Bill Constant, of Albany, enjoys skiing at Gore Mountain in North Creek Thursday, March 22, the last day of the season.
Unseasonably warm temperatures forced the Gore Mountain Ski Center to close earlier than expected on Thursday, March 22.
With temperatures reaching almost 80 degrees, skiers were flipping on the air conditioning in their cars instead of the heater. But that’s spring skiing. Abundant sunshine, skiers and snowboarders in shorts and T-shirts, and treks through the thick, Adirondack mud just to get to the gondola for a final run down the slopes.
“It’s the last gasp of ski season and I didn’t get as much skiing in as I hoped, so I’m just grabbing the opportunity,” said Bob McCarthy, of Troy, who took the day off from work and drove an hour and a half to ski at Gore Mountain Thursday.
“I called last night on the improbable event that it was open, and they told me it would be open through the weekend, but I just found out today, I guess a minute ago, that in fact this is it," McCarthy said. "This is the winter that wasn’t and I’m just kind of marking that.”
In an effort to squeeze as many ski days into the season as possible, Gore officials closed the ski center Monday through Wednesday, moving snow to key locations for the weekend.
Gore Mountain Marketing Manager Emily Stanton said heir goal was to prepare enough trails to stay open through Sunday.
“It involved stripping some trails of their snow to put it onto others, making sure our loading an unloading areas of the lifts were well covered and safe for people and just trying to create a quality product with these remarkable temperatures we’ve been experiencing,” Stanton said.
But with temperatures in the 70s and 80s, and full sunshine, there simply wasn’t enough snow.
“Unfortunately, we found out this mornning that the snow is just disappearing quicker than we can put it there, so we’re got to make today the last day” Stanton said. “It’s the best thing for safety, for our skiers.”
On Thursday, 22 trails were open with four lifts, including the Northwoods Gondola and three chairs closer to the summit: the Topridge Triple, High Peaks Chair and Straight Brook Quad.
Terrain was open for upper-level intermediates and experts only, and some walking was required on the open trails.
Gore Mountain opened the ski season the day after Thanksgiving, but it was rough going after that, with warm temperatures and a lack of snowfall throughout the winter.
“This is my 13th winter at Gore, and this is weather I’ve never experienced before,” Stanton said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve been around a lot longer than me and they say the same. It’s been frustrating for us, but at the same time we’ve been encouraged by all the great words our skiers and riders have told us.”
The ski industry throughout the East took a big hit this year. Talking with her competitors and partners in the business, Stanton said many ski centers saw up to a 30 percent drop in business. Luckily, Gore is only 15 percent off its average season.
“This year we were fortunate to have installed 160 new tower guns before opening the ‘11-12 winter season, and if there’s one year that could have been better timed, I can’t imagined what it is,” Stanton said. “So I know we were able to overcome a lot of challenges with that snowmaking improvement and with our ideal location next to the Hudson River.”
After a March 1 snowstorm dumped more than a foot of snow in North Creek, Gore had 100 percent of its trails open for the first and only time this season, for two days. That included the Hudson Chair connection to the North Creek Ski Bowl, a ski center owned by the town of Johnsburg.
“It was exciting, and then as quick as it came, it also went,” Stanton said. “And I’m not even convinced the snow might be over. There’s been a lot of winter systems that come through in very late March and April. We’ll just have to see what Mother Nature brings us.”
While they never publicize a closing date, Gore officials had hoped to extend the ski season into early April, at least until Easter. And despite the warm winter, Gore boasted excellent conditions all season thanks to its snowmaking and grooming. Now it’s time to begin construction projects for next winter.
“It’s really been an unusual year, and I want to thank everybody for helping us through a challenging season,” Stanton said.