SARANAC LAKE - Snowmaking crews have been working around the clock to get the village's downhill ski center ready for the season.
Thanks to their efforts, and some help from Mother Nature, skiers and snowboarders will be able to carve their first turns on the slopes of Mount Pisgah on Saturday, manager Garrett Foster told the Enterprise Thursday.
"Saturday is a go," he said. "We had our lifts inspected today. A little bit of grooming and last-minute touches (today), and we're going to open Saturday morning and go from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m."
The Dec. 21 opening of the mountain would be its earliest in three years. Last year, Pisgah opened on Dec. 27. The prior year, the ski center's opening was delayed until Jan. 7 because of unseasonably warm weather.
That hasn't been the case this year. Foster said the combination of cold temperatures and some natural snow has allowed for the earlier-than-usual opening. The village usually tries to get the mountain open in time for Christmas vacation for local school students, which begins tomorrow.
Foster said snowmaking efforts, which involved village crews and volunteers from the Friends of Mount Pisgah, began at noon on Dec. 11 and continued for 190 hours before stopping on Thursday morning. The Suicide trail, on the mountain's left side as you look up the hill, is covered and ready for skiers. Foster said he hopes to open more terrain as soon as possible.
"The other side we've made quite a bit of snow on," he said. "We need a little bit more and some grooming. After another two or three days of snowmaking, the other side will be open as well."
"Garret's been doing great," said Friends of Mount Pisgah President Wayne Feinberg. "He's been getting a good base down that, if it rains or we have thaws, the mountain will be able to make it through."
The mountain's normal hours of operation, including night skiing, will not start until after the Christmas break, Foster said. Until then, the center will be open each day, except Christmas Day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Lift ticket rates are largely the same as last year, Foster said. A day pass will be $15 on weekdays, $20 on weekends and holidays, and $10 for children under age 7, regardless of the day. The only change this year is a half-day pass - $10 on weekdays, $15 on weekends - will be available for either the first or second half of the day. Last year, the mountain didn't have a half-day pass but charged $10 to ski for the last hour-and-a-half. Season passes are also available, Foster said.
Pisgah's tubing run isn't open yet, Foster said.
"We need some more snow or some more snowmaking," he said. "Our priority was to get the lift open and one trail and get people here. Then we can make snow when we're open."
Foster was hired in October to run Pisgah this season after the village received no response to a request for proposals it issued to take over operation of the mountain. A former manager of the ski center, Foster continued to help out with grooming and snowmaking after he left the village in 2010.
"I've been involved with Mount Pisgah since I was a kid," he said. "They needed somebody in there this year, and I just couldn't say no. I've always had an interest in the place, and I'd like to see it continue to run smoothly."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.