake’s history as a world-famous health resort. In 1897, the first year of the event, the village was already a thriving community nestled deep in the Adirondack wilderness, its pristine setting providing rejuvenation for hundreds of tuberculosis sufferers drawn from all over North America. In the course of “taking the cure” here, many patients experienced a renewed passion for life, and took every opportunity – in every season – to explore the natural beauty that surrounded them.
The long, cold Adirondack winters offered an array of snow-covered mountains and ice-covered lakes, begging to be enjoyed on skis, sleds and skates. Thus, to break winter’s chill and to promote “outdoor sports and games”, the Pontiac Club was formed in 1896, and a year later, they sponsored the first “Mid-Winter Carnival”.
The first Winter Carnival was a two-day affair that sponsored skating races, a parade and an “ice tower” – features that have been, in one form or another, part of every Carnival since.
This coming week (Feb. 3-12, 2006) will feature the “The Roaring 20’s” theme (that’s the decade, not the band) and will include two parades and two displays of fireworks along with:
Sports: Innertube, skating, and nordic and alpine ski races at Dewey Mountain and Mount Pisgah, skating races, snow volleyball, broomball, hockey, and snowshoe softball
Culture: Dramatic presentations by the Pendragon Theatre, a murder-mystery dinner theater, “an old-time amateur revue in the historic Harrietstown Town Hall, a Main Street Festival, a bevy of dinners, dances, receptions and concerts, and a slide show presentation.”
There will also be a display of traditional logging in the Adirondacks at the Saranac Lake Civic Center, but the centerpiece is the Ice Palace built using many of the old ice harvesting techniques:
The palace was an outgrowth of the village’s ice industry, which, in the days before electric refrigerators, harvested ice from local lakes for use in ice boxes across the country and around the world. Despite some refinements in machinery, the Palace is still constructed in much the same manner as it was in 1898, the first year it was built.
Legend has it though that the Palace was created to house the Winter Carnival Mascot Sara the Snowy Owl.
About six weeks before the Carnival, an ice field is marked off on Pontiac Bay on Lake Flower; once a suitable ice thickness has been achieved, cutting with long ice saws begins. The blocks taken from the lake are two feet wide and four feet long, are anywhere from one-and-a-half to three feet thick, and weigh between four and eight hundred pounds!
These are moved onshore via a conveyor belt, and are maneuvered into place with “peaveys” – metal-tipped poles with hinged metal hooks – and ice tongs. The blocks are secured to one another with a “mortar” made of slush. While designs may vary from year to year, each palace has, on average, over 1500 blocks in it, and ranges from 70 to 90 feet in length and 40 to 60 feet in height. Within each design is an array of colored lights, that each night transforms the Palace into a vivid sculpture of ice and light!
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