Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Whiteface Mountain: 01/15 & 01/16/2012
It can be hard to impress a 7-year-old. You never know for sure if you’re going to get a reaction of “Awesome!” or “yawn.” So even though Daniel is a very enthusiastic skier, Beth and I made a point of not building up his first-ever visit to Whiteface too much before our trip. With crisp blue skies, new snow, and temperatures well below zero for our drive up on Sunday morning, the stage was set. Daniel’s reaction to our first glimpse of the mountain was the same as virtually every other first-time visitor: “Whoa!”
We’ve wanted to do a family trip up to Whiteface for some time, but put it off for a variety of reasons. As a family, we’ve had Gore dialed in for years, so going to a new mountain as a family required a little bit of stepping outside our comfort zone. It turned out to be a pretty easy adaptation.
Since Sylvie is just 4 years old and just starting to ski, daycare for her is a major consideration for our family. The set-up at Whiteface, with its separate Kid’s Kampus, made parking, unloading, checking Sylvie into daycare and gearing up a piece of cake. I can’t say enough good things about how nice Whiteface’s Kids Kampus facility is. Compared to the main base lodge, the Kids Kampus was an easy, low-key way to start and end the day – a key consideration for families.
The three of us skied together for most of the two days. I stole away several times for a bonus run down one of the black diamond trails off the Mountain Run lift while Beth and Daniel went into the lodge for a hot chocolate. I was thrilled with how well Daniel handled all of the terrain, including the black diamonds. We had intentionally waited to do a family trip to Whiteface until Daniel’s skill level was pretty high so that he could ski – and enjoy – the whole mountain. Seeing him enjoy exploring a big, new mountain and having fun skiing challenging terrain like the soft bumps on Mackenzie made the trip a homerun.
I was impressed with snow conditions. Bread-and-butter trails like Excelsior and Upper/Lower Valley had excellent groomed man-made packed powder conditions. Steeper black diamond terrain like Mountain Run and Wilderness were firmer but still very edgeable. In a low snowfall year like this, grooming and snowmaking make all the difference in keeping ski surfaces in good condition, and the crews at Whiteface did a great job this weekend. Pick-of-the-day had to be Mackenzie, where snowmaking guns were piling up deep man-made powder. Really the only “bad” conditions we found on the mountain were on Victoria on Sunday, with rock-hard bumps. But the snowmaking crews turned the guns on Victoria overnight, and it skied great on Monday.
Sunday’s temperatures stayed cold enough that we didn’t venture up the summit lift. But on Monday the cold moderated enough so that we rode up to ski Parron’s Run, the long intermediate run down from the summit. Parron’s was a real highlight both for excellent snow conditions and the spectacular views. I would have liked to return to the summit to ski Skyward – one of Whiteface’s signature black diamonds - a few times, but the timing just didn’t work out to do that. With something like 60 – 70% of the mountain open, we had plenty of excellent terrain choices to keep us busy for the two days. Lookout Mountain, Whiteface’s new terrain pod, wasn’t open yet but snowmaking continued on the Wilmington Trail all weekend, and word is it will open later this week.
Over the years I’ve skied at Whiteface more times than I can count. For good reason it’s considered to have some of the best challenging terrain in the East and the most spectacular mountain scenery. It has a big mountain feel that some skiers say is similar to a Western mountain. I think Daniel’s reaction describes Whiteface best: Whoa!