We awoke in Saranac Lake this morning to find an inch of snow on the ground. We’ve seen flurries a few times in the past two weeks, but this was the first accumulation at lower elevations. It won’t be long now before people are skiing the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway. The highway has had enough snow to ski before this, but it was plowed by the Olympic Regional Development Authority. Starting today, that won’t be an issue. ORDA keeps the toll road open for tourists only through Columbus Day, which was yesterday.
For many Adirondack skiers, winter starts with a trip up the Whiteface highway. The road is skiable with just an inch or two of snow, and you have to love the destination: the top of the fifth-highest mountain in the state. The 5.3-mile road ends just short of the summit, but you can hike the remaining quarter-mile to the tippy-top. It can be brutally cold at the higher elevations, especially if the wind is whipping, so bring appropriate clothing.
The descent of the highway is long but gentle. If conditions are right, a novice skier can handle it. If the road is icy or has a lot of bare spots, intermediate skills are required.
The highway is best skied on a sunny day so you can enjoy the views of Lake Placid and the High Peaks. If you don’t have the time or energy to go to the end of the road, you can turn around at the first hairpin turn, reached after 3.5 miles. The view from the turn is well worth the journey.