Flake Effect
by Scott Launt - Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
Gore and Whiteface offer ski pleasures without long driving times

In the Nov. 27 column “Road Trip,” I took you “out west,” to Holiday Valley in Ellicottville. In this installment, I suggest going east and north, within a reasonable driving distance.

There are so many great ski resorts and so little time (and money) if you’re going to make the long drive. Stowe, Sugarbush, Jay Peak (where there is new on-mountain lodging) and Killington are good choices. The closest real deal is Gore Mountain. If you’ve have limited opportunity, go to Lake Placid. Or go larger, to Mount Tremblant.

First stop: Gore Mountain, with 2,500 vertical feet and a gondola to get you up a good part of the way. I recommend a one-day trip to Gore, because your options for an overnight stay are limited and the feel of a ski town is nonexistent! Leave at 6 a.m. and carpool from New York State Thruway Exit 34A, and you’re in the ticket line at 9 a.m. Use a discount ticket from Price Chopper’s “Ski Any 3” promotion and save a few bucks. Be sure to go to the top to hit the double blacks: Lies and Rumors. But check the snow coverage before you dive in.

Spend the afternoon in “The High Peaks” area; blues and blacks await, with greens available in the “Little Gore Mountain” area. Spring skiing is fun there; when the lifts close at 4:30 p.m., enjoy a cold one on the deck and stop for a good meal at the Speculator Inn. You can be home by 9:30 p.m.

Whiteface (a.k.a. Iceface), having 3,200 feet of vertical, is the Beast of the East. With winter driving, plan on a 4½-hour drive from Syracuse. Conditions on the mountain will make or break your trip, so check the trail report and weather before making the trip. On a good day, it’s awesome.

There’s an abundance of lodging and dining in Lake Placid; combined with the Olympic venues that are operational, Lake Placid is an ideal family destination and a challenging and diverse skiing adventure. Dress warmly!

A half-hour longer by car because of four-lane highways, Mount Tremblant is well worth the trip. Plan to stay at least three nights at one of the reasonably priced hotels or suites that are within walking distance of the Cabriolet stand-up lift that takes you to the Telecabine Express Gondola. For a few extra Canadian dollars, spring for their “First Track” at 7:30 a.m. and ski the upper mountain’s La Grand Manitou area. Don’t let the double blacks scare you. This is the perfect mountain to challenge yourself.

Several of the trails don’t open until 10 a.m., so you can catch first tracks again, the same day! Head to “The Edge” area for remarkably groomed blacks and blues, as well as glades that won’t hurt you.

On days two and three, repeat, trying different trails.

Once you take in the village at Tremblant, it’s easy to see why it was named No. 1 in the East for many years running by the readers of Ski Magazine. Many have said that it’s the closest thing to a Swiss mountain village found on this continent. The downside is that the prices are not for the faint of heart, but worth it. Don’t forget your passport, and play nice at the border both ways.

Next time: some local stuff.

Scott Launt grew up in Cortland. Much of his misspent youth was at Greek Peak. He is a member of the National Ski Patrol at Labrador and a member of the Onondaga Ski Club.

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