Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Gore Mountain: 01/17 & 01/18/2015
The Martin Luther King holiday weekend is often one of the busiest of the season at Gore. With not much in the way of recent snowfall, we arrived at Gore Saturday morning expecting to find the mountain crowded and skied off. While the parking lots and lodge were busy, lift lines were minimal and the trails were uncrowded and in great shape from snowmaking and grooming. Undoubtedly, cold temperatures played a role in keeping the crowds away. Temperatures stayed mostly in the single digits all day on the mountain, but a bluebird sky and calm wind kept the day comfortable.
Instead of our usual warm-up runs on the front side, we headed down Uncas to the Straightbrook chair to get a shot at the best conditions on the summit black diamonds. Uncas skied about as nice as it gets, as long as you don't mind skiing under the guns. It certainly would have been worth going back for a couple more laps on Uncas, but we stuck to our plan and headed up top.
Conditions on Hawkeye and Chatiemac were worth sticking around for. Both were groomed, firm and fast, but very edgeable. Beth has something of a love - hate relationship with these trails. She loves them when she they're in great shape can ski them well, and hates them when they're scraped down to ice and hardpack. I, on the other hand, could have fun on a tilted hockey rink. In any case, both trails were in nice enough shape that we skied them in various combinations for 5 laps, working in a couple runs through the lower Straightbrook trees and down some very nice natural snow moguls under the chairlift.
It really was surprising how uncrowded the summit area was, and how comfortable the skiing was despite the single digit temperatures. But it wasn't comfortable for everyone. On our way over to Hulaballoo, Lower Darby and the other Darkside trails, we found that the High Peaks chair had gone down. Skiers had been stranded on the lift for up to two hours while ski patrol performed an evacuation. We stopped for a few minutes to see if there was anything we could do to help, and even talked to a few skiers who were stranded in one of the chairs 20 feet above us. In all my years of skiing, I think this is the only non-drill evac I've witnessed. Reliable sources told me it's been 11 years since Gore's last lift evac. We all feel really bad for everyone who was stuck on that lift, and we're thankful that our family wasn't stuck there. Kudos to ski patrol for getting everyone down safely. ** Note - High Peaks chair is back online as of Tuesday.
The other surprising highlight of the day was the tree skiing. Though limited, the ropes had been dropped on a handful of glades and we found some nice skiing on some of the low-angle glades including Tahawus, Birch Bark Alley and the Straightbrook trees. There's a great base in the woods, so it won't take much to put all of the woods in play.
We got some dramatic clouds and lighting in the afternoon as Sunday's weather system started moving in. Here are a few shots from late in the day:
Saturday was definitely the day for taking pictures, as clouds moved in on Sunday. Not only were the bluebird skies gone, the crowds arrived (it was one of the most crowded days I've seen at Gore) and the good snow up top got harder to find. Of course we still had fun and found good skiing, including some nice runs in the open glades and a trek from the summit all the way down to the Burnt Ridge quad. We found some of the best snow of the day down at Burnt Ridge, on Echo:
We had an incident on Sunday that is worth sharing. On our way to Burnt Ridge, our group of 8 got strung out along the Pipeline traverse and Sylvie (who is 7 years old) went the wrong way at the Eagle's Nest - Peaceful Valley intersection. We alerted ski patrol and got her back within 15 minutes, so all ended well, but it's a good reminder to make sure everyone in your group goes the right way at key trail junctions.
It looks like the skiing should stay good for the foreseeable future, with seasonable temperatures all week. No warm up in sight, but alas no significant storms either. Some potentially significant snow could move in early next week, but of course it's far too early to tell. We are just one moderate snowfall away from Gore being fully open and in top shape.