Ski Big Tupper: The Summit

After inspecting the base area and touring the lower mountain with David Tomberlin, I finally connected with local legend Cliff Levers. Originally from Tupper Lake, Cliff has worked in oil fields, as an ironworker, and as an electrician. He came back to Tupper Lake in 2002, and has been there steadily since.

Spruce

Cliff was understandably very focused on reaching the top of Lift 3 and the 3136-foot summit, as was I. Up we went. The road was steep and slick. At times, Cliff would stand up on the ATV. I assumed he was trying to get more weight on the front wheels, so, when ever he stood up — I threw all my weight forward into the space he’d vacated.

We were going over bedrock with some loose soil and rock. Several times, I was sure our wheels would slip on the wet surfaces, but we never did. Business as usual for Cliff, but my pulse was elevated.

Top of Lift 3

On the way up to the summit we stopped at the top of Lift 3: Cliff’s baby. For now, it’s the lift that brings Big Tupper’s expert terrain back online. Upon close examination of the Lift 3 unloading station, you could see that all the wood is shot; but the steel and the concrete are really in excellent shape. There are plans to replace all of the wood, with a combination of masonry and new wood. From top to bottom, Lift 3 is in the best shape of all of the lifts on Mount Morris.

The bullwheel was impressive. There is one functional issue with the lift that is being resolved. There’s a 13-ton cement block that keeps the liftline tight under varying loads. Over time, cable stretch reduces the ability of the counter weight to adjust the tension. While it’s routine maintenance for this type of lift, it’s still a big job. The weight has to be raised, and slack taken out of the lines.

We got to the top. The views from the summit were beautiful. The summit itself was not. It’s a massive collection of communications equipment that luckily, you can see very little of it from the rest of the mountain. And honestly, it’s not hard to see how that spot would be used for that purpose when you look at the economy of Tupper Lake.

Summit Views

Coming back down, the views were stunning, on such an gray day.

Cliff pulled up at the top of Lift 1. Even though it’s not running or part of the operation plans for this year, he’s very fond of it. He uses it for parts and calls it the “Peter Lift.” Cliff has spent the summer robbing Peter to pay Paul, with the part of Paul played by Lifts 2 and 3.

On our descent, Cliff told me the story of the cabin on The Ranger Trail. Originally, it was called the “observers” cabin because the fire rangers were called observers.

The Peter Lift

On the morning of June 20, 1944, observer Adelard Fromaget was climbing Mt. Morris to the tower with his son Joseph. When they reached the cabin, Joseph was tired and Adelard told his son to wait inside. The boy wandered off and was missing for 12 days, until he was found, over a mile from the cabin. A small white cross will be placed on the cabin to commemorate Joseph’s passing.

The Ranger Cabin

When you visit this hill, it’s easy to see why it’s so well loved. It’s got history, character and terrain quirks that remind me of Gore in some ways.  But it’s gut check time for Big Tupper — there are no guarantees that the ski hill will survive. I’d recommend you ski Big Tupper this year.

21 comments on “Ski Big Tupper: The Summit

  1. We need to have a fans of Harvey Road day at Tupper this year. It would be a blast and draw people from all around. Its been a long time since I skied there and every time I go by I wished I could ski it again. It will be nice to see it up and running! When we get closer to the season you should pick a day and put the word out.

  2. skimore said…

    “What’s their policy on accessing some of the terrain that they don’t plan on opening?”

    …AND IS ANY OF IT TRULY DOUBLE BLACK DIAMOND?

  3. Nice work Harv. I’ve spent two backcountry days at Tupper prior to its resurgence, and it’s a fun little hill. Frankly, while topographically a different beast, it reminds me a lot of Gunstock. Nice little hill, good for families, not really near much else for skiing, but not exactly far either. Snow was a little thin though, but no worse than Titus, and I’ve skied plenty there as well.

    That being said, unless they work around the snowmaking issue, the place is doomed. Tupper doesn’t get enough snow to handle a high traffic ski area that 500+ rental and vacation units will create it fully built out. That’s a major challenge, and kind of a Catch 22. People would probably buy condos at a ski area in this economy, my life revolves around it here in Jackson Hole, and people didn’t stop shaking the money tree these last few years, they just stopped shaking it for the rotten apples. They want to see value.

    Unless Tupper puts some value into the eyes of investors through the ski area, its never going to be more than talk. Tupper could be a nice little spot, but vacant factories on the waterfront (at least there were three years ago coming down from Canton and the St. Lawrence) and a ski area with two shoddy lifts and little in terms of skiing isn’t value, it’s a rotten apple. Well a rotten apple in investment terms.

