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Pisgah primed for skiing, snowboarding

The T-bar lift and show machines are going Sunday at Mount Pisgah Ski Area in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — The snow machines were blasting away on Mount Pisgah Sunday and as soon as the snow hit the ground on the White Stag Trail, skiers and snowboarders carved through it, enjoying the sunny day, the fifth day the ski area has been open this year.

Ski hill manager Andy Testo said warm weather and the COVID-19 pandemic kept the mountain from opening in December, but now with safety protocols in place and a thick pack of snow on the ground, conditions for both have aligned to allow the hill to open.

“Every day has been great,” Testo said on the mountain Sunday. “For being able to see that the (Saranac) River is not frozen, the skiing if phenomenal.”

Testo said the initial goal was to open before Christmas, but he was not sure if he wanted to open to a large crowd on the mountain that week. The weather cemented his decision, melting any base layer there was there.

He said the village of Saranac Lake, which owns the mountain, and the Friends of Mount Pisgah group, which helps run it, agreed that opening under the state’s COVID-19 ski mountain guidelines would be safe.

There are fewer events and amenities this year, but the hill is still open for skiing.

The ticket booth was already outside and Testo said participants must fill out a health screening form. They have prepared to conduct contact tracing if necessary.

Masks are required except when actively going down the mountain, but many skiers and snowboarders on Sunday were wearing them at all times, for warmth.

The lodge is closed except for bathroom access, so everyone must change outside.

“The goal is to come as prepared as you can from your house,” Testo said. “It’s probably safest to not drive in ski boots, but, you know.”

The friends group chose not to do ski classes this year.

Testo said members of the Friends of Mount Pisgah group are helping sanitize facilities and enforce mask-wearing on the hill.

“Folks in the friends group are teachers or retired folks and have a rapport in the community,” Testo said. “So if they see a kid that they know they can easily be that adult figure on the landscape to say ‘Hey, let’s keep this safe for everybody and put a mask on.'”

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