Time to Downhill Ski!

Elizabeth Folwell

While some of us were paddling as-yet unfrozen lakes or biking clear roads the snow guns were blazing at Gore, in North Creek, and Whiteface, in Wilmington. Thanks to chilly conditions at high altitude and intensive snow-making both state-run ski areas opened last weekend, well ahead of previous years.

Jamboree trail last weekend at Gore

On Friday, November 15, Whiteface’s Cloudsplitter gondola took snowboarders and alpiners to the summit of Little Whiteface Mountain so they could head down Excelsior, Summit Express, Upper Valley, Lower Valley and the Fox Trails, a surprising amount of varied terrain for mid-November. Gore skiers likewise enjoyed great early season conditions on Jamboree and other trails. The weekend launched  “Gore Gives,” an initiative that supports regional food banks when skiers donate nonperishable food items.

Whiteface and Gore will be open again on November 22–23. Each place has new options for the 2013–14 season: Gore has added four trails, including Boreas Glades. Whiteface, according to Jon Lundin, of the Olympic Regional Development Authority, will debut Rand’s Last Stand, on Lookout Mountain. The 1,500-foot-long expert glade will be cut halfway down Hoyt’s High and will also connect to the Summit chair lift.

Big Tupper Ski Area, in Tupper Lake, is back in business this winter, offering day passes for $25 at the family-friendly hill with 1151 feet of vertical drop. No season passes are available; since the mountain does not have snowmaking it will open when there is adequate cover.

The operation—with chair lifts serving intermediate to challenging terrain plus a bunny slope with a Mighty Mite tow—is all volunteer. On Saturday, December 14 the annual Snowball Gala raises money to support maintenance, utilities, insurance and other fixed costs. Tickets to the event are $50 per person, and if you’re short on cash but have time to volunteer at this down-to-earth ski center call (518) 359-7650 or email Help is needed with lift operation, ski patrol, guest services and numerous other tasks; shifts are four to eight hours.

In Old Forge, home to impressive lake-effect snowfall each winter, McCauley Mountain expects to open December 14. In the northern Adirondacks Titus Mountain won’t be far behind. And if you’re wondering how to combine your favorite winter sport and celebrate the new year, Titus plans to keep lifts open, with skiing under the lights, until the stroke of midnight on December 31.

For a statewide perspective on snow conditions, ticket deals, new trails and special programs  the new I Ski NY site includes plenty of useful information. For example, if your third or fourth-grader is jazzed to ski or ride this winter you can get the skinny on the free program that puts together kids and mountains across New York.

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