Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Whiteface and Gore: 02/15 & 02/16/2014
Warning: long post. Probably should have split this in two...
Choices. We had wanted to ski Whiteface be in and Lake Placid this weekend for the Olymipcs, but with last week’s new snow we didn’t want to miss out on Gore’s glades either. The solution: we split the weekend with a day at each mountain.
Whiteface, Saturday 02/15/2014:
Of course there was also the decision of which mountain to ski on which day, and after a bit of debate we settled on the milder day – Saturday – for Whiteface. We’ve been pretty lucky with our Whiteface picks this winter, and this weekend was no exception: temps in the mid-20s, no wind, and perfect packed powder everywhere.
It’s been my goal to make Whiteface our family’s second home mountain. While we’ll probably never know all the nooks and crannies of Whiteface as well as we do Gore’s, each visit brings us closer.
Saturday was our fifth ski day at The Face this winter, but our first since the Lookout Mountain terrain opened a few weeks back. We’ve skied Lookout’s Wilmington trail in past seasons, but not Hoyt’s High. Until last year, Hoyt’s was reliant on natural snow and rarely open. The installation of snowmaking on Hoyt’s in the summer of 2012 has put Hoyt’s in play much more frequently, and skiing it was my #1 priority for Saturday.
After a family lap on Wilmington, Daniel and I split off from the women for our inaugural run down Hoyt’s while the ladies did a repeat lap on Wilmington. With twists, turns and alternating steep and moderate pitches, the crews did a fantastic job when Hoyt’s was cut in 2008. Snow conditions were great: an edgeable base of manmade snow with natural snow along the sides and in the troughs. It’s a leg burner too: 1400 vertical feet, double that of Gore’s Rumor.
Whiteface isn’t known for its glades, but we’ve been poking around the trees on our last couple of visits and have a few off-the-map shots dialed in now. Unlike Gore, the trees don’t seem to get much skier traffic at Whiteface, and we found great snow in the places we explored.
The icing on the cake was finding out Sunday morning before we left Lake Placid that Andrew Weibrecht had won the silver medal in the Super-G. Watching the race at home Sunday night was just as exciting even though we knew the outcome. Pretty cool to have our second home mountain also be the home of Olympic champions.
Gore, Sunday 02/16/2014:
We skied at Gore on Sunday, but with a twist. Knowing that the holiday weekend would bring out capacity crowds, we decided to base ourselves out of the Ski Bowl, Gore’s alternate base area. This has been something we’ve wanted to try for some time, but it hasn’t worked out for us until now. First, the Ski Bowl only makes sense when the Hudson chair is spinning. No Hudson chair = no connection with the rest of the mountain. Second, programs like Mountain Adventure, daycare or NYSEF are a deal killer for the Ski Bowl as these programs are all based out of the main base area.
Although there’s a small lodge with food service at the Ski Bowl, we used the yurt to boot up. It felt like a luxury to park maybe a hundred feet away at 10am on a holiday weekend. Both chairlifts were ski-on.
We’ve only skied the Ski Bowl terrain a few other times, so we almost felt like we were at a new mountain. On top of that, the Ski Bowl trails have an old-school character that feels quite different from the rest of Gore.
Glade skiing has been limited this year, so we hopped right in when we passed the entrance to Ridge Runner, a new glade that was added to the trail map this winter. It’s relatively short but it’s also low-angled, and that means it holds snow better than some of the steeper glades.
The connection from the Ski Bowl to Burnt Ridge is an easy ski down Peaceful Valley and Eagle’s Nest. Burnt Ridge offered up another new-for-2014 glade: Boreas. Like it's neighbor Barkeater, Boreas is long, maybe 800 vertical feet. The top features tight conifers, the lower portion is open hardwoods reminiscent of Twister Glade. There are a few steep pitches, but most of it is moderate. But even with the recent snow, the steeper pitches and lower elevations had gotten skied pretty hard, exposing rocks and roots. It was a good decision that Daniel and I explored Boreas on our own while the ladies did a lap on Sagamore.
From Burnt Ridge, the connection over to the North Side via the new Hedges trail or the Tahawus Glade is easy. Of course we chose the Tahawus Glade, and found the snow conditions better than Boreas. We took a lunch break at the Saddle Lodge, and then finally made our first - and only - run down to the main base for the day. After lunch we made a few summit runs, but found the trails and the trees pretty well skied off from the holiday traffic. If there's a disadvantage to using the Ski Bowl as your base, it's that it takes a while to work your way to the summit, and the summit always skis better in the morning on weekends.
Eventually we skied from the summit all the way back to the Ski Bowl base via Powder Pass and Pipeline. Despite the flat parts of the Pipeline traverse, it's a pretty easy ski - even 6 year old Sylvie was fine with the double-poling on Pipeline. We got back to the Bowl in plenty of time for another run or two off the Hudson chair, and Daniel even took a few more runs after that on the Village double, hitting the halfpipe and snowcross course.
The Ski Bowl was a great way for our family to experience Gore from a new perspective. Gore really felt like a different mountain. Although it's possible to ski over to the Ski Bowl from the main base, the best and most efficient experience is to base out of the Ski Bowl. Hopefully, future expansions of Gore's snowmaking plant will enable the crews to get the Ski Bowl terrain and interconnect open earlier in the season.