Skiing in Whiteface

Whiteface is one of the East’s best ski areas. The base elevation of Whiteface is 1,200 feet (365 m) rising to the Summit Quad terminus at 4,386 feet (1,336 m), with the option to hike up to the Slides off-piste terrain at 4,650 feet (1,415 m) which offers 3,450 feet (1,050 m) vertical elevation and non-stop skiing back down to the resort.

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Whiteface Ski Area Overview

Whiteface is perhaps best known as the venue for the alpine events at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. By any standard, Whiteface is big mountain skiing, but the ski area is compact with 86 trails in just 283 acres.

Unlike many resorts in Eastern North America which fudge their vertical drop numbers or whose topography prevents non-stop skiing from the top to the bottom elevation, Whiteface’s impressive vertical drop is both legitimate and continuous. Skiers can enjoy 3,450 feet (1,050 m) of non-stop skiing from the top of the Slides, Whiteface’s in-bounds backcountry area.

Whiteface offers skiing and riding from three connected summits: Whiteface, Little Whiteface and Lookout Mountain. Beginner and children’s skiing is also available at the Easy Acres Family Center near the base of the resort. The highest lift-accessed skiing is from the top of the Summit Quad, just below the summit of Whiteface Mountain. From here, the scenic “Follies” trail with excellent views of Lake Placid and the Adirondack High Peaks region is a popular choice for intermediates. If you’re feeling a little friskier, “Cloudspin” and “Skyward,” the trails that hosted the men’s and women’s Olympic downhill events, are Whiteface Mountain’s best runs for advanced skiers.

The bulk of Whiteface’s terrain is on Little Whiteface, though in reality there’s nothing little about it. Were Little Whiteface a separate, standalone resort it would rank in the top five for vertical drop in Eastern North America at just around 2,500 feet (762 m). It is serviced by the modern Cloudsplitter Gondola, installed in 2006, which carries skiers and riders to the Little Whiteface Peak, providing access to well-groomed intermediate and advanced terrain. A new triple chair has opened up Whiteface’s newest summit, Lookout Mountain. Already several trails and glades are in place and there are plans to expand even more in the coming years.

Despite boasting the largest vertical drop east of the Rockies, Whiteface also has a well-deserved reputation for being difficult, cold, and (more often than not) icy. Affectionately known to locals as “Iceface,” conditions on the exposed summits can often be less than optimal. Additionally, the resort is tall but narrow. Visitors sometimes complain that they feel like they have skied the same trails all day because most trails funnel into only one or two (substantial) runouts back to the lifts. This problem has been alleviated somewhat in recent years by the addition of the Lookout Mountain terrain, but low acreage translates into limited trail variety.

Beginner Skiing at Whiteface

Whiteface’s beginner skiing is concentrated near the base and runs from the top of the Facelift Quad allowing beginners to ski half the mountain’s vertical. However, neither the summit nor Little Whiteface offer green runs.

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Beginner skiing at Whiteface is limited. Whiteface is a difficult mountain for beginners and terrain options on the upper mountain are limited. There are no green trails from the summit or the top of the gondola on Little Whiteface.

Near the base of the resort are two double chairs which offer access to wide green slopes.  The Mixing Bowl Double services the Mixing Bowl run, which is a popular choice with adult beginners. The Bear Double services slightly more terrain. Off the Bear Double, beginners will find three trails similar trails – Deer, Fox and Bear.

Beginners looking to explore the mountain can only get as high as the top of the Facelift Quad. While the 1316′ drop serviced by the Facelift Quad is nothing to sneeze at, it’s also far less than half of the resort’s full vertical. The main beginner option from the Facelift Quad is Easy Street. Easy Street does not return directly to the base but instead merges with Boreen which swings towards the Easy Acres Family Center before turning back for the base of the ski area.

The Easy Acres Family Center is a children’s and family ski area. This area has the advantage of being wholly segregated from the main ski area – no expert skiers tearing high-speed turns through this learning terrain! Beginner skiers will find two lifts in the Easy Acres area. The main uphill lift is the Bunny Hutch Triple, which services approximately a half dozen novice runs. A magic carpet is used for children’s learning.

While the trails in the Easy Acres area are uncrowded and far warmer than the upper mountain slopes, beginner skiers are often disappointed to learn that a resort whose main selling point is big vertical only offers 258 feet of vertical drop in its main beginner area.

Whiteface’s Snowsports School provides flexible lesson options for beginners, intermediates and experts. Lessons can be by the house, by the half day, or full day. Additionally, the Kids Kampus at the Easy Acres Family Center provides programs for children as young as 1 (Bear’s Den Nursery) through teenagers (Cloudsplitter Teen Club). There is nearby parking and this base area is one-stop shopping for lift tickets, lessons and rentals. The Bunny Hutch chair lift connects Kids Kampus to the rest of the mountain, and a shuttle service runs to and from the newly constructed, state-of-the-art Kids Kampus Lodge all day.

Intermediate Skiing at Whiteface

Whiteface’s intermediate skiing is underrated. Whiteface’s reputation for steep and icy expert terrain belies the fact it boasts some great blue runs. With 43 per cent of the slopes marked as “more difficult,” Whiteface has plenty of terrain for intermediates to explore.

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In light of its reputation for being a difficult mountain, many will be surprised to learn that Whiteface has a surprising amount of intermediate terrain.  Off the Summit Quad, blue skiers will enjoy the scenic “Follies” trail which wraps around the shoulder of the mountain and affords stunning views of Lake Placid several thousand feet below.