    But enough on real estate. Tupper has a fun falline, neat tree skiing, and definitely some soul. Would certainly be cool to see it come back, but I’m not holding my breath.

  4. If you ski out-of-bounds, and get caught, your ticket will be pulled for the week-end. Because of insurance, we can’t allow it.

  5. Skimore… There has been no trail work on unopened trails in 10 years. This isn’t a matter of trails that are closed because they are a few inches short on snow. There are serious hazards present, and because these runs would look like normal trails when snow covered they could be even more dangerous than skiing completely ungroomed trees. With BT’s precarious financial position, they’re taking a tough stand.

    Anon – terrain ratings are specific to each ski area. You can’t compare double black ratings at Stratton to those at Jackson Hole. For a trail to be truly double black it should be among the most challenging on that hill.

    AR.. great to hear from you. Snowmaking pipe is in place and looks to be in pretty good shape. I can’t speak officially – but it’s my understanding that snowmaking will be re-instituted after a certain percentage of RE sales are completed.

    Rochester Mark – the idea of a HR day at BT has already been proposed by David T. We don’t have a fully formed idea yet. If you have input on this idea post it in the Big Tupper thread on the Forum.

    Think Snow …

  6. One indication of how little concern reopening the ski area is for the developers was their decision to sell off the main components of the snowmaking system last fall. The main compressors, water pumps and many HKDs were sold to various other ski areas. The equipment was all relatively new, purchased in the mid 90s by the former owners. The lame reason the developer gave for selling was that it was old and in poor shape and they would replace it with all new greener, more energy efficient equipment. The snowmaking system was state of the art in the mid 90s and was only used about 5 or 6 seasons and was in excellent condition. It was sold off for peanuts because the developer needed money. If you doubt the validity of my description of the snowmaking equipment just contact the former owner of the ski area.

  7. They sold off key components of a newish, fully functional snowmaking system? One that was only used 6 seasons? For peanuts? That’s crazy!

    Lack of snowmaking was the main reason Hickory closed and cannot attract customers now. Hickory has far more attractive terrain than Tupper and is immediately adjacent to major metropolitan areas. Hickory is even closer than Gore to population centers yet Hickory could not/can not stay open due to lack of snowmaking.

    West Mtn is a small ski area and it does infinitely better business than Hickory because West Mtn has snowmaking. Hey you guys @ Tupper-Skiing requires….Snow!!! It’s looking like this bird won’t fly.

  8. Wow, the more I hear, the worse it gets. They sold the snowmaking system, which was installed in the ninties? Sheesh. There’s only two logical conclusions now. Dumb, or greedy. Could be both.

  9. With the knowledge that you all have I find it amazing that you were not contacted by the developer to help them with their logistics.

    Arm chair (laptop) ski area managers are a dime a dozen. So keep up the good work…

  10. Haha. Or…with the gullibility that you all have I find it amazing that you were not contacted by the developer to help them with their financial scam.

    Arm chair (laptop) Suckers are a dime a dozen. So keep up the good work… I recall a certain poster, (DS) himself, saying this project likely won’t work. Now DS is faulting others for voicing the same sentiments he spoke himself. Lmao!

  11. Well, some snowmaking equipment is better than no snowmaking equipment. That steel pipe is not cheap as I think you’ve mentioned Harv in another article or post about Gore. Having at least some of that in place (and the most labor intensive in my complete uninformed opinion) is a good, good thing.

    I think relying on Albany and points south is the wrong gameplan. How bout affordable option closer to Syracuse, points north, etc. BT is closer than anything to the Canton/Potsdam college scene if memory serves right, cheap college passes and a bar would attract plenty of kids on a budget. Albany and NYC folks arent going drive all that ways for Tupper.

    Anyways, thanks for the clarification on tree skiing, BT doesn’t need any insurance issues on top of everything else. Just to ease your concerns, Ive only skied BT after hiking up myself first, 3-4 years ago when I was in college. Nothing was open or running then. I’m sure I broke a rule of some form even then, but Tupper is a fun hill that I would love to see being successful.

  12. Ahhhh….blogs. What a convenient way to communicate and debate with the outside world from the comfort of your own couch. Great for the easily intimidated who can simply remain anonymous.

