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
Cost for adult: $71 weekend/$64 weekday
Vertical drop: 2,300 feet
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
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)
Best deal: $8 lift tickets on Friday, except holiday periods.
Oak Mountain, Speculator
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
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
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
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.