The Dark Side on a Sunny Day

For years we’ve known that the High Peaks Chair — serving Gore Mountain’s Dark Side — would have to be replaced. Installed in the late 60s, the chair was over 50 years old.

Gore base area

We also knew the new chair was going to be more than a double. Doubles are harder to come by, and people generally like larger chairs. This year Gore is replacing both Lift 6 and Lift 3 at the same time. Lift 3, the Sunway Chair, used the same basic hardware as the Lift 6, the High Peaks Chair, and it’s a few years older.

I was at our place in the Adirondacks for a work weekend and leaves were at peak. It seemed like a good time to ride the quad to the Bear Mountain saddle and then hike to the top of Gore for a look around.

I spent last Saturday morning dropping trees and dragging brush on our land. I reserved the afternoon for my first-ever off-season lift ride. There was a decent crowd when I arrived at Gore, maybe half the upper lot was full. With my newly recharged Gore RFID pass, I walked on to the Adirondack Express.

Gore East Side view

It was a spectacular day. I admit it felt a little odd to head up the east side slowly, on that beautiful high speed quad. There’s an actual mechanical reason why they run the lift more slowly in the off season; I think it has to do with the load created by downloading. Whatever, I took my own advice to chill out and enjoy the ride. All around me, the maples were absolutely on fire.

From the Saddle I set off on Cloud, Gore’s most famous traverse. My plan was to walk to the summit, but I came across something I couldn’t resist; Gore has added access to the liftline from the Hullabaloo side.

The Dark Side lift line is definitely wider, with fewer towers. It looked to me like there is only one tower on the pitch most often skied, between Cloud and Wood Lot.

Dark Side liftline

Beyond that, the nature of the line has been changed dramatically. While some of those big iconic and huckable boulders remain, they are separated by a new “roadway” that was built to install the new lift tower. Somehow they built the original lift without a road. That was then, and this is now.

Now the lift line reminds me a bit of High Pines, the run underneath the Topridge chair. On High Pines, each time you are faced with potential air, there’s a way around it. My guess is that the change will make it easier for newbies, and less interesting for experts.

When I saw it, the road itself had some soil on it, which will help with ski-ability, but the edges of the road are lined boulder remnants that will require a lot of snow to cover.

the road

On the section below Cloud, the forms look ready for cement. Beyond that, there’s more work to be done, and there is no seed or hay down yet. I’m hopeful that some effort will be invested to improve the ski-ability of the run, even if it doesn’t happen until next year.

One of the best things about that old run was that the natural rock on the line was extremely smooth, and it was skiable on 40 inches of snow. That may still be true, but it’s likely that line options will be reduced by the sharp rock.

The other obvious difference is the headwall. I never thought the Dark Side had a headwall, but there it is. It’s a lot wider to accommodate the access road. The old line presented a nice continuous challenge directly down the fall line. Seeing it now, the headwall seems much more obvious, near the end of the section that dumps into the Wood Lot.

Dark Side new headwall

Below that one tower that sits in the midst of the pitch, there’s an impressive dropoff that may give newbies pause.  Still, I’m betting there will be an intermediate way down.  Without more grading, the trees may well offer the lines of choice.

I was so focused on the zone below Cloud that I never saw the new section above Lies. Looking back on it that was a mistake. But it was getting late and the last chair was at 4pm. It was a beautiful day and riding down hill is very much fun with distant mountain views spreading out right in front of you.

In the end, I think I understand why the mountain replaced the lift and why they cut the line the way they did. One thing is certain, Gore got real value from those two old lifts. It was amazing they lasted as long as they did.

view from Windy Hill

That terrain will remain extremely fun to ski. It’s steep, north-facing, high elevation, what’s not to like?

But, the Dark Side I knew, is gone. That liftline was unique in the east.

For some of us, that old double represented more than the great terrain it served. It was a direct connection to Gore’s storied past. That connection’s not gone, but it’s a little more faint. You have to squint a little harder to make it out.

If they’d hang Betty’s sign back up, it would make me feel better.

