AlpineZone Challenge 2005 – Sandy Caligiore of Whiteface

The AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge was designed to provide a method for our forum members to get official answers to skiing-related questions directly from a ski area representative. Sandy Caligiore, Communications Director of Whiteface  in Wilmington, New York, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 6/8/2005:

highpeaksdrifter: Is there any chance the proposed trail expansion will start this year? Can you provide details of this plan to those not familiar? I’ve also heard rumors of more terrain being open for tree skiing, if true when?

Sandy Caligiore: Although our staff is preparing for the day when this project will be approved and then funded, it looks doubtful that this project will begin this summer. It’s a multi-year, multi-million dollar initiative. The proposed site (Tree Island Pod) is near the old Marble Mountain location. This is to the right of the summit quad as you look up the mountain. There would be a lot of intermediate and expert terrain with snowmaking and a lift. Currently, Whiteface offers 18 miles of terrain. The state has allowed us a ceiling of 25 miles. As for the trees, there is a conceptual plan to cut between Cloudspin and Excelsior as well as in some beginner areas.

takeahike46er: Whiteface is often referred to as a racer’s mountain because of the emphasis (perceived or real) on steep, groomed runs. Could Whiteface do more to highlight a group of consistently bumped trails that rival the more famous mogul runs elsewhere?

Sandy Caligiore: This is not a high priority at the moment. However, on the Wilderness trail which is used for World Cup mogul competition, we have a great bump run that is generally available from January to season’s end. Also, Mountain Run, at times, is allowed to bump up. And in good snow years, Empire, one of the great trails in the East, gets VW-sized moguls and stays that way since it is too narrow and steep to groom.

James Michaud: What is Whiteface doing to increase visits from Canadians? Seems odd that they aim the lion’s share of their marketing budget at the NYC area (five hours to the south) while Montreal is barely 90 minutes away. On the French-Canadian site ZoneSki, Quebeckers are always going on about how they’d like to try Whiteface, but can’t afford it.

Sandy Caligiore: Beginning last winter, we entered into a relationship with Costco outlets ( and click on warehouse locator) in Quebec and Ontario. We sold vouchers in more than 30 warehouse locations that were redeemed at Whiteface. We thought the prices were quite reasonable. In 2004-05, an adult ticket could be purchased for $50 Canadian for use Friday – Monday; $40 Canadian Tuesday – Thursday; students 7-19 years old $36 Canadian Friday – Monday and $30 Canadian Tuesday – Thursday. They were not valid during U.S. holidays but could be used during Canadian holidays. Apparently, we will have to do a better job getting this info out there this winter.

highpeaksdrifter: The state of NY owns Whiteface, Gore and Belleayre, but ORDA only runs Whiteface and Gore. Has there ever been any discussion of ORDA adding Belleayre? There is presently a Whiteface/Gore season pass, how about a Whiteface/Gore/Belleayre option?

Sandy Caligiore: As you stated, New York operates all three resorts with ORDA handling Gore and Whiteface, while the Department of Environmental Conservation manages Belleayre. These are two separate organizations: ORDA is an authority and the DEC is an agency. Things ORDA has never done: push for a three-way season pass and try to acquire Belleayre. I think some private operators would not appreciate that latter concept. Having said that, ORDA has excellent relations with resorts such as Hunter, Windham, Belleayre and others. We all joined forces to host a media reception last fall in New York City and will endeavor to do the same again. Our joint message to prospective guests is clear: the skiing and riding is great in New York State.

highpeaksdrifter: Speaking of Gore, in the last few years they opened up expert terrain under three lifts Straightbrook Quad has Double Barrel, Top Ridge Triple has High Pines Glades, and High Peaks chair has Dark Side Glades. They are only open when there is enough natural snow and all three are a blast to ski. Couldn’t Whiteface do the same under the Summit Quad? The terrain under there is no more difficult then what they’ve put to use at Gore.

Sandy Caligiore: Given the fact that key communications lines are located under the Summit Quad, this trail development will not occur. Besides, we have better trails to tackle.

takeahike46er: Will there ever be another intermediate trail (besides Excelsior) cut from the summit of Little Whiteface? Excelsior sees a lot of use and conditions tend to suffer because of this.

