Friday, July 8, 2022

It’s debatable: Whiteface redesigns

ski patrol on whiteface courtesy whiteface orda

Editor’s note: This first appeared in the May/June 2022 issue of Adirondack Explorer magazine. In this regular column, we invite organizations and/or individuals to address a particular issue. Click here to subscribe to the magazine, available in both print and digital formats:

The question: Should ORDA reshape Whiteface?

Seeking a just Whiteface trail plan

We object to the current draft of the Unit Management Plan Amendment proposed by ORDA for upgrades at Whiteface Mountain. We join the youth of the world and many world citizens who are finally facing facts and mobilizing to mitigate climate change and promote climate, social and economic justice.

The new plan prioritizes widening of ski racing trails to accommodate the upcoming World University Games and other national and international events. The plan initially called for deforestation of 27,000 trees, including parts of the habitat of the Bicknell’s thrush, a bird that is of high conservation priority. The current plan is less precise, with ORDA’s legal counsel saying, “the process will determine just how many trees need to be cut.” Forests help stabilize the climate, regulate ecosystems, and play an integral part in the carbon cycle. We have an obligation to stop deforestation at a global and local level. Using New York State taxpayers’ money for deforestation to create a bigger playground for the wealthy and privileged is the antithesis of social, economic and climate justice.

Deforestation is contrary to the slogan and educational mission of World University Games, “Save Winter.” Deforestation does not align with the mission of the Adirondack Park Agency to preserve the Adirondack Forests or ROOST’s objective to embrace a regional approach to improve environmental sustainability.

Sustainability, save winter, stewardship of the environment, and climate justice are not just slogans. These require all of us to change our current behavior and practices. It seems that increased revenue outweighs the potential environmental and social impact of local projects. When leaders pitch projects with the smoke screen of being “good” for the local area, we need to ask, “Good for whom?”

The ORDA venue expansions are funded by our tax dollars and have benefited local hotel owners, short term vacation rental owners, Realtors and restaurant owners, while community members are increasingly being priced out of the local economy. With recent increases in season pass prices, some locals are being robbed of the opportunity to participate in the recreational activities their taxes are funding. Many of us have taken a step back from volunteering at ORDA events because of this.

Social, economic and climate justice are intertwined constructs that require action and vigilance. We need to do the hard work of moving forward with improvements that are not detrimental to the environment and are just and fair to the community.

— Tim Reynolds, an IBM employee, and Shelley Reynolds, a retired teacher and a four-year ORDA volunteer nordic ski course marshal and starter assistant, live in Lake Placid

Whiteface tree removal needed for world events

Deforestation isn’t the right word. That’s sensationalizing the issue. With the alpine race trails, we look to conform to the standards of safety. The sport has evolved with shaped skis and the turns are faster. The courses need to be wider to accommodate a safe venue for the events.

Trail widening called for by governing bodies of these international events require homologated (specially designed) trails. Whiteface has one, but the standard is to have two, one for training, the other to simultaneously race on. That allows us to keep all the racing athletes in one area separate from the general public.

We want to widen the trails to separate athlete from the guest.

We want to widen existing trails and add new connector trails to keep lower-level skiers in areas more appropriate for their ability. Wider trails improve traffic flow and help ease snowmaking and grooming.

Also, we plan a new lift so people can get to the lodge easier, even without skiing there. And staff can avoid using snowmobiles to ferry staff and food.

We plan new trails for hiking and biking to connect to Wilmington Wild Forest and Flume Trails—front country solutions to growing issues in the backcountry.

As for the Bicknell’s thrush, we hope to protect the area above 2,800 feet by barring tree cutting from May 15 to Aug. 1 when the bird is using high elevations for summer breeding. The Northern New York Audubon Society says this is sufficient to protect the nesting birds. “The habitat changes, made outside the nesting period, to add a few, short hiking trails above 2,800 feet may even add preferable edge habitat for nesting,” said Joan Collins, the society’s conservation chair.

