Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Whiteface Mountain: 02/20/2012
Whiteface and Gore skiers love to debate which is the “better” mountain: Gore has its glades and the most skiable acres in New York, Whiteface has its Olympic heritage and the biggest vertical drop in the East. The debate will never be settled, and that’s fine with me since a season pass at either mountain gives full access to the other. That interchangeability has been a real bonus for us this season, with Monday being our fourth ski day at The Face.
After dropping Sylvie at the Kids Kampus daycare, Beth, Daniel and I embarked on a morning tour of the Whiteface "standards:" runs like Excelsior, Approach and the Mackenzies on Little Whiteface, and the Wilmington Trail on Lookout Mountain. Loose granular trail surfaces were generally soft and edgeable from both grooming and the strong February sun.
Since Lookout Mountain wasn't open yet when we last visited Whiteface over the MLK Weekend, we made skiing the Wilmington Trail a priority. Despite what seemed to be a pretty big holiday weekend crowd at the base, Lookout Mountain was nearly deserted, and it seemed like we had the Wilmington to ourselves. Skiers often talk about the panoramic views, length (over 2 miles) and vertical drop (2800') of the Wilmington, but on the day we visited the highlight had to be the beautiful snow-covered spruce trees that lined the upper Wilmington. At nearly 4000' in elevation it's a stunning sub-alpine setting to which photos simply don't do justice.
From the summit of Little Whiteface, skiing Approach to the Mackenzies has long been one of my favorite lines on the mountain for the views from Approach and for the interesting twists and drops on Upper Mackenzie. Snowmaking crews sealed the deal on Monday by leaving Upper Mack covered in big bumps and whales of carveable chalky snow, some of the nicest on the mountain.
Except for a line that formed at the gondola around 11am (it looked like maybe the Face Lift had briefly shut down?), lifts were walk-on all day. Apparently the holiday ski vacationers confined themselves mainly to the gondola and Face Lift. As has become our SOP at Whiteface, we had lunch at the mid-mountain lodge. In fact, I haven't even been inside the Whiteface base lodge since Media Day in early December.
I felt that I had unfinished business from our last Whiteface visit: though we had skied Parron's Run and Follies off the summit, I hadn't gotten to ski Skyward, Whiteface's signature summit black diamond trail. So after lunch we split up: Daniel and I headed up the summit chair while Beth skied a lower mountain trail.
For my money, Skyward has to be one of the most spectacular ski runs in the East: it's a sustained steep, wide, straight-down-the-mountain trail that confirms Whiteface's big mountain reputation. Snow conditions were absolutely great: dry, chalky packed powder top to bottom, best on the mountain. Those couple of runs on Skyward, with Daniel skiing just ahead or just behind me, were certainly the best of the day and among the best of the entire season. After our first run, Daniel and I decided that Beth had to ski Skyward too, so the three of us enjoyed a run together.
We ended our day with a run down Parron's, a bit anti-climatic after the great runs on Skyward. In hindsight, we should have logged another lap on Skyward, but it'll be there for another visit. We're hoping to get in at least one more trip to The Face this season.
Gore may be my home mountain, but I'm awfully glad I've got its "little" sibling (fewer skiable acres!) up north.