    The ACR, ARISE and Big Tupper ski area have obviously been part of much debate, which is to be expected, but it is the manner and content of the debate that leaves something to be desired. Acknowledge several things the next time you choose to participate in this or any blog:

    You may or may not agree with the ACR’s proposal or ARISE’s efforts, but they are attempting to do something for Tupper Lake. These folks are not following your every post because they are out there trying to make things happen for a town that has barely got a pulse. Kudos to them for doing more then standing idly by.

    As far as referencing individuals personal pasts, I guarantee that anyone who chose to step out from behind their computer and put themselves in the public eye to discuss and support a controversial topic would have their “closet of skeletons” uncovered as well. Is it constructive to discuss them and use them as a point for debate? Or does it just feel good to sling any type of mud at those you oppose? Since when did being malicious help get anything done?

    Hearsay and gossip, as fun as they may be on blogs, only pollute the debate. The facts are out there and whether or not you choose to take the extra effort to get them straight is ultimately your call, but debating something from an uneducated stand point does not reflect well on the validity of your comments.

    There is undeniable truth in the notion that you can’t make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time. There is always a debate to be had somewhere and there is nothing wrong with taking part. I am simply encouraging everyone to educate themselves and rethink their approach. Be constructive, not catty.

  13. Caligal, why do you attack the people who brought up counter points and not simply address the issues they raised? That’s not very logical. Logic does matter. You can shoot the messenger all you want, but that doesn’t refute or change any facts and counter points.

    In fact, you’re guilty of what you’re accusing the others of when you said…. “Or does it just feel good to sling any type of mud at those you oppose? Since when did being malicious help get anything done?”

    If they are wrong Caligal, simply show them to be wrong and don’t throw mud at them personally. Be constructive not catty. It is perfectly logical, permissible and just makes plain common sense for people to raise valid concerns. Some of these people seem to live there and it’s their absolute right to point out any problems. Don’t try to bully them.

    Perhaps they are correct and there’s an inability to disprove them so some try to shoot the messenger. This is also known as bullying. I hope it works out for Tupper but I think it is a very long shot. I also don’t fall for any old crap that comes along just cause I hope Tupper does well. Some of the points raised here are not very good signs and do not inspire confidence in the project’s players.

    “Doing something” isn’t always better especially when the idea is a badly timed long shot, has bad players and management who use other people’s millions to gamble with and can’t even pay their own bills.

    If these guys have very deliquent property tax bills, utilities shut off at their other properties and homes plus have other failing projects these are major red flags that need to be addressed.

    So far, nobody’s done that. Nobody’s refuted it or cornered the players about it. The fact that they did not refute it adds much credibility to their accusers.

    Another errant argument you offered .”Great for the easily intimidated who can simply remain anonymous.” Ya see, Caligal is just as anonymous as anonymous!
    😉

  14. Well put caligal. This whole thing might or might not work but since none of us are putting any skin (or for that matter any money!) into it can’t we at least hope it will work. Anyone can be negative, that’s easy. I wish them well. Anyone who has the balls to try and make this work gets my vote! At least somebody has some kind of vision. Good luck BT. And no I’m not gullible just hopeful.

  15. Mark wrote…”This whole thing might or might not work but since none of us are putting any skin(or for that matter any money!)into it can’t we at least hope it will work. Anyone can be negative, that’s easy.”

    Really? That is very incorrect Mark. They want the Town/county to put as much as 54 million dollars of seed money into the project. That’s alot of skin and money for a dying town of 4000 people. Also, it appears the players involved already have big money problems that they deliberately chose not to deny here…that speaks volumes. So some Tupper residents brought that up and you accuse them of being negative?!

    Easy for outsiders to fault those who question the wisdom of this project cause it’s not the outsider’s skin/azz on the hook for 54 million if the project fails. That would kill Tupper’s taxpayers and likely ruin them financially. Many of them are older/elderly people. Such a huge increase of the tax burden created by a project failure would make the taxpayer’s own homes unliveable AND UNSALEABLE! Even if it’s less than 54 mil, Tupper’s not in a position to take a major financial hit. Don’t forget NY and the Feds will be drastically cutting $$$ to local govs over the next few years and raising taxes.

    IMO,They should be careful and choose their business partners/projects wisely. For the people of Tupper lake, it’s not as simple as some of the proponents are saying here. Tupper Lake best make sure all the ducks are in a row so they don’t get goosed. Don’t say it couldn’t happen.

