Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gore Mountain, 11/28/2010: Opening Weekend

I don't ski opening weekend every year.  Sometimes the weather doesn't cooperate, sometimes Thanksgiving plans with family interfere, and sometimes I just don't feel like elbowing my way through the crowds on the single icy trail that's usually open. 

Topridge skied great!

But today it turned out that the snow was excellent, some great additional terrain came on-line, and crowds were light. And yeah, we had some family visiting for Thanksgiving, but we just brought 'em along!

Gore opened on for the season on Saturday with a single long intermediate run open from the top of the gondola. I knew that crews were working hard on the black diamond trail Topridge, hoping to get that open before the end of the weekend. Sure enough, by the time we boarded the gondola mid-morning on Sunday, we were greeted by a chalkboard sign reading "Topridge Open."

Our first couple runs were down the open route on the front side of the mountain, combining Ruby Run, Sunway, Quicksilver and Jamboree. As soon as we began skiing it was clear that snow conditions were excellent: edge-to-edge coverage with mostly packed powder surfaces, very little ice and no thin or bare spots. A few inches of natural snow on Saturday had mixed in with the man-made snow to make very enjoyable ski surfaces. As a bonus, crowds were light so the skier density on the open trails was very comfortable.

Soon enough we turned our attention to Topridge. Several dozen guns had been piling up the snow since late afternoon Friday, and the trail had been left ungroomed with lots of fun, carvy whales. Advanced skiers were clearly having a blast, enjoying the great snow surfaces (as long as you don't mind skiing under the guns) and grateful to have some early season black diamond terrain available.

Advanced skiers enjoying one of Topridge's steeper pitches

But the real heroes of the weekend aren't the skiers at all. The snowmaking crew did a great job recovering from unfavorable weather on Thursday and Friday, providing skiers with excellent surfaces and great terrain options. A poster on another internet forum commented, regarding my recent Whiteface Snowmaking Tour post: "If the skiing/riding public actually knew how intricate a process making snow is at Whiteface year in, and year out, they'd never complain about the daily conditions again." That statement applies to Gore equally.

I had an impromptu conversation with Mark, Gore's snowmaking department head pictured above, while he was at work at the base of Foxlair.  Mark confirmed that the recent weather had been a challenge, but the crew had been ready to take advantage of the colder tempreatures that arrived on Friday.  Although there will be a brief warm-up early in the week, it's anticipated that crews will move to Pine Knot and Tannery, Foxlair and Lower Sunway, and then on to additional lower mountain terrain (Wild Air, Showcase, Twister).

In fact, snowmaking operations were underway all day Sunday on many of the trails mentioned above, as well as the continued snowmaking on Topridge.

We had a great start to the season, and we're looking forward to being back next weekend.

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