March 20th through 23rd, the 2010 US Alpine Championships will be held at Whiteface Mountain. The host town of Lake Placid is prepared to welcome the athletes, including recent Olympians from Vancouver. Olympians competing at the competition include three-time medalist Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, Calif.), 2006 gold medalist Ted Ligety (Park City, Utah) , Steven Nyman (Sundance, Utah), Jimmy Cochran (Keene, N.H.), Will Brandenburg (Spokane, Wash.), Tommy Ford (Bend, Ore.), Nolan Kasper (Warren, Vt.), Alice McKennis (Glenwood Springs, Colo.), Stacey Cook (Mammoth Mountain, Calif.), Leanne Smith (Conway, N.H.), Chelsea Marshall (Pittsfield, Vt.), Hailey Duke (Boise, Idaho), Megan McJames (Park City, Utah), Kaylin Richardson (Edina, Minn.) and Sarah Schleper (Vail, Colo.).
A notable name is missing from this line-up- Lake Placid native Andrew Weibrecht. After winning a bronze medal in the Super G event at Vancouver, Weibrecht dislocated his shoulder. Still, he anticipates being at the event to cheer on his teammates- “It would have been perfect to wrap up my competition year at home, but I’ll still be there to support my teammates and the hundreds of racers from across the country gunning for U.S. bragging rights.”
The US Alpine Championships is an opportunity for young racers as well as seasoned veterans to race for National titles. Whiteface Mountain also hosted the event in 2003, when lack of snow in Alyeska, Alaska motivated the Olympic Regional Development Authority to pick up the races.
On Saturday March 20th, an Opening Ceremonies celebration will be held in Lake Placid. For more information, visit http://www.whiteface.com/events/alpine/index.php.
It’s a blue-sky March Saturday. Go skiing. Dewey Mountain in Saranac Lake is holding its annual Dewey Mountain Day, a free celebration with lots of things for kids to do, including x-c and snowshoe races, scavenger hunts. The SLPD will be there with their speed gun to clock and ticket fast skiers.
Big Tupper in Tupper Lake will donate all its proceeds today to the family of soldier Bergan Flannigan, who was wounded last week in Afghanistan. There will be ski races, a big-air competition, snowmen-building contests, Olympic ski jumper Peter Frenette will stop by, and more.
Hickory Ski Center in Warrensburg is hosting its third annual telemark festival. Get your ticket online and get 10 percent off.
Every small town has its stars. Rolf Ronning was one of Bolton’s. The only child of a wealthy, well-educated couple, he graduated from St. Lawrence University in 1966 and earned two Masters, a doctorate and a law degree before returning to his hometown in 1977.
A little more than a decade later, he was in prison, convicted of possessing and conspiring to sell cocaine.
“I embarrassed myself and my children with those drug charges,” says Ronning. “My wife and I have tried to make it up to them. My daughter is at St. Lawrence and wants to go to law school. My son wants to get his PhD and teach. I want to succeed for them. I can’t give up.” Released from prison in 1992, Ronning returned to Bolton Landing. Stripped of his license to practice law, he turned to real estate development, in which he made millions of dollars.
Now he’s lost most of those millions. Foreclosure proceedings have been brought against five of his properties, including his lakefront home.
The state of Ronning’s financial affairs is threatening to overwhelm his latest project, one that he hopes will redeem his fortune and his reputation: a ski area on one hundred acres near Exit 24 of the Adirondack Northway.
“I wish I could appear before the Town Board and the various agencies as a financially secure individual, but the rumors that I am in financial difficulty are true,” said Ronning.
Ronning concedes that title to the property, once envisioned as a residential subdivision to be called Westwood Forest, could end up in court.
“There’s litigation regarding the validity and enforceability of the mortgages,” said Ronning, guardedly and obscurely.
Some of those mortgages, he added, are held by companies controlled by “a person who loans money at high interest rates but whose name never appears on documents.”
