A History of Whiteface

Governor Harriman at Whiteface 1958.
Governor Harriman at Whiteface 1958

Whiteface Mountain stands alone, separated from the rest of the High Peaks, presenting a ubiquitous presence that looms over Lake Placid and the northern Adirondacks.

Likewise Whiteface Ski Center has a prominent place in the history of skiing. The ski area’s development is linked to key figures and milestones in the sport. Jackrabbit Johannsen, a legend in both nordic and alpine skiing, was involved in the early development of trails of the mountain’s slopes.

The Whiteface Memorial Highway — which required a constitutional amendment to construct — was a first of it’s kind in the East, providing unprecedented access to high elevations. And Averell Harriman, a pioneer of the chair lift and governor of New York, was a driving force behind the development of the first trails on the slopes we ski today.

As part of our ongoing effort to develop profiles for the ski areas of New York state, we’d appreciate it if you’d take a some time to click the link below and read NYSkiBlog’s history of Whiteface Ski Center. Feedback, additions and corrections are welcome as comments beneath the piece:

NY Ski Area Directory:
The History of Whiteface

Skiing: Evolution to Sport

While people have been skiing for thousands of years, the activity as a sport is a relatively recent development. In Norway as far back as 3000 BC, skiing was a part life, used for transportation and hunting.

It’s generally agreed that around 1850 Sondre Norheim started the transformation of skiing from a norse necessity to sport when he pioneered advancements in technique and technology that remain the basis for skiing today.

Through the 1920s skiing remained a sport for the most fit and adventurous. All turns were earned turns. Then, in 1932, the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid sparked more widespread interest and the first rope tows began to spring up on slopes across the country.

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A Ski Mountain’s Ad Jingle: “Getaway to Gore”

In 1974, Gore Mountain was a major Eastern ski area with just about everything that skiers wanted — 2,000 feet of vertical, trails spread out over several mountains, and the only gondola in New York State.

As a member of the elite Gondola Club, Gore joined Stowe, Killington, Sugarbush, Sugarloaf, and a handful of New Hampshire resorts in offering true big mountain skiing to the masses.

There was only one problem: the masses weren’t coming. Why not? Because Gore Mountain had no snowmaking. In the 60s, chairs, gondolas and vertical were all you needed. But that wasn’t enough to compete in the 1970s.

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