Ski Big Tupper again, or for the first time

Big Tupper Ski Area is a gem, and the news that it will be reopened this winter is thrilling.

It was missed last winter, even if the reasons for its closure were understandable.

First, Big Tupper has no snowmaking, so the winter of 2011-12 – the warmest ever on record – allowed the slopes to only be open 11 days. Since each season’s revenue feeds the next year’s operation, this hurt. Plus, it’s hard to sell season tickets after a winter like that.

Second, Big Tupper is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, and there’s only so many years a town can keep that kind of thing going without taking a break to regroup. These people have other jobs they need to do to maintain their livelihoods.

Apparently, however, Tupper Lakers decided that living without Big Tupper stunk badly enough that they were willing to rally their forces and run it again. We’re extremely grateful.

The hard work, iffy winter weather and high overheard make it obvious why this model isn’t followed at the dozens of other dormant ski hills around the Northeast. Tupper Lake is different, though. Part of the reason is that this community’s can-do attitude is special – something that’s been praised many times before – but there’s something else special here: the mountain itself.

Built by the town, first opened in 1960 and expanded in the 1970s, it’s a truly excellent family ski area. Its dozens of varied trails provide fun for both learners and aces, with plenty of nice, long runs for the intermediate skier and snowboarder. Also, Big Tupper was wisely placed on the west-facing side of Mount Morris, drawing afternoon sun instead of morning melt and afternoon freeze.

If the town had made it less good back in the day, maybe it wouldn’t be worth reviving. But to have an asset this wonderful sitting there empty is heartbreaking.

After Big Tupper’s private owners shut it down in 1999, it languished until Michael Foxman bought it in the mid 2000s, planning it as the centerpiece of the Adirondack Club and Resort, which he envisions with hundreds of homes as well as an inn, restaurant, marina and more. The state Adirondack Park Agency finally approved that project in 2012, but a lawsuit by hard-line environmentalists has put a hold on that and pretty much all other business ventures in Tupper Lake.

Someday soon, we expect, Mr. Foxman and the ACR will finally be able to upgrade the ski center and reopen it commercially, with snowmaking and robust marketing to once again draw skiers from Canada and throughout northern New York. That’s its only hope for long-term sustainability.

In the meantime, thankfully, Mr. Foxman has freely allowed the volunteers of ARISE (Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy) to fix up and run Big Tupper.

If you’ve never skied there, really, you should go. You’ll probably be surprised at how good it is, and a day pass only costs $25 – a steal considering that Whiteface charges $85 for adults and Titus, which is more comparable to Big Tupper, charges $45.

Also, Tupper Lakers recently developed a fine network of cross-country ski trails between Big Tupper and the nearby, town-owned golf course. There’s all kinds of good skiing going on in Tupper.

Tupper Lake is also planning some fun events at Big Tupper, which we strongly recommend attending. OkTupperfest is Saturday, Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Big Tupper, featuring a Mud Run, beer, food, free chairlift rides, a mountain bike stunt show, live music, crafts, apple bobbing and kids sack races. It costs $5 per person or $20 per carload, with proceeds supporting the ski area.

Then stay tuned this winter for details about the Snowball, which ARISE has said will be revived. It’s a heck of a party.

Nevertheless, the best way to support Big Tupper is to ski Big Tupper. We look forward to seeing you on the slopes.