At a Bolton public hearing on a proposal to permit ski centers in two areas currently zoned for rural and residential uses, a letter was read aloud by Supervisor Ron Conover from someone whom Ronning believes is affiliated with one of those companies.
“Rolf Ronning is not capable of handling a ski resort as he hasn’t the proper funds. He owes the investors involved in Westwood Forest over one million dollars. He is broke. It will be just a matter of time before Ronning loses all his properties,” wrote Gloria Dingee.
Ronning said he was surprised that Conover read the letter aloud, since it had no bearing on the issue before the Town Board, which at that point was nothing more than a change in zoning rules.
As Conover himself says, “the zoning change is not being undertaken on behalf of any particular project; we’re doing it to increase opportunities for appropriate development within the Town.” Nevertheless, Ronning would be its first beneficiary.
“We’ve all felt the effects of the Sagamore closing for the winter, and a ski center might bring visitors back to Bolton in winter and be good for the residents as well,” said Ronning.
According to Ronning, the ski area would consist of a 1,570 foot long double chairlift, a T-bar and a lodge.
“We’re contemplating night skiing and summer activities that would complement the nearby Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course,” said Ronning.
Snow could be made by drawing water from a nearby brook, an idea that Department of Environmental Conservation officials in Warrensburg found reasonable, according to Ronning.
As many as fifty people would be employed every winter, said Ronning.
“This is still in the conceptual stages,” said Ron Mogren of Saratoga Associates, who drafted preliminary plans for the ski area, tentatively named “Thrill Hill.”
But if he can secure at least some of the necessary permits, the investors will come, Ronning says.
Bolton’s Town Board deferred its decision on whether to approve the zoning changes for another month, but Ronning said he remained optimistic.
“I’d be unrealistic if I wasn’t concerned about how people’s views of me might affect this, but I hope that the Town Board, the Planning Board and the others will judge the project on its merits, not on what they might think of me,” he said.
After the meeting, Ronning sought out Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky to show him the plans for the ski area.
The Waterkeeper has brought several lawsuits against subdivisions planned by Ronning, and at times Ronning has publicly accused the Waterkeeper of deliberately attempting to bankrupt him.
But on the surface, the two are cordial toward one another, as is often the case in small towns, even with the most antagonistic relationships.
Navitsky, however, was non-committal.
“It looks interesting, Rolf,” was the extent of his comments.
“I’m trying to do the right thing,” said Ronning. “Every day I wake up and promise myself I’ll do my best. Day by day, that’s how I keep going.”
Editors Note: The Lake George Mirror rents office space from Bell Point Realty, which is owned by Rolf Ronning.
It was a thrill to watch Andrew Weibrecht nail the Super Giant Slalom today. Superstition prohibited us from saying so, but when we saw the first two skiers skitter over an icy, bumpy, rutted course, we thought, This is Andrew’s day.
Third out of the starting box, Andrew flew down the hill. Own it, Whiteface: You can be one scrapey wind-scoured slope. They say anyone who learns to ski on Whiteface can ski anywhere. None of us can ski like Andrew, but we’re all a little tougher for that mountain. So, congratulations, Whiteface, NYSEF coaches, Lake Placid and Weibrecht family! Most of all, congratulations Andrew! You earned it.
This past Saturday cross-country skiers enjoyed the 28th Annual Lake Placid Loppet at the Olympic Sports Complex Cross-Country Ski Center. Novice and expert skiers alike skied the same track as the 1980 Olympic athletes.
So what is a loppet? Basically, it refers to a long-distance cross country ski race in which participants mass-start and skate various marathon distances. Like most marathons, a lot of food is consumed during the event, and a party, banquet and awards ceremony is held after the races. The term “loppet” originated in Scandinavia, where cross country races are an important part of the culture. For example, approximately 15,000 people participate in the Mora Vasaloppet in Sweden and nearly 2 million Swedes watch it on television. The sport originated as a mode of transportation and became a national pastime. » Continue Reading.
