Whiteface Opens 2020

I did what I needed to do, to get first chair, on Whiteface’s opening day 2020. I cleared my schedule and drove to the Adirondacks on Friday afternoon. I woke up at 5am Saturday morning and left our place at six. I arrived in the River Lot at 7:30 and booted up there.

the drive to Whiteface

I went over the bridge to the base lodge, through the tunnel and up to the Face Lift. A small group waited patiently as mountain ops finished the grooming on Fox, the final stretch of the only way down. Broadway to Lower Valley to Fox.

Ron Kon saw my skis, which pretty clearly ID me, and he introduced himself. We talked about Whiteface, and uphill policies, and ski days. It was Day #13 for him.

Whiteface groomer

We decided to ride together, one of us on each end of a quad chair. Based on the skiers I’ve spoken to this season, I’m probably among the more cautious regarding distancing. I’ve been a bit of a hermit since last spring, which, to tell you the truth isn’t really that big a shift from life as I normally live it.

I feel like I’ve made it this far, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel courtesy of Pfizer and Astra Zeneca. I’m still trying to keep my head down. It was the lift line, before first chair, that I had been thinking about the most.

social distancing in the lift line

Zelda gave me two of the N95s she uses for work. I was amazed at how much better it seems to work vs my regular mask. A much tighter seal and nearly 100% of everything, is going through the mask vs around it. In line, I felt pretty comfortable, as people were keeping distance for the most part. It’s wasn’t a big crowd for first chair and that helped.

I decided to wait in the second row, behind Ron, it felt a bit more spacious. When it was go-time, he slipped through without a problem, but my Ski3 Gore Pass was rejected by the RFID. I was so bummed, I tried to convince the liftie to let me at the waiting cord, promising I’d go inside to work it out, before my second run. Come on, I’d come a long way.


There was no getting around it. Sadly I stepped out of the lift line and into another line, filled with passholders, many of who were also rejected by the RFID. The guy who eventually helped me was sympathetic and acted quickly. He took my pass, put it next to his machine and it beeped. He handed it back and told me I was good for the season.

Soon enough I was at the top of the Face Lift dropping in. After just a few turns, I realized that my recent ski tune hadn’t included a detuning of tips and tails. That’s something I care about. Without that de-tune, it’s a lot of work, to skid turns, which I do, on firm snow. It felt good to be back on my skis, but I knew I needed to head into the ski shop. They were great, getting me in and out quickly.


By this point I was zen. It is what it is, I’m skiing during covid, and it’s all good.

Back out in line at the quad, I ran into a long lost friend from Gore, Chuck. Years ago we ran together, with the Men in Black and EDeO, but he got a place on Lake Champlain more recently and mostly skis Whiteface now. We agreed to ride together all day, to catch up and limit our exposure.

Riding the chair felt 100% fine. To me the liftline, while not too bad, was much closer contact than two of us, 6 feet apart, with masks, on a breezy chair. I was rocking my n95 and all felt good.

mid-lodge deck

The snow was actually pretty good. I wasn’t expecting it, because at our place, it had been snow/rain mix, on and off since I arrived the day before. It also rained most of the way up to Wilmington, until I got very close to Whiteface, where things got whiter.

I wanted to check out the new lodge at mid. For much of the day it was foggy or cloudy up top and I couldn’t get a decent shot of it from the outside. After several runs, we went onto the deck and inside to check it out.

The Slides

Mid is not done by any means, the food service hasn’t been installed, but the building is actually very well-suited for the current state of things. It’s big and beautiful and warm, and it has bathrooms, but there no other attractions (like beer) to cause people to linger. With the relatively small crowd it was perfect.

My original plan was to switch from my n95 into a “sport mask” after that lineup for first chair was over. But I was so comfortable in it, that I wore it whole day. Taking it on and off was more work than it was worth. It got a bit wet from my breath, but it was warm out and I was never cold. The mask was fogging my googles, so I skied with them up on my helmet. I’m pretty sure I looked ridiculous, but I didn’t care.

opening day skier

The sun did try to come out from time-to-time up at the top, as the cloud layer moved down a bit lower in the afternoon. I felt rusty and after a while I was stiff. Chuck and I skied until 1:30 or 2 o’clock. The snow was good from top-to-bottom, but that section on Fox at the end especially had us smiling.

