It was an exciting Halloween weekend for a few lucky New York skiers. I didn’t share in the early pow slashing in the Catskills, but I did get a healthy dose of preseason stoke a little further north. I spent a day exploring Big Tupper with lift ops manager Cliff Levers.
Driving through the town of Tupper Lake in the morning, I saw the mountain in the distance, across the lake. Like a tourist, I pulled over to the side of the road to take a picture — the slopes glistened with a fresh dusting of October snow.
I parked in front of the ticket window, where I found Cliff waiting for me. Although we had never met, we both a lot to say. It was like catching up with an old friend. Some of that may be the atmosphere at Big Tupper. After ten years of silent slopes, the two-year resurgence has generated some excitement. Walking through the empty lodge, I couldn’t help but imagine the ghosts of skiers past and future.
Big Tupper has come a long way since that first Wednesday in September of 2009, when Cliff flipped the switch to spin Chair 2 for its first test run since 1999. Volunteers have worked hard to get the lifts, lodge, and trail system in shape. The interior of the lodge has a fresh coat of paint and some new siding. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment was the re-opening of Chair 3 last season. It’s the gateway to Big Tupper’s expert terrain, and there are rumors flying that more of that terrain could reappear on the trail map for this season.
Cliff took me for a ride up the work road in his pickup truck. We stopped on a beginner trail called Pulpwood Drive, looking up the fall line at some of Big Tupper’s signature runs. Tight trees frame the steeps of Upper Sluiceway, a formidable single-diamond that has been cleared and is ready for ski tracks. Just to the right lies a double-black that has been almost entirely reclaimed by Mother Nature. Known as Raptor, this trail must have been awesome, but would need extensive cutting to reopen. It’s a potential project for the future.
Further up, we gazed out over Tupper Lake from atop Cliff’s Cliff, named for the man himself. The drop-in of this short, expert run provides stunning views of the town to the north and the High Peaks to the east.
When we returned to the base, Cliff cut me loose to explore the mountain on my own. I made my way to the top of Lift 3, eager to explore the terrain it services. The scenery up there was spectacular – small pines frosted with snow on either side of the empty chairs dangling patiently in the breeze. I bushwhacked my way down Drifter, a classic double-black that may see skiers this season. Right now, it’s covered in picturesque pines that are just a little too big to fit in your living room at Christmas.
When I got back to school, I called every skier I know. I had expected to see a lot at Big Tupper, and my expectations were exceeded. I’m planning on skiing there as much as possible this season, and it’s worth a bullet on your checklist. With a variety of terrain, a supply of natural snow, and a $25 lift ticket, Big Tupper is a great value in Adirondack skiing. See you there when the snow flies!
13 comments on “Big Tupper Pre-Season Tour”
>Yes, Chair 3 operated last winter. The only trail open was the relatively flat trail that traverses back to Chair 1. This provided access to the fun, short, steep trails off Chair 1.
If only you could make it snow like you make us want to ski this mountain, Mike. great post.
Last yr the mountain couldn’t open until late January with no snowmaking. The ACR guys sold off all the perfectly good snowmaking system starting in Oct 2009. Their plans submitted to the APA indicate they wont even begin putting in new snowmaking for at least 3-4 yrs after they get a permit. How can they possibly hope to attract buyers for a supposedly high end resort without the main ingredient for guaranteed skiing? You gotta have snow (snowmaking capability) to attract buyers at a ski resort.
Lift 3 was approved to operate last winter. Did it actually run at all? If it did, were those black diamond trails skiable last winter? Are they skiable at all without snowmaking?
Beautiful.. that’s God’s country there..wish it was more accessible for me to get to. But then again, that’s what makes it special…
Its unfortunate for me to hear of the snowmaking situation at Big Tupper. Everytime I hear something about this mountain it automatically draws my attention to it, in a weird skier/ snowmaking fetish type of way, knowing well that there snowmaking system is in-operable. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t get the snowmaking bug this time of year, even after I told myself last year, after 8 seasons, I would never make snow again. I read a post last season on this site ( maybe) that featured pictures of 2 beat up, Prinoth grooming machines and some old HKD gear that really sparked my interest, its a shame that the old owners decided they had to capitalize on the equipment that is essentially the one major variable towards having a ski season, I wish them the best of luck with the natural snow and hope mother nature treats them well this season, for 25 dollars Id be more than eager to drive up there and check this place out if the chance were to come up.
To Anon 11/3 6:26 pm. It was not the old owners who sold off the snowmaking equipment(compressors, water pumps, control panels, Fan Jets, HKDs, even stripped the electric wire off the hill & sold it). It is the current owners, the ACR who will need to basically start from fresh to get a functioning system up and running. At least they haven’t sold off the actual pipe on the hill, yet.
Nice report, it looks like a great area. Hard to believe that it was lost for an entire decade, I hope things start looking up for it.
While it certainly takes cooperation from Mother Nature to have a great eastern ski season without manmade snow, it’s definitely possible. Hickory was in a similar situation last year — the season they had started late, but it featured epic days days. The upside of a low key mountain with natural snow and less traffic is that surfaces are less likely to get icy. I’ve skied a ton of natural, thin cover and I really enjoy it. East coast skiers in general, and NYSB skiers especially are by nature optimists. Mike’s going to fit in. Nice preview – looking forward to some great trip reports from Big Tupper.
I would choose rocks, brush, stumps, grass, and any other natural element over manmade snow as long as there is enough natural cover to make it safely to the bottom. The feel of natural snow under your skis has yet to be replicated by humans. I look forward to checking out the mountain soon.
Zach, Anyone who really skis would rather be on natural snow as opposed to man made unless you are a World Cup racer. I went to Big Tupper last yr with some friends and we were generally happy with the conditions and the $15 ticket. But unfortunately we all did varying amounts of damage to our skis by hitting rocks just under the surface of the nice natural snow. It ended up costing us much more than the ticket price to get our skis repaired. This year if we go we will definitely wait for more snow, especially since the ticket price is now up about 65% over last yr. The hill itself was nice but that upper chair was more than a little scary.
Yes, Chair 3 was opened last season…I gave up a beautiful day of skiing to operate its first day for skiers. I also spent several very tuff days cutting the liftline to get the lift open! Even if snow making was available I doubt there would be enuff funds to operate it.. electric bill, maintenance and man power. Yes there will be more trails on the upper Mt this year pending the amount of snow fall. We closed at least 2 weeks early this past season for lack of paying customers. With natural snow Big Tupper closed 1 week before Titus did. I skied Titus, Gore and Whiteface and can honestly say we had great conditions for only natural snow! Most who ski at Big Tupper have a special spot in their hearts for our beloved ski center. Some very ambitious selfless hard working volunteers made it happen.. I’m proud to one of them!! yes there are better Mts than Big Tupper but none more special!!
One foot note…the skiing has been really good at Big Tupper especially for $15.. but the crowds are moderate. If people won’t pay $15 to ski with great conditions, when it’s developed and the price goes to $50 plus a day will the crowds get bigger cuz theres a new lodge?? I ski for the terrain and snow not the lodge n bar!! The reason the Mt closed 12 years ago was lack of skiers and money.. Big Tupper will not survive unless another business supports it. Big Tupper is a part of me.. I wish the owners the best of luck!