Sandy Caligiore: You are correct, especially on busy days. This season, we will cut a short trail that will link the end of Paron’s Run with the Connector trail to Lower Cloudspin. We are hoping to scatter the crowd that meets around turns 1-2-3 of Excelsior. Several years ago, we discussed the possibility of adding a trail from the upper gondola terminal, running in and around the gondola line, before bringing it into Parkway. That’s been tabled for the time being.

thetrailboss: When I think of Whiteface, I think of it as being the host of two Winter Olympics. Do you think we will ever see another Winter Olympics here? From people who come to visit the mountain, does the fact that it was an Olympic host play any role in their decision to visit? Do you hold any other resorts in New England or the Northeast as being ‘Winter Olympic’ worthy?

Sandy Caligiore: We are hopeful that our region can hook up with a bigger area and host another Winter Games. With the Winter Olympics becoming so big, this is the only way that Lake Placid could be considered. With Gov. Pataki an ardent supporter, anything is possible.

Our role as an Olympic host does have an impact with vacationers. For people looking for the complete winter experience, not just skiing or riding, we have much to offer. We actively promote that variety of activities (bobsled rides, ice shows, ice skating, etc). It’s like having a diversified portfolio. If one stock is down, you move assets in another direction. That’s what our five venues allow us to do. It really helps in bad weather. People don’t leave…we just direct them to a different activity.

Given the fact that no other resort in the Northeast has ski jumps and bobsled/luge/skeleton tracks, no one else can host the Games. However, I think your question is angling toward the ski / ride aspect of the Olympics. There certainly are other facilities that have the necessary terrain. I don’t want to mention some by name because it will insinuate that the others don’t stack up. So I hope you’ll understand. But others can handle some alpine events, mogul skiing and snowboarding. Many have outstanding street cred inside the field of play. Other issues pop up, however, like infrastructure. For example, do resorts have the needed roadways to get thousands of people in and out? What about quantity and quality of lodging facilities? Restaurants? Water and sewer? February weather pattern? All this and more goes into making this kind of decision.

highpeaksdrifter: I know that construction of the new NYSEF building has started, what’s going into the old one?

Sandy Caligiore: A variety of plans are being bandied about. Here’s just one of them: Snowsports, host patrol, speed control might be headed to the existing NYSEF building. Current snowsports school section might be a coffee shop and lounge area with wireless internet access. I have felt that we need a business center for the modern vacationing family. The parents now need to stay in touch with work while simultaneously playing. Stay tuned for more on this fluid development.

highpeaksdrifter: There was a lot of talk about building another lodge at the summit of Little Whiteface. Any news on that? I kind of hope that one doesn’t happen.

Sandy Caligiore: That is a back-burner item at this time and not a priority. It’s in our Unit Management Plan, but it’s conceptual right now and needs further permitting.

dmc: I’ve never been to Whiteface to ski. How do you respond to the “Whiteface is too cold and icy” thing? I’ve heard it a dozen times. Just want to hear your take on it.

Sandy Caligiore: I will just say this about the weather: When it’s 15 degrees below zero at Whiteface, is it 25 degrees above in New England? Good weather, bad weather, the entire Northeast is in the same boat at the same time.

And forget icy. If you had skied with me in 1982, I could have shown you an icy, blue Whiteface. But everyone’s snowmaking and grooming (Whiteface included) has improved untold levels. I think the icy thing pops up when people go out to Whiteface in the afternoon on a busy day and find trails skied off. Let’s remember that our mountain is steep in spots and many skiers and riders are negotiating these trails with their sticks across the fall line, sliding instead of turning. That technique will definitely scrape it down to the boilerplate.

Here’s my tip for you: Come out any day at 8:30, or ski us mid-week in a non-holiday period. You will have an enjoyable time. Also, with no on-slope lodging and no big hotels for 10 miles, the crowd, on the busiest of days, doesn’t arrive until after 10:00. At Whiteface, it pays handsomely to be early.

To view forum comments on this Challenge and the Challenge Results, please visit the following page: width=