Gore Mountain Passholder Decisions

With ORDA budget issues looming and the early pass deadlines near, Gore passholders are weighing their options. For some Gore skiers, central Vermont is an enticing option that isn’t that much further than the southern Adirondacks.

Gore vs Killington

I thought it would be interesting to look at the numbers for Gore and Killington. I’m using Killington because it’s relatively close. And Kmart is loaded with some of the specific things that Gore skiers crave … operating budget, snowfall, and snowmaking.

This is not to imply that the mountains are comparable. They aren’t. Comparing Gore to Killington is like comparing Hickory to Gore. This is about looking at the pros and cons of spending more and driving farther to ski in Vermont.

Many caveats on the above chart. Numbers above are primarily from the websites. The four peaks at Gore, won’t actually be true until next season, if plans come to pass. I’d appreciate corrections/input on the variables measured. (I couldn’t find a number for miles of terrain at Gore, so I based it on acreage – anyone have a number?)

The implied skier visits/acreage ratio makes Gore look less crowded. But the real question is … how many skiers are on how much open terrain? That would be a very useful number, but not easy to come by … skier visits/open acre/day.

On the face of it, Killington’s got some tangible advantages. Lots of extra capacity for that extra $300: a potentially earlier opening date, a later close, more natural and manmade snow, more terrain, more lifts, more vertical.

And, while the Killington operating budget is estimated, I believe it’s in the ballpark. If that’s true, then it shows the huge economies of scale in the business. By tripling the size of the mountain, Kmart can spend the same amount per skier, and deliver a lot more snowmaking.

One thing about drive times … in my experience, the numbers don’t really tell the story. Mapquest has Killington as 36 minutes and 32 miles farther, from points south. I’m sure those numbers are “accurate.” But to me that drive feels farther than an extra half hour. Maybe it’s because it’s at the end of the drive. Also .. I think there’s more potential for traffic congestion/delay on the route to Kmart. The drive to Gore is pretty and pretty easy.

Mountain preference is subjective, and numbers can’t possibly tell the whole story. There are amenities at Killington. Rutland is almost a full-blown city. And, if you’re looking for it, the party scene at Kmart is unrivaled.

Gore on the other hand is surrounded by wilderness and wild forest. Navigating the base area is much simpler. And when the ski day is over, Gore skiers head home … to a full time residence or a second home in the area, or downstate. Main Street in North Creek is pretty quiet most nights by 10pm.

What measurable variables are we missing? What intangibles? What do you look at to make your decisions? Comment below.

20 comments on “Gore Mountain Passholder Decisions

  1. No surprise – we jumped in today. Zelda and I have full Gore/Whiteface passes for 2010/2010. I asked the woman I spoke to about budget cuts. She said she was hearing that Gore’s budget would be cut, but nothing nearly as draconian, as what had been discussed in the press.

  2. >IMHO, the rumors of closing down Gore or WF are a purely tactical move to pressure the state to restore full funding. Could you imagine the outcry from those regions if closing either ski area were actually put on the table? However, the concern about limited operations is valid, especially given Gore's issues this season.

    People always complain about mountains that are kinda disjointed and say that they don't "flow," but I generally like them because there are always "forgotten" places, where you can escape crowds. But at the same time, as Gore shows, not running a lift doesn't only mean less uphill capacity (which isn't an issue on weekdays), but also means shutting down entire terrain pods.

    Compare that with Whiteface, which, to save money, *could* get away with running only Facelift and the Summit chair and have pretty much all of its terrain be available. Have they done that?

    I guess I understand both sides — if I had a midweek season pass or bought a midweek day ticket, I'd be upset to find a half-open mountain. If I were in management's shoes, it would suck to have to choose from a selection of really unpopular options, including reduced snowmaking, cutting lift service, and everyone's favorite: gold parking.

  3. The previous post from Jill ends with “off to Whiteface” where she will need to reactivate her “Hickory Hop” skills of yesteryear to access the residual snow as we did yesterday. WF will just squeak by for the weekend, whereas Gore unfortunately, could not. Which adds another dimension to this discussion-with Gore you can have WF and Placid too, if you are into steeps, moguls and lucky enough to have at the Slides when open.

    We were fortunate to catch a bluebird day @ Whiteface last week. Seventyfive degree weather, soft bumps, arcing Mountain Run(s), cold beer, but alas, the Slides were closed and the trees shot. All-in-all an AB/FAB visit to our more glamorous sister that brought home the bonus of having a “go-to” mountain.

    So, next year when I tire of navigating funky, switchback Darkside trails, weaving through sweet on-map glades and hyper-ventilating on Rumor and the gnarly off-piste that Gore has to offer I’ll have to make due with fall line @ The Face. That being said, Ovation, Cascade, Vertigo and Julio @ KWHY will always get the annual once over, they are too good to pass up.

