The elusive Slides, Whiteface Mountain's legendary double black diamond trails. "Elusive" because they only open when the conditions are right, sometimes for it's only a few days, a couple weeks a year and many can go years without having the opportunity of being at the mountain on a day the slides are open.
Getting the best of The Slides
It is helpful to know there are varying ways in how they open the slides. First Ski Patrol checks the conditions out and once approved, they will usually open the slides first to individuals with beacons and shovels. This is the best opportunity to experience the best of the slides! Then hours or sometimes even a day or two later, they will open the trail to the general public and then prime conditions get skied out quick.
I was lucky enough this year to get in and ride the slides. The first two days they were only opened to skiers and riders with beacons and shovels. I had a friend, who worked at Whiteface and had never been in the slides. With beacons in hand we headed to the summit and approached the entrance to the Slides as the trail opened.
The trail starts at the top of the Summit lift and is about a 5 minute traverse to the the first slide. Skiers can ski it, but I had my snowboard that day so I had to unstrap and walk in.
First run, we took Slide 1
The first slide is wide and open, it was a bit wind blown and slightly tracked up but the snow was great and there were large untouched pockets of snow. The snow was definitely some of the best I'd seen all year.
Legend of the Falls
I think there are at least few legends floating around the frozen waterfalls and drops of The Slides. You reach them when you are about 1/2 way down the trail. The tale I heard my first season (or as rumor has it) at Whiteface was Will Garrow pulling backflips on his snowboard sometime in the 90's. In today's digital era, we now have better documentation - such as a photo of Keith Shipman's epic backflip the first day the Slides opened this year. Go Keith!!
Feel free to post any of your legends in the comment section at the bottom of this blog! I'd love to hear some stories!
Tips when navigating the Slides and the Falls
- Take your time - safe navigation of these frozen falls is something to take seriously. I chose the line 'skiers left' and was able to navigate around most of them.
- What not to do - I've seen people get stuck and try to slide down the falls on their behinds trying to get down them -- this is extremely dangerous! My advice (and have to admit got stuck doing, one of my first time ever through the slides) is to swallow your pride and hike up and around to a place where it is clear to ski/ride down. ...not much fun when you're racing to get that next run in, but hike it out and remain injury free to ski the next run - imagine Ski Patrol trying to get a sled in there to help you!
- Pay attention and listen to Ski Patrol at the top, they will tell you which Slides are open and they are there to make sure you stay safe.
At the bottom Slides 1, 2 and 3 (and 4, if you find the traverse) meet up and funnel into "Slide Out". Slide Out narrows and take a sharp right up a traverse and out to Lower Skyward. Pay attention here, there usually is a bit of an uphill headwall and depending on conditions will send you flying into the air! LOL. It is quite amusing after having conquered the slides, getting taken out on the exit traverse. After the brief off ramp, it is a short, almost flat traverse out.
Second Run, Slide 2
Traverse over the top of Slide 1, go past a section of trees and you're at the top of Slide 2 (marked with a little sign). When you drop in the 1st chute narrows and you come out into another large area and eventually drops into the lower half of Slide 1, in-time to navigate through the falls again.
Past Slide 2 is Slide 3 and if you continue on is Slide 4 (you get the idea..).
The best time to catch the slides is when they are first opened, preferably for beacon access only. Please note, once the slides are open to the public they get skied off quickly - especially in the area of the falls.
If you do get the opportunity to ski or ride the Slides - enjoy!
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