Skiers Earn Their Turns on the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway

By AlpineZone News |
Oct 28 2005 - 12:13 PM

LAKE PLACID, New York ??” Fifteen vehicles lined the access road near the toll house of the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway Wednesday morning to celebrate a rite of fall ??“ the first ski turns of the season.

A storm that totaled one to two feet in the Adirondacks brought the Punxatawneys out of their holes, and when they peeked, they saw at least six months of winter before them. With that, it was time to make those first tracks of the year. According to one report, the snow at the top was hip-deep. At the toll house, it was up to one’s shin.

Access road to the Whiteface Ski Area Wednesday
(Photo: ORDA / Aaron Hobson)

Skiing on this state-run highway is common in the days before the Whiteface Ski Area officially opens. Early snow brings out the hard-cores, and on this day, there were several dozen who toted snowboards, alpine and telemark skis, cross country skis and just plain old hiking boots for the journey up and the cruise back down.

The toll house is three miles up Highway 431 from Wilmington. From the toll house, it’s another five miles to the summit of the state’s fifth highest peak. Although never very steep in any one section, it is a continuous pitch. That’s a far cry from the ski area, located six miles from the highway’s gateway. With a vertical drop of 3,430 feet, the mountain’s legendary steeps can be hellacious.

But until Whiteface opens for the season ??“ tentatively set for Nov. 19 ??“ the highway will do very nicely. Snowmaking begins next week, but as long as the natural snow machines are functioning, there will always be those who won’t miss the sound of turning chairs or the hiss of snow guns at work.

For some, the highway’s brief winter season will always be the most anticipated “opening” in the Adirondacks.