Monday, April 18, 2011

Jeff's Highlights: 2010-2011 Ski Season

It’s been such a great ski season that I’m reluctant to call it “over.” You don’t have to be a skier to know that the winter of 2010-11 was longer, colder and snowier than recent winters. Although the ski season got off to a slow start, skiers were rewarded for their patience with a streak of snow and consistent cold that started in early January and ran well into spring. And once spring finally did arrive, you might argue that the skiing got even better.

Whiteface Toll Road, November 6
Snow-blasted trees under cobalt skies on the Whiteface Auto Road. 

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

No slow start to my season, 3 weeks before the lifts began turning. Early season snow gave Beth and me the opportunity to ski up the Whiteface auto road and hike over to Esther Mountain, one of the peaks she needed to become a 46er. As we skied up past 4000’ in elevation, we broke through the cloud layer to emerge into a striking landscape of brilliant blue and dazzling white. To top it all off, it just happened to be my 48th birthday. The ski back down the auto road is pretty gentle, but sometimes the first turns of the season are among the sweetest.

Dewey Mountain XC, February 25

Some of the best days involve finding a hidden gem like the Dewey Mountain cross country ski center in Saranac Lake. Dewey was something of a bonus on a short overnight trip to Saranac Lake to ski Whiteface. The night of our arrival just happened to coincide with one of Dewey’s monthly Friday Night Ski Jams, and we got to ski through tunnels of evergreens covered in new-fallen snow and illuminated by strings of incandescent lights. The fun of exploring a new area, the romantic appeal of the beautiful nighttime trails, and the anticipation of skiing at Whiteface the next day all combined to make the evening a real gem.

Gore Mountain Powder Day, March 8

As week after week of powder and packed powder conditions went by in January and February, it seemed that skiers (including me) kept declaring each successive week “the best of the season.” To me, we reached the pinnacle on March 8, the day after Gore and Whiteface received a whopping 25 and 30 inches respectively. With the threat of rain later in the week, I cashed in my chips at home and at work and scored peak conditions on the mountain. To say the trails and trees all skied great is an understatement, and as a bonus the skies cleared for a windless, bluebird day.

Mont Tremblant First Tracks, March 17

As a family with two young kids, it’s pretty tough for us to make it to the mountain in time to score first tracks, especially living an hour away. But staying slopeside on a trip to Tremblant with ski pals made it a no-brainer. Mont Tremblant opens their lifts an hour early for those who sign up the day before for the mountain’s First Tracks program. We boarded one of the first gondola cabins at 7:45am in dense fog, arriving at the summit a few minutes later in…more fog. But almost immediately as we started skiing down the north side of the mountain, the fog cleared to reveal views of mountain islands poking up through a sea of clouds in the early morning sun. And the perfectly groomed corduroy wasn’t too bad either.

Gore Mountain Spring Skiing, weekend of April 2-3

My highlight picks seem to be skewed towards the tail end of the season, but the truth is that we had week after week of solidly great skiing for just about all of January and February. But on the weekend of April 2 and 3, the first weekend of real spring skiing, our family notched it up just a bit higher.

Strong sun and warming temperatures turned the entire mountain into prime soft spring conditions: hero snow. The timing was perfect for Daniel to check off Rumor and Lies, which were the only trails that he hadn’t conquered yet.

And unlike most years where spring skiing is primarily on-piste, the glades and trees held some of the best skiing due to the deep base in the woods from the winter’s frequent snowfalls. We closed out our season on a high note the following weekend, on April 9, with nearly identical conditions.

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