Late-April snowstorm provides a chance for one more ski
By Phil Brown
I had given up on winter. Put away my skis. Went rock climbing. Rode my mountain bike. Saw a few wildflowers.
And then it snowed in late April. Two days in a row. On the second day, I got my boards out of the closet and drove to the Whiteface Mountain Veterans’ Memorial Highway toll road.
I’ve done this trip many times. Since the highway needs only a few inches of snow to be skiable, it’s often where I’ll start the season and often where I’ll end it. One lesson I’ve learned: No matter how clement the weather in the valley, you may encounter full-on winter on Whiteface.
That was the case last week. Green grass was poking through the fresh snow in Wilmington, but when I turned off the main drag and started driving uphill, the snow deepened, burying all traces of spring. Arriving at the gatehouse, I was delighted to see the toll road totally blanketed in white. I knew the skiing would be good.
I wasn’t the only one with this idea. As I got out of my car, another skier was just returning to his. At the start of the five-mile climb up the toll road (closed to vehicles in winter), I met two other skiers making graceful turns on wide skis. Soon after, a woman on skinny skis whizzed past me.
From then on, I was alone, shuffling up the mountain in silence, keeping track of my progress by the mileage markers, letting my thoughts wander.
It felt good to be back in winter. Such a beautiful time of year—trees whitened by the storm, icicles clinging to the cliffs, whorls of snow animated by the wind.
I felt wistful, too, knowing that this would be my last ski trip of the season. My winter was coming to an end.
Then it occurred to me that this was Earth Day. My thoughts turned to melting glaciers and rising sea levels. We are seeing the effects of climate change already in the Adirondacks. Lakes freeze later (if at all) and thaw earlier. Ski resorts rely more and more on man-made snow. This past Christmas it rained most of the day.
The end of winter, indeed.
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Just imagine the Adirondacks with cold rain instead of snow. No more joyful jaunts up the toll road to an incomparable view of Lake Placid. No laps in the bowl on Mount Marcy. No cross-country treks on the Jackrabbit. No skiing anywhere, no snowmobiling, no pond skating, no ice climbing. The tourist economy would be dead half the year, and the region would lose a big part of its heritage.
I felt angry. I remembered interviewing Al Gore when he ran for president in 1988. He was talking about global warming then. In the 33 years since, we have failed to come to grips with the crisis. Trump wanted to take us backwards. Fortunately, we now have a leader who wants to address climate change in a serious way. I hope it’s not too late, though it may be.
Eventually the beauty of my surroundings dispelled my gloom. I pushed on, the snow got deeper, and the wind grew more fierce. When I reached the Lake Placid Turn, at 3.5 miles, I debated whether to continue. The best skiing was now below me. The next mile, to the Wilmington Turn, is so mellow as to be snooze. Beyond the turn, the ski conditions are often poor on the final stretch of road to the Castle, a handsome stone building that’s home to a restaurant in summer.
To make the most of my last ski trip, I decided to go all the way to the Castle. Rounding the Wilmington Turn, I met the full force of the wind—45 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph. Other than that, conditions were just fine: I had my choice of frozen crust, ice, or wind-hardened slab. I soldiered on, fighting the gale, until I could no longer feel my fingers. A quarter-mile from my goal, I turned around and side-slipped down the icy road until I found shelter among the trees in a pull-off. There I put on warmer gloves and waited in pain while blood re-entered my capillaries.
Once warmed up, I considered making another sortie on the Castle. Nah, I like my fingers, and I had had enough exercise for one day. I wanted my reward: the long downhill run back to the car.
Besides, there’s always next winter. I hope.
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Jim R says
According to TK the skiing weatherman, Whiteface could get up to 2’ next week. And Stein’s run at Sugarbush still skis great with 6’+ base and skinable from the base. Keep your skis in the vehicle, not over yet.
I think most skiers are optimists (quixotic?) about what the future shall bring. “This winter is nothing like when I was a kid, but there may still be an incredible dump around the corner…” Any adult paying attention sees the reading on the wall though. Another piece is that for those not obsessed with winter recreation, they are probably grateful – “Less snow to shovel!” I’d venture to say a good portion of the population is happy about a 60 degree day in February. Sad…
New motto: Get it while you can
Nice article until you made it political. That is when you lost my respect and I quit reading.
ROBERT DIMARCO says
What is political about the article?
Any talk of Al Gore’s predictions, that President Trump is against the climate or that idiot Biden takes anything serious is political
Seems like that should be screamingly obvious
I agree with you! He should have left politics out of it! He lost me there!
Barbara Connor says
Liked the article minus negative political statement.
I pray for the winter snow! I like winter muchmore then Spring’s rain & mud.
James W Sherwood says
What is this climate change nonsense. The Earth was jolted by the tsunami and it has been like this since.It ,literally tilted the axis more..
You were skiing along fine until you turned off a political cliff with a bunch of nonsense. Gore made a billion dollars off green deals, travels by private jet and lives in a 40,000 sq ft house, paid for by fear-mongering false climate change predictions.
In the meantime Trump reduced per capita carbon emissions more than other countries.
Robb Mannski says
Ski blah blah blah
Ski blah blah blah
Ski blah blah blah
Gore Trump Biden
Blah blah blah
Did you Drive a Gas Powered Car to Your Ski Trip?
Keep the Skins on your Skis
Not on the Wall.
Old Journalists Never Retire.
They just Get It In when they can.
Still love ya Philly. Still subscribe to the AE. God Bless ☮️
Maybe the government should do more cloud seeding so the season lasts longer. O you thought climate change was due to cars and cow facts?
Thank goodness for the other level-headed comments here pointing out the hypocrisy of Gore, the caring or knowledge of what he’s doing at any moment in time of Biden, and the true insignificance of what Trump or any politician’s actions has on the Earth’s eons-long, predetermined fluctuations in climate.