Friday, October 18, 2013

Whiteface Mountain, circa 1986

Whiteface Mountain ski area, circa 1986.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
A recent conversation with a ski buddy prompted me to dig up these old photos I took of Whiteface more than a quarter century ago. We had been wondering exactly when Skyward (one of the summit black diamond trails) had been straightened and widened. We didn’t nail down an answer, but these photos at least confirm that it was after 1986.

At first glance, Whiteface in 1986 looks pretty much the same as it does today. By contrast, photos of Gore from the same era look dramatically different than today due to the highly visible Old Red Gondola. But comparing the 1986 Whiteface photos closely to the same view today does yield some significant differences.

Whiteface, circa 1986:

Whiteface, Jan. 15, 2012:

The most obvious differences are the 1999 addition of the Cloudsplitter Gondola (visible in the far left of the 2012 photo) and the 2008 Lookout Mountain expansion (visible to the right of the slides in the 2012 photo). The slides themselves show some changes, and more importantly for skiers the slides have been added as in-bounds, off-piste expert terrain. The widening of Skyward that I mentioned above is apparent. Barely visible in the 2012 photo is Paron’s Run, the first route down from the summit suitable for intermediate skiers. Paron’s was added sometime in the ‘90s. You have to look closely at the 1986 photo to notice that the lift from the base to the mid-mountain lodge was actually a pair of side-by-side double chairs, since replaced by the high-speed Facelift quad.

I’m not sure of the exact date of my 1986 photos, the back of the prints are stamped March 1986. I have a feeling the photos may have actually been taken a month or so earlier - that would explain the snowmaking operations that seem to be taking place on Wilderness and Mountain Run. It’s also interesting to note that my 2012 photo is from one of the poorest snow years in memory.

Improvements at Whiteface this year include the addition of a new glade on Lookout Mountain, 35 new low-energy snowmaking guns, an energy efficient boom fan snow gun for use on the Lower Valley trail, and a new Pisten Bully 600 Winch Cat groomer. Opening day for the 2013-14 ski season is slated for just over a month from now, on November 22. Gore plans to open one week later. THINK SNOW!


  1. The last time I skied Whiteface was in 1988 (or 89?). I have a vivid memory of riding a single chair to the summit, with only a frayed yellow polypro rope for a safety bar. Somehow I am guessing that is no longer there.

    1. You've got me stumped on this one SBR. I know the summit chair was reconfigured at some point, but I have no recollection of it being a single chair in '86. I will have to dig into that one...
      I think you're overdue for a return visit :)

    2. On further thought, I could easily be mistaken. It was definitely a long, lonely ride to the summit of Whiteface but I might be thinking of the old single chair at Tremblant. It is convenient that old age just blends everything together into one blissful fantasy. I am certain that the frayed yellow rope was at WF.

    3. SBR, what I found out is that a double chair was installed when the summit terrain (Cloudspin & Skyward) opened in 1966. An unloading station was added a few hundred vert feet below the top at some point, I assume for the '80 Olympic events. That configuration lasted until being replaced by the current summit quad in '97. So, no single. I don't doubt the frayed yellow rope though.

  2. Whiteface is saying the 29th for an opening day...

    1. Yeah, I know they've got the 29th on their website now. The 22nd came from a press release a week plus ago. Obviously any date is a moving target at this point, 4-5 weeks out. Here's hoping for a cold and snowy November!