Because of this week’s wintry weather, Whiteface Mountain has extended its ski and snowboard season through Sunday. This morning, we’re going to tell you about a different way of skiing Whiteface.
Some hardcore skiers hit the slopes early, before the chairlifts start running. They climb the mountain the old fashioned way, using leg-power. It’s hard work, but the pay-off is a first-crack at unblemished slopes and fresh powder.
April, winter paradise
Just after dawn and Aaron Woolf from Elizabethtown trudged a few paces ahead, up past the pylons of a chairlift. “We’re up near the top of Northway on Whiteface and it’s the middle of April,” he said.
Conditions were amazing. It was cold, the wind whipped across the slopes. At this hour, they’re empty. It felt kind of ghostly. “Sort of a mix of feeling like you’re actually deep in the backcountry and on a kind of white golf course,” was how Aaron described it.
Here’s how this works. We used telemark skis, a kind of amped up cross-country ski. We fixed sticky climbing skins on the bottom.
Skinning up, flying down
The skins have synthetic fur that grip the snow. We marched uphill, no backsliding. The privacy on a big commercial ski hill was kind of magical. “It’s breathtaking,” Aaron said, pausing from time to time to take in the view. “You can see back to Lake Champlain and the shoulder of Esther Mountain.
We skinned up to the top of the gondola lift on Little Whiteface, it took a little more than an hour. Then we turned and plunged down, carving turns.
We have the mountain to ourselves. The long hike unspooled magically in a handful of minutes as gravity took over, pulling us toward the valley