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All I want for Christmas is more snow

Santa brings snow to skiers in the Adirondacks this year

December 22, 2016
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

A year ago, anyone in the Olympic Region who wanted to see snow for Christmas had to drive to the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington to see the man-made snow.

It was a green Christmas. Even Mirror Lake had no ice. The warm weather continued, on and off, for months, making the ski season the worst on record.

This Christmas, however, the Adirondack Park is a skier's paradise with plenty of natural snow and temperatures cold enough to allow ski centers to make even more snow artificially - just in case the warm weather returns. In short, skiers and snowboarders are in for a treat with this year's early snowfall and ideal snowmaking conditions.

Article Photos

Skiers dressed as Santa Claus pose at Whiteface Mountain Sunday, Dec. 11 during the Santa Ski Free promotion. More than 300 Santas participated.
(Provided photo — ORDA/Whiteface Lake Placid)

It's a perfect setup for the Olympic Village as it tries to bounce back from last year's disastrous winter, financially. Ski destinations are key to the economic success of Lake Placid and Wilmington, especially during the holiday week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

The following is a roundup of how local ski centers are shaping up for the winter.


Whiteface Mountain

Whiteface Mountain has been open since Thanksgiving Day, and now had 31 trails open as of Wednesday, Dec. 21.

General manager Aaron Kellett said on Dec. 14 that snowmaking would begin in earnest at the top of the mountain this week.

Kellett and ORDA senior vice president Jeff Byrne recently told reporters that new, efficient and self-contained snowmaking machines are working full-time to increase the snow base. This effort has been helped by a lot of natural snowfall already this season, and led to the mountain opening several more trails last week.

Kellett also said that while the snowmaking will be moving uphill, their focus is on the beginner and moderate terrain lower on the mountain so that it is ready for all the skiers by Christmas week.

The mountain is boasting new menus at several of its cafes, and hopes to attract more clientele with its off-trail amenities, which Kellett said have become as important in attracting visitors as the quality of the snow and terrain.

For more information, go to


Mount Van Hoevenberg Cross Country and Biathlon Center

The Mount Van Hoevenberg Cross Country Ski Center outside of Lake Placid has 7 of its 50 kilometers of trails open and groomed as of Dec. 21.

"If you think of this time last year, we weren't even open," said front desk supervisor Crystal Lamarque. "The whole season last year was like a week here, a day there."

Lamarque said the ski center has been busy so far, and they are anticipating a very busy holiday season.

"During the week we tend to get more season pass holders, but Christmas week we plan to be very busy," she said. "And that will go to well after the New Year."

Mount Van Hoevenberg will also have a Snow Factory snowmaking machine at its disposal this season. Olympic Regional Development Authority President Ted Blazer said the machine is being leased for $90,000 for the season and is expected to be used at least through June to add to the ski area's base.

The ski center is also welcoming back Green Goddess Natural Foods as the food and beverage vendor for the area.

"They connect residents and guests to local food growers and producers with their fresh organic menu. Enjoy the taste and experience of their food made daily from scratch," the Van Hoevenberg website states. Food and beverages will also be offered in Josie's Cabin during holidays, weekends and special events.

Mount Van Hoevenberg charges a day-use fee and offers rentals.

Visit online at for more information.


Jackrabbit Trail

The Jackrabbit Trail, which links populated areas, developed cross-country ski centers, and some longer sections of wilderness ski trails from Keene to Saranac Lake and Lake Clear to Paul Smiths, is "open" for business.

"Conditions are generally still really good. The rain kind of helped us a little a bit with just kind of consolidating all the powder snow we have," Barkeater Trail Alliance Executive Director Josh Wilson said. "It feels like the last couple of weeks are better than all last winter combined."

One-hundred percent of the trail is open for skiing, and the website at states, "Ski trails in the region took a hit from the rain on Saturday night and Sunday, but it could have been much worse. Generally speaking the Jackrabbit Trail and other ski trails in the Tri-Lakes area have all been skied since Sunday and all reports we've received indicate conditions are still pretty good on all the classic ski tours."