The newly carved Wilmington Trail has become a favorite run because of its gentle rolls and drops, long length, and surprising lack of crowds. Take the new Lookout Mountain Triple and bear right as you get off the chair. There is also an excellent pod of intermediate terrain below the Freeway Double, but just be sure to get off at the mid-station because all of the terrain at the top terminal is advanced terrain.

Intermediates should also try the Excelsior trail from the top of Little Whiteface – it’s the longest blue run on the mountain – and adventurous intermediates will enjoy the gladed terrain in the Easy Acres Family Center, where two very open tree runs provide a nice introduction to skiing in the woods.

Advanced & Expert Skiing at Whiteface

Whiteface’s expert skiing features some of New York’s best black diamond ski trails – most notably the Slides and the two Olympic downhill runs. Without question, Whiteface’s expert terrain is the biggest ski experience in the Eastern United States.

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Whiteface is known as a challenging mountain and expert skiers will find no shortage of difficult runs. The resort’s steep slopes are made more challenging by the fact the slopes are often windswept and icy. Fast and firm is the name of the game at Whiteface, or “Iceface” as it is often derogatorily called.

The most well-known of Whiteface’s advanced trails are accessible via the Summit Quad, which reaches Whiteface’s highest lift-serviced point. Below are two tempting options, Cloudspin and Skyward, hosts of the women’s and men’s downhill events at the 1980 Olympics. Both offer solid, consistent pitch in their upper sections, but Skyward is the local’s favorite for its sharp left turn and abrupt drop into a steep lower half.

Little Whiteface is also home to several excellent black diamond runs. The Cloudsplitter Gondola provides convenient and quick access to a handful of parallel advanced runs like Essex, Approach and Empire. On the other face of Little Whiteface and slightly below the summit, skiers can tackle the Olympic Slalom and Giant Slalom slopes that run down towards Whiteface’s mid-mountain lodge.

Whiteface’s newest development, Lookout Mountain, offers a New England-style ski experience. The runs here have only been open a few winters, but are rapidly becoming favorites. The trails here are narrower and more rugged than the groomed superhighways found elsewhere at Whiteface. They tend to follow the natural contours of the mountain more closely and provide a welcome change of pace more reminiscent of expert runs in Vermont.

Lastly, Whiteface’s tree skiing is an oft-overlooked part of the resort’s advanced offerings. Whiteface’s glade runs collect the snow that’s blown off the resort’s wide slopes. Conditions inside the trees can often be markedly better than conditions on the piste. Favorite glades are the 10th Mountain Division Glade located between Empire and Northway and the new, super-long Sugar Valley Glade on Lookout Mountain.

Boarding & Freestyle at Whiteface

The most advanced freestyle park area is Brookside Park accessible from the Face Lift. Brookside Park has the biggest jumps and longest rails on the mountain. Whiteface also offers freestyle terrain for beginners on the Bronze Trail at Kids Kampus where there’s a fantastic mini half-pipe and wide flat boxes designed for beginner skiers and riders.

Whiteface also has a mini-park and a snowboarder/skier course on Wolf and Wolf Run. The course is designed for all abilities with double and triple options for advanced cross riders and roll-over features for less experienced cross riders. The ski cross course and mini-park are serviced by the Bear Chair.

Whiteface Backcountry Skiing

Whiteface’s backcountry skiing is found in an area known as “The Slides.” These rockslide chutes are amongst the toughest skiing in the East and will test the mettle of even the toughest expert skier.

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A short hike from the upper terminus of the Summit Quad lies the “The Slides.” Standing atop the Slides skiers face 3,450 continuous feet of vertical to the base. As the resort likes to point out, that’s more than anywhere else in the East and many resorts out West, even big-name resorts like Vail

The Slides get their name from rockslides and avalanche paths carved out just below the summit of Whiteface Mountain. Remarkably for the Eastern United States, there are genuine no-fall zones in the Slides. They should not be attempted by anyone who is not confident in their ability to make short radius turns in tight spaces. 

Offering 35 acres of in-bounds, off-piste skiing down rockslide chutes replete with ice waterfalls, ledges, and trees, the experience in the Slides varies greatly depending on the weather and conditions. In good conditions, they’re as close to skiing Western backcountry as an Eastern skier can get. In marginal conditions, they are rocky, icy and as much as even a true expert can handle. Conditions can and do vary greatly from one chute to the next depending on sun exposure.

The terrain is patrolled, but not groomed or maintained. They are opened only when avalanche risk is appropriately low and are most likely to be open in the spring season. At times the ski patrol may require avalanche gear, including beacons, probes and shovels to enter the Slides. They should not be skied in groups of less than three.

Whiteface Mountain Restaurants

The on-mountain restaurant options at Whiteface Mountain are very limited. Try Boule’s Bistro at the bottom of the Mountain Run and Little Whiteface chairs for great views and hot food or return to the base area where there are more restaurants and better menus.

Whiteface has several dining options from which to choose. At the base area, guests will find the Base Camp Cafe, a standard ski resort cafeteria. There are also two more upscale options: Cloudspin Lounge & Black Diamond Burrito Bar and J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines Cafe & Wine Bar. Both are open for lunch and après-ski.

True on-mountain dining options are limited, but Boule’s Bistro in the Mid-Station Lodge near the base of the Mountain Run and Little Whiteface chairs offer great Adirondack vistas and hot food. The spacious outdoor deck is popular on sunny days and even in colder less sunny weather thanks to a large wood-fired stove. Upstairs is a cafeteria serving typical ski lodge fare.

At the Kid’s Kampus Lodge skiers can have lunch at the Black Bear Cafe.


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