I did parallel turns the whole day, except for about ten teleturns I strung together for the shot above.

That de-tune was key. I was able to move my tails quickly, jumping in and out of the bumps, and sometimes schmering down the backside to scrub speed.

Ausable River

After noon we planned our last run several times. But the money part of the run was that last 600 feet of vert. It was great skiing right before you get back on the lift. When, all of a sudden, at 11:30, there were now no lines at all, well, we just couldn’t stop.

I can’t tell you how great it felt to ski.  When skiing is in the balance, you appreciate every single bit of it more than you normally do.  In some crazy way, that’s a good thing that has come out of this for me.  I have my fingers crossed that the season will continue.

Last season I had 24 of my 25 ski days in New York. This season, it looks a lot of us will be skiing here in NY, together. For me, that’s not new or different. Bring it on man, I’m ready to work for it, doing what it takes to get it done.

15 comments on “Whiteface Opens 2020

  1. Yeah, man, get after it! Glad you had a good first day out. Similar thing happened at Hunter – all the liftlines disappeared after a certain point and it was hard to stop.

    Personally I think I will be skiing almost entirely in NY and NJ this year. I’m looking at it as an awesome chance to check out some places I typically would overlook.

    ORDA really needs to step up their pass game though – there’s no reason someone buying a $700+ pass should have an issue with the RFID gate because they bought their pass at Gore instead of through Whiteface.

  2. Im salty for you about that RFID card, but still looked like a great day. Did you end up making it to Gore or Belleayre the next day?

  3. The kingslug and me were at Gore yesterday. Out on snow at 9:30 skied until 2. My RFID worked fine my first run then stopped working. But they let me ride twice more then I went inside to get it fixed. Turns out I forgot to sign the waiver. A classic WROD replete with ice, firm snow, dirt, pebbles, and plenty of bodies. In other words an awesome first day back on skis! I enjoyed the skiing but was happy I tuned my skis a day or two before the shutdown. There was an alternate route available around 500 vert from the bottom where snow was being made that skied amazingly enough to overcome the short walkout at the bottom. Employees and skiers alike took the COVID stuff seriously and I felt quite comfortable. Great first day!

  4. Where and how did you “shelter”, if you sheltered at all? Where’d you eat? That parking lot is a decent walk.

  5. Your comments about skiing with a COVID regulation mask were helpful. Not looking forward to skiing blind from foggy goggles. Time to try on my helmet with the drop down shield. Fingers crossed.

  6. Sounds like you had much better conditions at Whiteface than at Gore on Saturday…though it was great to be out on skiis!

  7. Looks like a pretty fun first day! Hopefully temps stay cold. Tele turns for the camera! Classic. I usually don’t drop a knee until Feb. 🙂

  8. Day 1 always has it’s issues but it is a good day to work out the kinks. I skied Gore Saturday and although I like what they have open it looks like you had a better crowd choice. I was on the opening line when I stepped out of my binding. I forgot I didn’t ski these skis last year and got new boots. I was able to catch back up to Duck in two runs. I booted up in my truck and never went in the lodge. And after skiing, several others were tailgating in the parking lot and everyone was socially distanced…pretty cool vibe.

  9. @Stu, I think NY is going to be popular this season, if we stay open for business. Also I learned yesterday at Gore, that there were pass issues there as well. I should probably have expect it.

    It was a fantastic day, so it’s all good.

    @Benny, didn’t really shelter at all. Booted up in the parking lot. Walked straight to the lifts and skied until 2pm. The new mid-lodge was open and warm, with bathrooms but otherwise empty (no food service yet). Beautiful building.

    Regarding uphill, I heard that Whiteface is talking about limiting uphill traffic to certain days of the week. I’m not sure if that has been fully decided or not.

    Shout out to Chuck for finding me! It was fun that my skis got me intro’d to Ron Kon.

  10. Day one at WF for me all good. Conditions were totally fine. Only rode the lift with one other person during the entire outing. Was there solo, but looking forward to others in my family joining me in the days to come. I enjoy the social aspect of the sport and can see things will be different this season, but can definitely adjust and still enjoy myself despite I’ll be out by myself most days. Certainly felt good making those turns and validate the fact I’m not a basket case in terms of being in shape for the season. Gotta keep movin’ and groovin’ at 62…no stopping now….just warming up!

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