Call it the Exit 20 decision.
Skiers driving north in our area have always had a choice to make.
Do I get off the Northway and head east to Vermont? Or do I stay straight and keep going into the Adirondacks?
These days, it is a pretty easy decision for New Yorkers. Gore and Whiteface are waiting for you. Sure, there are coronavirus-related protocols at the areas and you must file a “self health” questionnaire before arrival. But, because you don’t need to cross a state line, there is no quarantine of up to 14 days, which currently is the rule for out-of-staters trekking to the Green Mountains.
Vermont has long been a favorite place to have winter fun. Areas like Okemo, Killington and — just a bit farther — Stowe and Sugarbush, among others, offer terrific big hill skiing.
But, for now, the state is not as welcoming as usual for cars with out-of-state license plates.
Stay home? Who wants to do that when snow conditions are good and you have been cooped up around the house for weeks.
Fortunately for us, the two Olympic Regional Development Authority areas in the Adirondacks are excellent options that don’t require a plane trip or a lengthy stay at home after return. That is no surprise to Gore and Whiteface regulars. But those accustomed to heading east in the winter will find these New York state areas a worthy alternative, and both plan to open for the season this Friday.
Gore in North Creek is the closer option, less than a half-hour off the Northway’s Exit 23. A favorite of local skiers since it opened in 1964, it has been even more popular since the area was redesigned and the Northwoods Gondola was added in 1998. Since then, with the addition of connector trails to the old North Creek Ski Bowl, Gore is now one of the big boys in the East. When in full operation, you can start at one end in the morning and ski trails to the other end of the area without repeating a run by closing time.
Outside of the area, though, there isn’t much Gore buzz. A part of that is due to a longstanding spotlight deficit when compared with its sister ORDA area just outside the Olympic Village of Lake Placid. Also, prohibited from having accommodations on the mountain, the North Creek area has long been hampered by a chronic shortage of overnight lodging.
But the ski area keeps getting better, and this year is no exception.
For starters, there are two new four-passenger chairlifts soon expected to come on line. The Sunway lift near the base lodge is a great introduction to skiing for those new to the sport who are ready to move up from wedge turns. The lift, which has conveyor access, will be the gateway to a variety of gentle green circle trails.
What is guaranteed to delight advanced skiers as well as Gore veterans is the new High Peaks quad, which replaces an ancient double chair. The new lift goes to the top of the ski area and makes access to the entire array of upper trails much easier. Snowboarders will be especially pleased by the reduction of flat terrain.
While the new lifts will benefit all Gore skiers, what will make them even happier is the significant expansion of the water supply on the hill. This will equal more snow made more quickly on more trails this winter.
Meanwhile, for those heading up to Whiteface, the rebuilt mid-mountain lodge will be a welcome sight.
Burned to the ground a year ago, the new lodge is not fully done, but will be available this winter as a rest stop and warming facility. The Bear Den children’s and family area is one of the largest and best learning centers in the East. This year, it has a new, extended, dedicated lift for its lessons program.
While Alpine skiers will head to Whiteface, the brand new cross country and sliding center at Mount Van Hoevenberg brings a world-class facility to world class Nordic skiing . Built to accommodate the 2023 World University Games and years of world competition afterwards, the upgraded venue also includes the competition track for bobsled, skeleton and luge, plus the ski loops and shooting range for biathlon.
Unlike North Creek where the lodging is limited to a handful of boutique accommodations, Lake Placid and the surrounding area has plenty of beds for guests.
No one wants to see the circumstances that have caused the new regulations and operational protocols go on any longer than necessary. But, right now, this is a new reality for everyone — and it keeps changing.
Be sure to check ski area websites before leaving home so you can be prepared for what awaits on arrival.
Skiers at New York areas this winter will be required to sign in online prior to arrival in order to facilitate contact tracing, if necessary.
It is a brief questionnaire and must be completed by each individual before each trip to the area.
Ski area websites will provide a link to the form.
Falling asleep at the wheel on the trip home is a sure way to spoil a great day in the outdoors.
You come off the hill where you have been exercising in cold weather. You hop in the car and immediately turn up the heat. Chances are it is late afternoon and you are heading home as it gets dark outside.
What possibly could go wrong?
Well, turning on the radio and cracking open the windows to get air flow is helpful.
But even better is a stop along the route. Even if you don’t feel tired, stop anyway. As little as a walk around the car will be refreshing and help you get home safely.
DOUBLE H RANCH PROGRAM ON HOLD
The Adaptive Winter Sports Program for children with serious and chronic illnesses held at the Double H Ranch in Lake Luzerne since 1998 has been put on hold this winter.
The medical advisory panel to the Board of Directors determined that the risk to participants was too high to offer on-site programs this winter.
The program will resume as soon as practical.
Contact Phil Johnson at [email protected].
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