Friday, December 31, 2010

Gore Mountain: 12/31/2010

On the last day of the year, and the last day of a month in which Mother Nature has simply refused to let it snow at Gore, we got the next best thing. Blue sky and temperatures that warmed into the 40s turned the entire mountain into soft snow, pseudo-spring conditions from top to bottom. I'm calling it pseudo-spring only because of the calendar; everything else about the day was full-on springlike, including the handful of skiers who insisted upon skiing in shorts and t-shirt.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mount Van Hoevenberg XC: 12/30/2010

As often as possible I like to pay tribute to telemark skiing’s nordic roots by getting away from the lifts for a day of cross country skiing. Sometimes that means a backcountry day, other times it means hitting one of the groomed cross country touring centers. Today, we headed up to the Olympic cross country ski trails at Mount VanHoevenberg in Lake Placid, where snow conditions have been excellent over the past few weeks.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Regional Roundup: Snow For Some, Wind For All

While the big coastal storm Sunday and Monday brought lots of snow to some areas, with generally 16 to 20 inches across Southern Vermont, other areas (Gore, Hickory) got nil. Locally, Willard Mountain picked up around 14 inches and is enjoying excellent conditions. Up north, Whiteface got 5 inches Sunday night. But virtually all ski areas in New York and New England experienced complications from high winds on Monday and Tuesday, resulting in widespread lift closures and delays both days. And at Sugarloaf in Maine, high winds Tuesday caused a lift cable to derail, sending about a half dozen skiers to the ground.  Photo credit above: Magic Mountain, Dec. 27.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gore Mountain: 12/26/2010

High Peaks under blue skies and interesting cloud formations

On the day after Christmas, while the kids played with new toys, I had a window of opportunity to head up to Gore solo for several hours of skiing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Regional Roundup: The Glass Is Half Full

Don’t get me wrong: I like powder skiing and lots of natural snowfall as much as the next skier. Maybe more. I really, REALLY want to get this season jump-started with a nice foot-or-more storm. But we have had a nice stretch of consistently cold temperatures with favorable snowmaking conditions, and it appears that pattern will stay in place for the remainder of the month and beyond. I’ll hold out hope for a significant storm, but I’m happy that the ski season is underway and base depths and trail counts are building: the glass is half full. Here’s how things look around the region heading into the Christmas holiday week.

Whiteface and the Lake Placid area have had snow. Jon Lundin, ORDA Public Relations Coordinator reported yesterday: “Mother Nature has been kind with over two feet of natural snow the past few days. Combine that with great snowmaking conditions and it’s a recipe for some great skiing and riding for the holiday weekend. In fact, last weekend Whiteface, in Wilmington, N.Y., opened the Whiteface summit and the quad lift to Riva Ridge, Paron’s Run, the Follies, John’s By-Pass and Victoria. There will be even more summit skiing and riding this weekend with the openings of Skyward and Niagara.” Whiteface also reports that snowmaking is expected to begin tomorrow (Thursday) on Lookout Mountain. Photo credit: Whiteface/ORDA.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gore Mountain: 12/19/2010

It's finally really starting to look like winter up at Gore. Even if the snow in the woods isn't deep yet, the ground is covered and the trees are white. We're beginning to have enough terrain open that there is some variety and options for skiers. And light pre-holiday traffic has helped to keep the surfaces in nice condition.

Snow-covered trees in the Straightbrook valley

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stratton Mountain, VT: 12/16/2010

Where is everyone?  Even the Waffle Hut is deserted at 9am.

I don’t ski in Vermont often, but desperate times call for desperate measures. With damaging rain earlier in the week, and little natural snow since then at Gore, I headed with 2 ski pals to Stratton today to take advantage of their superior snowmaking firepower and grooming capabilities. About a half foot of natural snow had fallen since Monday to sweeten the pot and seal the deal.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gore Mountain: 12/11/2010

Typical early season conditions today (Saturday) at Gore: mid-20s and overcast, good coverage and mostly good snow surfaces, limited terrain, light crowds.

Since last weekend, options on the lower mountain have been expanded with Foxlair, Lower Sunway, Showcase / Lower Sleighride / Arena now online. On the upper mountain, we had been looking forward to Hawkeye and Cloud / Headwaters, however electrical problems with the Straightbrook quad kept the lift closed all day and prevented opening that terrain. Apparently those issues have been resolved and the Straightbrook chair ran on Sunday.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A visit with Lapland Lake's Ann and Olavi Hirvonen

Last week I had the opportunity to interview Olavi Hirvonen and his wife Ann, who own and operate the Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center in Benson, near Northville, NY. Olavi competed in the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympic Games as a member of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team., and in 1978 he founded Lapland Lake, which he and Ann have built into one of the East’s foremost cross country ski centers.

Jeff: What events led to you being selected for the U.S. Olympic Nordic Ski Team in 1960?

Olavi: Well, it’s a long story… I was born in Montreal and was brought to Finland when I was eight months old. I was raised there by my grandmother and learned to ski as a youngster. I came to this country in 1949 after serving in the Finnish Army. After being here a couple years and married for a few months, I received greetings from the U.S. Army with special orders to go to Alaska as an instructor in the Arctic Indoctrination School. In the wintertime I taught skiing, snowshoeing, and Arctic survival, and in the summer it was mountain climbing, rock climbing, glacier travel and arctic water training.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gore Mountain: 12/05/2010

Most skiers would like to forget last week's rain and mild temperatures, and several days of cold temperatures and snowmaking have gone a long way towards erasing that memory.  However, that spell of unfavorable weather hampered progress in getting additional ski terrain on-line for this weekend. The only terrain that has been added at Gore is Pine Knot and Tannery, which at least provided some good snow and variety for today's skiing.  Foxlair and Lower Sunway both looked ready to ski, but the rope never dropped to open those trails, at least not as of 2:30 or so when we ended our ski day.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bring on the snow!

Up to two feet of snow fell yesterday in Buffalo, forcing closure of the NYS Thurway.  In Europe, heavy snow and record-breaking cold have shut down airports and crippled travel from England to Switzerland to Poland.  As for winter weather here in eastern New York and New England this week, not so much. 

But skiers now have legitimate reason to smile:  colder weather has arrived and temperatures in the mountains should allow round-the-clock snowmaking for at least the next 15 days.  A series of low pressure systems over the next week will produce some snowfall over the mountains of New York and New England.  This combination of colder temperatures and periods of snow have the potential to allow ski areas to recover from this week's monsoon-like rains and warm temperatures and significantly expand their open terrain by mid-month.

Willard's new groomer sits ready on November 21, with evidence of early snowmaking efforts

Looking to this weekend, Gore expects to add Pine Knot and Tannery to Ruby Run / Sunway and Topridge by Saturday.  Whiteface also hopes to expand open terrain options.  Locally, Willard is resuming snowmaking operations and hopes to be open by the weekend of December 11 and West Mountain is looking to open by mid-month.  A pair of interesting articles in today's Saratogian profiles improvements for 2010-2011 and anticipated opening dates for both West Mountain and Willard.

Cold temperatures are finally here, bring on the snow!