  4. I was at the Big K two weeks ago Thursday and it was really awesome. They do have a Spring Pass for $169, or $399 for this Spring plus midweek next year! I have to say, it is a consideration. I do think that alot of our midweek skiers had already decided to cross over state lines this past year. I saw the UPS Telly Guy over there!! The trails were in great shape, no problem parking,friendly staff, no liftlines, skied right on to the chairlifts,and up to both gondolas.

    I lived at Killington and then came to Gore in the early 80’s. There really is no comparison, nor should we want to, but we could learn from what they do right. They promote that mountain’s assets everywhere you look, the Ski School is headlined, the Training Center is revered, the Post Office even changed it’s name to Killington from Sherburne. Now that, is putting your name on the map! Sure wish it was open this weekend… off to Whiteface!

  5. A previous poster mentioned Gore’s management in regards to snowmaking-as an outsider who occasionally skis Gore that comment immediately made me think management has only X amount of dollars to spend per their STATE budget and they spend it as they see fit.

    If you like Gore’s terrain you will never like Okemo’s terrain. Yawn. Management should reconsider shutting down terrain pods served by particular lifts-if one skier buys a ticket to a fully snow covered mountain he has the right to ski the mountain in totality.

  6. Grey Rocks (RIP) / Tremblant
    Jay / Stowe
    Alta / Deer Valley
    Taos / Vail
    Sunshine / Lake Louise
    Elk / Camelback
    Gore / Killington

    Did I get it right?

  7. So i disagree with traffic and drive time.. many of us get to Gore at O-dark hundred. Effectively eliminating traffic through Warrensburg and on route 28. If you get to Warrensburg any later than 7:40 it increases drive time significantly. Either by someone traveling at 40-45 mph or by a snow plow traveling at 30mph.

    This is contrasted by route 4 that has two lanes in one direction at times which allows you to more easily pass slow moving traffic.

    Based upon last years snow conditions, Killington should be the preferred choice. For 300 dollars more its a deal. Forget about who can cover what faster; thats a given and you can not compare. What is important is the quality of snow making on what can be covered and terrain being offered. I would put forth that both Killington and Hunter for that matter remain far superior in both snow making quality and terrain offered. Another mountain to consider is Okemo, same distance as Killington or similar. Great terrian and great snow making.

    There are a lot of reasons Gore has not become a destination resort as Killington.

    I leave it up to you to decide.

  8. For me, KMart has been a love/hate, been there-done that kind of thing. I was in a house in the early 80’s and had too much fun and spent way too much money in the bars. Some good memories (and a lot of good times that I just can’t remember, or so I’m told). I did it again with the bronze pass several years ago, and the things I hated did not change: greater lift capacity means too many people on the mountain at once; cover charges in all the bars; A-Holes from far and wide; machine-made snow that turns to impenetrable ice at the drop of a hat; the snobbish (and utterly wrong) attitude about how great their conditions are; cliquey attitudes everywhere.

    All I miss are the Goombay Smashes and some of the bars that folded a long time ago. I never got the small town feel there — they strive to be a world-class destination resort, and it shows in all the worst ways. A better deal on the KMart full season pass will only worsen the crowds and everything else. Pico for me is worse than Gore. The quad to the top shuts down if someone sneezes, which really restricts your skiing day.

  9. Harv’s chart highlights a stark contrast in snowmaking capacity. At 15 acres/day, it takes Gore 27 days to cover 400 acres. Killington can cover their 750 acres in less than 10. That 27 day figure seems intuitively right because it seems to take Gore about a month each winter to get most of the mountain open, subject to weather conditions of course.

    Snowmaking progress at Gore this past winter seemed painfully slow at times, despite favorable temperatures in Dec and Jan. When you couple that increased firepower at K-Mart with the additional natural snowfall, there is an undeniable advantage in snow conditions there.

    But the numbers don’t capture the intangible differences between the ski areas, and the differences are vast. Powderqueen, Yves and others have already commented on Gore’s feeling of community. Killington has a completely different vibe, and to me it is one of Industrial Tourism. That vibe permeates the ski experience. So while it’s almost always possible to find decent skiing somewhere on the mountain at Gore, it’s virtually impossible to escape the mega-tourism vibe of the ski experience at Killington. There is simply MORE of EVERYTHING at Killington: more snowmaking, trails, lifts, lodges, condos, cars, crowds.

    I suspect that most NY skiers who prefer the Killington experience have long since gravitated there, and there will not be a significant exodus of Gore skiers to Vermont. For me, Gore’s trail character and funky layout, ease of access, small town setting, lack of over-development and sense of community will likely continue to outweigh the advantages other resorts have in snowmaking and lift operations.