ORDA takes great care to ensure its tree cutting actions are reasonable and purposeful. Our ski racing trail widening is our focus right now. Most of the tree cutting is for the construction and improvement of alpine ski trails which is already authorized under Article 14, the wild forest provision.

Mountain biking and hiking trail expansion is on pause until the state sets its tree-cutting policies.

Tree cutting for constitutionally authorized ski trail widening and construction on Forest Preserve lands will cover 12.5 acres of the 2,910-acre intensive use area. It will result in 3,335 trees greater than 3 inches to be cut and 6,593 slimmer trees to be cut.

— Olympic Regional Development Authority CEO Mike Pratt and staff (from statements and records)

Photo: Whiteface ski patrol, courtesy of ORDA

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14 Responses

  1. Joe Kozlina says:

    So here we hear the same old B.S about cutting, burning, bulldozing, thinning,and clearing the forest for its own good and the good of the State. This argument has gotten us to where we are today. This is so old and hard to listen too over and over again. STOP CUTTING TREES….Use the trees for the survival of us and the planet and its wild creatures. This cutting and clearing talk for a sport or recreation is just that B.S. We have little chance of cooling the planet with this time spent on this nonesense discussion. How about the state cuts the taxes of forest owners who do NOT cut thier forests and gives them incentives to keep the trees full and thick. Thanks Joe

  2. Jeanne says:

    Seems to me…with all the money coming to Whiteface Mountainwhy not pass this on to the skieers who pay for a pass. Even season ticket holders. The cost of skiing at Whiteface should be passed on to ticket buying folks. Say $ 35.00 a ski ticket for the day. Pass the savings forward, you are using taxpayers $$$ to expand. It’s selfish & short sided of you to NOT reduce a day pass!

  3. Paul Banks says:

    Maybe more trails but not wider ones. Wider trails quickly become wind blown and are icier the wider they are–just what Iceface doesn’t need. Narrow trails cut down on the wind and help hold the snow.

    And let’s face it, the Olympics are a boondoggle. It’s delusional to think we should be pouring more money into events the lead to such a huge waste of resources. I love skiing but the stuff we ask our athletes to do in the Olympics it’s just ridiculous and the money spent is even more ridiculous.

    And at this point, the environment should be a priority for all of us.

  4. JB says:

    …So ORDA hopes to protect Bicknell’s thrush by cutting subalpine boreal forest only during specific time frames. Sounds reasonable (maybe). But that still doesn’t change the fact that there are equally rare plants that occur in this habitat, a habitat that is rare in and of itself. ORDA has an opportunity with Forest Preserve to lead the way on environmental ethics in winter sports. And when international tournament committees wisen up about this, our conscience here will be clean.

  5. Ellie wall says:

    Anytime a human interfaces and attempts to change in the name of progress to keep
    Up with demands required by for example the university games promoters we are fooling ourselves that these strategies will
    Improve upon what Mother Nature has already given us.. the ancient adirondacks have survived this long and less interference the better. Our taxpayer dollars could be put to better use. This was a scheme promoted by cuomo years ago who desperately wanted to see the Olympics come back to adirondacks again . The amount of money poured into this area is astounding yet we see many especially the elderly and disenfranchised just getting along.

  6. Ben says:

    Paul Banks- “…Wider trails quickly become wind blown and are icier the wider they are–just what Iceface doesn’t need. Narrow trails cut down on the wind and help hold the snow”

    Totally agree. This is almost exactly what I wrote in a public comment that for some reason never made it into the UMP report.

  7. Paul says:

    Nothing in here about the reason the trails really need to be wider. To make it safer for the racers. This isn’t 1980. These races are a lot faster now. This has been planned carefully, the bird experts they consulted said this might actually “improve” thrush nesting habitat, that is left out here too. If we do this maybe we can get some World Cup Alpine ski racing back to The Face!

