Whiteface, New York
Whiteface is near Lake Placid in the Adirondack mountains of New York. This is a mountain with a long, rich history of skiing starting in 1938. All of the alpine skiing events were held there in the 1980 Olympics. With a well-deserved reputation for being cold and windy, we had to hit it just right — and we did.
|Real Vertical ?||3,166′, Rank: 22|
|Size||299 Acres, Rank: 98|
|Annual Snowfall ?||186″ claimed / 185″ actual, Rank: 91|
|Ski Pods ?||6, Rank: 47|
|Distinct Trails ?||83, Rank: 46|
|Review Date||March 2023|
|Number of visits||1|
On paper, this is one of the smallest ski resorts on our list at only 299 acres, but it skis much larger. To us, a large vertical drop is the most important feature that a ski resort has, and this place is in the top 25% with a significant 3,166 feet of it.
The other thing it has is really steep groomers. With only 180″ of annual snowfall, they’ve elected to cover just about every trail with snowmaking, and these are groomed to perfection. If high-speed steep groomers are your thing, you will be in heaven.
We timed this long 8-resort trip to ski Whiteface at the end of the first week in March. This was to give ourselves the best chance to avoid the extreme cold, but still have good snow before spring conditions set in. We couldn’t have timed it better. Temps were in the 20’s and there wasn’t any wind to speak of. Snowfall season-to-date was solidly average with a good amount falling the week before we arrived. It was about 95% open, including the Slides.
Most people will start the day on the Cloudsplitter gondola. With a vertical drop of over 2,400 feet, you could happily lap this lift all day when it’s cold. Our first run was down Upper Northway, which was like a high speed elevator ride straight down. None of the groomed runs at Whiteface are rated double-black diamond, but in comparison with other Northeastern resorts there are plenty of them that could be rated that way.
The main event at Whiteface is the Summit Quad chair. This is not a high-speed lift but it’s so steep that the 1,850 vertical rise only takes 8 1/2 minutes. The top of the lift is the highest in the Northeast and there are signs on most of the towers at the elevations of other resort summits emphasizing this. The view from the top is inspiring and the first peek over the edge of Upper Skyward is amazing. We probably skied that run 4 times. You can branch out to Niagara and Victoria half way down so it doesn’t get boring. The only run we skied that did not have snowmaking was Cloudspin. It was thin and ungroomed and provided some much needed variety.
We were hoping to ski the Slides. They were open and it looked like perfectly manageable terrain for us, with good snow. Unfortunately I didn’t do my homework and discovered too late that you need an avalanche beacon to ski them! Arghh!
This is my only criticism of the area. A blanket policy of having a beacon doesn’t make much sense. You couldn’t have set off a slide with a nuclear bomb the day we were there. So we missed our chance, but some people we rode the lift with said it’s fun for a run or two on the right day.
For advanced skiers, without the Slides there really isn’t much ungroomed terrain available at Whiteface. If you want bumps and glades you will be much better off at Killington or Sugarloaf, or really just about any of the other northeastern resorts on our list.
This is a strange lift. Even with average snowfall near the end of the season, the two trails that would allow you to lap the chair, Hoyt’s High and Lookout Below, were closed for lack of snow. These either do not have snowmaking or it wasn’t in use. However, there is a really fun run off the chair called “The Wilmington Trail” which takes you all the way back down to the bottom. It’s a long, winding blue run which was a lot of fun, but you can’t lap it without taking 2 lifts.
This is an old double chair with almost 1,500 vertical. It serves the steep runs of Little Whiteface without the need to repeatedly ski down the Valley Run, but I think it would be faster to just ski all the way down to the Cloudsplitter gondola and take that instead. On our quest to ski as many runs as we could, we took every run on Little Whiteface that was open. It’s all good stuff.
Lodges and Food
We had lunch at the Base Lodge which had a good variety of decent cafeteria food available. The lodges at Whiteface are not the usual old, smelly buildings that we usually find at these types of resorts that have been around for 75 years. The state of New York has funded the Olympic authority that runs Whiteface, Gore, and the olympic venues in Lake Placid with a constant stream of money that has been well spent on modern facilities.
The town of Lake Placid
We stayed in Lake Placid and walked down the main street and out onto the frozen lake. A memorable experience there was the dog sled ride. We have had 2 huskies so this is always something that makes us happy seeing the dogs run. Lake Placid is a favorite destination for New Yorkers and there is a lot to do and see there in the winter besides skiing.
- Largest vertical drop east of the Rockies
- Fantastic grooming
- Steep consistent runs
- Great views
- Good lift network and lodges
- Almost complete snowmaking coverage
- The town of Lake Placid
- Known for being windy and bitterly cold
- Small acreage
- Lack of natural snowfall
- Lack of natural ungroomed terrain
The bottom line
Whiteface was one of our favorite resorts in the east. We ranked it 2nd right after Sugarloaf. It reminded us of a small Sun Valley with long, steep groomers. Maybe someday we will get back there with beacons in hand so we can complete our Whiteface experience by skiing the Slides.