Gore Mountain Redemption

After the weekend we just had, you may well be here to read a tale of Gore Mountain powder. Still, a blogger has to write the story that’s on his mind and in his heart. Friday at Gore was incredible. But to tell it, I need to unpack the last three weeks. It’s a personal story, I’m hoping you’ll get something out of it too. I promise, before the end, there will be snow.

driving in the rain

It started January 16, the day before that first 12 inch storm of the year for the southern Adirondacks. I’d done everything I needed to do to put myself in position to ski it, on a weekday, without a white knuckle storm chase. Perfect, right?

But alas, I was thwarted, by my own bad self.

When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me that I was “burning the candle at both ends.” Translation: trying to do too much. On Sunday, the day before the storm, I started out with a remarkably sensible idea. I skied half the day at Gore, so I could be well rested for a sweet powder day on Monday.

Feb 4 storm radar
The Magic Beast

But when I got back to the cabin, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. The cover was thin in our woods, but certainly skiable. In the late afternoon I headed out on my skinniest skis to track up our trails. It seemed like the thing to do before a nice dump.

Full disclosure: I have a newer and much turnier pair of skis that was better for the job. The fishscale patterns on them are still perfect, and I decide to save them, in case I was hitting bottom. That turned out to be a colossal mistake.

On our big downhill, I got tangled up in the crust on a step turn, and heard a frightening sound from my leg. I landed in a crumpled pile on the ground. I knew I had blown my chance at the next day, and I was wondering if my season was over.

CRV in a snowstorm
Midnight arrival at HQ

At that moment I had more immediate issues. I was on the ground, in pain, alone in the woods, a mile from the cabin. Soon enough it would start to get dark. There was nothing to do but stand up, sidestep my way back up the hill, and then try to glide back down the other side. It hurt like hell and took over an hour.

The next day was surreal, and I was so bummed. With my injury, it took forever to load up the car. I had to park it at the top of steepest part of the driveway, to ensure I could get out without a plow in the morning. It took three round trips — 300 feet in each direction — to get it all packed. The experience of driving south, away from the mountains, in a blizzard, was almost too much to take.

The next day I got a doc’s appointment. The prognosis was that there was no tear, a strain of my hamstring, and I was out for at least a month. I was dejected and told the doc so. He then said “well if you do some yoga, you can probably ski right away.” I was like what, wait, what? What did you say? Please repeat!

footprints in the snow
Footprints 20 minutes later

He went to his laptop and googled “yoga for guys who aren’t flexible” and found a video. He told me to take a picture of the google search results page so I could be sure to find it later. Honestly, I was impressed with the medical establishment’s willingness to recommend a solution outside of the system.

That first link was a ten minute instruction by manflowyoga. Over the next three weeks, I did the workout three times at day, driving home from work at lunchtime to fit in a midday session.

When this storm started to show up on the GFS, I started thinking, maybe I’m ready. I could still feel some tightness, but I was walking normally and testing out small jumping motions, trying to imagine skiing small bumps. I was anxious about it, but when the storm track was locked, I decided to go for it.

first chair
First Chair

I was imagining two possible outcomes at the same time. Either I’d ski through it and be fully recovered when I was done, or I’d torque it again, and be out of action again, maybe for the season.

Thursday is my night to get my daughter to the gym, so I took off directly from there at 6pm. I knew this would have me driving through the full width of the storm. Based on what I’d seen from the National Weather Service, I was optimistic that a good part of the drive would be in the rain. At some point I’d enter the sleet zone, and if Ullr was with me, I’d be in the midst of a nuclear snow storm as I got close to Gore.

It was 43° when I left home, and every mile I drove without the temps dropping felt like money in the bank. At one point in the mid-Hudson Valley the car thermometer showed 38 and I was feeling better about my chances. But only minutes later I heard sleet bouncing off the windshield and looked backed to the dash for the temp. It was thirty degrees and the white knuckle storm chase was on.

Twister Glades
It’s a good day, when you’re skiing Twister Glades.

