I last skiied Whiteface Mountain in December 2019. Due to Covid, I hadn’t returned since then. However, my sister and I decided to bring our equipment along on our family trip to Lake Placid, in the Adirondacks, and ski the largest vertical (3166’) East of the Rockies! Whiteface has always been a special resort to me, as it was the site of my second ever ski lesson, and my first ever chairlift ride 9 years ago, and it’s combination of vertical and views makes for enjoyable long runs! Previously, I had never moved past the lower mountain lifts due to my ability level, and was now excited to return and explore the entire mountain. Due to the recent rain storm and lack of snowfall, 19/96 trails serviced by 7/13 lifts were forecasted to be opened l, though with top to bottom skiing, one couldn’t complain!
My sister and I arrived just before opening at 8:30am, and after picking up our tickets, we headed to the Face Lift Express Quad to do a warm up run on the lower mountain. Temperatures hovered around -1C, though the fluctuating wind speeds of 20-40km/hr allowed for some periods of slightly colder conditions.
With our legs having been somewhat warmed up, we boarded the Cloudsplitter Gondola for the 10 minute ride to the summit. This gondola is extremely unique for the East Coast, as the lift line is steep, remote, and isolated for nearly its entirety.
From the cloud-covered gondola sub-peak, which was only 2/3 of the way to the summit, we skiied down the intermediate run Excelsior to reach the start of the Summit Triple lift. We were very eager to reach the sunny summit area, as we were hearing reports of a cloud inversion, a regular phenomenon at Whiteface due to its position relative to prevailing winds, in addition to its large vertical drop. The summit lift was an extremely long fixed grip triple, climbing nearly 2000 vertical feet in 11 minutes along an increasingly steep lift line. A unique feature of this lift is seen in small lettering on each chairlift pole, from a past marketing campaign known as “Whiteface Towers”, with the below-heading text reading: “ You are now X feet above the summit of Y competitor ski resort”! I found these messages to be both hilarious and true, serving as a testament to Whiteface’s extreme vertical drop. This lift allowed for views of the summit, as well as the famous Slides, hike-to inbounds terrain among the steepest of the East Coast, which are a series of large, near-vertical, and cliff-ridden natural chutes that are only open without restrictions for a handful of powder days a season-on a good snow year! They can be seen in the images below:
As we rode higher and higher up the wind and height-exposed chairlift, our excitement began to mount, as we started seeing the topside of the clouds covering the gondola sub-peak. I have never seen an inversion while skiing before, and it had been a dream of mine for a while! We disembarked from the chairlift at the summit, and were greeted by one of the best skiing views I have ever seen!
We had views of the Adirondack High Peaks to the South, with only their 4-5000’ summits exposed above the endless sea of fast-moving clouds, in addition to views of Lake Champlain and Mount Mansfield (Vermont’s Highest Peak), towards the East! It was honestly one of the best ski views I have ever experienced, with the only exception being the one bluebird day at Lake Louise last February.
After taking in the views and taking some photos and videos, we began our descent into, through, and below the clouds for a 12 minute journey of skiing the 3200-foot vertical (equal to that of Lake Louise in Alberta) in one long run!
We have our already-exhausted legs a break, before we headed back to the Gondola and Summit chairlift for another top-to-bottom run!
After another break for lunch at the base lodge, we continued to lap the gondola lift for another few long runs, before heading to the summit triple for our third and final top to bottom run.
By 2:30pm, conditions were bordering on the icy side (the mountain is sometimes nicknamed Iceface by its frequent skiiers), as the limited terrain meant that the layer of granular snow was being scraped off. Additionally, some upper and lower mountain runs had small pebbles strewn about the runs, which was likely attributed to the thin cover. Nevertheless, the snow conditions were to be expected given the recent weather!
Crowds were pretty quiet throughout the day, with most lifts having none, with the Gondola line only reaching 5-10 minutes for a brief period when the Face Lift was put on a 30 minute wind hold prior to noon.
Our last few laps were on the lower mountain, where we took the Face Lift and Notch quads, the latter of which was a brand new express chairlift that connected the adjacent beginner’s area to the mid-mountain area, even equipped with a turning/unloading station! Maybe it’s just me, but I thought it had a “new chairlift smell”;)
We ended the day at 3:45pm, and our exhausted legs were definitely not used to the large vertical we skiied, as a top to bottom run at Whiteface is 6 times that if our local hill! The views and long runs were breathtaking, and it was amazing to finally return and ski what I would consider to be my favourite hill on the East Coast. I am looking forward to potentially returning with some friends in late February, when snow conditions should be at their prime!