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Whiteface stays open despite warmth

WILMINGTON — Despite the recent warm and rainy weather, Whiteface Mountain Ski Center is expected to stay open a little longer.

The state Olympic Regional Development Authority, which operates the ski area, had no immediate plans to close Whiteface as of Friday, according to spokesperson Elise Ruocco.

“The weather is undoubtedly a challenge for us right now, but the crews are working hard to keep the mountain open,” she said.

High temperatures in Wilmington have been in the 50s and 60s all week, peaking at 68 Thursday, according to a Weather Underground monitoring site there. That kind of warmth can melt snow fast, especially when combined with Friday’s intermittent rain.

Scott Patnode of Lake Placid, a regular Whiteface skier who works in the Enterprise business office, skied the mountain Thursday afternoon and said the snow cover had thinned out substantially in some spots, but not enough to dampen his fun.

“Skiing was excellent — spring conditions, but it was really quite good,” Patnode said. “But we’re getting down there. The top of Skyward (trail) had about a 50-foot section of bare. You had to walk around it.”

Still, as of Friday, about half of the mountain’s terrain was open, according to ORDA’s website — 49 of 90 trails. The Summit Quad and Little Whiteface chairs were closed, but the Mixing Bowl, Bear, Cloudsplitter gondola, Face lift, Falcon and Coyote Cruiser lifts were still operating.

Snowmaking at Whiteface stopped in February, which Ruocco said is standard for Whiteface and the industry in general.

There are capacity limits at the mountain because of the coronavirus pandemic, so lift tickets and rentals still have to be purchased online ahead of time.

Whiteface keeps current snow conditions updated at https://whiteface.com/mountain/conditions.

Season passes for the 2021-22 season are already on sale at whiteface.com. At a meeting of the ORDA Board of Directors last week, CEO Michael Pratt said in the first two days after the passes went on sale, the mountain sold 2,200 season passes, a revenue of $1 million. The ongoing 2020-21 season has so far brought in $9 million, he said.

The ski center is expected to see some improvements before the next season. Last week, the ORDA Board of Directors approved a $9.3 million renovation to Whiteface’s snowmaking system, which will be upgraded with new pumps and pipes over the summer to be ready for the snow season later this year. This year Whiteface spent 1,798 hours making snow from 287.5 million gallons of water. Its average rate of gallons per minute was 2,704 with a maximum GPM of nearly 5,000.

Pratt said last week that the new system should be able to pump the same number of gallons in 1,100 hours, a 40% reduction in time, with an average GPM of 4,500. He said less time spent making snow should translate into energy savings, too.

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