Monday, November 10, 2014

Adirondack Ski Season Preview, 2014-15

Whiteface early snow Nov 7If 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.

At Gore, the big news for this season is the replacement of the Adirondack Express triple chairlift with a new, state-of-the-art, high-speed quad.  The Adirondack Express II will feature padded seats and eight fewer towers, providing skiers with a quicker, more comfortable ride than its predecessor.  Just as importantly, the new AE2 will operate more reliably than the 30-year old lift it replaces.  Mike Pratt, Gore’s general manager, explains: “The original Adirondack Express was the oldest high-speed lift in North America.  While it served Gore skiers and riders well for many years, the cost of maintenance finally reached a point where it made more sense to replace it.”  Final steps are being completed in the AE2’s installation, and Gore expects the lift to debut shortly after the mountain opens for the season.

The AE2’s not the only news out of Gore.  Crews have also been busy with snowmaking upgrades, including 22 new high-efficiency tower guns for the Topridge trail and additional snowmaking to improve the interconnect with the Ski Bowl.  Two new groomers have joined the fleet, and four new glades have been added to the trail map, pushing Gore’s trail count to 107.

A huge upgrade in snowmaking has been completed at Whiteface this year.  100 new high-efficiency guns have been added to allow the ski area to open terrain and bounce back from unfavorable weather conditions more quickly. Since the new guns consume just 20 to 25% of the energy of the guns they replace, the upgrade also represents a significant energy savings and reduction in the ski area’s carbon footprint.  Whiteface has also added a new Pisten Bully groomer to its fleet, re-graded and widened portions of the Upper Valley and Wilmington trails, renovated the Bear Den lodge at the Kids Kampus, and added a sunroom onto the lower deck of the main lodge.

Gore MountainBigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, and skiers have a number of classic Adirondack ski areas to chose from.  Oak Mountain, in Speculator, offers 14 trails and 650’ of vertical.  Natural snow is usually abundant at Oak, but they upgraded their snowmaking system over the summer for times when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.  Oak’s snowmaking expansion utilizes portable pipe that will allow crews to cover 50% of the mountain.  Titus Mountain, located in Malone, has skiing and riding on 33 trails and 11 glades across 3 interconnected mountains with 1200’ of vertical.  Titus has added a new Magic Carpet lift to their learning center this year.  Under local ownership since 2011, Titus has seen a string of improvements over the past few years, including an expansion of the trail network and a major lodge renovation.  McCauley Mountain in Old Forge is another excellent mid-sized ski area, with 633’ of vertical and 21 trails.  Located in the lake-effect snowbelt of the western Adirondacks, McCauley boasts annual snowfall totals that rival some ski areas out west.  And finally, Mount Pisgah in Saranac Lake is an excellent community-supported ski area with 330’ of vertical and a variety of slopes and glades.  Mount Pisgah has seen an impressive number of improvements over the past few seasons including a brand new T-bar lift (2012) and base lodge along with top-notch snowmaking grooming, and night skiing.

Hickory Ski Center, in Warrensburg, is expected to open as soon as snow conditions allow.  Hickory relies entirely on natural snow, and is well known for its challenging expert terrain as well as its family-friendly beginner and intermediate terrain.  Brush clearing crews have been out just about every weekend this fall getting the glades and slopes ready for when the snow flies.  Big Tupper, located in Tupper Lake, also relies natural snow.  The mountain was operated by volunteers last winter, but no announcement has yet been made for this winter.  Stay tuned to their website and Facebook page for updates.

Just south of the Blue Line, West Mountain in Queensbury is under new ownership.  After sprucing up the lodge last year, the new owners are spending $400 thousand on snowmaking improvements, primarily the installation of a new water main to the top of the mountain. According to co-owner Spencer Montgomery, “We’ll be able to make twice as much snow in half as much time.” Another $250 thousand is being spent on lighting upgrades for West Mountain’s night skiing operation.  Willard Mountain, in Washington County, has expanded its snowmaking capacity for 2014-15 and has also upgraded its website to allow advance purchase of discounted lift tickets.

Just a few more weeks remain before the 2014-15 ski season begins, so finish raking your leaves, make sure your ski gear is tuned and ready to go, and don’t forget to do a snow dance!

Photos from this weekend courtesy ORDA.

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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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