Earlier in the week, the first major thaw of the season roared through the region, delivering wind gusts in excess of 50 mph and horizontal rains.
With up to two inches of rain reported in some areas, the storm provided a natural Zamboni that refreshed ice surfaces to a polished gleam. However, with forecasts indicating that a snowstorm was soon to follow, lakes will likely be sloppy for a while, with a slushy mix of standing water and snow.
Skiing has gone Wild In Tupper
Many area residents have fond memories of learning how to ski at a local ski center. At one time, these small, community ski centers could be found in nearly every township in the Adirondacks.
At one time, the Empire State served as host to more ski centers than any other state in the nation. But, since the late 1960's, New York state has lost an estimated 350 historic, ski centers.
The small hills provided beginners with a safe, easy and relatively inexpensive introduction to the sport. Most of the centers featured rope tows, a J-bar or a T-bar to haul prospective daredevils up the slopes. Chairlifts were primarily reserved for ski centers that were built on mountains, not hills.
The small, community ski centers were places where parents could drop off the kids, with few worries. They were considered an extension of the village, where you knew everybody and everybody knew you. Our parents seemed to like it that way.
In Lake Placid, the ski hills where local kids flocked were places like Fawn Ridge, Scotts Cobble and Mt. Whitney.
In Saranac Lake novices took to Mt. Pisgah, and fortunately, they still do. Otis Mountain was the favored hill for residents of Elizabethtown, Lewis, Westport and Moriah, while Paleface Mountain served the locals from nearby Jay, Keene, Ausable Forks and Keeseville.
The communities of Cranberry Lake, Clifton and Fine had the Clifton/ Fine Lions Club Ski Center that was located behind the Twin Lakes Hotel in Star Lake.
Long Lake retains its town ski center, as does Schroon Lake. Both communities continue to draw visitors from the nearby towns of Newcomb, Blue Mountain Lake and Raquette Lake.
Further south, Hickory Hill still handles novices from places such as Bolton Landing, Warrensburg, Schroon Lake, Minerva and beyond. After several years of inactivity, this small center has been revived this year, much to the enjoyment of the local communities.
However, the rope tows no longer have mittens frozen to them in places like the Harvey Mountain/Garnet Mountain in North River, Lyon Mountain Ski Hill near Dannemora, Maple Ridge in Old Forge, The Redford Tow in Saranac, Baldpate Ski Club in Crown Point or the Silver Bells Ski Hill in Wells.
Most young skiers of my generation, in the 1970's, cut their teeth (or at least chipped a few), while practicing stem-turns and hot dogging on such smaller hills. Once we thought we were good enough, we attempted to tackle the larger mountains of Whiteface and Gore, which beckoned us with groomed trails, steep drops and even a gondola.
Located in Tupper Lake, the Big Tupper Ski Area once served as a proving ground for local kids from the surrounding communities of Piercefield, Long Lake, Cranberry Lake and beyond. However, as with most of the region's small, community operated ski centers the chairlifts stopped running at Big Tupper over a decade ago. The lifts and groomers at Big Tupper have remained silent ever since. Until this year!
Fortunately, for both the community and especially its youth, the lifts and rope tows at Big Tupper now run again! Through the concerted efforts of a community support group called ARISE, funding for the operation was raised through a combination of donations and fundraising events.
A brigade of dedicated local volunteers spend many hours on the hill, shoring up the equipment, grooming and painting the complex, while an all volunteer Ski Patrol took to the slopes. Volunteers and community minded citizens became the heart and soul of Big Tupper.
Now in full operation, a lift ticket at Big Tupper costs only $15 a day for adults, $9 for youth and free for children under 6 and seniors. The mountain will be in operation from Friday through Sunday for the remainder of the season, snow conditions permitting.
The mission of the Big Tupper Ski Area reopening project is to provide a basic, no frills, affordable ski/snowboarding experience for individuals and families. The project at Big Tupper is a locally initiated, volunteer based, not-for-profit venture.
Contact the ski center at SkiBigTupper.Org or call 518-359-3730 to check on snow conditions.
In an effort to provide an added bonus, The Wild Center in Tupper Lake recently announced that beginning Friday, Jan. 29 until Sunday, March 7, people who purchase either a ticket to The Wild Center or a day pass to ski at Big Tupper will get a pass to the other venue for free.
Both the ski mountain and the center have adult tickets priced at $15, and the free ticket can be redeemed for up to two weeks from when they are issued. You can buy a museum ticket one day, and hold off on the skiing until the next dump of snow or vice versa. Tickets are non-transferable.
The Wild Center offers Winter Wildays both Saturdays and Sundays, with a full slate of indoor and outdoor activities and presentations. The museum website hosts an outdoor webcam that shows local snow conditions.
"The old and the new are coming together to make Tupper Lake the place to be this winter," said Stephanie Ratcliffe, executive director of The Wild Center. "Adults who skied Big Tupper as teenagers are returning to teach their kids how to ski. They can have that cool, old-style experience at Big Tupper, and then drive 10 minutes to this cool, new-type of museum, The Wild Center. With prices like this, people can say good-bye to "staycations."
"Big Tupper holds such fond memories for people. When many smaller ski areas have closed down, it's heartening to see how the residents of Tupper Lake pulled together to open Big Tupper again," said Jim LaValley of Ski Big Tupper. "For people who want the more intimate, family feeling of skiing. The Wild Center is an amazing place for young and old alike. With their calendar of Winter Wildays, there's even more to do in Tupper Lake this winter."
For further information on The Wild Center, please visit www.wildcenter.org or call 518-359-7800
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org