The BBQ will be held 11:30-2:30 at the Mount Pisgah lodge. The families of Olympians will be special guests. At 1 p.m. photographer Mark Kurtz will take a group photo from a bucket truck, and the gathering will be videotaped and put on YouTube so that local Olympians Billy Demong (Nordic combined), Tim Burke (biathlon), Chris Mazdzer (luge) and Peter Frenette (ski jumping) can see their proud hometown cheering them on. Everyone is invited. There’s a charge for the barbecue but the Olympic rally is free. People are welcome to bring signs and banners. The vets’ club will provide flags. Organizers are hoping to have more than 250 people in the photograph. There will be an opportunity to send recorded messages to the athletes as well.
Events begin at 10 a.m. with the annual White Stag Race, one of the oldest continually run ski races in the East, begun in the mid 1940s. The big-air freestyle exhibition will be held throughout the day on the Terrain Park.
Pisgah is one of the Adirondacks’ awesome little ski areas (here’s a list of the others, including the bigs), and there is a lot of excitement on the mountain this year, not just because of the Olympians. Friends of Mt. Pisgah, a grassroots group, is trying to raise $400,000 to replace the T-bar lift, the tubing area is better than ever, and the terrain park and night-lighting have undergone big improvements.
The 113th Saranac Lake Winter Carnival kicks off Friday night at the Harrietstown Hall with coronation, when the nuclear secret of who will reign as this year’s king and queen is unlocked. Events continue until Sunday February 14.
One of my favorite winter trips is what one might call “extreme cross-country skiing.” That is, skiing on routes that aren’t generally considered by the cross-country community. Routes you won’t find in Tony Goodwin’s Classic Adirondack Ski Tours.
Some of these routes are long and committing. Others require the use of snowshoes or skins (unless you’re a member of the Ski-To-Die Club, a group of locals who took extreme skiing to a new height by taking wooden cross-country skis in the 1970s down mountain descents that would give most people on modern alpine gear pause). » Continue Reading.
You can see the Angel Slides from Marcy Dam: two adjoining bedrock scars—one wide, one thin—on the southeastern slopes of Wright Peak. They are a well-known destination for expert backcountry skiers.
The slides got their nickname following the death of Toma Vracarich. Ten years ago this month, Vracarich and three other skiers were caught in an avalanche on the wider slide. Vracarich died under the snow. He was twenty-seven. The other skiers were injured.
It remains the only avalanche fatality in the Adirondacks, but it put people on notice that the avalanche risk here is real. » Continue Reading.
Amazing how fast the winter landscape can change. On Sunday we were hiking Algonquin in the High Peaks, with winds so strong rime ice formed on our clothes as we made for the summit.
A day later, Roaring Brook Falls looked like Niagara, as 1.5 inches of rain turned the Adirondacks into a tropical rainforest with snow. While the weather put a damper on winter sports, it shouldn’t take long to get things back to normal, say those in the business.
Gore posted this on their Web site on Tuesday: “Although recent severe weather in the Northeast has limited the opening of several trails today, please stay tuned because groomers and snowmakers are getting Gore back in great shape as soon as possible!”
Meanwhile, Whiteface optimistically described its frozen, rain-saturated snow as “loose granular,” and promised 73 trails a day after the storm. No doubt, both mountains will be blowing snow to improve the damage, and snow showers predicted over the next few days may help make the slopes more user-friendly.
As far as backcountry skiing, you’d better be good. “Those trails are going to be really ice,” said Ed Palin, owner of Rock and River guide service in Keene. “It will be fast.”
Speaking of ice, the rain decimated some of the most popular ice climbs in the park. But other routes — those not below major runoff channels, or fat enough to withstand the one-day warm spell, should still be climbable, he said.
“With all this water running, we might get some climbs we don’t see for a while,” he said. In the meantime, good bets for climbers include Multiplication Gully, Crystal Ice Tower and the North Face of Pitchoff, he said.