Cascade Cross Country Ski Center

The Cascade Cross Country Ski Center on state Route 73 outside of Lake Placid is boasting eight open trails for 20 skiable miles, as of Dec. 21. The area has gotten more than 11 inches of snowfall over the past week, and grooming is happening.

The center will host a full moon ski party on Jan. 14.


Mount Pisgah Ski Area

Snow guns were blazing at Mount Pisgah in Saranac Lake this week, which is a good sign for the village-owned family ski and tubing center after last year's paltry snowfall.

Pisgah manager Garrett Foster recently told the News that he hoped the mountain would be open for the start of school vacation.

Opening day is Friday, Dec. 23. The hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24.

"Not much has changed, hours-wise," Foster said. "Our office is open now on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m. for season tickets and locker rentals."

Mount Pisgah will again host an Empire State Winter Games event in early February: ski racing for 12- and 10-and-under age groups. The venue hosted the games' first fat-tire mountain bike races last year, but they've been moved to Whiteface Mountain for this year's games.

Dewey Mountain Recreation Area

"It's looking pretty good, every flake is precious," Dewey Mountain manager Jason Smith said Thursday, Dec. 15. "These four inches we just got will help cover up the little thin patches, it will definitely help a lot. We were skiing before and we were packed, but this will definitely help.

"We're way ahead of last year."

Smith said the crew grooms the lower part of the mountain, and that the upper part is considered backcountry-style skiing.

"I would say until now, those upper mountain conditions were kind of thin and we were kind of recommending that people not ski it," he said. "But I think this will probably make the difference and allow people to get up on the upper mountain."

Smith said the youth ski program is underway and that the ski area has already been renting equipment.

"That's just such of a bonus for us, it's not something that always happens, but we're super excited to have that happen," he said.


Big Tupper Ski Area

Operated in the last several years by a group of volunteers, Big Tupper is unlikely to open this season due to funding shortages, Jim LaValley told the Enterprise recently. LaValley leads the Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy volunteer group, which has operated the mountain in the past.

Big Tupper does not have snowmaking, relying instead on natural snow. But even with the good start this season, LaValley said that coming up with the $130,000 to $150,000 required to run the mountain is a challenge. Those costs are for insurance, maintenance, inspections and electricity and includes the labor of all the volunteers.


Tupper Lake Country Club ski trails

The free ski trails at the Tupper Lake Country Club are now mostly open for cross-country skiing, with more than 5 inches of fresh snow on the ground.

The Golf Course, Cranberry Pond and Little Logger trails have been groomed, but no tracks have yet been set.

The Hull's Brook trail is not open to skiing yet, but a post on the country club's blog says that snowshoers are welcome on the trail to help pack it down.

The trails at the country club are free to use, but the village does accept donations.

"We have a sign-in box at the pro shop. Please use this so we can get accurate info on the number of visits we receive," the site says. "It justifies the funding, and keeps it free. Donations are welcome, and you will find envelopes there in the box."

For a trail map and more information, visit


Paul Smith's College VIC

With more than 25 miles of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, the VIC is poised to have a great season.

Ralph Hartmann said that all of the trails are now open.

"We have grooming being done right now," Hartmann said Dec. 15. "We're looking great. ... We have grooming for skate skiing, regular cross-country and snowshoe trails," he said.

The VIC does charge a fee for use of the trails in the winter. There are also snowshoe and ski rentals available.

"Trails are monitored by a trained volunteer first-aid ski patrol and a courtesy patrol to assist people with directions," according to the VIC website. "In general, trails are skied in a clockwise direction. Access to all trails will be through the VIC building, where food, hot and cold drinks, local art and last-minute essential supplies are available."

Some of the trails are also marked for skijoring, or dog-drawn skiing. Leashed dogs are welcome on snowshoe trails as well.


Titus Mountain

Titus Mountain Family Ski Center near Malone opened for the season on Dec. 16, and marketing director Brittany Taylor said the mountain looks better than ever.

"Honestly, I've never seen the hill look this good. It's phenomenal," Taylor said. "It almost looks like January skiing."

Visit online at



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