Monday, November 20, 2017

Whiteface opening day: 11/18/2017

Whiteface opening day, Saturday 11/18/2017.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.

Like most eastern skiers, we don't count on skiing before Thanksgiving, so with two "bonus" weekends now in the books it seems like we're off to a great to the season. After hitting Okemo's opening day last weekend, we ratcheted our ski game up a notch for Whiteface's opening day this weekend.

The kids and I left Saratoga early, although not quite as early as these guys who lined up as early as 7am for first gondi bragging rights. As usual, Whiteface opened big: 2400 vertical feet served by the Cloudsplitter gondola. Thanks to plenty of cold weather in early November, conditions were among the best I recall for opening weekend. We were impressed by Okemo's coverage last weekend, but Whiteface upped the ante. Not only was the coverage edge-to-edge, surfaces were a lot nicer than last weekend. In a departure from the usual routine, snowmaking crews this year started at the bottom of the mountain and worked their way up. This strategy allowed crews to bury sections like the Tower 10 hill that are often problematic in the early season. About the only improvement possible would have been to have the crisp blue sky that we had last weekend, but believe me nobody was complaining.

At 2400 verts a pop, we were ready for an early lunch break after 4 or 5 runs. That gave us a chance to check out some of the lodge renovations going on at the base. It'll be great when everything is done, but for now the lodge is pretty ripped apart. The Cloudspin lounge is closed, and there's a heated tent set up outside instead. The J.Lohr restaurant is closed and the area directly across from the J.Lohr, which previously was a retail space, is being renovated for restrooms. The stairwell area is under major re-construction with a new stairwell and elevator. The lower level of the lodge is pretty torn up too with lots of bare sheetrock and exposed framework. Completion date estimates vary widely - we heard everything from Christmas week to next year.

There were some minor bumps in the road with our MaxPasses too. It took a good 15 minutes to get our lift tickets, and that's with just 2 or 3 parties in line ahead of us. I'm sure they'll work out the kinks, but it's a manual process for now with handwritten names on a clipboard and lots of shuffling to computer terminals in the back room to verify MaxPass data. We look forward to the day when you can walk up to the ticket counter, have your MaxPass scanned, and get a ticket. Or better still, go directly to the lifts like a season pass. As first-time MaxPassers we're also figuring things out ourselves. With 5 days at each mountain, you've got to put at least a little thought into playing out your favorites. But for us, when Whiteface calls, we go.

By the time we wrapped up for the day, we racked up somewhere between 20 and 25 thousand verts. It felt great to stretch the legs and bend the skis on some long runs. We're looking forward to getting back to Whiteface soon. Snowmaking crews have already set up on Essex and Northway, and I would expect those runs to open soon (maybe over Thanksgiving weekend) along with Victoria. We're off to a good start on the season, things will only get better from here.


  1. We hope to ski there with you to get a proper tour. Hard to think, its been 6 years.. We always tell people how incredible Whiteface is, looking forward to that edit with you there ;).

  2. Great report, the conditions look awesome. The Maxpass confusion doesn’t surprise me with ORDA, we had the Ski3 pass in previous years and had no end of trouble trying to redeem pass perks at all 3 mountains - Belleayre, Gore & Whiteface. I can’t wait to see the panicked looks when I show up at Belleayre with the Maxpass this season!

  3. Gore Ski3 seemed to be working fine at Belle this weekend. They'll get it worked out once Vail buys the universe right?

    1. I'm sure ORDA will get any kinks worked out shortly if they haven't already. With the proliferation of multi-mtn passes like the MaxPass in recent years, the technology is bound to improve.