Could Whiteface stay open until May?

WILMINGTON – Coming off the heels of a colder-than-normal March, Whiteface Mountain Ski Center is poised to stay open deep into April and perhaps even May.

“Our official closing date is the 13th (of April), and that’s what we’re saying right now, but we’ll most likely be open on weekends after that,” Whiteface Manager Aaron Kellet said Thursday.

Kellet followed that statement by saying, with a laugh, that Whiteface is “hoping to have a Cinco de Mayo party.”

Whether or not he was joking was unclear, but if Whiteface is able to run lifts in May, it would only be the second time in its 56-year history. In 2001, under the management of Jay Rand, Whiteface broke its record by hosting a half-day of skiing and snowboarding on May 1. To celebrate, it charged a super-discount rate of $10, plus $5 for a cookout.

Season pass holder Mark Kurtz, who lives near Vermontville, remembers skiing that day.

“I think it got up to 70 degrees that day,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever skied in 70-degree weather. I sent an email to (Olympic Regional Development Authority spokesman) Sandy (Caligiore) afterward, saying this is the first time I’ve gone home from skiing and turned the air conditioning on in the car.”

That winter, the mountain reported receiving 213 inches of natural snowfall and no thaws.

Of course, May is a long way off, and a lot can happen in a month. A few 80-degree days in a row could melt the snow base pretty rapidly.

But as of late this week, the snow base was 44 inches. Kellet said often at this time of the year it’s in the 20-something-inch range.

The reason for the deep base has been the cold winter and a number of late-season snowstorms.

“I think it’s been the best March ever by far,” said Lake Placid resident Chuck Barletta. “(It’s) just (been) consistent. No thaws, good snow. Relatively little wind. It’s been nice skiing.”

Skier visits so far seem to indicate other people agreed with that notion. This year, there have been an unofficial 200,000 skier visits, up from 180,000 at this time last year.

“Last year, our eyes were just opened by the amount of visitors we had and the Canadians, a lot of Canadians in March,” Kellet said. “And we saw the same this year. It’s been another great March.”

The same couldn’t be said of the year before, when Whiteface closed on March 19 after a string of 80-plus-degree days.

But that type of warm-up isn’t expected for a while.

Just this week, Cornell University sent out a press release stating that Jessica Spaccio, a climatologist with the federally funded Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University, says colder-than-normal temperatures will continue through April around New York state, although temperatures will get a bit warmer in the near future.

“While we are seeing some nice temperatures in the forecast, the eight to 14 day outlook is showing all of New York in below normal temperatures, and the April outlook also shows below normal temperatures,” Spaccio said in a press release.

Snow, however, continues to fall up here. On Friday, the National Weather Service issued its latest winter storm advisory for the northern Adirondacks, forecasting several inches of snow this weekend.

Highway departments may lament another storm, but Whiteface staff welcome it.

“The snow we’ve had the last couple of weeks has made for a great close-out of the season – if it does close out,” Kellet said with a laugh.

Contact Mike Lynch at 518-891-2600 ext. 28 or mlynch@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.