Whiteface and Gore Ski Facility Plans | What You Need to Know

By: Rocci Aguirre - Adirondack Council Director of Conservation
Friday, February 16, 2018

In 2017, Governor Cuomo announced that New York State will invest $20 million in upgrades to the ski facilities at Whiteface and Gore Mountains. This is part of a plan to boost tourism in the area, and draw skiers with more modern ski facilities, and to attract major sporting events.

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The proposed upgrades would expand and modernize existing ski facilities at Whiteface and Gore. Cuomo said “This investment will transform these resorts into year-round, world-class skiing destinations, and attract new skiers and snowboarders from around the globe.”

For the past month, the NYS Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) has been collecting public comment on these proposed projects and actions to Gore and Whiteface Unit Management Plans (UMP). Last week, the Adirondack Council submitted an official comment letter to ORDA on the Draft Amendments to the Gore Mountain and Whiteface Mountain UMPs.

Proposed Upgrades From

Whiteface Mountain

  • Expanding and renovating the Adirondack Base Lodge and parking lot;
  • Installing a line connecting the Bear Den Learning Center area to the Mid Station;
  • Widening and extending multiple downhill trails, including: Easy Way, Brookside, Parkway Exit;
  • Adding biking trails from Mid Station; and,
  • Extending, replacing and/or realigning lifts, including Bear Lift and Freeway Lift.

Gore Mountain

  • Constructing and expanding new trails, including: new trail at Burnt Ridge, and widening of Echo and Twister;
  • Improve shuttle lane for vehicular access and parking;
  • Enlarge the snowmaking reservoir;
  • Construct mountain biking trail along the Oak Ridge Trail.
  • Expanding seating capacity and modernizing the Saddle Lodge’s facilities and infrastructure;

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You can read the full draft amendments to the Gore UMP and the draft amendments to the Whiteface UMP on the ORDA website.

So what does this mean for the Adirondack Park?

Given the important role these recreational facilities play in the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Council supports ORDA’s efforts to modernize the facilities, increase energy efficiency and improve infrastructure reliability, if the facilities, operations and improvements are legal and environmentally responsible.

There are a few areas of concern that the Council raised to ORDA in its public comment letter, specifically;

  • The proposed plan at Whiteface does not count the glade ski trails toward the 25-mile trail limit for Whiteface outlined in the NYS Constitution. Because glade ski trails are cleared like any ski trail, advertised as a trail, and patrolled like a trail, they should be included in the constitutional 25-mile limit for trails. We requested that an updated, detailed trail mileage calculation be included in the plan to reflect these changes. Once glade trails are considered, the constitutional cap of 25 miles would be slightly exceeded. We ask that the UMP is edited to honor the law.
  • At Gore, the proposal includes a future conceptual reclassification of 33 acres of Intensive Use land reclassified to Wilderness and 159 acres of Wild Forest reclassified to Intensive Use land in a different UMP. When looking at past land reclassifications, there is a precedent to re-classify or add Wilderness lands to the Forest Preserve at a two to one, or greater, ratio. So, any state land reclassified to Intensive Use should be done so in combination with a net-positive increase in Wilderness acreage in the same general location. The Council will be closely monitoring this proposal.
  • The Council asked that ORDA clearly outline how they calculated the trail mileage at both Whiteface and Gore.

Other considerations for planning at Whiteface and Gore

Compliance with Forever Wild: The facilities on state Forest Preserve lands must comply with the strict and not always convenient requirements of the “Forever Wild” clause of the NYS Constitution. The requirements especially relevant to the proposed facility changes include: Constitutional Amendments that provide for functions and facilities at Whiteface and Gore that would not otherwise be allowed; adherence to the tightly restricted total miles and widths of downhill ski trails; and, no new tree cutting, clearing, disturbance, or expansion to year-round activities beyond what is now allowed without a Constitutional Amendment. (Under the NYS Constitution, all uses must be winter recreation based.)

Planning Sensitive to other Regional Adirondack Needs: The state lands and operations at Whiteface Mtn. are part of a larger network of state lands, recreational uses, trails, and trailheads within the very popular High Peaks region. As the state looks at making important upgrades to the ORDA facilities, and simultaneously develops plans to manage the overuse of the Rt. 73 corridor and the High Peaks, planning needs to be coordinated. For example, one element of overlap could be relocation of parking for the Cascade and Porter Mountains on popular weekends to the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Complex, as was done on an experimental basis on Columbus Day weekend in 2017.

Climate Smart, Energy Smart Models: Climate change threatens to redefine Adirondack winter recreation as we now know it. The ORDA facilities can and should combat climate change and be showcases for visitors from across the country and around the world for the latest and best in climate smart renewable energy practices. The facilities should support the Governor’s renewable energy goals and comply with Adirondack Park Agency policies.

Additional Environmental Issues: These upgrades provide an opportunity to improve protections for fish and wildlife, including the rare Bicknell’s Thrush on Whiteface and Adirondack trout in the Ausable River; address light pollution, by protecting rare dark skies and reducing light pollution (at the Mt Van Hoevenberg sliding center, for example); and, protect water quality and expand recycling.

Overall, the Adirondack Council supports legal improvements to ORDA facilities and programs that comply with the constitution, the law and the legal protections which are what keep the Adirondacks a national treasure, a legacy we’ve inherited, and hold in trust for future generations.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/staff-headshots/Rocci.jpgRocci joined the Adirondack Council staff in 2013 as Director of Conservation. He is responsible for the design and implementation of the Council's conservation strategy. Rocci holds a MS in Resource Management and Conservation from Antioch University New England. Rocci’s previous work experience includes eight years spent as a ranger with the National Park Service, as field staff for Trout Unlimited and in the Catskills. overseeing land protection efforts for the Finger Lakes Land Trust in Ithaca, NY and the Monadnock Conservancy in Keene, NH. When not fly fishing or hunting, Rocci can usually be found hiking in the woods looking for chanterelles or other delicious ingredients to add to the supper pot.

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