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.
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.