  10. Most people seem to be making comments about Killington during the ASC years… since Powdr’s takeover skier visits have dwindled and the mountain is much less crowded..with the exception of holiday weekends, in which most mountains in the NE are crowded. Also, with the amount of terrain and lifts that K has, it’s pretty easy to avoid crowds once you learn the mountain. Pico should be included in the comparison charts as a K lift ticket/season pass is good at Pico as mentioned above. Hope things improve at both Gore and K. K passholder’s $0.02.

  11. Not to nitpick with Yves, but “the small-town feel that isn’t available at many other places, particularly in the NE?” Isn’t that the one thing the NE has in spades? We don’t win against the west on terrain, snowfall, or overall size, but there are lots of places with a cool small-town vibe.

  12. There are four of us who are first time Gore season passholders this year. Actually, we’ve never had a season pass anywhere before. After skiing all over North America for the past 20 years, and with kids now in college, we decided to settle down to one ski area for a few years. We’re from Philadelphia, with a camp near Gore. We ski the holidays and as many weekends as possible.

    Last Friday convinced us to come back for more next year. That was just an unbelievable day! I have to agree with everything Powderqueen said. The Gore community, the people and the facilities have a small town feel that isn’t available many other places, particularly in the NE and at the size of Gore. With the planned expansion next year into the ski bowl, North Creek will become a viable part of the skiing day and we’re hoping that the overall experience just gets better.

  13. I think the comparison with Pico is interesting. Kmart gets the attention and the crowds. Pico does have less of that big city feel. Check out the Pico prices – they are very reasonable.

    I’ve skied Belleayre a fair amount over the years. It’s a nice enough place, but most of the trails are very similar. They also suffer from a lack of early season snowmaking. People may be more tolerant of this since the prices are low, especially with their ski/stay deal.

  14. To me k-ton is absolute zoo.. a very disjointed mountain and equally disjointed base facilities… Gore has the potential for greatness. I think the mountain is handcuffed by it’s management…if gore had bell’s or hunter’s management the place would be awesome…

  15. Does the Killington season pass include Pico? That would be an interesting product for Gore people because Pico has similar vert, terrain, ambiance, two (older) HSQs, and fewer people on weekends. Killington could be saved for non-holiday weekdays.

    Another comparison (if they weren’t two hours away from each other) would be Gore and Belleayre. Gore is a superior mountain, but Belleayre’s operations/conditions get much better reviews from customers.

  16. The problem with any comparison is that the two areas appeal to vastly different skiers. Kmart is Disney World and Sea World on the snow, and I have a tough time seeing how hardcore Gore season pass holders would devote their season to the Big K. I remember the weekend crowds at Killington before all the high speed lifts…uggh! Now, the lifts are fast, but the trails are just as crowded. Sugarbush or Smugglers would be a closer comparison to Gore, though you have a much longer drive time. But yes, Gore is really shooting itself in the foot with the midweek shutdowns.

    Passholders want value, not a mountain closed Mondays and Tuesdays in March, and no North side in February. And what's with the lack of snowmaking at Gore’s base this year, which meant NO beginner terrain open after March 15th? Come on, all the Vermont areas had beginner terrain right through Easter, because they actually made some snow in front of the base lodge. You are basically telling families with young kids to go to Okemo with that move. I would love to come back to Gore as a Passholder in the future, but they are making it soooo frustrating.

  17. I worked at Kton for 7 years and have skied there for decades. The weekend crowds really got to me. Weekdays were divine though the didn’t always run all the lifts midweek either. I am more fond of Gore because I prefer the village over the city aspects of the feel of the area. The people and community that exist at Gore is the attraction and outweighs the difference in the quality of the snow and terrain.

    Those who defect to Kton are probably not long time Gore regulars. If this past weekend was any indication, the true regulars weren’t skiing anywhere else. I think it is a matter of personal preference if you prefer a laid back core of locals with adequate yet modest facilities vs a big city feel with large crowds of city folks and super-sized facilities and more off-mtn services. IMO, Kton is a nice place to visit, but Gore feels more like home.

  18. The quality of skiing, and choice of terrain in my opinion is not even comparable. I was a passholder at K until ASC sold and the passes skyrocketed. I live in Lake George Village so I naturally looked to Gore. Its about a 40 minute savings in drive time for me. I ski almost entirely midweek and thats been the biggest drawback for me for Gore. I cant even believe they would shut down half of the mountain when its all skiable terrain. I guess its because they aren’t getting the volume to make it profitable to pay the extra lifties.

    I think I may be making my way back to K mart soon. It’d be nice to have a place to stop after a day of skiing for a beer thats not on the mountain too.(not to mention the free wings) North Creek is coming along but its gonna be a while…

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