Sunday, March 22, 2015
Whiteface Mountain: 03/21/2015
After last weekend’s uninspiring conditions we felt the need for a change of pace, so we headed up to Whiteface on Saturday. Whiteface can be a tough mountain, but somehow we always seem to luck into good conditions up there.
Saturday’s weather brought something for everyone. Winter ruled from the mid-mountain lodge up, with a taste – just a taste – of spring below. Although there hasn’t been much recent snow, the upper mountain trails all skied very well with mid-winter conditions: great coverage and plenty of loose, groomed snow over a firm base.
The four of us toured through our upper mountain favorites – the Wilmington Trail, Skyward, Mountain Run, Excelsior – sometimes returning all the way to the bottom to catch the gondi or Face Lift back up, sometimes taking one of the upper mountain chairs and staying high on the mountain.
But surely the highlight of the day was getting a chance to finally ski the Whiteface Slides. In fact, the Slides were as much the reason for our visit as the need for a change of pace. In all my visits to Whiteface over the years, I had never been able to catch the Slides on an open day.
Catching the Slides when they’re open is a bit like winning the lottery. Last winter was considered a good year for the Slides, and they were open just 13 out of 149 days. Access to the slides is tightly controlled by Ski Patrol, with avalanche gear (beacon, shovel, probe) frequently required.
The Slides had been open the day before (for only the second time this season) with a “Gold” status (no avi gear required), so we knew our chances were good. The chalkboard at the base of the Summit Quad confirmed our luck: Slides Open, Gold. Beth and Sylvie headed for another Gondi run, and Daniel and I headed up.
I’ll admit to being nervous on the traverse out to the Slides from the top of the Summit Quad. The Slides have a reputation as some of the gnarliest lift-accessed terrain in the east. We settled on Slide 2, figuring it would have a little less traffic than Slide 1. Visibility was marginal, but the snow was great. We skied the narrow chute of Slide 2 down to where it merged into Slide 1, then negotiated the technical ledges and ice flows on skier’s right. A minute or two later we were cruising the easy run-out that leads back to Lower Skyward.
What a great experience! Terrain like the Slides is what keeps skiing challenging, interesting and exciting. And even more rewarding was being able to share the experience with Daniel. Sometimes the satisfaction from a single great run sets the tone for the rest of the day, it certainly kept us glowing.
More info on the Whiteface Slides: NY Ski Blog Slide Guide and Skiing the Whiteface Slides