LAKE PLACID - For many hardcore cross-country skiers, local golf courses and the Mount Van Hoevenberg ski center operated by the state Olympic Regional Development Authority are offering early-season opportunities to stretch their legs.
Mount Van Hoevenberg opened for the season on Friday, Nov. 29 - the day after Thanksgiving - which is much earlier than normal, according to ORDA spokesman Jon Lundin.
"We've had that great combination of Mother Nature and great weather," Lundin said. "For us, it's more energy going into the ski season."
ORDA’s Michael Battisti tries out the groomed ski trails at Mount Van Hoevenberg Dec. 2. He is in charge of the cross-country/biathlon center. (Photo by Andy Flynn)
Most ORDA venues have opened early this year. Whiteface and Gore ski centers opened on Nov. 15 and 16, respectively, the earliest ever. And the Olympic speed skating oval opened for public skating this past weekend, which is earlier than normal, according to Lundin.
While downhill skiers have had a two-week jump on the season, cross-country skiers have been left with finding patches of snow where they can find them. Golf courses, such as the Craig Wood Golf Course and the Lake Placid Club golf courses operated by Crowne Plaza, have offered some good cover, but many of the fairways have been windswept.
Joe DeForest, manager of the Lake Placid Club Nordic Center, was thankful to have the opportunity to ski for the first time this season on Thanksgiving Day, a tradition Mother Nature has thwarted in past years due to lack of snow. This year, he had fun on the golf course trails but said he wasn't the first.
"We had people skiing way before that," DeForest said. "There is a hardcore group of skiers around here."
With its headquarters at the golf course clubhouse, the Lake Placid Club Nordic Center is mainly used by Crowne Plaza patrons. However, the popular Jackrabbit Trail travels through the property, offering a chance for locals to try out portions of the 30k groomed system.
The Jackrabbit Trail's main section from Keene to Saranac Lake passes through the ski centers in Lake Placid: Mount Van Hoevenberg, the Cascade Cross-Country Ski Center (20k), the Lake Placid Club Nordic Center and the Whiteface Club & Resort Nordic Center (15k).
All the groomed sections of the Jackrabbit Trail are subject to a trail fee, according to the Adirondack Ski Touring Council, which operates the trail system. Each private ski center sells a "Lake Placid Interconnect" ticket which is honored on the day it was sold at all area cross-country centers, including Mount Van Hoevenberg. Season passes are also available. The ungroomed wilderness sections of the trail are free to use.
Ski conditions along the Jackrabbit Trail, including the local cross-country ski center, are available online at www.jackrabbittrail.org. On Dec. 3, there were only 1-3 inches of snow in the Lake Placid region with 10k open.
"Most sections not quite ready except for the Peninsula section near Lake Placid and the Paul Smiths section south of Route 86, and both are definitely still thin," the report stated on Dec. 3.
For now, the only ski center open in Lake Placid is Mount Van Hoevenberg, with 10k of the facility's 50k of trails available this week. On the first day, there was an average base depth of 3 inches and an off-track depth of 6 inches. Staffers groomed the trails, but there wasn't enough snow for setting track. A little more snow fell over the weekend, but warmer weather later in the week threatened the existing base. Colder weather and snow is forecast for early next week. Michael Battisti, department head of the Mount Van Hoevenberg cross-country and biathlon center, said Dec. 2 that they had a busy first weekend.
Since the phone is currently not working at Mount Van Hoevenberg, the best way to get updated conditions is online at www.whiteface.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/MtVanHoevenberg). The Facebook page reported Wednesday, Dec. 4 that there is still good skiing on the flatter trails:
"Great to see the Lake Placid High School and NYSEF Nordic Teams taking advantage of the early season snow - practicing here yesterday afternoon."
Mount Van Hoevenberg will host the NYSEF season opening race on Sunday, Dec. 15.