This past week, Lake Placid once again hosted an Olympic Qualifier event for Freestyle skiing. The Nature Valley Freestyle Cup encompassed aerials, moguls, and ski cross competition at both Whiteface Mountain and the Olympic Jumping Complex. For many athletes, this was the last chance to secure a spot on the Olympic team. The 2010 Olympic Freestyle Team will be announced Tuesday, January 26th. Freestyle skiing is a unique sport that involves several different events. Aerial skiing is like gymnastics on skis, in which participants flip and somersault after leaping off a ramp. Jumpers are scored on jump takeoff, jump form, and jump lading, with a degree of difficulty factored in to result in a total score. Mogul competition is characterized by skiers navigating terrain with large bumps, and requires fast maneuvering. One of the newer disciplines in freestyle skiing is Skiercross, which is based on the motorbike competition in motocross. Competitors ski in groups of four down the course, which includes jumps or banks depending on the course design, and compete to be the fastest 16 (women’s events) or 32 (men’s events). After these are chosen, there is a knockout style of series in which the first two over the line compete in the next round- in the end, the final rounds and small final rounds determine 1st-4th place and 5th-8th places.
This competition attracted some of the best athletes in the sport of freestyle skiing- World Mogul Champion Patrick Deneen competed after already securing his spot on the Olympic Team in December, placing 37th in the final round of moguls. Hannah Kearney, the World Cup Moguls Champion, won the final round. In Aerials, the highest placing US athlete was 10th place finisher Jeret Peterson, who won the event last year. The highest placing American in the women’s Aerial competition was Jana Lindsey, who finished in 8th place in the finals. The Skiercross women’s competition was won by Canadian Kelsey Serwa, and the highest placing American was Langely McNeal in 16th place. In the men’s competition, the winner of the final was Christopher Delbosco of Canada, with the USA’s Daron Rahlves in 4th place.
For more information on the Nature Valley Freestyle Cup, visit the official event website at http://www.whiteface.com/events/freestyle/schedule.php. The competitions will also be televised on NBC and Versus.
When the next big snowfall comes, I know where I’m headed with my cross-country skis: Cat and Thomas mountains in the Eastern Adirondacks.
Located just west of Bolton Landing on Lake George, the two small peaks are part of a 1,900-acre preserve purchased in 2003 by the Lake George Land Conservancy. Neither of the two mountains require more than a 750-foot ascent to the top, making them two of the easiest ways to catch a killer view of Lake George or the Adirondack foothills. I’ve done this hike in warm weather and cold, and I like it best on skis. The trails are never desperately steep (at least to the intermediate skier). Fresh snow and wide skis are definitely preferred, however.
To reach the preserve, head east off Northway Exit 24 toward Bolton Landing, and make a right after two miles onto Valley Woods Road to find the preserve on the right. The trail to Cat, 3.5 miles, follows a rocky logging road. Occasional colored discs show the way. After about 15 minutes, you pass a right turn (signed) to Thomas Mountain, which is only 1.5 miles from the cars. You can also reach Cat Mountain from a different parking lot down the road from the main lot.
Which peak is better? Hard to say. When I was there last winter, Thomas still had a small cabin on top, which made a great place to take a break (there was talk of removing the cabin at the time). But the view faces west, missing the lake. Cat has nothing on top, and it’s got a sweeping view of the southern half of Lake George.
Thomas is the easier ski, but Cat is still quite doable. Climb them both — which shouldn’t take more than half a day — and you’ve got the makings of a great winter outing.
There’s plenty of good powder in the woods these days. It’s an ideal time for skiing glades.
Good luck finding one. Most backcountry skiers would sooner give out their bank PINs than reveal the locations of their favorite glades.
In the decade I’ve lived here, I’ve stumbled upon a few glades while exploring the woods and learned about others through word of mouth. I ski three or four glades fairly regularly.
It’s a guilty pleasure, though. Many glades are surreptitiously maintained by skiers who cut saplings and underbrush—which is illegal in the forever-wild Forest Preserve. I’ve talked to skiers who insist that the grooming doesn’t harm the forest. As much as I enjoy skiing glades, I am a tad skeptical. Certainly, it changes the natural environment. Then again, so does just about everything we do in the wild—whether it’s cutting a hiking trail, driving a polluting snowmobile over a marsh, or stocking a stream with hatchery fish. The question is how much alteration of the environment is acceptable.
