Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Adirondack Ski Season Preview

Early season snowmaking at WhitefaceThis 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.

It’s been a busy off-season at WhitefaceMountain, operated by New York State’s Olympic Region Development Authority (ORDA) in Lake Placid.  Improvements include the addition of the Rand’s Last Stand glade, Whiteface’s first new trail in more than five years.  The 1,500 foot-long expert glade begins about halfway down Hoyt’s High and will connect to the Summit Chair lift.  The Olympic mountain has also added 35 low energy snow guns that will provide coverage on Easy Street, Broadway and Excelsior, and an energy efficient boom fan snow gun that will be used to cover the LowerValley trail. Finally, a new Pisten Bully 600 Winch Cat has been added to Whiteface’s grooming fleet. Jon Lundin, ORDA’s Public Relations Coordinator says “We’re more than ready to get the 2013-14 skiing and riding season underway. It was a great summer, but it’s time for winter and we’re excited to show off our off-season work and improvements.”  Opening day for the skiing and riding season at Whiteface is slated for Friday, November 29.

At Gore, located in North Creek and also operated by ORDA, four new trails will debut this winter.  The largest of these is the Boreas Glades, located between the Sagamore trail and Barkeater Glades on Burnt Ridge.  Other terrain expansion includes two new glades at the Ski Bowl, Ridge Runner Glades and Little Gore Glades, and a re-configuration of the Hedges trail to provide access from the top of the Burnt Ridge Quad chairlift to the Tahawus trail and the North Quad chairlift.  Snowmaking improvements include two new tower-mounted fan guns as well as pipe work and other enhancements to the system.  A new conveyor lift has been added to the Kids Klub learning facility. And back at the lodge, finishing touches are being put on a new deck for the Tannery Pub & Restaurant.  Gore will open for the 2013-14 season on Friday, November 29.

All ski areas are hoping for a snowy winter, but it’s possible that none are hoping for snow more than Hickory Ski Center in Warrensburg.  That’s because Hickory relies on natural snow only.  A recent lodge renovation, new grooming equipment and electrical upgrades to improve lift reliability mean that Hickory will be ready when the snow files.  Hickory has a reputation for some of the most challenging expert terrain in the East, but there’s plenty of terrain for beginner and intermediate skiers too, along with a full-service snow sports school that offers a variety of instructional programs and packages.

In Tupper Lake, volunteers will operate the Big Tupper ski area this winter to provide a basic, no frills, affordable ski/snowboarding experience for individuals and families.  Day passes will be priced at just $25.  Like Hickory, Big Tupper lacks snowmaking and relies on natural snow.

Crews installing snowmaking pipe at Titus MountainSkiers should consider checking out OakMountain in Speculator and McCauleyMountain in Old Forge this winter.  Both are classic Adirondack ski areas that offer interesting and varied terrain without the big mountain crowds and prices.  Oak, which was re-opened under new management last year, offers 14 trails and 650’ of vertical.  McCauley boasts 21 trails and and 633’ of vertical.  And it doesn’t hurt that both ski areas are located in snowbelt areas of the central and western Adirondacks, though both mountains are equipped with snowmaking for times when natural snow is harder to come by.  Both mountains hope to be open by mid-December.

MountPisgah, in SaranacLake, is another good choice for skiers looking for a local, low cost alternative to the big resorts.  Though small (330’ vertical), MountPisgah has 100% snowmaking coverage, lights for night skiing and a new (as of January 2012) T-bar lift.  You can ski at MountPisgah for as little as $10.

At TitusMountain, located in just north of the blue line in Malone, improvements this year include two new trails, increased snowmaking capacity, and a new outdoor stone patio area at the lower mountain lodge.  Titus is looking to open in early December.  South of the blue line, crews at WillardMountain in WashingtonCounty spent the summer tripling their water storage for snowmaking.  There’s also a 50% increase in pumping capacity to allow snowmaking crews to expand across the mountain quicker than ever.  Willard will open in mid-December, earlier if Mother Nature allows.

The wait is almost over, ski season is set to begin in just a few weeks.  In the meantime, one more trick to help make it snow:  stick a white crayon in your freezer, then place it under your pillow before going to bed at night.  Don’t ask why, just do it… and THINK SNOW!

Photos:  Early season snowmaking operations at Whiteface (above); crews install snowmaking pipe at Titus Mountain (below).

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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.

8 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Jeff, is this shot at Whiteface this year? I hope those guns are blazing today. Keep your fingers crossed that it stays unseasonably cold.

  2. Jeff says:

    Paul, Whiteface started snowmaking operations on Friday (Nov 8). Temps have been ideal, and the word from the hill is that the ski area may be open for this weekend, 2 weeks early.

  3. Avon says:

    Whatever happened to Gore Mountain?
    I can’t believe it melted.

    (If the Adk Almanack only reports on “sponsored” topics, that fact really ought to be disclosed. I want to know it, if I’m reading paid ads.)

    • Jeff says:

      Huh? Maybe you missed the paragraph on Gore. It’s 146 words and appears right after the paragraph on Whiteface (168 words, sorry if it seems I short changed Gore).

      • Paul says:

        That was weird?? Maybe it was the “at Gore” that was confusing, should have been at “Gore Mt.”? This was pretty comprehensive good job.

  4. John June says:

    Any info (including old photos}on a couple old defunct ski areas in Northern NY, Juniper Hills near Harrisville and Seven Springs near Parishville?
    Originally from Gouverneur, Ny and I cut my teeth skiing those two areas, along with Big Tupper and Snow Ridge.
    I moved to Washington State in 1984 and was an instructor at Crystal Mountain, WA., the largest resort in this state.

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