Even though this December hasn't been quite as wintery as we may be used to, this will change and we will soon be seeing a few months of great skiing. I can also promise you I feel your pain; as an avid cross-country skier and snowshoer this tease of a winter just won’t cut it. So, let's do some dreaming and get our plans ready - when the Schroon Lake Region has developed a nice base here are a few places you can head over to do some cross-country skiing. For the time being, it may be time to think downhill and hit Gore! Remember, stay vertical people.
One of New York State's premiere ski centers is open for business and has been making snow for weeks now. Be sure to check with Gore Mountain for up to date conditions, rates and hours.
Gore has 109 trails and boasts 2,537 vertical feet of elevation drop, and you can access these by using the 15 lifts including the eight-passenger Northwoods Gondola and two luxurious high-speed quads which will keep you out of lines, with more time on their four peaks and in the parks.
Hungry or wiped out? You can visit the six dining options scattered across the mountain where you can refuel and keep skiing or riding without missing a beat or a potential “yard sale,” just kidding, no “yard sales” please.
Want to learn to ski or ride? Gore has an excellent staff of highly experienced and motivated instructors eager to help you get on the slopes in a safe and fun fashion.
Schroon Lake Ski Center (photos curtesy of NELSAP)
This small ski hill was reopened in 2005 after it had been closed since the mid 80s. These family ski hills are making huge comebacks in small communities and usualy offer free or highly reduced rates for downhill skiing. This ski slope is open on weekends, holidays, and during school vacations from 10am to 4pm, weather permitting.
To access the top of the ski slope you will have a 700’ pull using a handle tow that will get you to the top of the 150’ slope. There is just enough pitch to give you a few nice turns as you enjoy the great views. At the base you can find a small warming hut. This is the perfect FREE community ski center for the entire family to enjoy run after run.
Big Pond Trail
This backcountry trail is an outstanding ski destination fit for the entire family. If you enjoy cross-country skiing you should look into this well-maintained destination. From the trailhead off Hoffman Road you will be on a fairly wide course that gets ample ski and snowshoe use. Several undulating hills will bring you back to Big Pond and beyond. If Big Pond is your final destination you will be there is no time flat, but if you want to expand your skiing stay on the trail and get closer to the Hoffman Notch Trail where you will experience more hills and exciting riding.
SUNY ESF Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC)
The AIC has four very distinctive trails which were designed for 4-season fun and relaxation, however only three are open and recommended for cross-country skiing.
They do not recommend or allow skiing on this trail
Rich Lake Trail
This is a great trail to warm up on, and with limited amounts of elevation change, it gives you a nice introduction to the trails. Oh, and the views are great as well.
Sucker Brook Trail
This trail is considered to be a moderate trail but it’s a rather steep drop right from the parking lot. Once down off the hill the ski is actually very nice and you can connect up to the Sage Trail part way through.
R.W. Sage Jr. Memorial Trail
This is the longest loop at 1.1 miles, but it's an easy and mostly flat ski. Be sure to extend your ski trip by heading over to the Great Camp Santanoni Trail.
The trails are open every day from dawn to dusk. Additionally, the Visitor Center building is open Friday-Sunday from 10am to 4pm. The AIC offers public programs, events, speaker series, courses and other activities throughout the year to the public as well as school groups.
Pharaoh Mountain Wilderness
There are a great many access points for the Pharaoh Mountain Wilderness: The Putnam Pond State Campground, Long Swing Trail off Route 74, Short Swing Trail off Route 74, and off Crane Pond Road in Schroon Lake. The closest access point for Schroon Lake is at the end of Crane Pond Road. The Pharaoh Mountain Wilderness is a massive expanse of wilderness, with many, many miles of trails for all abilities. This area of many trails is not so much a trail network but several thousand acres of trails that intersect one another and have wonderful destinations for the eyes.
From the Crane Pond Road Trailhead you have the opportunity to ski many trails that can be accessed from the road, but first you must ski the extension of the Crane Pond Road that accesses you deep into the wilderness area. Discover Goose Pond, the Long Swing Trail, the Short Swing Trail, and the Pharaoh Mountain Trail while you are in there for a wide range of user abilities.
Other great access areas near Schroon Lake include the Spectacle Ponds Trail off East Shore Road and the Pharaoh Lake trails from the small hamlet of Adirondack.
Trail skiing is a wonderful past time and a great way to see the backcountry other than snowshoeing or hiking. Many of the trails you would consider for snowshoeing and hiking can easily be converted to cross-country skiing destinations. However, you need to keep in mind that these destinations will not be groomed or maintained for skiing. The foot trails also are much narrower and have a variety of obstacles for skiing that may require the user to have some experience. But with that being said, trail skiing is very exciting and a wonderful way to see the frozen landscape.
Mountain trails are not recommended for skiing unless you are a highly advanced skier - and even then they are very dangerous, but most of the trails to backcountry ponds are great places to visit without the worry of highly advanced terrain. If you do wish to ski back to a mountain, strap on your snowshoes to your pack, ski to the base and snowshoe up. When you snowshoe back to your skis, clip those on and off you go. In most cases cross-country ski boots can be used equally as well for snowshoeing so there is no need to carry a second set of boots.
Now, let's think snow and get ready to go!
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