Whale's Tail Ski Trail

Whale's Tail Ski Trail- Try to say that 3 times fast!

WOW! The month of March has delivered us the best snow conditions of the season, and what better way to celebrate than go out and ski! This is absolutely my favorite time of year to be an Adirondack local. Thanks to daylight savings time the days are long, and consistent snow has left us with some really fantastic skiing conditions. The High Peaks Region is littered with trails suitable for skiing, and the current snow conditions are calling us to get out and enjoy it. One my favorite mid-winter excursions is the Whale's Tail Ski Trail. It gives skier all of the feeling of a real High Peaks Skiing Experience without ever being all that far from the car. The recent snow and cold temperatures have left the trail in perfect condition. Anytime the wind whips up the snow fills right back in on the trail giving the feeling fresh snow when none has actually fallen from the sky.  

Trail sign on the Algonquin Trail side

The Deets

The Whale's Tail Ski Trail can be skied from either direction. Skiers can find it behind the lean-to's on the Wright Peak side of Marcy Dam or from the Algonquin Hiking Trail at roughly 2,360 feet of elevation. The trail is most often skied from the Algonquin hiking trail in the direction of the shelters at Marcy Dam. The trail climbs to an elevation of roughly 2700ft. before descending to Marcy Dam. Under the right conditions the trail can be a pleasant powder cruise all the way down. Under firmer conditions things can get very fast very quickly. I have heard of skiers getting to the highest point on the trail and then following a herd path to Whale's Tail Mountain's Summit. While I have never experienced this myself, the views are apparently fantastic.

A skier takes a break at Marcy Dam (The terminus of the Whale's Tail Ski Trail)  Equipment

The best equipment for the Whale's Tail Ski Trail was a topic of debate during my excursion. Some say that heavy duty, telemark or alpine touring equipment is absolutely necessary. Others say that lighter trail skiing equipment is more than adequate. The truth is that under ideal conditions either type of equipment will suffice. However, under fast conditions, even the most skilled skier will appreciate the added control of heavier duty alpine touring or telemark equipment. Regardless of which type of equipment you plan to use, be sure to bring along a full-length climbing skin for the journey. The trail is steep and requires optimal grip for an enjoyable climb. While the Whale's Tail Ski Trail is quite popular and you are likely to see other skiers along the way, make no mistake you are in the wilderness here. Extra water, food, and clothing is absolutely necessary to bring along. Make sure to tell someone where you're going before you leave, and give yourself plenty of time to complete the route.  

The Whale's Tail Ski Route highlighted in blue

Insider tips

One of the best tips to having a great ski on the Whale's Tail Ski Trail is to park in the campground parking lot rather than the main parking lot at the High Peaks Information Center at the end of Adirondack Loj Road. By following the "Old Marcy Dam Trail" you avoid a lot of the less than pleasant steep terrain that is found on the "new" trail.  Furthermore, the old trail typically has much better coverage during periods of low snow. When you finish your ski don't forget to make a right out of the Adirondack Loj Road and have a well deserved cold beverage at Cascade Ski Center before heading back to Lake Placid. They'll be happy to help you recover for your next journey with a plate of their famous nachos, update your gear, or provide you with current trail reports.