I know I’m late to the party, but I found it. I’m talking about the mid-week season pass at Gore Mountain. I live a few miles away from the mountain and this year, finally, I joined the weekday early morning skiing crowd. I’m 65 years old and I feel like I’ve joined one of those clubs that advertises for “active seniors” – a category I never thought I’d enter.
The locals show up when the lifts open at 8:30. The grey-haired folks inevitably comment to one another about how we used to be able to ski all day. Not with these knees anymore, we say with the knowing winks, but now, what the heck, with a season pass we can just show up at 8:30, ski for a few hours and go home. On most weekday mornings, the mountain is quiet, the trails unbothered with the crowds that will fill the place on a weekend or holiday. The few times this year that I skied on a weekend, I felt a brush of resentment at having to wait in line and lisen to the loud whoosh of snowboarders behind me and avoid the ill-prepared.
Last Monday, the mountain had been graced with a foot of new snow, the temperature was peaking at 35 and the sun made the trees glisten under a blue sky. In short, a perfect winter day. By March, like everyone, we are getting tired of winter and pride ourselves for being able to ski on ice, a blanket of fresh snow is irresistible. Most of the winter crowds have moved on, leaving the mountain to the retired crowd and the locals who can pick up and ski at a moment’s notice. We wondered if the few kids who were there were playing hooky.
Since moving here in 2019, I’ve begun to sense the complex relationship that local folks have with the mountain. For visitors, it’s a destination, perhaps a week or a weekend, or maybe even a season, but it’s not part of home. For people who live here, like the Hudson River, it’s central to local identity, a subset of living in the Adirondack Mountains. Like its siblings Whiteface and Belleayre, Gore is run by a state agency, ORDA, making it the target of the kind of complaints one hears about any bureaucracy. But it’s also an employer of ski patrollers, instructors, groomers and cashiers, an economic engine, a place for kids to go after school, a meeting ground and a geographic center.
Of course I return again and again because Gore is in my backyard. But it’s also a ski mountain that feels like it belongs in the Adirondacks– no fancy condos and restaurants on the slopes, little hype, no glitz. Instead of a “ski village” built by developers, there is a real village nearby – North Creek- with its 19th century, kind of homespun feel, that stubbornly refuses to be overdeveloped. From the top of the gondola, on a clear day you can see across the expanse of the Adirondacks to the High Peaks and to Vermont to the east. Always on the mountain, there is a place for me to ski hard or ski easy.
On a quiet mid-week run, I can almost feel the wilderness. Or at least, know that it is close by. At 65, I don’t know how many years of skiing I have left. I have never been athletic, but now I feel like one of the elite—the Midweek Season Passholders.