The most intriguing news in the North Country this winter is that a train will once again carry skiers into North Creek.
The train will originate in Saratoga Springs and travel 52 miles to the Adirondack hamlet on tracks used by a scenic train last summer and fall.
The train — called the “Snow Train” in winter — is operated by the Saratoga and North Creek Railway, a company owned by the Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC. Passengers ride in renovated dome cars and refurbished Long Island Railway coach cars. Rates including Gore Mountain ski packages are available.
Operating Friday through Sunday each week, the Snow Train will begin its runs Dec. 30 and continue through March 31. It will leave Saratoga Springs at 7 a.m. and arrive in North Creek at 9:15. Returns each day will be at 4:30 p.m., arriving at 6:45 in Saratoga.
For oldtimers, the idea of a Snow Train may bring back fond memories of a ski train which ran from Schenectady to North Creek in the late 1930s and early 1940s. In those days, buses and trucks carried skiers to the trails on Gore Mountain. I rode that train when I was a child, but I don’t remember much about it.
With that in mind, I boarded the scenic train in early September to refresh my memory about the route. It really is a nice ride.
The trip takes you along the Hudson River for 75 percent of the route, and you get to see stretches of the Hudson you don’t see from a car. The dome car costs more, but it is the best place for views of the river. Here’s a tip: Try to sit on the right on the way to North Creek and on the left during the return trip.
RIDE AND DINE
On the way to North Creek, you can order breakfast, with eggs, omelets, potatoes and a choice of bacon, sausage and ham on the menu. On the return trip, the offerings include hot and cold sandwiches and dinners, with grilled fillet of salmon, chicken parmesan and New York strip steak among the choices. Beverages are available too, of course.
From Saratoga Springs, the train travels to Corinth, Hadley, Stony Creek, Thurman, then Glen and Riparius before rolling into the historic North Creek station — historic because this is the same station that welcomed skiers on those early ski trains from Schenectady (and some from New York City). Long before that, president-to-be Theodore Roosevelt, who was hunting in the Adirondacks, boarded a train there after William McKinley’s assassination in 1901.
A museum at the station is full of information about those early ski train days and the president’s connection to North Creek.
From the train station, skiers will be bused to the Gore Mountain Ski Center.
I think a large part of the ski train’s success will depend on getting passengers from the station to the mountain in comfortable and timely fashion.
They’ve got that covered, according to Sarah Munley, Iowa Pacific’s director of sales and marketing.
“We’ve purchased two school buses that we have gutted and branded to be our own with accomodations for all ski equipment,” she said.
At first, equipment will be stowed on the lower level of the dome car. A baggage car may be added later.
Munley said she expects most of the customers who ride the train will make the round trip in one day.
“We’ve got the numbers from Gore, and the vast majority of their skiers are day-trippers,” she said.
That’s because Gore Mountain is not a ski-in, ski-out area and accomodations are not slope-side. People wishing to stay overnight will have to make their own arrangements for shuttle transportation from the mountain to their motel or hotel.
The company is hoping the winter train will prove as successful as those of the summer and fall.
Shelly Spendiff, sales and marketing associate for the Saratoga and North Creek Railway, said those initial excursions were very well received.
“We had 14,000 passengers between July 24 and Oct. 3, and that’s a lot of people in a three-month time span,” she said.
The Snow Train should appeal to groups from schools and youth organizations such as Scouting, as well as families that want to celebrate a birthday in a special way. On our summer trip, there were a number of train buffs who wanted to see what the ride was like. I suspect a number of skiers who normally drive will want to take the train at least once, just for the experience.
Munley said the company will be reaching out to ski clubs in the Capital Region.
To that end, the Saratoga and North Creek Railway hosted an apre-ski lounge at the Albany Ski and Snowboard Expo in early November. Spendiff said a lot of interest was shown by people who stopped in.
Some she talked to said they especially liked the idea that food is served on board, along with the thought of relaxing and socializing after a day on the slopes.
“Parents of teenagers said they might send their children up for a day of skiing when they don’t have the time to drive them up to North Creek themselves,” she said.
Spendiff expects the train to be used by non-skiers and riders as the company will be offering packages for snow tubing and ice skating, as well.
She added that Capital Region individuals and groups are not the only ones who have shown interest in the Snow Train.
“We’ve been in contact with tour operators from several different states,” she said.
The cost of a round trip Train and Ski Package in the dome car is $87 for adults (20-64); $72 for seniors (65 and over) and teens (13-19); $57 for children (7-12); and $32 for younger children (2-6). In coach, corresponding rates drop to $70, $55, $42 and $15, respectively.
For those who don’t need lift tickets (season pass holders, etc.) the range is $55-$40 in the dome car and $30-$20 in coach.
For tickets and more information, call (877) 726-7245 or visit www.-sncrr.com.
AMERICAN SKIERS SHINE
Has the United States ever had a better week in the world of competitive skiing?
Not that I can remember.
From Friday through Wednesday, U.S. Alpine and Nordic skiers scored a total of 11 podium finishes (first, second or third), with eight wins included.
First, there was Lindsey Vonn (Vail, Colo.), who won all three races at Lake Louise, Canada — back-to-back downhills on Friday and Saturday and a super-G on Sunday. On Sunday, Julia Mancuso of Olympic Valley, Calif., joined Vonn on the podium with a third-place finish.
On the men’s side Friday, Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., turned in one of the most spectacular runs of his career to win a World Cup downhill on the Birds of Prey course at Beaver Creek, Colo. On Saturday, there were no top-three finishes for the American team in the Birds of Prey super-G, but Lake Placid’s Andrew Weibrecht turned in a highly respectable 10th place finish to lead the squad.
In Sunday’s giant slalom race at Beaver Creek, Ted Ligety (Park City, Utah) came in second after leading on the first run. The winner was Austrian Marcel Hirscher. In another giant slalom at Beaver Creek on Tuesday, Ligety was fourth after the first run, but he charged into first place on the second, with a winning margin of .69 seconds. This time, Hirscher was the runner-up.
On Wednesday, Vonn was back, winning the first women’s World Cup race ever held on the Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek. This super-G, moved from Val D’Isere, France, was a nail-biter. Vonn was .25 seconds behind on the first split, .15 seconds ahead on the second and .21 seconds behind on the third. She charged at the end, winning by a .37 second margin.
Just missing the podium in Thursday’s slalom at Beaver Creek was Nolan Kasper of Warren, Vt., who finished fourth.
On the Nordic side on Saturday, 17-year-old Sarah Hendrickson (Park City, Utah), representing the Visa women’s ski jumping team, won the first-ever women’s World Cup jumping event in Lillehammer, Norway. Fifty women jumpers from 15 nations competed.
Also on Saturday, the U.S. cross county ski team’s Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) won a World Cup freestyle sprint race at Duesseldorf, Germany. This was Randall’s fourth World Cup victory. On Sunday, Randall and teammate
Sadie Bjornsen of Winthrop, Wash., finished second in a sprint relay in Duesseldorf. This was the best ever finish for American women in the event.
The first of five Super Sundays at Whiteface Mountain will be this Sunday. Tickets are $35 for adults (20 and older), $30 for teens and $25 for juniors. The other dates are Jan. 1, Feb. 5, March 11 and April 1.
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