Recently, I happened to meet a well-respected environmental scientist at a trailhead, and I asked him if thinning glades damaged the forest. His off-the-cuff answer: not much.
An article in Vermont Life takes a hard look at the issue of cutting bootleg trails and thinning glades. One critic argues that cutting saplings creates a forest of even-aged trees and when these trees die, gaps in the forest will emerge. Yet the article also quotes an expert suggesting that glades can be managed to minimize the environmental impact.
Many resorts, including state-run facilities at Whiteface and Gore, have created glades to satisfy their patrons’ desire to ski in a more natural environment. Some backcountry skiers would like to see the state authorize the creation of managed glades in wild portions of the Forest Preserve. Frankly, I see that as a long shot, but it’d be neat if Paul Smith’s College or the state College of Environmental Science and Forestry looked at the impact of ski glades. As a long-term experiment, students could thin a glade on their own, study it over the years, and come up with suggestions for glade management. This information could be useful to resorts and perhaps to backcountry outlaws as well.
Backcountry skiers need to watch what they wish for. If the state did permit maintained glades in the Forest Preserve, everyone would know their locations.
I have a feeling, though, that hard-core enthusiasts would be skiing elsewhere.
Photo by Phil Brown: A skier in an Adirondack glade.
The 114,000-acre Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area has always been one of the premiere places to cross-country ski in the Adirondacks. But this winter, the region offers something even more compelling: a new trail.
This is the first winter that skiers can travel the eight-mile Botheration Pond Loop, a route that circles around the Balm of Gilead Mountain and several lesser hills. The route begins and ends at Old Farm Clearing, located near the Garnet Hill cross-country ski resort. The loop combines existing trails with more than a mile of new trails and two bridges, 35- and 55-feet long, that were built last summer by nearly a dozen volunteers and DEC staff under the supervision of Ranger Steve Ovitt. » Continue Reading.
Though some people choose to stick to their favorite mountain for the ski season, others move around to experience all the downhill opportunities available in the Adirondacks. For those with ski passes don’t forget about the Reciprocal Pass Program between Gore, Titus, McCauley, Mt. Pisgah and Whiteface. This program allows the season pass holder to either ski for free on certain days or at a reduced cost.
There are also significant savings available for the mid-week non-season pass holder. McCauley Mountain holds to their Crazy Eight Days. Each Friday from January through April offers adult lift tickets for just $8.00. (Check for blackout dates.)
Present any Coca-Cola product at Gore and Whiteface and receive a one-day adult lift ticket for $38.00 (excluding 2/17/10.) This offer is only valid on Wednesdays. It is a great deal whether you are on vacation, have the day off or opt for a bit of “ski hooky.”
In addition, Whiteface has its Stylin’ Sundays wherein five select Sundays (December 13, January 10, February 7, March 14 and April 4) of the season feature $35.00 lift tickets for adults, $30.00 for teens and $25.00 junior tickets. Six and under are always free. Each of those select Sundays have a theme like Island Madness, Shamrock or Retro with slope-side games, live music and events.
Big Tupper Ski Area recently opened, after a ten-year hiatus, to much fanfare with a one-day adult ski pass for $15.00. Big Tupper is staffed with volunteers and relies just on nature for snow making so it is best to check their website to make sure they are open and that Mother Nature is cooperating.
Oak Mountain Ski Center in Speculator offers Fire Department Personnel, EMS Workers Hospital Employees and Law Enforcement Personnel $10 off a full day lift ticket on Thursdays and Fridays throughout the season. Residents & homeowners of Arietta, Hope, Lake Pleasant & Wells and the Village of Speculator ski for free every Sunday throughout the season.
Malone’s Titus Mountain offers a Super-Saver Special from Thursday – Saturday when all day passes are good until 10:00 p.m.
