First Tracks at Mt Van Hoevenberg

Who needs West Yellowstone when you’ve got early season skiing nearby? After Thanksgiving dinner, I set out up the Thruway for Lake Placid. Gusting wind pushed my new used VW shooting brake around, treating the ski box as a spinnaker.

Mount van Hoevenberg skiers

Rain washed away the snow Mount van Ho had the previous weekend, leaving only the 500-meter loop of machine made snow, courtesy of the Snow Factory. After a leisurely Friday morning breakfast, I clipped into skate skis. The Snow Factory loop had held up through the warming trend, still 18” deep.

After a couple laps around the loop, I ran in to Duncan Douglas. We shot the breeze, he intended to ski the Porter Mountain trail. But he’s a larger than life two-time Olympian, and I’m just a guy from Jersey. I opted to stay on the mini loop.

The day was gray, and although it was warmish, a bit over 20, a damp, blustering wind froze me. Underdressed for conditions, I escaped in to the lodge after 50 minutes to thaw out. After adding warmer layers, I headed back out.

The solid base was bulletproof frozen granular, and fast. While I would have liked to go farther afield, one of the benefits of skiing the mini loop is that its flat profile keeps one’s heart rate manageable. For my first days one snow, that’s what the doctor ordered.

Later in the day, Peru Nordic teammates Joe and Lisa Korzenecki arrived, and I had company to ski and chat with. I don’t know how I managed, but I logged a bit over 25 kilometers.

On Saturday, I kept it short and chilled, both figuratively and literally, with Peru Nordic teammate Ed Lis. Apropos the short loop, Ed was on rock skis. One had broken ahead of the binding and he keeps applying epoxy to keep it going. Gotta embrace the gnar.

After I hung up my skis, I got a tour of the construction in advance of the World University Games. A new lodge is being built near the current sliding center, and the biathlon range is relocated to what had been the ski center parking area. Behind the giant backstop is the start of the Three Trails loop from the current stadium.

Between the lodge and the range, there’s a start / finish area big enough to accommodate a skiathlon exchange zone. My guide told me that FIS delegate John Aalberg, a two-time former Olympian, saw the stadium area with Whiteface, Pitchoff and Cascade beyond the range backstop, his jaw dropped.

Further on, we walked the beginning of a new race loop that will have state of the art snowmaking. The loop was designed by Kris Cheney Seymour, Mt van Ho’s manager, and Al Serrano, an FIS technical delegate. I didn’t get to see the entire loop, but the start swoops up and down in a series of S curves that will provide great skiing and great viewing for spectators.

My guide recounted an afternoon when he presented on the changes at van Ho to a college ski team. One athlete piped up, “Oh, we won’t have to ski Ladies’ 5 [hardest single loop at the Ho] any more?”

“You might wish you could still ski on Ladies’ 5,” replied my guide.

According to my guide, Aalberg, inspecting the project, asked only for minor changes.

Some trails will be closed or re-routed due to the construction. The Lake Placid Loppet may not run on the traditional course this year. And as much as the lodge needs an update, I’ll admit that I’m gonna miss the old one. I’ve made many friends there. Yet I’m stoked for the future.

8 comments on “First Tracks at Mt Van Hoevenberg

  1. i have skied whiteface over 50 times, did the luge run, bobsled run, went to top of ski jump, man thats high, skated on both indoor rinks and outdoor oval, also did the sled dog ride and the toboggan hill on the lake. i helped a friend of mine build a house in ausable acres so i had free lodging he had a 26 thousand dollar mortgage on it and rented it out for olympics for 21 thousand for 3 weeks of the games

  2. You’re very slowly selling me on this whole Nordic thing, Peter. Pretty soon you may see me at an actual XC area learning to skate ski. Another great piece.

  3. Harv LOL, I wouldn’t have a chance. I tried summer biathlon some years back – running and shooting. There was no wind, and my standing shooting sucked. Finished 5 minutes behind the winner in a 5 k race due to penalties.

  4. Yeah, I’ve always been fascinated by biathlon as well. I think it’s one of those things that would require a lot more pre-planning then I have in me right now. I feel the same way about equestrian ski-joring

  5. I love the idea that you’re tired and likely breathing hard… you have to balance the need to settled down so you can shoot straight, with the time that that will take. A mental game.

  6. People have gone from top 5 to 40th, missing one shot in a World Cup biathlon. It’s being able to manage your heart rate, adjust for any wind (there’s no wind hold in biathlon LOL) and squeeze off 5 rounds fast.

    Don’t forget, the Ho has a “Be a Biathlete” program. Saratoga Biathlon Club might have something similar, I’m not sure.

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