By guest blogger Caitlin Kelly; above image by Jake Sporn. Last updated January 10, 2022.
All to ourselves
I wave at the lift attendant as I grab my skis from the gondola at the top of Little Whiteface. He smiles and nods back, sitting behind a row of rubber ducks. I don’t know if he actually recognizes me with my braids and purple skis and Carhartt vest, but I’d like to think so. It’s my fifth season at Whiteface, and I've been skiing fresh snow and groomers all morning— I've probably already been up the gondola six times. It's midweek, and hardly anyone is up on the mountain, despite the bluebird sky and packed powder conditions. These are the days I dream about.
If you’re able to swing it, weekdays at Whiteface are when the mountain truly shines. When the crowds are thin, the snow is deep, the passes are plentiful, and the room prices are low.
Though it's in the Adirondack wilderness, weekends and holidays typically bring the crowds to Whiteface Mountain. It makes sense. With 3,430 feet of vertical, rowdy terrain, a top-notch ski school, and some of the best grooming and snowmaking on the East Coast, it’s not hard to believe that thousands flock from nearby metropolitan areas. The quiet of a midweek ski leaves the view of the High Peaks for us to enjoy by ourselves. We ride the gondola without lines, get our tickets in the morning without worry, and choose from lower rates in the hotels, motels, and hostels around the area.
We click into our skis and I glance up toward the summit. The Follies trail curves into a white ribbon as it disappears down the mountain. Lake Champlain glimmers in the distance and I see Wilmington nestled into the cozy valley below. Dropping into one of our favorite trails, we laugh and ski fast with it all to ourselves, getting air as we hit each rollover. We don’t have to avoid the gondola line because no one is in it. The lift attendants know and recognize us and we fist-bump mittens from time to time. The sun’s out and it’s a glorious day.
The best of the best
Sometimes it snows. And snows hard. March is the ideal time to visit; by then the mountains have a sufficient snow base and it’s historically when the big storms come. The past few Marches have left the mountain with several feet of snow overnight. And people are excited and happy and grateful and kind—all at the same time. Since there are more midweek days than weekend days, it's more likely for a storm to happen midweek, and you're more likely to get a ticket when it comes! So, plan accordingly.
Not everyone has the luxury of skiing midweek. Most have their 9-to-5s and can’t always take a break from work. There are certainly ways to work around this—taking vacation, or "sick days", here and there throughout the ski season, or just taking a whole week off to explore what’s going on up here in the mountains. The good news is that lower lodging and Whiteface lift ticket prices during the week mean you might be able to swing more days on the mountain than you would on a weekend getaway.
Like many ski areas, Whiteface is steeped in community. If you end up on the gondola or chairlift with a stranger, there’s a good chance they’re a local, and surely have some good, tips, stories and a willingness to share. The Whiteface community is inspiring. They’re in it for the skiing, and when it snows (and snows a lot) it’s one the happiest group of skiers I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve had the pleasure of being on the chairlift with forest rangers, photographers and journalists, ski/snowboard instructors, trail builders, beekeepers, farmers, restaurant owners, teachers, and students.
The final run
The sun slowly disappears behind the ridge. The Slides loom above us as we ascend the summit chair once more before the lifts shut down for the day. We stop at the top of Skyward and take in a view that never grows old. We are lucky and happy and acknowledge that to each other. One after the other, we drop off the headwall and cruise down, finding untouched powder stashes on the sides of the trails — the kind of snow that is usually gobbled up by the masses by midday. We end up at the base lodge and click out of our skis. Another perk of saving on lodging and skiing is having extra to spend on some après at the lodge. We go inside to ditch our ski boots and head up to the Cloudspin Bar for a cold one and a pile of nachos to share and reminisce about our stellar day on the mountain.
There and back
The middle of the week is also the best time to strike deals on lodging. While there are no ski in/ski out chalets or condominiums clogging up the forests on Whiteface, there are plenty of lodging options close to the mountain in Wilmington and Lake Placid, plus hostels in Keene Valley and Lake Placid, if that’s more your speed. All of these options are bound to provide more affordable rates on the weekdays than a busy weekend or holiday. Keep an eye on the weather if you’re thinking of traveling, or even if you live in town. Bluebird midweek is hard to beat, and if you’re lucky and the forecast predicts a big storm, travel the night before and get ready for a great day of skiing.