Gore vs Whiteface, Again.

Once again, the question has been raised in the NY Ski Forums: which mountain is “better” Gore or Whiteface?  The question will never be settled: each mountain has a distinct personality that attracts skiers who thrive there. The two mountains, and the skiers they attract, are different.

Gore: Epic NY Tree Skiing

Whiteface skiers thrive on the uninterrupted vertical, awesome High Peaks views, Lake Placid nightlife and of course, the Slides. Gore regulars like the mountain’s width and variety, the trees, and the sheer volume of terrain. If Gore passholders mind the exercise required by flat spots, and if Whiteface diehards are concerned about windholds after big dumps, it’s apparently not enough to get them to switch to another mountain.

For our family, Gore is ideal. I never rode a lift until I was 40, and my wife never skied until she met me; we’re plenty challenged at Gore. The “short” vertical runs work for us too. Zelda and I love to lap the High Peaks chair and enjoy talking and taking in the views on the slow ride back to the top. I ski the trees, she skis the trails and we meet back at the chair for another ride. There are several pods at Gore where a tree skier and an intermediate can ski the terrain that suits them and meet at a lift.

Our challenges don’t end when the lifts stop spinning.  We usually ski all day, and for us, “nightlife” is kindling the fire, taking showers, making dinner, reading stories, and hitting the sack.  By the time I’m done with my blog post for the day it’s close to midnight. I usually wake up 15 minutes before the alarm rings at 6am.

Whiteface is about and hour and fifteen minutes from our place near Gore. Because of the extra distance, I usually ski Whiteface when I’m in the mountains alone. In December, Whiteface’s superior elevation and latitude can mean more terrain open. On a corn snow day in March, when the Slides go live, it’s heaven on earth.

Nirvana at the bottom of Slide 4

I often ski with expert skiers and high speed runs on Cloudspin and Skyward tire me out. I can more easily keep up in the more technical terrain turn-by-turn skiing required the Slides. And I’ve noticed that skiers tend to savor their runs in the Slides, which also works to my advantage.

I’ll never forget one of the best ski days of my life at Whiteface. I skied with Riverc0il and Highpeaksdrifter. We started the day lapping the Summit Chair so we could maximize our laps in the slides. By 11am when they opened, I was already pretty tired out.

But getting in there, facing the challenge and the terrain — it energized me.  The snow was perfect corn, and the skiing was sublime. I’m getting a chill right now just typing the words.

My attraction to the Slides and trees in general comes from the fact I really value natural snow the most, even over terrain.  I’ll take thin cover and base damage any time to feel real snow though the bottom of my skis.  The extensive tree skiing at Gore is one thing that makes keeps me enthusiastic about the mountain.

There is a tree skiing culture at Gore that is something special. It revolves around the “Men In Black” who have an interesting, symbiotic relationship with management. Those guys bust their butts to keep lines clean and skiable. We find them to be friendly, generous and patient. Popping out of Mineshaft, you know Chuck is going to be standing there, smiling that big grin, waiting for everyone, never in a rush.

Gore Mountain Men in Black
Men in Black

And Gore management, in my opinion, is incredibly progressive about opening terrain. You’ll come to the entrance of a trail like Uncas or Hullabaloo and find a rope almost all the way across the entrance. At one side there’ll be a small opening with an extra “Most Difficult” sign next to it. That set-up probably means the snow is soft but thin. Go on in if you want to, and take responsibility for yourself.

I love the liftline runs at Gore, in my opinion they are some of the best terrain on the map. Mike Pratt was a driving force behind getting all those liftlines open. And look at what Gore has done in a down economy; new terrain, more snowguns, more improvements every year. There is no question these moves are the result of the power of ORDA, but last year’s snowgun deal was Mike’s baby, and I give him a hell of a lot of credit for it.

Another thing I like about Gore is North Creek.  Compared to bigger ski towns, it’s a bit of an underdog. I like spending my money there. I know some of the business owners personally, and I know their families.  When I buy a sandwich at Sarah’s Cafe or a cup of coffee at Gear Source, I feel like it matters. It’s a place where I feel like I can have an impact.

While Gore may attract tree skiers and Whiteface captures vert hounds, it’s also likely that each mountain breeds those types of skiers. But even more than that, I think twists of fate bring us to places and we grow to love what we have. That’s a great thing about human nature, we want to like our choices.

And in the end, we don’t really even have to choose; our ORDA passes allow us to ski both the tallest and widest mountains in New York. Rock on Gore and Whiteface and vive la différence.

6 comments on “Gore vs Whiteface, Again.

  1. Well, written!

    Do any other two areas in the northeast generate as much comparison and back/forth? I can think of many comparable areas but few that generate such spirited discourse.

    There must be something to it… two state run areas, both the best two mountains in their state, both offering vastly different (in many cases opposite) experiences. Both with so much to offer yet so different from each other.

    It is amazing the polarization considering season pass holders can ski them both on the same pass! Each mountain would seem better on certain days. Enjoy them both!

  2. Good points Harv and Steve. I’ve skied Gore more than Whiteface and have met a lot of great people there so I’m very fond of Gore. The terrain is great and the tree skiing is top notch. It is always a great time no matter the conditions. That said it’s hard to beat the slides at Whiteface when they are open and the snow is good. The slides rival some of the best terrain I’ve encountered anywhere. As for the rest of the mountain I’m sadly lacking in skiing it. I usually make it up to Whiteface when the slides are open and tend to ski them as much as possible. That kind of terrain is my favorite thing to ski. Rocks, dirt, trees, whatever, I love it! That’s something I’m hoping to change this year! When all is said and done I’m glad we have both areas!

  3. You’re only as good as your last day on the hill; conditions of the day rule. That being said my last day @ Gore was St. Paddy’s, 75F and wahoo, mash-tatter moguls! My last day @ Da’Face was 2/28? and holy turnshape dictate my speed, just a shade fast with some freshies over bling.

    Each has their quirks and miles of smiles, to be enjoyed and repeated as often as possible. Gore improves your skating technique and how to carry speed, when necessary. Whiteface hones your steering skills and how to scrub speed, when necessary.

    I fondly recognize the Slides, them thar crew of More-Gore-Trash but the question remains, from which location did you get that shot of tree pic with the most excellent au-natural bumps through the Sprucies?

    All the best, see y’all on the hills.

  4. If they turn the Gore vs Whiteface thread into a book, this post should be the forward.

    Nicely written, could not agree more.

  5. Nice post Harv. Since I ski cross-country I can’t comment on whether one is better than the other. But one of the things I really need is variety. It would be a stone drag to ski exclusively at one place.

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