Skiing Gore and Whiteface in the Adirondacks

11th March 2014, by Abi Butcher

Gore Mountain is distinctly Alpine, but also chilly!

Gore Mountain is distinctly Alpine, but also chilly!

We left the Catskills and headed north to the Adirondacks — driving through yet more tiny, charming towns with schools, clapperboard churches and the good old “cheesebus” — the yellow buses that take kids to school, all the while the road criss-crossing the Hudson River. These ski areas are not huge, but they hold a different charm altogether and if you want to ski as well as see more of North America, and really feel like you’re “travelling” I cannot recommend it enough.

Gore Mountain is much bigger than the four other areas we had skied so far on the trip — with 103 mainly intermediate trails, 2,537 vertical feet (773m) a summit elevation of 3,600ft (1,097m) and 15 liftsm including an all-important gondola. It has a distinctly (and charming) Alpine feel, with all of the skiing in the treeline, with pines mixed with silver birch, Scotch pines and oaks.

The wind was blowing a hoolie at the top of the Northwoods Gondola in Gore

There are four different peaks at Gore, and the longest run is a decent 4.4 miles. We started with some easy blues on Bear Mountain, accessed from Northwoods Gondola — where the wind was blowing a hoolie at the top. The sun was shining though, and this is an attractive mountain. There is steeper stuff to ski from the top of Gore Mountain (3,600ft) – including the double-black diamond The Rumor which was annoyingly closed the day we visited. The runs at the lower part of Bear Mountain — Twister (blue) and Sunway (green) are joyous cruising territory, with sun dappling the snow through the trees. Great fun.

The top of the double-black diamond The Rumor

Gore Mountain has plenty of on-mountain dining options, which double as warming huts, where you can go in, take off your boots and warm up beside a crackling fire without the pressure to buy a drink or meal — though I defy you not to try the pulled pork sliders on offer. Gore is state-owned, and the main base lodge and food court seemed to lack charm even more than the others along our journey. But again, the food was good — I’d particularly recommend the chilli.

Supersize me: everything in the US is large, including this Gore truck!

It was with trepidation that we drove on to Whiteface Mountain. All week people had told us that its nickname was “Iceface”. This resort was home to the Alpine events of the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, which took place entirely on artificial snow. You can still ski on the men’s and women’s downhills — Cloudspin to Broadway to Lower Valley and Skyward to Easy Street to Lower Valley — and there are mogul runs to challenge the best skier. This resort was my personal favourite of the trip — like the other resorts in New York State you are skiing on artificial snow, which is hard, but it’s so well groomed you barely notice. Whiteface Summit (4,867ft or 1,483m) is cold, with a long, slow chairlift to get to the top. But when you get there the views are spectacular. I braved the -23c cold to remove my gloves to take some pictures and my fingers actually stuck to the metal on the side of my iPhone. Take the Cloudspin Gondola up to Little Whiteface and peer over the back for views of Lake Placid that are nothing short of spectacular, too.

The views of Lake Placid (which you can ice skate around) from Little Whiteface are spectacular

The skiing here is fun, there are 87 trails, the longest of which is 2.1 miles, with 288 skiable areas of terrain. There is some off-piste, double-black diamond “wilderness terrain skiing” on The Slides — rock and ice shoots down Whiteface. Sadly these were also closed on our visit — they tend to open later in the spring when there is sufficient snow cover, and entail a 20-minute hike in.

My fingers stuck to my iPhone taking this image from the top of Whiteface Mountain

Whiteface has a brilliant café bar — J Lohr — serving fresh soups and deli-type sandwiches, the best food we’d had all trip, along with local wines and craft beers. It was the most “European” experience we had in New York State, and the cakes for desert were divine — particularly the pecan pie.

For the last two nights we stayed in the luxurious Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, built by Olympic luge athlete Joe Barile. This is top-notch accommodation, with its own cinema, ice rink, bowling alley, outdoor pool and hot tub, free popcorn, free S’mores (a sickly biscuit/Hershey bar/marshmallow mix). Despite its five-star status, Whiteface Lodge has surprisingly affordable dining — not least the $8 (about £5) après-ski menu of chili, pizza or a plate of chicken wings with a draft beer. Bargain!

Super G silver medallist Andrew Weibrecht comes from Lake Placid, his parents own the Mirror Lake Inn and the charming Cottage pub set by the Lake — another great dining option.

Don’t leave Lake Placid without having a go on the bobsled — you go half the Olympic distance and the geeforce is amazing.

But then, head back south and spend a few days in the Big Apple — if you fly home without doing so, you’ll regret it!

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