    • Joe Kozlina says:

      The comment that this clearing of forest may imporve the bird population is again old science. Very rarely can you improve one species with out devistating another. This has been proven. STOP CUTTING TREES FOR RECREATION OR SPORT.

      • Boreas says:

        Just to add, “improving nesting habitat” does not necessarily improve nesting SUCCESS of a given species – especially if it also invites competing species.

  8. JohnL says:

    My ignorance (once again) is showing here so please indulge me. I have a question: Given Forever Wild, why were they allowed to build Whiteface Ski Resort in the first place? Seems like it’s a playground for the rich and famous at the expense of the ‘huddled masses’. Again, asking for my own edification.

    • Boreas says:

      Just like anything else that strays from “Forever Wild” and Article 14, a combination of politics and special interests.

  9. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “the upcoming World University Games and other national and international events. The plan initially called for deforestation of 27,000 trees, including parts of the habitat of the Bicknell’s thrush, a bird that is of high conservation priority.”

    Joe Kozlina says: “This cutting and clearing talk for a sport or recreation is just that B.S.”

    > It’s all about revenues Joe! Filling the town coffers! O’ and it’s about amusement and diversion too. We must keep the populace entertained. If we haven’t “gotten it” by now we never will! Evidently our erected officials will never get it! To even propose such gives one a good idea of how so dire the future will be for our progeny. We should be preserving what is left! And what I see going on around where I live outside of the park, i’m of the mind New York State is going to be one big cement haven in just fifty years, if we even survive that long!

  10. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “These require all of us to change our current behavior and practices.”

    Like what! Un-brainwash the masses? Take away their televisions, their electronic devices? Good luck! Change would occur only if we were taught that trees matter, that bees and butterflies matter, that all of the dead animals we see on our congested roads…they mattered too. We should be taught that the real values in life are not tied to dollar amounts, or entertainers, or even what they’re telling you under a church roof. Our jobs don’t really matter neither….not in the long run anyway! Wilderness matters and all things not tied to ego matter…………. We’re beyond all of those! The only thing which would change our behavior and practices is if we took it all away, if we were to revert back to rural, step away from our madness. Ignorance can never know ignorance unless it was stepped-away from itself!

    I recently purchased an old paper of a long-deceased intellectual from Massachusetts whom I am just beginning to know. I found the below in that paper. When I read this I was very much reminded of Thoreau, though this was written before Thoreau had even had anything published. I am coming to believe that if what once was could be reverted to what now is, just maybe we can be saved from ourselves. A transformation! Of course this is all just a pipe dream in my imaginative head, but how much more frazzled were it not for dreams! There were more woods back in the days when the below was written, there was less noise, less distractions, no electricity, etc……more of a connection to the natural world. Maybe why all of the smarts back in the day, why even such thoughts as below could even be thought up in the first place. If even a quarter of the current society had a mind like the below, maybe we’d be on a better course, maybe our current behavior and practices would be different. Maybe there’d be no such thing as school shootings!

    “I want to take life quietly and not be driven. I want to do something besides work. I do not think that a man was created for nothing in this world but to plane boards and drive nails, and then go home and sleep. He could do that if he was made of cast iron and oak plank. But being what he is, a thinking creature, capable of knowing something, and having a soul to live on after all the iron is rusted and the oak rotted, he ought to be learning something else and doing something more. Therefore I want time to improve my mind; I am not content to be ignorant; I want to know more of this wonderful world, and the wonderful truth it is full of. I feel that I should be the happier for it; I cannot be willing to live and die a mere axe-handle and turning-lathe; I want to be a man. I cannot bear to spend a whole life in doing nothing but earning money to pay for my potatoes and cotton; I want to earn something which will last me when I have done wanting food or clothing. That is the reason why I try to arrange my time so as to get leisure.”
    From .”How to Spend a Day” by Henry Ware Jr. October 1839

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