(The third article in a series on summer projects at Olympic Authority mountains)
Whiteface has a long and storied history. Since the arrival in the 1920’s of skiing’s earliest pioneers, these iconic slopes have been home to the thrills and beauty and sense of freedom inherent in alpine winter sports. Through the years, what’s driven development of Whiteface as a world-class ski destination is both a deep respect for the natural environment and a passionate pursuit of the best ski experience in the East.
This thoughtful stewardship has produced a place unlike any other. Working together to maintain and advance Whiteface‘s world leadership in competitive and recreational skiing and snowboarding is a team of experts with deep experience in alpine resort operations, logistics, finance, engineering, and sustainability and environmental conservation. Under their guidance, Whiteface has also come to serve as a year-round travel destination and a powerful economic engine for the region.
Summer 2023 Projects
Though it’s often referred to as the “offseason,” the Whiteface Team is just as engaged in summer offering a different set of activities for guests. These include the Cloudsplitter Gondola, hiking, disc golf, and the Veterans’ Memorial Highway. Summer also ushers in a highly active time for maintenance, upgrades, and improvements.
As identified in the Whiteface Mountain Unit Management Plan (UMP), the summer of 2023 will include a wide range of initiatives from basic maintenance to snowmaking upgrades to major projects designed to transform the guest experience.
In what is the biggest, most transformative project of the summer, crews are now installing a new detachable quad lift from the Bear Den Learning Center to a point just beyond the Legacy Lodge at mid-station. Named The Notch, this innovative lift – the only one of its kind in the East – will dramatically improve the skier experience in the coming 2023/24 season. Because it’s actually two lifts in one that together operate seamlessly, riders can unload onto the Boreen trail or continue farther upward where they can access other trails as well as the Legacy Lodge.
The Notch will help skiers and riders at the Bear Den access additional beginner and intermediate terrain while also providing access to upper mountain lifts and advanced terrain. In this way, The Notch will help everyone experience all that Whiteface has to offer while also reducing traffic on other lifts and trails.
Bear Den Learning Center
The Bear Den is a busy place in winter with hundreds of people of all ages getting their first introductions to skiing and snowboarding, and their overall experience plays a big role in their budding passions. These winter activities are growing in popularity, and that is evident by the numbers of first-timers at the Bear Den.
Facilities have grown right along with this popularity. The new Bear Den Lodge opened in 2015. The original Cub Carpet lift for first timers got a new roof to make the experience easier and more comfortable, plus a new magic carpet lift, the Coyote Cruiser, was installed. Updates were also made to the renamed Falcon Flyer triple chair, designed for those gaining experience but still learning.
This summer, in addition to the exciting installation of The Notch, the Whiteface Team is making an important change to the Cub Carpet lift, re-orienting it to make getting on easier, to reduce traffic around both beginner lifts, and to improve the experience for first-time skiers and riders.
Together, these changes to the Bear Den Learning Center will improve the dynamic flow of guests and enhance the experience for everyone.
In recent years, the Snowmaking Team at Whiteface has made big changes to the mountain’s infrastructure, making systems more powerful, more reliable, and far more energy efficient. Major improvements are in already in place, and the results have been proven reliable. Last year, for example, for the first time in history, crews had the mountain open from the summit to base on opening day. This summer’s upgrades will feature a relatively modest but important addition of 150 new high efficiency snow guns as well as corresponding air and water lines being installed to further improve skier and rider conditions on Parron’s Run.
Cloudsplitter Gondola Maintenance
First opened in 1999, the Cloudsplitter Gondola was an enormous advancement for the skier and rider experience while also ushering in a new era of year-round activity at the mountain. This summer, the gondola will get a new rope and grip hardware, all of which will be installed between the close of the fall season and the opening of the winter season.
Grooming and Other Equipment
Winch technology is a big grooming advance that improves conditions on the steepest pitches. Two new Pisten Bully 600W cats are being added this summer to the Whiteface grooming fleet. One will include a winch and the other will be winch ready, which is the most economical combination to ensure a cat with a winch is always available. For other ongoing mountain operations, several new snowmobiles and UTVs are also on the way to replace aging units.
Other Slope Maintenance
On the popular Victoria trail adjacent lower Skyward, a powerline will be buried to remove it from view and to remove it as a potential obstacle for grooming equipment. Similarly, outdated power poles installed long ago on Boreen will be removed, too. Finally, a transformer serving the summit will be moved to enhance reliability and access.
Veterans Memorial Highway
A New York State treasure, the Veterans’ Memorial Highway to the top of Whiteface was among the first developments on Whiteface. The castle at the top of the highway, made from local rock removed during the road’s construction, is also a landmark of immeasurable historical value. Both the highway and castle have seen vital maintenance work in recent years, and today, these extraordinarily remote yet fully accessible locations are among the top attractions in the Olympic Region. This summer, the castle is getting a new roof and windows to safeguard the integrity and longevity of this cherished monument to the veterans of World War I.
A Place Unlike Any Other
For 100 years, Whiteface has loomed large in the imaginations of alpine winter sport and recreation enthusiasts. Its beginnings as a ski center played a pioneer’s role in the early development of the winter alpine sports in America, and through the years, the vision for this natural wonder grew to include hosting the biggest winter sports event of them all – the 1980 Olympics. Whiteface has been host to a great many national, international, and regional alpine competitions, too. This special mountain also launched the dreams of numerous athletes, including Olympians, by serving so masterfully as a center for training and racing. Yet, it is also a tremendous asset for the recreational skier and rider and a place where many have discovered skiing and snowboarding for the first time. It’s diverse terrain and programs nurture their enthusiasm, skills, and sense of adventure. In that way it has become a treasured home to multitudes of recreational skiers and riders at all levels. Through their ongoing work to maintain this extraordinary venue, the Whiteface Team continues to provide the careful stewardship necessary to preserve this legacy far into the future for all to enjoy.