  16. With regard to the snowmaking equipment that was sold over the summer of 2009… there were several guns, with some value. (I defer to Cliff on the number of guns.) Currently the mountain does not have a permit to make snow. Even if all goes as well as the developers hope, there will not be snowmaking in the future. Obviously BT’s finances are very tight. Selling the guns hasn’t compromised BT ability to run this year or next, who knows it may have actually helped.

    AdironRider is right – the value of the water and air lines that are in place across BT is much higher than the value of the guns that were sold.

    UPDATE: The memorial to Joseph was added on to the Ranger Cabin on Sunday 10/3/10.

  17. Man, all this heat and discontent is hurting my head. But I have been forced to offer some comments based upon my knowledge of this entire ACR thing. I’ll attempt to shed some light on the many questions posed in these three threads (again, based upon my knowledge).

    First, I would recommend anyone who would like further information on the project proposal to stop in at the Goff-Nelson Library, Tupper Lake Town Hall or APA Headquarters in Ray Brook to view the project documents. Also, much info is available on the APA website: http://www.apa.state.ny.us/

    Second, I’m not familiar with Harvey or his blog, but from what is posted here I assume it is of primary interest to skiers. Well folks, the ACR project has nothing to do with skiing Big Tupper! Mr. Foxman (herinafter referred to as FOXY – think henhouse), as part of the project proposal, has graciously offered to keep the mountain open to Town of Tupper Lake residents for a period of 50 years. Nothing is mentioned about the general public at large. And what about our grandchildren and their children, etc?? And what do you think will happen after Foxy and company leave with all the $$$. The homeowners association of people who have plunked down a few million dollars for their own slice of heaven will surely close their ski hill to anyone except ACR property owners. Think about it. Is that what we really want??

    Foxy is smart in using the prospect of reopening Big Tupper to engender support from all the local folks who simply want to ski again where they grew up. No collusion?? Isn’t it wonderful for Foxy that ARISE is spending a lot of money to clear trails, fix lifts and extend a huge carrot to the residents. Check the project phasing plans and you will see the only ski area development proposed for the first several years is opening Chair 2 and Chair 3…..exactly what ARISE has done for them at no cost!!

    Speaking of ARISE, what have they really done for the business community other than BT?? Mark my words, If ACR does not get an APA permit ARISE will disappear! And check it out for yourself…..they DO NOT have Federal approval as a 501(c)3 organization as of today. See: http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=96099,00.html

  18. Bayliner … you’re right. Harvey Road is primarily about our love for NY skiing. NY is a bit of an underdog in the ski world. But what NY may give up in snowfall, it makes up for in other ways. One of those way is surely the Forest Preserve.

    NY has a bunch of underdog ski areas, including, Hickory and Big Tupper. No question that the rebirth of Big Tupper, with her Gothic chairs and small town vibe is exciting to many of us.

    The people behind Harvey Road felt that we should know more about what was going on at BT. I sent a blind note to [email protected] and it was returned by someone from ARISE. I jumped at the chance to tour the hill and ask as many questions as I could. The results of that visit are the three blog posts you mentioned.

    Real estate has become closely intertwined with skiing. Most financially successful hills have a real estate component. Gore, Whiteface and Belleayre (currently) don’t have slopeside accommodations, but have been able to survive (and thrive IMO), because of the support of NY State. I think it’s fair to assume that with less natural snowfall, and greater distance to population centers, BT could not survive on it’s own. Before my trip I came to accept the development as necessary to BTs survival.

    I had no idea how divided the local community was over the ACR project until the response to these three blog entries began to materialize.

    We very consciously divided the BT report into three parts – one on ARISE and ACR, and two on SKIING. We figured 2/3 skiing and 1/3 real estate was a reasonable split given the circumstances and our audience. But the response was 95% real estate in all three entries.

    Harvey Road is about skiing. But it’s also about respect. It’s not easy to create an place online where people respect each other regardless of whether or not they agree. But that’s our goal.

    We’d locked down this thread, because we felt it was generating more heat than light, more noise than knowledge. I reopened it tonight to amend the final comment to include a link to the story about Joseph and the Observers Cabin on the Ranger Trail. I inadvertently left it open, and Bayliner posted a comment I think showed some dignity. Maybe there’s hope.

    As an experiment, I'm going to re-open all three threads. I ask that we treat others with respect – including those who aren’t here to defend themselves.

    And I have another request. Please keep all post related to ARISE and ACR in the ARISE and ACR Post. Please use the other two threads, for skiing related comments.

    And if you're truly interested in a real exchange of ideas, join the Harvey Road Forum and post in the Big Tupper Thread. Thanks.

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