A number of Adirondack athletes have been competing in World Cup and international events around the globe. Here’s how they fared over the past several days, and the outlook ahead:
In alpine skiing, Lake Placid’s Andrew Weibrecht and Keene’s Tommy Beisemeyer competed in the World Cup series opener in Lake Louise, Canada. Weibrecht, the 2010 Olympic Super G bronze medalist, finished 30th in Saturday’s, men’s Super G event. Beisemeyer did not finish the race, but both are off to Beaver Creek, Colo. for this week’s Audi Birds of Prey World Cup. Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid and Tim Burke of Paul Smiths will headline the American squad at the IBU Biathlon Workd Cup series which opens today, Dec. 1, in Ostersund, Sweden.
Bobsled’s Europa-Cup series visited Koenigssee, Germany over the weekend and Lake Placid’s John Napier, a 2010 Olympian, piloted his two-man sled to a fifth place finish on Saturday. The following day Napier drove to a 13th place result in the four-man event. The World Cup tour begins this weekend, Dec. 2-4, in Igls, Austria.
High winds in Kuusamo, Finland forced officials to cancel Saturday’s nordic combined jump and instead use Friday’s provisional round for seeding. Vermontville’s Billy Demong was 30th in that round and started his ski more than three minutes back. The two-time Olympic medalist was the 11th fastest skier on the course and finished 19th overall. The series moves on to Lillehammer, Norway for a pair of events this weekend.
Two inches. According to Olavi Hirvonen, owner of the Lapland Lake cross-country ski area in Northville, two inches of dense snow is all that’s needed to get at least a few kilometers of Lapland Lake’s trail network open for skiing. And if anyone should know, it’s Olavi: with 34 years experience grooming Lapland Lake’s trails on a daily basis, he’s considered to be the most experienced groomer in North America.
While we’re waiting for the snow to fly, here’s a round-up of what skiers can look forward to at Adirondack cross-country ski centers this winter. Lapland Lake in Northville has 38km of trails that are snowcat groomed with trackset and skating lanes, plus an additional 12km of marked and mapped snowshoe trails. Lapland Lake will host its two-day annual Open House and first annual X-C Ski Swap Friday and Saturday, November 25 and 26.
Garnet Hill Lodge in North River has 55km of groomed trails and is adjacent to the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area for virtually unlimited backcountry touring. As in past winters, Garnet Hill will offer its popular “ski down, ride back” shuttle bus service to lodge guests and day visitors.
Dewey Mountain Ski Center, located in Saranac Lake and owned by the Town of Harrietstown, has 15km of trails that Olympians Billy Demong and Timothy Burke consider home. The trails are groomed and maintained by Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters, and the area enjoys strong community participation in programs like its Dewey Mountain Youth Ski League (where Burke and Demong both learned to race), Graymont Tuesday Night Race Series, and the popular Friday Night Ski Jams. Dewey Mountain Friends, a grassroots support group, has undertaken a multi-year effort to widen and improve trail grading, drainage and signage, and eventually replace the ski center’s lodge building.
Cascade Ski Touring Center in Lake Placid has 20km of trails that wind through spruce / fir woods and connect to Mount Van Hoevenberg and the Jack Rabbit Trail. Cascade’s full moon ski parties have become a Lake Placid institution, with lighted trails, bonfires and hot chocolate, and live music in the lodge. Full moon dates at Cascade this winter are January 7, February 4, and March 10 (all Saturdays).
Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid has more than 50km of trails that were home to the 1980 Winter Olympic cross-country skiing and biathlon competitions. The expertly groomed, scenic trail system continues to be the site of World Cup and Junior Olympic competitions, but is open to recreational skiers as well. The 30th Annual Lake Placid Loppet, known as one of the best amateur ski races in the country, will be held on February 4. There are 50km and 25km classic or free (skating) technique events that follow a demanding but beautiful course laid out for the 1980 Olympics.
All of the ski centers above expect to open as soon as there is sufficient snow, so in the meantime wear your pajamas inside out, do a snow dance, and above all else… THINK SNOW!
Photo credit: Mount Van Hoevenberg / ORDA
Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.
AccuWeather says the La Nina effect means the Midwest and much of the Northeast can expect a cold and snowy winter. Paul Pastelok, a meteorologist with the weather-forecasting service, predicts that arctic air blowing across the Great Lakes will generate above-normal lake-effect snowfalls. “Overall, precipitation is expected to be above normal throughout most of the Northeast from January into February,” according to AccuWeather. “With the exception of northern parts of New York and New England, temperatures are forecast to average near normal for the winter season.”
