Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Whiteface Mountain: 01/15 & 01/16/2012

Whiteface Mountain ski area, January 15, 2012. 

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.

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!”

First view of the mountain

Kid's Kampus - where we started/ended the day

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.

Looking up the Kids Kampus chairlift

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.

Cold temps made Gondi key today

Yes, it really was that cold: minus 12 on the drive up Sunday morning. 

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
We knew cold temperatures (basically around zero on the mountain) would be a challenge, especially on Sunday, but relatively calm winds and bright sunshine made the cold tolerable. Both mornings started off in the -12 to -15 degree range, but warmed up to a balmy zero or so by the time we began skiing around 10 or 10:30. The gondola and the mid-mountain lodge made it relatively easy to warm up.

Beth and Daniel starting down Excelsior. Crowd factor: zero

Our friend Phil from Gore, ripping it up on Mackenzie

I'd say Phil was having fun

Beth enjoying manmade powder on Mackenzie

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.

Cold weather strategy: no exposed flesh

Phil again, on Mackenzie

World Cup events will be on Wilderness in a few days, the trail in the center

Skier on Mountain Run

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.

Stunning view of Lake Placid from the summit of Little Whiteface

There's no doubt: Whiteface is a BIG adventure

Looking up the Summit Quad

Beautiful mid-winter whiteness on the Summit Quad

The 2 black dots are skiers about to drop into Skyward

Loving the skull & cross bones warning sign

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.

Daniel's "Ski the Face" helmet, starting down from the summit

The drop-in to Skyward and view down to the top of the gondi

Beth and Daniel skiing down Parron's Run

7 degrees = balmy

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!

Daniel's "Ski the Face" sticker. He earned it.

Skiing with Sylvie on the Kids Kampus magic carpet, late afternoon Monday

Looking up at the summit at day's end


  1. Sweet. Love your family outings!

  2. Would you ever consider making Whiteface your home mountain?

  3. Thanks for reading Erica!

    Anon - After skiing the 2 days there as a family, yes it could definitely work. The clincher would be a daycare pass for Sylvie that was good at both mountains - we'd be up at WF a lot more if it didn't mean spending the additional $89 for daycare.