Well, it took a little longer than usual this year and I missed the deep natural November powder that others enjoyed, but I finally got on skis last weekend — and fittingly it was at Gore Mountain.
After a speedy, wide-arching-turn warmup on Showcase, longtime skiing buddy Dan Stewart and I headed down Uncas and toward the top, but it wasn’t quite open yet.
So we headed up the Topridge chair and down Topridge, with its huge wales of man-made snow to go over and in between. We hit the Topridge lift again, down Uncas again and the summit lift was spinning.
From there we stayed up top, with runs down the soft and bumpy Hawkeye and the cruiser Cloud into Headwaters. They were blowing a lot of snow on Chatiemac, but it wasn’t open yet.
It was a deep blue-sky day, chilly but not tragic, and just felt so good to be back on skis.
The mountain, for Dec. 8, was in amazing shape. It looked like mid-winter. Despite the sleet and rain from a week earlier, cold temperatures allowed snowmakers to crank for several days and the sound of edges on ice, often common at least in spots this time of year, was almost non-existent.
A trip down Quicksilver around noon was a great example of this. The trail narrows and gets steeper in one section and often gets skied down to hard-pack. Last Sunday, with so much terrain open so early, the snow stayed fresh on it and we cruised right through it without a scratch sound.
I also enjoyed my return to Gore Mountain for the gondola ride. While I’d rather ride a chair and keep my skis on, the gondola is a great place to meet people to chat about skiing for this column, and one guy, whose home mountain is Jiminy Peak, made the whole cabin laugh.
John Drumm was a jovial guy from Kinderhook who got passes to Gore by going to see a Warren Miller film in Saratoga.
He was skiing with his buddy Frank Marshall, from North Chatham, and was telling how he was a former “ambassador” at Jiminy. When I jokingly questioned the ambassador duties and motives (i.e. free ski pass) he was quick with a response.
“Yeah, I was a Walmart greeter with a ski pass,” he said laughing at his own joke.
He was an interesting guy, and so was Walter Bergstrom, whom we met on an earlier ride up. We quickly realized he was a hard-core snowboarder with an accent I thought for sure made him a native of Norway or one of the Scandinavian countries. He then told me he’s actually from Rochester, but acknowledged he’s been told he has a unique speaking voice.
He drove 225 miles that morning to ski at Gore and said he often travels farther to ski various Vermont mountains, foreign to his part of the state.
“I drive every weekend at least four to six hours to chase the snow,” he said, before talking about how amazing Whiteface was a week earlier.
So, I missed the powder, but my skis have been christened and now I’m jonesin’ to get back out!
And since Sunday, Gore has opened more terrain including Chatiemac and Lies up top, and they plan to open Northside trail Sleeping Bear and Peak A on Saturday.
“It’s a historic amount of terrain open,” marketing director Emily Stanton said Wednesday.
Opening day pushed back
Queensbury’s West Mountain Ski Center has pushed back its opening day from Saturday to Sunday, Dec. 16. A rainy forecast led to the change. The mountain has a planned 8 a.m. ribbon cutting for its new chairlift and is offering $18 tickets. Lifts start turning at 8:30.
Willard Mountain opening
Willard Mountain plans to open on Saturday, but owner Charles ”Chic” Wilson said that could get pushed back to Sunday if the rainy forecast holds. Racers returned to the mountain to train the last two nights, Wilson said.
‘Full on winter’ at Garnet
Garnet Hill Lodge in North River is in “full-on winter” with 30 kilometers of groomed terrain, said Nordic director Adam Hyde on Wednesday. Hyde called The Post-Star saying he was amazed at how green it was when he visited Saratoga recently.
“We have a great base, great back-country trail, great snowshoeing,” he said. “And I don’t know if anyone knows.”