Whiteface: Slides Gold Weekend

Whiteface has the largest vertical drop of any ski area in the northeast. It’s also the only eastern ski area to have ever held an Olympics. As such, it goes without saying that they have steep terrain, lots of it. Not only do they have steep terrain, but they also have some of the most unique and challenging terrain in the east.

The objective

That terrain is known as The Slides. Located a short hike above the Summit Quad, The Slides include five distinct lines down natural rock slides. They even include frozen waterfalls. There is no snowmaking, no grooming, and no trail work of any kind. It’s a unique opportunity to ski backcountry style terrain, in-bounds at a ski area.

Few people can say they have skied The Slides. Not only is the terrain suitable for only the most advanced skiers, but it is also rarely open. It takes significant snowfall to cover the obstacles such that there is a skiable route. The snow also has to be in good condition, and stable enough to not be an avalanche risk. There also has to be good visibility, and no high winds. When these conditions are met, Patrol will open the terrain, either as Silver Status, with avalanche gear required, or as Gold Status, without avalanche gear required.


When I was attending college at Clarkson University, Whiteface was my home mountain, and I had the opportunity to ski The Slides on three separate occasions, most recently in 2018. Given the long hiatus, and the fact that The Slides had been open multiple days so far in March, I was itching to revisit them. While there is no guarantee that The Slides will open on any given day, I thought that the weekend of March 11th and 12th would give me the best chance, so I booked a hotel room in Lake Placid and headed up for the weekend.

When I arrived at Whiteface on Saturday, I was pleased to find good visibility, so I felt that the odds for an opening were in my favor. Even so, it’s hard not to feel anxious when the main purpose of my trip was to ski The Slides. While the rest of the mountain was skiing great, that was the one void I needed to fill. 9am, and then 10am passed with no signs of ski patrol evaluating the terrain.

Slide 2
Slide 2

However, shortly after 10, while unloading the Summit Quad, I noticed four ski patrollers heading up the traverse. A couple runs later, and I found Aaron Kellett, General Manager of Whiteface, at the bottom of the Summit Quad. I asked about The Slides and he told me they were about to open. After riding the lift up, I found myself at the front of a line of excited skiers. While I had my avy gear, The Slides were opening with Gold Status. A few minutes later, Aaron personally dropped the rope, and it was off to the races.

The traverse in was a bit different this year than it was on my previous trips. Instead of a sidestep traverse, it was a bootpack up a steep hill, then over, then down, meeting up with the old traverse. This change was made to allow for more space at the summit lift unloading ramp, though it did make access more difficult. It was at this point that I let my excitement get the better of me. I tried to hike up too fast, got out of breath, and had to stop for a few minutes to catch it. Soon, the opening in the trees appeared, I put my skis on, and was greeted by the breathtaking view at the top of Slide 1. I remembered what I was missing the last 5 years, and the hike was all worth it.

Slide 3
Slide 3

I did four laps in The Slides on Saturday. I started with Slide 2, then Slide 3, then Slide 2B, and finally Slide 1. The conditions varied between springlike, windblown crusty snow, and packed powder, but that’s all part of the fun. Mother Nature runs the show, and you never know exactly what you’re going to get. I liked 2B the best because it had the best snow, but it was all a blast.

After finishing four laps, I stopped briefly, looked back up, and said to myself “Wow, I skied that.” Even though I’ve skied The Slides before, that sense of accomplishment never gets old. After that was a trip up the Lookout Triple, a run on The Wilmington Trail, and a late lunch once I got to the bottom. I still skied all the way to close like I usually do. Was it anticlimactic? Maybe, but I still enjoyed it. I was grinning ear to ear, knowing that I got what I came for. But I wasn’t done. I still had Sunday to do it all again.

Looking up Slide 1
Looking up Slide 1 and 2B

On Sunday, I was greeted by a bluebird day with not a cloud in the sky. This is the kind of day that really showcases Whiteface’s scenery, which I find to be unmatched in the east. I was also meeting up with a friend from work who had never been to Whiteface before, but is a new Ski3 Passholder, and wanted to see what all the fuss was all about.

We started with a couple laps on the gondola, then hit both Summit and Lookout to complete a tour of all 3 peaks. My friend was impressed by length of the runs and the stunning scenery. After some more laps between the Gondola and Little Whiteface chair, we had an early lunch at the bottom. We took Facelift up after lunch, and when approaching the top, I noticed that The Slides were open once again. My friend was not interested in The Slides, so we split up at that point. I had time for 2 Slides laps, while he took some runs off the Summit Quad and gondola.

Wilmington Trail
Wilmington Trail

I opted to repeat Slide 2B and Slide 1. I preferred Slide 1 on Sunday. While I had fewer laps than I did on Saturday, what I lacked in quantity, I made up for in quality. Since I had figured out what lines to take from the day before, I no longer needed to stop to pick my route. I was on my a-game. From the top of Slide 1, I made it truly a top-to-bottom run, by continuing down Victoria, Easy Street, and Boreen. It was the best run I had taken all season.

After a short break at the base, I found my friend again, and we finished out the rest of the day, completing largely the same loop we did in the morning. The conditions held up well, and some trails began to soften up, giving the first dose of spring skiing this season.

I’ll remember this trip as one of my best weekends of eastern skiing. Not only did I experience near perfect weather, but I got to ski The Slides 2 days in a row, and introduce one of my friends to Whiteface on a day when it was as good as it gets. The Slides should be on every expert skier’s bucket list, and I look forward to skiing them whenever I’m lucky enough to get the chance.

13 comments on “Whiteface: Slides Gold Weekend

  1. Hey Sno, my group must have gone in shortly after you did. Before we hiked up I shook Aaron’s hand (known him for a while) and said thanks for sharing this with us. His reply was “its your mountain”, so enjoy….

  2. Nice report! Not sure if I would take the challenge at this point in my life, but so great that an area like that exists in the east!

  3. If it is indeed “your mountain” you should implement a better uphill policy! And while you are at it, I think Sno wants the tailgating ban changed. Nice work Sno, your photos are a great deal less cluttered with jerrys than some I saw on on the icecoast sub.

  4. Well done, Sno. I understand the getting-out-of-breath thing. There’s the excitement, the physical effort needed and the overall rush.

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