By PHIL BROWN
The Whiteface Mountain toll road is a classic Adirondack ski tour, especially popular early or late in the season when there is little snow in the woods. Even in midwinter, it’s a spectacular adventure: after a five-mile climb nearly to the summit of the state’s fifth-highest mountain, you enjoy a mellow cruise back to your car.
But don’t count on skiing the highway this winter. The state is plowing the road for workers who are replacing an elevator that carries summer visitors from the end of the road to the summit.
Jon Lundin, a spokesman for the Olympic Regional Development Authority, said the crews will work throughout the winter. This means the road will be unskiable on many days, perhaps most.
“We did the same thing last winter and will plow the road when the conditions warrant so that we can move people and machinery to the summit to work on the elevator,” Lundin told the Explorer in an email. He said the state aims to have the new elevator operational next summer.
Asked if the road will be plowed even on weekends, Lundin said he couldn’t say. Nor could he clarify whether the road will be plowed during the workweek if crews are not working.
So far this season, the skiing has been hit or miss.
Keene resident Ron Konowitz has skied the highway five times in October. “Except for the weekends, it has been plowed every day,” he told the Explorer. “The plow driver told me they would be plowing on the weekends if it snowed enough so they could keep up with the snow in order to have workers and building materials sent up the mountain early Monday, but so far the last two weekends they haven’t plowed it.”
Konowitz, who is president of the Adirondack Powder Skier Association, continued: “The road is not skiable when they plow, sand, and salt from white line to white line, unless you can catch a one- or two-hour snow squall where it snows four or five inches and you can rush up there before they plow it again.”
He added that he understands the workers need access to the summit: “I get it. They have a job to do up there this winter.”
The Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway opened in 1936. From spring to fall, motorists can drive up the road and then ride an elevator more than 260 feet up to the 4,867-foot summit. The elevator has been closed since fall 2017.
Click here to read my account (with video) of skiing the highway last fall.