Driving in the rain wasn’t easy, but everyone was moving at the speed limit or better. When the sleet really started banging, speeds dropped to 35-50 mph depending on who was driving. If you were going 35 with your flashers on, I was looking for a chance to pass you.

Once I got north of Albany, the road was deserted and I kept myself in middle of the three lanes. I was traveling near the limits of adhesion, but I never felt in danger at 55 mph.

When I hit the big hill near Lake George, in an instant, all went quiet, and I was driving in a snowstorm. Off the interstate, it was evident that the county plows were unable to keep up with the snowfall. I was moving, but I knew that if I got out of the center of the road, I’d be stuck. There was no stopping. No one was on the road and that helped a lot.

Echo was a dream

When I finally got to the turnoff onto our road, I got aggressive. I killed the stability assist, put the transmission in 2nd gear and pressed hard on the gas, to gain momentum for the 900 vertical foot climb. I was moving, primary in the track of one other vehicle that had made it up before me. About half way up the hill, there was only the one set of tracks and 6-8 inches of unplowed snow.  I could hear the snow buffeting the undercarriage of the car.

Then, gasp, the tracks I was following turned into a driveway, and I was climbing on my own. I pressed harder on the gas, and somehow made it to the bottom of our property. I had already had a lot of good luck, and decided not to push it, by making a run at 500 feet of steep and deep driveway. I was feeling good about my chances for first chair, and I did not want to get stuck and blow it again.

It was just before midnight. There was work to do before bedtime, getting my gear up the hill, and starting and stoking a fire that would go overnight. I hit the sack around one. I set my Gore Ski Day alarm, 6am, but I woke on my own at 5, after only four hours of sleep. I wasn’t hungry but I had a Jimmy Dean Sausage Bowl with a cup of coffee.

Burnt Ridge trees
Burnt Ridge

My plan was to meet Duck for first chair, and to keep a channel open for the potential arrival of Scott driving up from the Catskills in the morning. The thought of the three of us skiing together was a big deal to me, with two great ski partners meeting each other for the first time, on a storm day at Gore.

Inside to boot up and when I came out, I saw Duck. He was first in line, with a spot for me. Up we went.

All summer I think about the trees on Burnt Ridge, and before first chair they were top of mind for me. I know those trees aren’t for everyone, but for me, when conditions are good, I come out those woods singing the Road to Shambala by Three Dog Night. I was a little surprised and very psyched Duck was thinking the same thing: Twister to Twister Glades and then over to the Burnt Ridge Quad.

Gore's summit bowl
View across the summit bowl

In Abenaki first we got stuck, and then we got rolling. Barkeater and Boreas were a dream. We had a split decision on the greatness of Cirque with Duck voting yea, and I voting nea. It’s all good, but it always seems like Barkeater’s the one I’d lap.

I’m not accustomed to having phone service at Gore, but now, sometimes, I do. The phone rang and it was Scott. He’d arrived around 8:45, and was up top riding the High Peaks Chair. I knew we’d work our way up there via the North Chair, but I was struggling to articulate a plan to meetup with someone who didn’t really know the hill. Before we could figure it out, the call was dropped.

Duck and I skied down through the Tahawas Trees and hopped onto the North Chair. About halfway up I got a signal and called Scott again.He was also on the North just a few chairs ahead. Connecting at Gore on a storm day can be tough, and we had just lucked out. We joined forces in the Saddle and went into our tuck, down the traverse over to the summit lift.

All Duck, all the time

Everything up top was good. Clearly it had been skied harder, but it has also had more snow, 100% snow since the beginning of the event. Lower elevations, below 2000 feet started Thursday morning with some light rain before the changeover.

We skied all the trees we could imagine. There are glades all across Gore’s beautiful and protected summit bowl, some of them are surprisingly long. When there’s a big storm, you can charge, and it’s a big lot of fun.

