Friday, December 13, 2013

Whiteface Mountain Media Day: 12/11/2013

Whiteface's Cloudsplitter Gondola, Dec. 11, 2013.

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I’ve said before that Whiteface always seems to deliver, and Wednesday was no exception when Beth and I attended Whiteface’s Media Day for a day of skiing with Whiteface and ORDA staff. We’ve been going to this event for 3 years, and this year featured some of the nicest conditions we’ve seen. After opening for the season two weeks ahead of schedule, Whiteface’s snowmaking crews have been able to open terrain at a faster pace than the mountain has seen in several years.

A brief window of visibility in the morning

By no means frigid by Whiteface standards, Wednesday was certainly brisk with temperatures around 20 at the base and 10 up top. A gusty breeze and light snow all day added to the chill.

Snow conditions were generally firm packed powder on intermediate trails like Excelsior and Lower Northway, allowing for some nice cruising runs. New snow that fell during the day mixed in to make surfaces chalky and edgeable.

Early morning corduroy

Mid-morning snow squall

Beth skiing Lower Northway

Mountain Run, Thruway and Draper’s Drop had just opened for skiing the day before, at least a week ahead of those trails coming on-line in recent years. With the snow guns still blowing, soft and dry manmade powder piled up for some of the best runs of the day.

Aaron (blue jacket with hood), Ron Kon (orange jacket) and some others in our group at the top of Mountain Run

Aaron skiing Mountain Run

Ron Kon dropping into Mountain Run

One of the really enjoyable aspects of the day is the chance to ski with and chat one-on-one with Whiteface/ORDA personnel. At one point Aaron Kellett, Whiteface’s new (as of the 2012-13 season) general manager, talked the importance of having a team of enthusiastic managers: “We’ve got a lot of young managers on our team. We want everyone to be invested in our product and to love what they are doing, so we ask literally everyone we hire if they are a skier. It wasn’t always like that in the past.”

Mountain Run

Gondi approaching the top of Little Whiteface

During lunch, various staff gave short presentations. We heard from Jeff Byrne (ORDA VP), Rob Zborowski (Centerplate's GM for Whiteface), Marketing Director Liz Mezzetti, Public Relations Coordinator Jon Lundin and GM Aaron Kellet. Improvements for 2013-14 include 35 new low-energy snow guns, a new Pisten Bully 600 Winch Cat, and the addition of the Rand’s Last Stand glade on Lookout Mountain, Whiteface’s first new trail in more than 5 years.

One of Whiteface's TechnoAlpin automated fan guns

Aaron also talked about snowmaking operations and the strategy for expanding terrain between now and the Christmas holiday week. Crews will finish up the snowmaking currently underway on Thruway and Parkway, then work on opening any remaining beginner terrain (snowmaking is already underway on Bear and the Kids Kampus), and then make a push to open Paron’s Run and Follies off the summit. With favorable snowmaking conditions and the chance for some natural snow in the forecast, the outlook for the Christmas holiday period is excellent.

Aaron Kellet, Whiteface's GM talking about snowmaking operations in the J.Lohr restaurant

After lunch we finished up our day with another several laps on the gondi, bringing our vertical for the day up to almost 25K. Thanks go out to Aaron, Jon, Mountain Host Ron Konowitz and the rest of the WF crew for a great day of skiing.

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