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Making an effort to salvage the season

February 16, 2012
By MIKE LYNCH - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

Generally, I try to get out and ski four or five times per week during the winter months.

That hasn't been the case at all this year. I've probably only gone skiing about a half-dozen times the whole season due to a busy schedule combined with dismal snow conditions.

This past week, though, I decided I'm going to change that outlook and start making a serious effort to salvage my own personal ski season. Hopefully, that will encourage others in the same boat to do the same.

Article Photos

Mike Lynch/Lake Placid News
Chris Knight telemark skis down Lower Skyward trail at Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington on Monday, Feb. 13.

On Monday, I headed over to Whiteface Mountain, and Tuesday I skied into Marcy Dam. The deadline for this column is Wednesday, so those will be the only areas I'll be able to fill readers in on this week. However, I expect to continue to test out different areas in the coming days and weeks and write them up after the visits.

I started at Whiteface Mountain because it's the obvious place to start due to the mountain's snow-making capabilities.

I don't have a season's pass to Whiteface, so I've hardly spent any time there this year. From what I've heard, conditions have been pretty favorable so far this year, at least in comparison to other places. During the colder days, they've been pumping out the snow with their high-tech guns.

I skied Whiteface during the afternoon Monday with fellow Enterprise reporter Chris Knight. We found that many of the intermediate trails had been skied off and were pretty icy. However, the black diamond trail, Wilderness, was in good shape with a decent amount of snow to push around. The trail is located on Little Whiteface Mountain.

Prior to Wilderness, we spent a couple of runs on Upper and Lower Skyward trails, which are accessed from the summit. Upper Skyward was a bit of an unusual experience. The snow was like styrofoam. You could cut into foamy snow with your skis. That gave me enough control to ski down the hill, but it was pretty slick if you fell.

One woman we passed on Upper Skyward actually had a full wipeout or "yard sale" as some call it. Due to the hard-packed surface, she slid 75 feet down the hill. Her skis and poles, however, remained where she first tumbled. It appeared that she didn't injure herself.

Overall, despite there being little powder, it wasn't too bad to ski there. But the better skiing was down the hill on Lower Skyward, where the guns were in full blast. In this area, under the summit quad chairlift, there was several inches of loose chalk-like snow. The skiing didn't match up to the experience of being in fresh powder, but it was serviceable. At least there was some snow to push around.

This part of the trail made the trip to Whiteface worth it that day.

Marcy Dam

As for Tuesday, skiing out to Marcy Dam on the truck trail kind of reminded me of an early- or late-season ski. It was unbelievable how little snow there was in the woods. In some areas, there were small plants and leaves still poking through the snow. Still, most of the trail was covered.

The only really bare section was between the trail register and the beaver swamp. There were some stretches here where you had to take off your skis and walk for a short way.

I skied the trail with Lake Placid News Sports Editor Morgan Ryan. We found that South Meadow Road was covered with a thin but serviceable coating of snow. Then, like I mentioned earlier, the area near the trail register and beaver swamp was thin.

After that, the skiing improved. The snowpack increased the closer we got to the dam. The last half-mile was actually in pretty decent condition.

As we skied, we followed the ski tracks of a few other people who had decided to make the trip recently. One of those skiing on Tuesday was Phil Brown, editor of the Adirondack Explorer. Phil skied all the way to Avalanche Lake. Apparently, the Avalanche Pass trail was skiable earlier this week. Of course, conditions have been changing day-by-day, so that could be different by now.

In addition to the ski tracks, we saw some footprints. The snowpack was actually so thin and packed down that you weren't required to wear snowshoes or skis on the truck trail. During a normal winter, people will "posthole" if they aren't wearing snowshoes or skis, but that hasn't been the case in many areas so far. However, you probably still do need snowshoes or skis in the higher elevations.

I also found the ski into Marcy Dam worth the trip, if only because there are so few options in terms of places to ski this year.

Well, those are the two areas I visited this week. I plan to check out the Paul Smith's VIC in the coming days, where I heard the skiing has been pretty good recently, and the trail to Camp Santanoni in Newcomb, among other places.



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