Most of Scott’s visits to Gore were years ago, before Burnt Ridge was put on the map. In recent years when he’s come up it wasn’t open or the trees weren’t in, so he’d never been to Burnt Ridge before. We skied Tannery to the Topridge Chair and up to the Saddle. Then something rare and smart; we had a cheeseburger and a beer for lunch. With a bit extra energy, I’m convinced that made the rest of the day that much better.

The North Creek Ski Bowl
Next day at the Ski Bowl

Warmed up and with a full belly we went back down to Burnt Ridge to reprise Barkeater and Boreas. So much fun.  On our third lap we dropped into Tahawas and headed back to the Saddle.  I was lobbying for a finish on Ward Hill or Little Dipper, but Duck made the call to go right down the middle.  One of the day’s best runs to close it out.

It wasn’t really over as there was good amount of untracked snow the next day at the Ski Bowl. In the afternoon, I headed back to the cabin to ski our trails, closing the circle by finishing the loop I got hurt on three weeks earlier. Then I drained the pipes and hit the road.

It was a day I’ll never forget, because it was so good, and because I wrote it all down. What I will remember most clearly will be the comeback from injury, driving through the storm, storm skiing and scoring, all day long, with the two of the best ski partners, Duck and Scott. Scott my apologies, I have no images of you, by the time we connected, the camera was in my pocket and it was time to ski.

Reading this now, I can see the insanity of it all. If you made it all the way through, thank you very much.


20 comments on “Gore Mountain Redemption

  1. In was there Friday-Sunday and it was the best skiing weekend I can remember there in years. Now, please STOP TALKING ABOUT GORE! 🙂

  2. welcome back Harv. I have a similar experience of coming back from an injury (lower back). I embraced a combination of yoga and stretching. it has been a game changer. my core is stronger then ever. make your new routine a part of your life going forward. you wont regret it. it will add years to your skiing lifestyle. see ya soon

  3. Harvey – Great that you were able to enjoy this memorable snow in Gore trees! I have had a couple of injuries in the last few years – 1 shoulder and 1 pretty tweaked knee. I do Hot Yoga and Barre classes all year and swear by them to keep and restore strength and flexibility!

  4. Easily was worth braving the roads on the way up Thursday night to camp and taking the gamble paid off, because last Friday could end up being the best day of the season. I am sure we crossed paths as your timeline sounds similar to ours but I am happy to relive the day in this post.

  5. So good! My dad always told me the same exact thing and still does to this day. I can’t tell you how much of an impact a serious yoga regime has had on my body’s fitness and longevity. I know I’m still young but I can see the toll age is taking on many of my friends and can’t help but think yoga has been a saving grace. On another note, I’m going to HAVE to get into those Gore trees one day!

  6. Highly recommend a foam roller to keep those muscles loose.

    Looked like a sweet day for sure. Oddly similar to my own injury and driving Thursday night through the storm.

  7. Catching a storm, the best days! I made a note of the yoga references. Both my pre season gym trainer and my bootfitter had the same observation: Rick, you are very rigid.

  8. Nice photos great snow
    Fun report
    Gore delivered the goods and kudos to gore management
    For a smooth operating day!!!

  9. You made me miss Gore trees with this one. I’m assuming that there were a whole lot less people there on Friday than were at Killington, which just became the biggest powder bump fest I’ve ever experienced before noon.

  10. Harv, Gore management owes you a free pass or more because this entertaining photo story absolutely captures the essence of a great day at Gore.

    Although late to the party, having gotten into skiing at age 67 (over a decade ago) living only 45 minutes away, I ski Gore regularly. Sure wish we had more days like that, but thankful for whatever we get here in the northeast.

  11. @Greg… sorry man, not likely I’ll stop writing about Gore!

    @Bill one year, times were really tight for us, I asked for a pass. I guess it didn’t make sense to management. It does give me more freedom to speak my mind.

    Thanks everyone for the input!

  12. Man SO GLAD you were able to recover and not miss that EPIC storm! The yoga bit is interesting and hopefully something you keep practising to help you ski for the foreseeable future. I too have never hit the Gore trees just right, but I know that when I finally do, it will be an amazing day.

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