So if you put any stock in long-range forecasts, this could be a great winter for backcountry skiing.
Even if they don’t believe the weatherman, backcountry skiers have something to look forward to this winter: new terrain.
In August, Tropical Storm Irene created or lengthened more than a dozen slides in the High Peaks, many of which should provide exciting skiing for those with the requisite skills and gear.
A big caveat: slides can and do avalanche. In 2000, a skier died in an avalanche on a slide on Wright Peak. Avalanches have occurred elsewhere in the Adirondacks as well, usually triggered by skiers, snowshoers, or ice climbers. Slide skiers should carry a beacon, probe, and shovel and know how to use them. And they should know how to gauge avalanche potential.
So far, I have climbed only five of the new slides, those on Wright, Cascade, Saddleback, Little Colden, and Colden. Click here to read about them in the new issue of the Adirondack Explorer.
Two slides that are likely to get skied a lot are on Wright Peak and Lower Wolf Jaw.
The one on Wright scoured a streambed that can be followed to a steep headwall. The streambed also will facilitate access to the nearby Angel Slides, where the skier died in 2000. Skiers will be able to bag the Angel Slides and the new slide in one outing. The streambed is reached by a short bushwhack from Marcy Dam. The new slide is a mile long.
Bennies Brook Slide on Lower Wolf Jaw has long been a popular ski destination. In the past, skiers followed a path through the woods to reach the slide. Irene extended the slide all the way to the Southside Trail and Johns Brook. With the easier access and additional terrain, Bennies will be more popular than ever.
Irene also has affected some popular trails used by backcountry skiers. Most noteworthy is that floods caused by the storm washed away the bridge at Marcy Dam.Skiers who started at Adirondak Loj used the bridge en route to Mount Marcy or Avalanche Lake. Thanks to Irene, they will have to cross the frozen pond (now largely a mudflat) or approach the dam via the Marcy Dam Truck Trail instead of the trail from the Loj.
The bridge at the start of the Klondike Notch Trail also was washed away. Skiers can still reach the trail by skiing up the Marcy Dam Truck Trail and turning left onto the Mr. Van Trail.
The Adirondack Ski Touring Council reports that Irene did minimal damage to the Jackrabbit and other ski trails maintained by the council. Repairs are scheduled to be made this fall.
The first few snowflakes of the year have already dusted the highest peaks of the Adirondacks, and skiers and riders are looking forward to opening day. Here’s a preview of what’s in store for this winter at downhill ski centers in the Adirondack region.
At Gore Mountain, 130 new high-efficiency tower guns will provide a major improvement in the mountain’s snowmaking capabilities. The new guns will be installed on trails that constitute some of the mountain’s most popular intermediate terrain including Sunway, Wild Air, Sleighride and Quicksilver. The new guns will also be installed on Sagamore, the expert trail which forms the core of Gore’s Burnt Ridge terrain pod that opened in 2008. Emily Stanton, Gore’s marketing manager explained the significance of the new guns: “It’s huge. Not only will the new guns allow us to better utilize our pumping capacity to make more snow, they will allow us to devote snowmaking resources to other parts of the mountain more quickly. It’s the biggest upgrade to our snowmaking plant since we tapped the Hudson in 1996.” There will be expanded glade terrain at Gore this winter as well, with two new black diamond glades at the Ski Bowl and an extension of the intermediate Chatterbox glade. The entire Ski Bowl terrain pod and the Chatterbox glade were themselves new last year. The new glades at the Ski Bowl will provide a by-pass to the headwall section of 46er, the expert trail that follows the line of the Hudson Chair. That headwall section of 46er was unskiable last year due to unfinished trail grading and a lack of snowmaking, and unfortunately it will likely remain unskiable this year. Stanton explained “with all the other work that’s been going on, we just weren’t able to get to 46er this year.”
Gore’s base lodge will see a complete renovation of the Tannery Pub, a new outdoor grille, and a new lower level patio. The grooming fleet has also been upgraded with the purchase of a new groomer at the end of last season.
And last, Stanton mentioned excitement over the Saratoga North Creek Railroad’s ski trains this winter. “The train isn’t just transportation, it’s an experience. They’ve really done a first class job. Ski packages for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, late December through late March, are already set up on the railroad’s website. It’s is a wonderful marketing opportunity for us, and a year-round asset for North Creek too.”