Smaller family mountains such as Bear Mountain in Plattsburgh presents $18.00 lift tickets to non-members and Mt. Pisgah in Saranac Lake offers a $10 lift ticket for anyone coming for the last hour and half of the day. That includes those evenings the mountain is open for night skiing.
West Mountain in Queensbury, Whiteface, Gore, Titus, Oak Mountain and McCauley offer a military discount as a thank you to active service men and women. If you or a member of your immediate family is an active service member, please ask about discounts.
Hopefully this list will help keep the jingle in your pocket while enjoying the beautiful Adirondack Park.
The Wright Peak Ski Trail is a testament to the lure of down-mountain skiing in the backcountry despite the existence of lift-service resorts.
Cut in the late 1930s, the trail switchbacks down the northeast side of Wright, providing a thrilling and challenging descent through a beautiful forest. After World War II, the trail fell into disuse and became overgrown, but in the late 1980s, Tony Goodwin and other backcountry skiers received permission from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to reopen it. The trail is now featured in David Goodman’s guidebook Backcountry Skiing Adventures: Vermont and New York, published by the Appalachian Mountain Club.
The problem is that the ski route ends after a mile and joins the popular Algonquin Peak hiking trail. This means skiers must descend a few miles on trails often crowded with snowshoers. It seems like an accident waiting to happen. The snowshoers probably don’t like this any more than the skiers do.
What most snowshoers don’t realize is that this section of the Algonquin trail was once part of the ski trail. In those days, hikers went up Algonquin by a separate trail located a little to the north. In the early 1970s, however, DEC closed this trail and moved hikers to the ski trail. Since then, the old ski trail has been maintained with hiking in mind: water bars have been dug, rock steps have been created, brush has been laid down to narrow the passage—all of which makes the trail less suitable for skiing. What’s more, hikers have eroded the trail and exposed boulders that create dangerous obstacles.
Goodwin has come up with what seems like a sensible solution: reopen the old hiking trail for skiing. Under his proposal, the old hiking route would be clipped to its original width. Eroded sections would be filled with logs and brush. The trail would be smooth when covered with snow but remain gnarly enough to discourage hiking in other seasons. As it is, some hikers continue to use the old trail, causing erosion.
“We want to improve it for skiing but make it less desirable for hiking,” Goodwin told the Adirondack Explorer last year. “That would be a win-win situation.”
Goodwin said the volunteers would do all the work to reopen and maintain the trail, so it wouldn’t cost DEC a penny.
Yet DEC has scotched the proposal—not because it’s a bad idea, necessarily, but because it would require an amendment to the High Peaks Wilderness unit management plan. DEC doesn’t want to revisit the High Peaks plan until it finishes the UMPs for other Forest Preserve units.
Given DEC’s chronic shortage of staff, however, it will be years, perhaps more than a decade, before the other plans are done. DEC was supposed to complete all the unit management plans in the 1970s, but more than thirty years later, we’re still waiting on a dozen or so. In addition, DEC is writing recreational plans for vast tracts protected by conservation easements.
In short, we all could be dead or in retirement homes before DEC gets around to evaluating Goodwin’s proposal—if it ever does.
The same goes for proposals for trails in other parts of the Forest Preserve. The Adirondack Ski Touring Council has talked for years of extending the Jackrabbit Ski Trail from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake. DEC won’t rule on this until it completes the management plan for the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest. When will that be? No one knows.
One purpose of the management plans is to ensure that trails are not approved willy-nilly, without due forethought to their impact on the Forest Preserve. But the system is broken. Because DEC lacks the staff to write these plans, proposals wither on the vine or languish for decades. Surely, there must be a way for DEC to evaluate worthy ideas more quickly without neglecting its duty to protect the Preserve.
Perhaps there are sound reasons for rejecting Goodwin’s proposal for the Wright Peak Ski Trail, but it deserves a hearing.
Photo of skiers on Wright Peak by Susan Bibeau/Adirondack Explorer.
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