Though opening day for all four state Olympic Regional Development Authority ski centers was last Saturday, the regular seasons starts Friday.
The two local venues — The Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington and the nordic center at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid — had successful opening weekends and are ready to start the real season.
Whiteface currently has about 2 miles, 11 percent, of its 25-mile trail system open. Those include routes from the summit of Little Whiteface such as Upper Valley, Lower Valley, Excelsior, the Fox trail, the Connector Trail and the Mixing Bowl.
For the past few weeks, Whiteface has been making snow along the mountain. About every 100 feet, there are water and air lines that feed into snowmaking guns. The water is pumped directly from the nearby West Branch of the AuSable River. General Manager Aaron Kellet described the perfect snow for skiing and snowboarding as “champagne powder.”
This past weekend, Whiteface saw about 1,400 skiers and riders. ORDA Director of Communications Jon Lundin said the goal each ski season is to bring 250,000 customers.
“We’ve been able to do that,” he said. “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.”
As for things to come, the Bear Den Lodge located near beginner trails such as Otter and Flying Squirrel is expected to open around Christmas time. Lundin described it as a one-stop shopping center.
“The Bear Den has primarily been used for learn-to-ski and youth skiers,” he said. “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.”
Over at the Mount Van Hoevenberg nordic center in Lake Placid, nearly 95 percent of the venue is open for skiing, thanks mainly to the Snow Factory.
The Snow factor is pretty much a giant ice machine inside a shipping crate, capable of 11 gallons of water into snow per minute. With that and about 12 to 14 inches of natural snowfall right before opening day, the nordic center had 47 of its 50 kilometers of trails ready to go. General Manager Kris Cheney-Seymour said the last three kilometers of trail are on steeper terrain where the ground hasn’t yet fully froze.
“If you try to go in there with grooming machines, you risk pull up the dirt and messing with the trail,” he said.
This past weekend broke records for most skiers, most rentals and earliest planned start for the venue, Cheney-Seymour said. People from around the North East and Quebec came to cross-country ski last weekend.
“We have competitors (other ski venues) both in Montreal and Vermont,” Cheney-Seymour said, “so it was really nice to see those crowds travel. A few people from Vermont told me there was just more skiing with better conditions over here.”
Information about lift tickets, day passes, season passes, lessons and rentals for both ski centers can be found at whiteface.com.