Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway

Distance: 11 mi (17.7 km), round-tripDifficulty: Ski--Novice-Intermediate; Snowshoe--ExperiencedADK map and guidebook: High Peaks

On a fair day with good snow conditions, a trip up and down Whiteface via thehighway can seem like a deceptively easy way to "bag" a 4,000 ft winter ascent. Underless than ideal conditions, however, the skiing can be treacherous and the weather just assevere as it can be on any of the peaks above timberline. Furthermore, the wide road andopen vistas that start about a mile up highway mean that one is more exposed to theelements than on a narrow trail. It is the potential weather conditions that cause this tripto be rated "Experienced" for snowshoers even though the grade is never steep. Becauseof its high altitude and smooth surface, the highway has long been a popular early-seasontour or a last resort in low snow years. After most storms a track should be quicklybroken out either by other skiers or by vehicles used by researchers at the AtmosphericSciences Research Center located just below the tollhouse. After a thaw and freeze cycle,however, this vehicular traffic can leave an icy, rutted, chattery mess to ski on.Remember also that the wind can blow all the snow off, exposing the pavement oncorners especially. All these grim warnings aside, on more days than not the snow is justfine for this exceptionally scenic trip.

The start is at the tollhouse approximately 3 mi above the village of Wilmingtonon Rt. 431. From the tollhouse (0 mi) the first views are at 0.8 mi, followed by a smallshed on the left at 1.7 mi. At 3.2 mi the highway crosses the base of a slide and thencomes to the first hairpin turn, Lake Placid Turn, at 3.5 mi. With a view of Lake Placid(surprise!) and the steep ridge above leading to the Castle and summit, this makes a gooddestination if the weather is too inclement to continue. Wilmington Turn is reached at 4.5mi, and from here conditions can range from deep drifts to glare ice to the Castle at 5.3mi. From the Castle a summer walkway with railings leads to the summit at 5.5 mi.

Photo courtesy adirondackexplorer.org

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