Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Whiteface Mountain: 01/19 & 01/20/2014
A quick trip up to Whiteface is the easiest way for our family to log some ski days away from Gore. It’s closer than most of the Vermont areas, Lake Placid is a great town for an overnight stay, we ski for free with our Gore passes, and Whiteface is the King of Eastern skiing, the Olympic Mountain.
Traditional wisdom would suggest that a holiday weekend might not be the ideal time to visit a destination ski resort. On top of the usual holiday crowds, thousands of free Chevy Owners Appreciation Day lift tickets were distributed for Saturday and Sunday. But we ski when we can, and our season passes allow us to take the good with the bad at little risk.
As expected, the lots and lodges were crowded Sunday morning, and we saw plenty of blue jeans and circa 1993 equipment on the slopes. Conditions were a bit of a mixed bag. The Excelsior / Valley / Boreen / Broadway trade route was in good shape despite the traffic, no doubt the result of extensive snowmaking and grooming efforts since the most recent thaw. Essex had good snow but was heavily moguled. Victoria, a blue trail that would be rated black at any other ski area, was scraped down to hard ice at the top but had good snow once you dropped in.
Riding up the Little Whiteface lift around 1pm, we could see that the top third of Mountain Run and Thruway were wall-to-wall gray ice, the kind that still shows last week’s grooming tracks and plays skiers like a game of bumper pool. We passed. So most of our day was spent doing gondi laps down Excelsior and its variations, which ended up being plenty of fun.
On and off light snow on Sunday got more serious overnight, and we woke up Monday morning to a couple inches on the ground in Lake Placid and more still falling. Those couple of inches translated to 4 to 6 at the ski mountain, which along with overnight grooming transformed conditions like Jekyll and Hyde (or more accurately, Hyde and Jekyll). With the tourists and Chevy drivers gone, we had the powder virtually to ourselves.
Groomers erased (or buried) the ice field at the top of Victoria and mowed down the moguls on the lower pitches. The very top of Thruway still had some hard ice beneath the powder, but was in beautiful shape below. Excelsior and Valley kept pockets of powder along the edges all day.
Just before lunch, Daniel and I took a ride up the summit chair and skied Skyward. Visibility wasn’t much, but the snow was fantastic, with natural snow mixing with manmade from guns that had been blasting for three days. In 1600 vertical feet of skiing, we saw just one other skier. Aside from hoots and hollers, I don’t think we said anything until we got to the bottom, where Daniel declared it the best run of the winter. No argument here. That one run on Skyward seemed to redeem all of the frustration with this winter’s up and down weather.
The snow finally took a break around 3pm and a window of blue sky briefly opened as we stepped out of the gondola at the top of Little Whiteface, giving us a quick view of the summit above and Lake Placid below. A minute or two later we clicked into our skis for our final run down.
Cold temperatures this week should allow snowmakers to make progress with terrain expansion. With some luck, maybe Mackenzie, Lookout Mountain and Cloudspin will be online by our next visit. We’ll be back at Gore this coming weekend, but a return visit to The Face in the coming weeks is in the cards.