Whiteface skiers face wet weather on opening day

The Batra family — from left, Lila, Lisa, Nitin and Vinay — pose before their first run down Whiteface Mountain on Friday, Nov. 26. (News photo — Lauren Yates)

WILMINGTON — Wet conditions didn’t deter skiers and snowboarders from making their way to the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington on Friday, Nov. 26 for the ski season opening.

Opening time at the ski center was 10 a.m., and hundreds of cars were already packed into the front lot and parked on either side of the entrance road. Rain was coming down, but walking across the center’s bridge over the West Branch of the AuSable River, skiers and snowboarders could look up to the mountain and see the slopes covered in snow.

Saranac Laker and veteran boarder Billy Martin said he usually comes to opening day, but his friend Corey McGill said it’s been about a decade since he’s hit the slopes. They said they came to opening day to get out of the house, and to “get wet,” Martin joked, referencing the rain. They were looking to log a few runs down the mountain and grab a few beers.

Ballston Spa couple Venessa Brabant and Russell Brown said they’ve come to opening day at Whiteface for about a decade, but they missed the last couple of years. They went to SUNY Plattsburgh together when they were younger and like to return to the area for skiing, but they said that the generally higher levels of tourism in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic have deterred them from summer activities in the park.

On Nov. 26, they were ready to find their ski legs with some early-season mountain runs. They planned to go for a few laps and spend some quality time with family at the center.

Bostonian couple Matthew and Christina Durant said they usually try to make opening day, and they made plans to go to Whiteface every day the opening weekend. Matthew said he’s been skiing for 48 years, and he and Christina taught their two kids to ski before they were 2 years old. Now, their 14-year-old skis for the New York Ski Educational Foundation. Matthew and Christina said that they were surprised by the turnout for opening day, considering the wet conditions, but noted that the rain hadn’t scared them away from skiing, either.

“We’re fanatical about it, I guess,” Matthew said.

At the slopes, a long line formed fast at the Cloudsplitter gondola. The returning chair lifts were encrusted with ice and snow. Plattsburgh skier Pat McGinn rested at the bottom of the mountain after his first run of the season. He said he’s been skiing for around 45 years, and he usually tries to come out on opening day. Despite the rain on Friday, he said most of his run down Whiteface was nice and snowy. The rain kicked in just above the Face Lift gondola, he said, where the surface got a bit more icy. On days like these, he said the snowmaking machines make all the difference.