WILMINGTON - The chairlifts were swaying gently, the balsam firs were frosted over, and the snow was soft underfoot atop Lookout Mountain Wednesday.
For the first time ever, Whiteface Mountain Ski Center's Wilmington Trail was unveiled to the public, part of the center's new Lookout Mountain section.
Named for its view of the nearby hamlet, the 2.5-mile Wilmington Trail offers skiers more variety than any of Whiteface's 79 other runs.
The 2.5-mile Wilmington Trail is loaded with views, including one of the nearby hamlet it’s named after.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch
A skier tears up the Wilmington Trail Wednesday.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch
A sign for the new Wilmington Trail
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
Starting out on a relatively flat slope that cuts through a spruce and balsam fir forest at 4,000 feet, the trail meanders through the Wilmington Wild Forest before eventually dropping into the beginners' Boreen Trail.
"I think it's really good," said Woj Tek, of the Toronto area, taking a break on the side of the Wilmington Trail. "I really like it, especially further down, where it gets a little steeper. It's my favorite trail out of all of them."
Because of its location, the trail has an isolated feel. Skiers don't pass any chairlifts or other substantial man-made structures. There are views of the surrounding mountains to the northeast and a forest habitat that changes by the minute, from boreal up high to hardwood down low.
"That's one of the things about the trail; you go through three different climates on the way down," Whiteface Assistant Manager Bruce McCulley said.
In addition to drawing skiers who want to try the new run, the trail should function to thin out some of the congested areas at Whiteface during crowded days.
Intermediate skiers who spend their days descending Follies from the summit and Excelsior from Little Whiteface now have another quality option.
"It keeps me interested," said James Bean of Cooperburg, Pa. "There are a lot of changes, a lot of turns. There's some flat spots, so you can recover and keep going again."
The new Lookout Mountain Chairlift takes about eight minutes from its base to the summit. It is a short ski away from the top of the Facelift chair.
The Wilmington Trail is one of three trails expected to open this ski season on Lookout Mountain. Two expert trails, Hoyt's High and Lookout Below, are expected to open later this winter.
Hoyt's High is actually part of the old Cloudsplitter Trail that was part of the original Whiteface ski center that was located in the Marble and Lookout mountain area. The ski center was moved to its current location about midway through the 20th century.
The other expert trail, Lookout Below, is about one-fifth of a mile long. Its name is derived from its steep drop at the top of the trail. It is accessed from the Wilmington Trail and ends at the new Lookout Mountain Triple Chair.
Hoyt's High was named in honor of Whiteface veteran ski patroller and Saranac Lake resident Jim Hoyt Sr., who has worked at Whiteface for more than 50 years. This trail has a long and consistent expert pitch over its 4,182-foot length.
The former Porcupine Lodge building, still stands in the trees atop Lookout Mountain. It is expected to be used as a small warming hut in future years, though its plans are still being developed.
When Lookout Mountain opened at about 10 a.m. Wednesday, there was a strong crowd, including North Elba Supervisor Robi Politi, who was a ski racer in college.
"We had a great opening," said Whiteface Manager Jay Rand. "An awful lot of people showed up, so we had a good line ready to rip."
An official ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at the Lookout Mountain summit.
---Contact Mike Lynch at (518) 891-2600 ext. 28 or firstname.lastname@example.org.