Thursday, November 5, 2015

Adirondack Downhill Ski Season Preview 2015-16

Whiteface Oct 30 2015It 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.

Crews at Gore Mountain have been busy with a slew of improvements slated to come on line for this winter.  Three more trails have been added to the map, including Hudson, a black diamond run at the Ski Bowl, Peace Pipe, a connector that will provide a shortcut to the Pipeline Traverse, and Forever Wild, a “freestyle glade” accessible from Lower Sleighride that will combine natural terrain park elements with tree skiing.

Snowmaking crews are a skier’s best friend, especially early in the season, and Gore continues to upgrade its snowmaking operation this year with three dozen new low-energy tower guns to be installed on Showcase and Wild Air.  Crews have also been working on expanded snowmaking at the Ski Bowl, including 46er and the new Hudson trail.

Gore’s lodge has gotten its share of upgrades too, including a reorganized rental shop area and updated computer systems to modernize the rental process.  The Bear Cub Den daycare has relocated to a quiet and secure location on the lower level of the Base Lodge, and Guest Services has been relocated to the resort entrance in the Northwoods Lodge.

Speaking of lodge improvements, a new solarium has been added to the lodge up at Whiteface.  The solarium adds another 100 seats to the Base Camp Café and includes a full service coffee bar with tap beer, wine and organic natural food offerings. Aaron Kellett, Whiteface’s General Manager, commented “We want to offer healthier products for a healthier lifestyle, and the new solarium with its natural food selection will fill that void.  It’s a beautiful setting and it’s going to be a great place to hang out and have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, look out at the slopes and enjoy the experience.”

Skiers and riders will also appreciate the on-mountain improvements at Whiteface this year. Snow grooming and making have become a hallmark of the mountain over the last several years,  due in large part to investments in state-of-the-art grooming and snowmaking equipment.  This summer, a new Pisten Bully 600 Free Groomer was added to the mountain’s fleet of 10 groomers, and fifty-five new low-energy snowmaking guns have been added to the upper mountain trails, along with two new mobile fan guns.

Gore and Whiteface are also both part of a new initiative to advance solar energy in New York State.  Earlier this year the New York State Olympic Region Development Authority – which owns and operates Gore and Whiteface as well as Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills – committed to using solar power to operate the ski lift and snowmaking operations of all 3 ski areas. When the 25-year power purchase agreement goes online in March 2016, Belleayre will convert 100 percent of its power usage to solar, while Gore and Whiteface will convert 85 and 40 percent, respectively. The initiative will reduce the three ski resorts’ carbon footprint and save as much as $14 million over the 25 year period for the 3 ski resorts.

Titus Mountain, located just north of the Blue Line in Malone, has been busy improving its snowmaking system over the summer with new pipelines, upgraded electric and new valve houses.  All this behind-the-scenes work will allow crews to make more snow more frequently, particularly on the upper mountain.  With those snowmaking upgrades in place, Titus will be opening the upper mountain seven days a week.  Historically the upper mountain has only been open Thursday through Sunday, but this year Titus’s best skiing will be available every day of the week.  There’s also a new double black diamond glade on the Upper Mountain that advanced skiers and riders will want to check out.

West Mountain, in Queensbury, has been under new ownership for a little over a year, and the new ownership team has been busy implementing one improvement after another. This winter will see the opening of the new West Express triple chair lift, running from the lodge area to the summit of the mountain.  A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new lift is planned for November 12.  A new black diamond trail, the Gnar Wall, will follow the lift line of the West Express.  Snowmaking upgrades will allow for snowmaking on Holy Mackerel, Gnar Wall, and The Cure, a steep black diamond that has only been open in the past when natural snow conditions allowed.  And finally, lighting is being added to Holy Mackerel and Gnar Wall to allow night skiing. Over the next year LED fixtures will replace all lights on the entire mountain.

For a low-key, throwback experience consider skiing or riding at Big Tupper or Hickory Ski Center . Despite both areas’ reliance on natural snow and volunteers who run the lifts, groom the trails and sell lift tickets, both ski areas offer big mountain skiing with over 1100 feet of vertical and two dozen trails at Big Tupper, and 1200 feet of vertical and 19 trails at Hickory.  Jim LaValley, Chairman of ARISE, the volunteer group that operates Big Tupper, reports that Big Tupper will follow a weekends and holidays schedule similar to last year.  Cunningham’s Ski Barn will operate Big Tupper’s rental center, and lessons are available for skiers of all ages.  At Hickory, crews have been busy cutting brush all fall to get the trails and glades ready.  Hickory will also operate on a weekends and holidays schedule. Hickory’s legendary steeps and trees are considered some of the best in New York, and the gentler lower mountain slopes are quite friendly for beginners and families.  Mount Pisgah, a small, community-supported ski area in Saranac Lake, is another great option, with 330 feet of vertical and a variety of slopes and trails.

Lastly, for a real Adirondack ski experience, check out Oak Mountain in Speculator and McCauley Mountain in Old Forge.  Both are mid-sized mountains, with 14 trails and a 650 foot vertical drop at Oak and 21 trails and 600 feet of vertical at McCauley.  McCauley lies in the snowbelt of the western Adirondacks and is home to one of the best deals in the North Country:  $12 lift tickets every Friday all season long, excluding holidays. At Oak, crews are wrapping up their latest snowmaking expansion: 5,200 ft of piping to cover the Kunjamuck trail. Owners Matt and Laura O’Brien plan to expand their seasonal race programs and ski school, and the mountain’s Acorn Pub continues to grow with Executive Chef Lou Petrozza, finalist from Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen.

So tune your skis and clear your calendar for a full season of skiing and riding.  The Adirondacks’ best season is just around the corner!


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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.

One Response

  1. Joe Hansen says:

    Thanks for a very thorough review of what is new. You got me excited for the upcoming season!