WILMINGTON - Whiteface Mountain saw 2,100 visitors on its opening weekend for the skiing and snowboarding season, according to Jon Lundin, spokesperson for the Olympic Regional Development Authority.
Of that figure approximately 1,000 visitors came out on Friday, Nov. 25 for the mountain's opening day, which surpassed last year's opening day visitation by about 300, Lundin said.
"It was a good opening weekend considering the weather," Whiteface Manager Bruce McCulley said. "Based on the snowmaking conditions we felt we had a good amount of terrain open. We had two-and-a-half to three miles of skiing. Everyone had a great time. It was a great weekend."
Skiers and snowboarders enjoy opening day at Whiteface Mountain on Friday, Nov. 25.
Richard Rosentreter/Lake Placid News
"I'm really pleased with the crowd we had," said Bridget Hinman, marketing director for Whiteface Mountain. "We had a good turnout. A lot of families we usually see at the beginning of Christmas came out to get an earlier start."
Those the News spoke with mentioned two possible reasons for the mountain seeing the kind of numbers it did on its opening winter weekend.
The first being the hype from last year's winter season, which saw 247 inches of natural snowfall, carrying over into this year's winter season.
"We had an exceptional winter season last year, and I think the spirit of last season carried through the off season and into this year," Hinman said. "We saw a lot of people who were excited and ready to get out there early."
The second reason being that the area got blanketed in snow only a few days prior to the mountain's opening winter weekend.
In the evening of Nov. 22 and into the afternoon of Nov. 23 the mountain got 14-inches of fresh snow, the most amount of natural snowfall Whiteface has seen for its opening weekend in 10 years, according to Lundin.
"I think that drove skiers to the mountain that were maybe on the fence about going to the mountain the day after Thanksgiving," he said.
Before the area received snow, the mountain's staff was busy making artificial snow with the help of some new automated snow guns starting on Nov. 16 in order to get a few trails ready for opening day.
Snowmaking for the mountain had actually been scheduled for Nov. 14, but due to warm weather it had to be pushed back.
"It has to be below freezing No. 1, and ideally, it's nice to be in the mid-to-low 20s," Whiteface Manager Bruce McCulley said. "If it's 15 degrees and dry that's really good. You can make an awful lot of snow. You can make snow when it's 30 degrees, 32 degrees, but not a lot, so it's not optimal."
McCulley said in an earlier interview with the News that Whiteface planned on having five trails open for its winter opening day, and they included: Excelsior, Upper Valley, Lower Valley and the Mixing Bowl.
And it was able to do just that.
On opening day the morning began with three trails open, Upper Valley, Lower Valley and Fox, all serviced by the Face Lift chair. By late morning, the gondola was up and running, taking skiers and snowboarders to the summit of Little Whiteface, where they could enjoy top to bottom runs on Excelsior and Lower Express.
The weather for those enjoying the slopes on opening day was mild with sunshine and temperatures in the low 50s.
"It's great to open on such a lovely Adirondack day," said ORDA President and CEO Ted Blazer in a press release. "Hats off to the crews that got us open despite the weather, as well as the challenges from the repairs from Irene. For us, today is white as in 'Snow Friday.'"
Since the opening, the weather has warmed up, but temperatures are expected to be more seasonably cooler in the upcoming days. McCulley said he expected that snow would resume on Wednesday (Nov. 30) and continue as weather permits. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will dip into the 20s through the weekend.
"We really look forward to this day," said Patricia Reynolds, of Albany, who was at Whiteface with her 12-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son on opening day. "It's great to be outdoors with the family, spending time together, doing something that we all enjoy doing together as a family. Plus it's a beautiful day. Who could ask for more?"
"Today (opening day) is just awesome," said Chris Miles, a sophomore at Plattsburgh State University. "I love it. It's the best day of the year. It's day No. 1 of a whole lot of boarding this winter. I'm super psyched."
Tom Hazelett, of Fremont, Indiana, who was in the area visiting family took to the slopes the next day on Saturday and soaked in Whiteface's opening weekend conditions.
"The conditions were spring skiing, which was nice compared to last year's, which was very cold and icy right after Christmas," he said. "It was great skiing."
"They (mountain-goers) all had a great time and everybody is excited about what will be a snowy winter," Lundin said.
This year Whiteface is offering new programs to mountain visitors, according to Hinman.
One such program is called the Mom's Club, which allows moms with children between the ages of 1 and 6 to hit the slopes together while their children are in nursery care at Kids Kampus Lodge on selected Fridays. Mothers will be grouped by ability level and receive lessons from 10 a.m. to noon with lunch being provided afterwards. As it is scheduled now, the program is set to take place on January 6, 13, 20 and 27, on February 3 and 10, and on March 2, 9, 16 and 23.
Another new program is the Whiteface Experience, which includes 6 hours of on-hill instruction with a Snowsports School Pro for up to five people in a private lesson. An hour lunch break with a reserved table at one of the mountain's restaurants will be included along with overnight ski check, premier club parking and lift line privileges.
Hinman was also excited to announce a new Super Sunday theme known as historic Sunday, which will take place on Dec. 11.
"We'll be talking about the history of Whiteface Mountain, paying homage to the people that made Whiteface the mountain it is today," she said. "It's going to be really exciting. It's very new for us as a Super Sunday theme. I'm really excited about it because it's going to have some really great stories that'll come out of the day."
On Super Sundays, which are scheduled throughout the ski season at Whiteface, an adult lift ticket costs $35.
For more information about Whiteface's programs and current conditions, visit www.whiteface.com/.
Chris Knight contributed to this report
Contact Margaret Moran at 518-523-4401 or at email@example.com