At Whiteface, General Manager Bruce McCulley and ORDA Public Relations Coordinator Jon Lundin gave an overview of what they’ve been working on during the summer months. In the lodge, the rental shop and retail store will be extensively re-modeled, as will the kitchen for the J. Lohr café. The rental shop will also be outfitted with new “rockered” Rossignol skis. Rockered skis are a recent ski design trend that allows for easier turn initiation, a plus for beginners.
A new winchcat groomer has been added to the fleet, terrain in the Sugar Valley Glades has been expanded, and four new high-efficiency automated fan guns have been added to the snowmaking plant. The fan guns are considered state-of-the-art in terms of their automation, consistency, and ability to make snow in marginal conditions over a large area.
Last year, Whiteface was plagued by a number of lift malfunctions, and the Little Whiteface double chair was taken off-line in late February for the remainder of the season. That lift has been extensively renovated this summer, including new towers from mid-station up. McCulley elaborated: “That lift had an awful lot of hours on it. Some of the towers were as old as 1958, others went back to the 70s. We’ve gone through the entire mechanism, overhauling or replacing just about every component. Functionally it’s the same lift, but the mechanism is essentially new.” The Little Whiteface double serves a key role as an alternate for when the gondola is on wind-hold, and as an option for skiers who wish to access upper mountain terrain without returning all the way to base to ride the gondola.
Whiteface had one of its most successful seasons ever last year, as measured by skier visits and revenue. “It was a perfect storm” said ORDA’s Lundin. “We had a favorable Canadian exchange rate, and all it did from Christmas until spring was snow.” Marketing efforts helped as well, with programs like the Whiteface Road Warriors and recognition as the East’s #1 ski resort (Ski Magazine, December 2010). Lundin is clearly excited for this winter: “We’re looking to ride the wave of last year’s snow and follow up with another blow-out year.”
Not every skier is looking for the big mountain experience – and price tag – offered by Gore and Whiteface. Mount Pisgah in Saranac Lake and McCauley Mountain in Old Forge are excellent small-to-medium sized alternatives. At Mount Pisgah, the ski area’s 1940s-era T-bar is being replaced with a new T-bar lift. The lift replacement is expected to be completed by November, along with new lighting for night skiing. Big Tupper is another alternative for skiers, and the area is expected to be run again this winter by community volunteers. Surprisingly, there is even free skiing to be found at small, municipally operated hills like the Indian Lake ski slope and Dynamite Hill in Chestertown. The importance of these small- and medium-sized “feeder” areas can not be underestimated: besides providing an opportunity for beginning skiers to learn the sport, these areas also provide a positive regional economic impact.
Hickory Ski Center, in the southern Adirondacks, was recently brought back to life after having been shuttered from 2005 to 2009. Since the area re-opened in January, 2010, the lodge has been renovated, new grooming equipment and an electronic ticketing system have been purchased, and the lifts have been refurbished. Hickory relies exclusively on surface lifts (2 Pomas and a T-bar) to serve its 1200’ of vertical, and the lift upgrades have virtually eliminated breakdowns.
Historically, Hickory never really had adequate grooming capability, but a state-of-the-art winchcat purchased last year now allows the ski area to provide groomed corduroy conditions on its mid- and lower mountain terrain, broadening the area’s appeal to beginners, intermediates and families. Hickory’s challenging upper mountain terrain and its natural snow conditions (no snowmaking) have long appealed to advanced skiers, but Hickory is looking to emphasize the area’s appeal to families. “We’ve had many families associated with the mountain for a long, long time and I think that’s one of our strong suits,” said Bill Van Pelt, a shareholder. “Our target market is absolutely families.”
Just outside the Blue Line, West Mountain and Willard Mountain have been busy with improvements and upgrades as well. West is adding several high-efficiency automated fan guns (West’s snowmaking operation is 100% fan guns), and is looking to leverage its electronic lift ticketing system (new last year) to provide skiers with more convenience and flexibility. Willard is also adding fan guns to their snowmaking plant. Like most ski areas, both Willard and West make investments in their snowmaking operations every year. Chic Wilson, Willard’s GM and owner, calls snowmaking “the most important part of our business,” a sentiment echoed by Mike Barbone, GM at West Mountain.
ORDA’s Lundin summed up what every skier is already feeling: “Get out. Ski. It’s gonna be a great year.”
Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.