There was a time when a reasonable expectation for the ski season was to start the week before Christmas and run maybe to mid-March, if it had been a good snow year. Anything more than that was considered a bonus.
No matter what nature provides these days, the widespread addition of snowmaking and the ever-increasing sophistication of its use has extended what we expect from a ski season — now from at least Thanksgiving to Easter or more. This year, six areas in Eastern New York and several more in nearby Western New England were open last weekend.
Take Gore, for example. The first ski day this fall was Friday, Nov. 18, just five days after the first snowmaking guns were fired up. Four trails from the top of the Adirondack Express chairlift were open. Showcase, a long intermediate run, opened two days later. By Thanksgiving weekend, there were 12 trails skiable, including the black diamond Topridge run. Five lifts were operating, including the eight-passenger Northwoods gondola..
Now sports fans had the chance to watch the best women ski racers in the world compete last weekend at Killington in Central Vermont. Enormous resources were committed to make sure conditions were up to international competition standards. And they were. It is that same technology that makes recreational skiing in our area now a six-month activity.
It is pointing to that again this winter, even without much help from nature so far..
“This is the best season’s start for snowmaking I’ve seen,” said Gore’s snowmaking supervisor Dan Feiden recently. The 15-year veteran at the area points to technology improvement and added snowmaking capacity as the reasons why.
“We’ve expanded very aggressively in the last five years. Then we had six stations pumping 4,800 gallons of water a minute on the hill. Today we have nine pumping 6,800 gallons. And over that period we have added 600 new high-efficiency guns that use less air to produce more snow.”
Feiden has a crew of 25 snowmakers who work over three shifts a day. The commitment is telling.
“I don’t believe we have ever had this much terrain open this early in the season due to snowmaking only.” he said.
And It isn’t just hardware that is making the difference. The addition of Snomax two years ago contributes, too, especially when temperatures on the mountain are marginal for snowmaking.
“This is an additive we add at the pump house,” Feiden said. “The result creates more particles in the water that provide more snow when mixed with air.”
While all these snowmaking enhancements benefit the recreational skier, the ability to produce snow when nature doesn’t will provide some insurance for the World University Games that will take place at both Gore and Whiteface outside Lake Placid Jan. 12-22. For more information on what will be the largest multi-sport international competition in our area since the 1980 Winter Olympics, check www.lakeplacid2023.com.
BACKWOODS DEBUT LIKELY IN JANUARY
Gore skiers last spring were enthused by the announcement of a series of area enhancements planned for this season. Two of those, a new lodge and a new chairlift at the North Creek Ski Bowl, have yet to get started, delayed due to permitting issues. However, the new Backwoods intermediate trail that will connect the Burnt Ridge area to the Ski Bowl has been cut and is now slated to be ready for skiers in January.
SIMSON HEADS UP WORLD CUP MOGULS JUDGING PANEL
Niskayuna’s Sarah Simson, who was the U.S. designated Freestyle Judge at the Winter Olympics in China last winter, has been named the chief judge for the World Cup moguls skiing competition this year. She flew to Europe Monday for World Cup events scheduled in Finland, Sweden and France over the next three weeks. As chief judge, she oversees the eight-member panels of international judges at competitions this season, also being held in the US and Canada and in Italy in January, at the World Championships in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia in February, and at the World Cup championships in Kazakhstan in March. Some 100 athletes representing 20 countries are expected to compete in these events.
Simson began judging freestyle ski competitions in 1992-93. She judged her first World Cup events in 2003-04 and her first of three World Championships in 2011. Because the international federation likes to bring in new judges and rotate leadership, Simson believes this year’s role as the chief official will be a one year only assignment.
She has seen a lot over her judging career. “The growth of international competition since I began is impressive, especially the growth of skills among the women athletes. I grew up in the era of Title IX and now two generations later the women athletes are so much better.”
Judging international freestyle competitions is a Simson family tradition. Sarah’s husband Jay was also a long time freestyle official and was chief judge at the 1998 Winter Olympic in Nagano Japan.
NOT THIS TIME FOR SHIFFRIN
After victories in the slalom event at the previous five World Cup competitions at Killington, Mikaela Shiffrin finished sixth Sunday. The all-time leader in World Cup slalom victories led after the first run but, starting last in the second heat, fell back as course conditions deteriorated. True to form, the 27 year old did not make excuses. Instead she was characteristically gracious,at the finish, making a point to congratulate the winners. Equally impressive was the turnout for the two days of racing. The Saturday attendance of 21,000 was a one day record for the Killington competition which annually draws the largest crowds for ski races in North America.
Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected]