Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Outlook for Adirondack Ski Areas

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.

Estimates vary, but the Christmas holiday week can represent as much as 15% of the season’s skier visits, with many skiers hitting the slopes for the first time this winter. With that in mind, ski areas will be doing all they can to offer the best possible conditions and most terrain choices. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s expected:

Gore and Whiteface are each open with skiing on roughly a dozen trails. With a little cooperation from the weather (forget about snowfall, it’s cold that counts) that trail count should expand significantly at both areas by this weekend. Mike Pratt, General Manager of Gore Mountain, told me earlier this week, “our snowmaking crews are moving as quickly as they can. Crews have moved to the summit area, and are also expanding terrain on the lower mountain.” The situation is similar at Whiteface, with snowmaking operations continuing as temperatures allow. A variety of events are scheduled at Gore, Whiteface, and other ORDA venues over the holiday period, including a $35 lift ticket “Island Madness Super Sunday” at Whiteface on January 1.

Other Adirondack ski areas have either just opened or expect to open shortly, including McCauley and Titus Mountains (both open now), Mount Pisgah (Dec. 27 expected opening date), West Mountain (Dec. 26 expected opening date) and Willard Mountain (expected to re-open by this weekend). Big Tupper and Hickory Ski Center will both have to wait for natural snowfall as neither ski area has snowmaking. The region’s cross country ski centers are also waiting for the first snowfall to open.

Although it won’t do much to improve ski conditions or expand trail counts, the possibility of at least some snowfall Thursday night into Friday puts the odds of a white Christmas at 50/50 for much of the Adirondacks, according to meteorologist Darrin Harr. Beyond that, Big Tupper’s website seems to offer the best advice: “How to get a snow day in 4 easy steps.”

Photos: Gore’s Foxlair trail, Dec. 17 (top) and Whiteface’s Essex trail, Dec. 14 (bottom).

Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.

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Jeff Farbaniec, of Saratoga County, is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.

Jeff's emphasis at the Almanack is on the ski sports - everything and anything related to Adirondack skiing. Jeff lives in Wilton, just south of the Blue Line, with his wife and their two young children.

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