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ORDA ski centers open Saturday and Sunday

Then will close until Black Friday

November 15, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

WILMINGTON - All four state Olympic Regional Development Authority ski centers will open Saturday for the first time this season, instead of the following weekend as previously announced.

The Whiteface, Gore and Belleayre mountain ski centers in Wilmington, North Creek and Highmount, respectively, and the nordic ski center at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid will open Saturday and Sunday, then close for the rest of the week and open back up for the regular season on Friday, Nov. 23.

ORDA Director of Communications Jon Lundin said the ski centers traditionally open around Thanksgiving every year. For the 2017 season, Whiteface had about 2,000 skiers and snowboarders show up for opening weekend, and Lundin said ORDA expects to have that many this year, too.

Article Photos

Whiteface Mountain Ski Center General Manager Aaron Kellett drags a snowmaking gun at Whiteface in Wilmington Thursday.
(News photo — Griffin Kelly)

"Our goal is to bring in 250,000 skiers and riders each year," he said. "We've been able to do that. A lot of it is dependent upon the weather during the holiday season. Not just for Whiteface or Gore of Belleayre, but for all ski resorts, that's where the money is made."

Last year was a particularly intense winter with plenty of snowfall and temperatures consistently below zero, which meant great skiing conditions. Lundin said ORDA hopes to have another just like that.

"This year, we've had some great cold weather," he said. "We've been around the clock snowmaking on Whiteface since last weekend."

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At Whiteface, General Manager Aaron Kellett said the best conditions for natural snow would be low wind, low humidity and a temperature of 5 degrees above zero. However, Mother Nature isn't the most reliable source for snow all the time. Whiteface has 25 miles of trails with snowmaking capabilities all throughout. About every 100 feet or so there are air and water lines that feed into snow guns. The water is pumped from the nearby West Branch of the AuSable River. Kellett described the perfect snow for skiing as "champagne powder."

The nordic center at Van Ho doesn't have irrigation systems. Instead, it uses the Snow Factory, a heavy-duty snowmaking machine capable of converting 11 gallons of water into snow per minute. The center's earliest-ever planned opening comes after members of the U.S. Para-Nordic ski team held their week-long training camp there.

Lundin said the goal is to have 2 miles of trails at Whiteface available for opening weekend.

"We're hoping to have summit-to-base skiing off of Little Whiteface," he said. "That will be Excelsior, the connector trail, Upper Valley, Lower Valley, the Fox Trail and hopefully the Mixing Bowl for new skiers and riders."

The Base Lodge and the new Bear Den Lodge are currently under renovation, which Lundin said are expected to complete in December.

"The Bear Den is kind of going to be a one-stop shopping (experience) for our new skiers and our snow sport programs," he said. "The Bear Den has primarily been used for learn-to-ski and youth skiers. It's kind of separated from the rest of the mountain. We're going to be adding a bar and a lounge. For those who are learning to ski or watching their kids ski, they just have to go there, grab their rentals and vouchers, and they'll be able to connect with their instructor right there."



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