Never having skied on an opening day, I had to experience the hype of skiers and riders psyched for first glides on a fresh white and frosty layer; the start of a new winter season. All the mountain authorities have spoken. There is a lot of pent up demand to get out and slide especially since the season of 2011 - 2012 proved to be quite a bust. We were about to witness if this was true.
Convinced by my cousin Jeff, who, like myself had new, shiny unblemished and untried boards, we were about to initiate our ski season a little earlier than usual. He called the day "White Friday". I agreed, no shopping for us.
It was the day after Thanksgiving. Nights had been cold and the forecast was for sunshine and temperatures rising well into the 40's. Several Eastern Resorts had opened early, including Killington, Sugarloaf, Mount Snow and Whiteface. Now it was Gore's turn.
Gore Mountain is approximately 75 minutes north of our homes in Southern Saratoga County. Complete with a season pass ready for me upon arrival, and a discounted ticket in Jeff's hand, we headed up the Adirondack Northway past Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls and Lake George. Bare ground everywhere. We exit at Warrensburg and take Rt 28 slowly rising in elevation to North Creek, home base for Gore Mountain in the Southern Adirondacks. Bare ground everywhere.
At 8:10 the parking lot was just starting to get busy. We see a single white stripe winding down the mountain face leading to the gondola base station. The white layer appeared to be placed like frosting on a partially completed birthday cake. Great, we were about to partake in top to bottom skiing, well almost. The plaza area between the base lodge and the gondola looked ready for a summer party; orderly rows of picnics tables and a few early sun worshippers. A great deal of very green grass surrounded the ski racks. They look more like a ski sale than skis and boards waiting to be ridden. Anxious skiers and riders were preparing for the day in the lodge, waiting for the Northwoods Gondola bullwheel to start spinning.
Patches of man-made snow near snow guns could be seen where warmer daytime temperatures had curtailed recent snowmaking efforts under the gondola cable. If it were not for several cold nights in a row, we would not be here.
Anxious participants waited in lines to get their season passes, smiling as their photos were snapped. Employees rushed about trying to get into the swing of a fresh new season about to get underway. Computers work, check; gondola runs, check; plumbing flushes, check; beer chilled, check.
My first ever season pass was placed proudly around my neck. I keep it handy for the lift attendants to see.
We ride a gondola cabin up with two young men, Greg and Will. They were making the rounds of a few newly opened resorts, first Killington, then Whiteface, and then here at Gore Mountain. First day, first tracks. Must be a ritual among the young and enthusiastic?
We slide down Foxlair to Sunway all the way to the bottom, winding and feeling our new edges' first grip on snow. The surface was firm packed powder, starting to soften up as the sun's warmth was doing its work. My first pair of "rockers". They initiated well and followed thru with ease. Turns made easy by much technology. By the third run, the snow was superb, as the traffic loosened the top few inches.
The snow stayed quite dry on the mountain's upper half. Turns were effortless. This could have been mid-winter if our eyes did not venture off trail. The lower portion slowly turned to a corn-like consistency as the morning progressed, with varying conditions in-between. Moguls formed by late morning in steeper narrower sections. A little bit of everything.
By mid-day, the mountain was in full gear. Many must have felt like Jeff and myself, that "White Friday" was a better choice than "Black Friday". The lodge was busy, the plaza was host to many picnic lunches and smiling faces, and the upper parking lot was on its way to being quite full of SUVs bearing roof racks and roof boxes.
We take two runs after a well earned lunch. As with most early season mountain experiences, the terrain is limited, and the slopes get busy. The snow was getting thin in spots and getting heavy underfoot. It was time to leave.
It was a pleasant early day of skiing with fresh mountain air, sunshine and no wind. Almost perfect. We used muscles that have been mostly dormant for over 7 months, their winter memory returning. Our boots felt tight as their liners adjusted to the shapes of summer softened feet. We checked the bottoms of our new boards for scratches as we loaded up. Just a few. We headed south, glimpsed over our shoulders and said, we'll be back.
We are now ready for more cold weather, more snow and yes, of course, more Gore.