22 comments on “The Dark Side on a Sunny Day

  1. Thanks for the detailed report on the DarkSide and the photos. Yes what a change we will have when we can get back into our little world of skiing in that zone. I will always know that side as The Summit regardless of marketing’s attempt to change the names of lifts. It is where I always wanted to ski as a kid and still do. Although I rarely use any of the trails…

    I look forward to having the lift being reinstalled to the top as it was originally was and being able to offer skiers the decision of skiing the DarkSide or dropping into the Straight Brook side. The new lift will provide for more access and two ways to the top.

  2. Thanks for the update. I was hiking there a few weeks ago and it looked like they still hadn’t cleared out the top half, although they were blasting away on the lower side. I think it’ll help when the gondola goes down, though I anticipate them beefing that up soon given what they did to WF’s gondola. As far as hiking goes, instead of taking the chair/gondola back down, try hiking to twister cliffs, then down trillium trek. Mostly easy-going with a couple rope-assisted descents.

  3. It has been widened and towers will be added above the old landing zone, but it’s unchanged below that. All the pictures of your friends with the High Peaks in the background will have a chairlift in them now.

    Betty would be rolling over in her grave if she were alive to see this.

  4. Hiked around the DS Sunday and I was quite shocked at what I saw. I was tore up a little , seeing what most people think are upgrades and progress.

    However when I stand at the Top of Cloud on a sunny day or any day, there is still no where in the World I would rather be!

  5. From the NYSkiForum Archives, courtesy of Jimmer:

    “Betty was an old time Gore skier, her name was Betty Redfield. She grew up skiing old Gore, raised her family there and at new Gore too. The whole family could ski, she remained skiing well after her kids gave it up. She would poach that trail with us long before it was even a public trail, and this she did well into her 70s. She passed a few years back, she was a member of the backwoods ski club outta Gore.”

  6. RIP the dark side double. Harv you once asked me what my favorite chair was and that was it. Hopeful the terrain remains as fun as it was and the new lift doesn’t make the area too crowded. They better hang Betty’s sign up…

  7. Hey if anyone has a nice shot with Betty’s sign in it, that they’d be willing to share… PM me, I’d love to include it in this post.

  8. Gorebits is stll there, but most of the trees around the entrance are gone. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad for people who want to drop it. I was a little surprised that they didn’t move the guy wire just below Gorebits.

  9. Thanks for this Harvey.

    Bummer to see the devastation to what was such an amazing natural East Coast run. How did they get the old lifts in. Did they do it by helicopter back then too?

  10. Progress at a cost…I skied Gore a lot as a kid but having moved away had not skied it in 20 years until the winter of 2018 when I did a random Thursday driving back from Montreal to my home in Pennsylvania. It was a cold, snowy day and the runs I had on the “dark side” lift line were memorable both on the way down and on the ride up where it seemed another world away from the rest of the hill. Unique indeed and memorable! Glad I was able to experience it one last time.

  11. This really breaks my heart. I always wanted to ski down the cliffs and all of darkside, but now I will never get the chance. Last season I had progressed to the point where I could do it, but unfortunately the season was too short.

    Do we think any cliff drops and hucks will remain? And what’s gonna happen to Bettys sign? I hope the glades will still be rideable.

  12. Rode the new chair today. It is progress and improvement for the chair. I was only able to get down the dark side once last year, and that was good enough for me (not much of an off-trail skier, though I’d like to be). They did move the guy wire, I was commenting to my son how our story of someone eventually getting decapitated there is over. Looks like the big drop-in there is a lot rockier than before, but there’s a lot less snow right now. Speed of the new chair makes laps much more pleasant. So for trail skiers like me this makes an improvement overall. Especially to avoid the gondola.

  13. Just found this blog. Pleased to finally discover who Betty was !!!! Have not made it to Gore this year as I’ve stayed closer to home but will get up in March sometime. The first place I ever skied as a 10-year-old in 1970. I’m all for a high-speed lift, although I hope it doesn’t change the character and bring crowds. Glad to hear of others’ love for “The Dark Side”. HAs its own feel. Much quieter. Love Hullabaloo, lower Steilhang when open. Thanks for the update.

  14. So I was at Gore this past week February 21, 22 and 23. Got over to the new high peaks chair. It’s a much nicer chair just wish it was high speed. I don’t think the train is all that great. Lower Steihang is Never open. Spent most of my time at Straight Brook quad.

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