The Low-Key Lure of Gore
This sprawling, wild, and too-often overlooked mountain embodies the spirit of Adirondack skiing.
I was standing in the parking lot with a belly full of fancied-up instant ramen, basking in the radiant warmth of both the noodles and the distant winter sun when it really hit me: at long last, winter had returned. And I was back in the mountains, reveling in that chilly warmth one can only experience in on a sunny winter day in the crisp air.
John and I met up to kick off our season at Gore Mountain, one of my favorite winter stomping grounds ever since my first visit just six years ago. At the time, back in 2014, I’d never skied outside of the Catskills, so I was blown away by the sheer size of the place—both in terms of its vertical height and the massive acreage across which it sprawls with its 122 trails and glades. Now even after skiing nearly every major ski area in the Northeast and some of the largest resorts out west and in Canada, I’m still amazed by the scope and size of Gore Mountain, as well as by how it perfectly captures the essence of the Adirondacks – a combination of a sort of low-key, unpretentious vibe (which sets it apart from some of the larger ski areas in the Northeast), along with a rabid, devoted core of enthusiasts, all set against the backdrop of some deep North American ski history.
The winter sports universe is rife with a growing number ski areas that have been hybridized with amusement parks—hell, dozens of them even feature actual roller coasters. But thanks to its state ownership and its remote location in the development-restricted Adirondacks, Gore still offers a ski experience that feels like it’s from another time—a time when people went to a ski area to ski. Those in search of gourmet on-mountain meals and a bustling après scene teeming with Canada Goose jackets should look elsewhere. But if you’re a parent looking for a great place to bring the whole family, or a diehard seeking some of the best natural terrain in the Northeast, you’re missing out if you haven’t been to Gore.
And let’s face it—if you’re into skiing for all the off-mountain partying, dining, and other frills, this pandemic-laced winter is bound to disappoint. But Gore never offered any of that and, as a result, skiing at Gore feels pretty normal right now. Save for masks and distancing while waiting in line, along with some slightly longer waits due to reduced capacity, not much has changed here (and guaranteed private gondola rides are a bright silver lining).
The collective vibe was as sunny and optimistic as the bluebird weather. People were friendly and polite even when growing lift lines challenged everyone’s patience to scratch the itch and cut some tracks in the early-season hardpack. It’s been a long nine months without skiing, made even longer by a frustratingly long Indian Summer that has left most ski areas relying on small windows of snowmaking to open trails. “Early December never promised us anything,” John reminded me as I wistfully recalled the magical Snowvember just two years ago. While open terrain was limited to just two routes down the front side and two more down the North Side, it was more than enough for our first day of the season—to shake off the cobwebs, reacclimatize to the crisp chill of December in the mountains, and return to the serenity of the Adirondacks in winter.
Even with early-season conditions and limited trails, Gore was its usual, extraordinary self. The mountain is gritty and soulful and you can experience wilderness here like few other lift-accessed ski areas. You can also ski down a gentle, football-field-wide groomer under an express quad. Virtually every modern ski area can offer something for everyone when it comes to range of difficulty, but Gore offers something for everyone when it comes to the comprehensive experience.
Split into seven pods accessed by a distinctly well-planned and efficient network of lifts, Gore skis more like a web of small, interconnected ski areas than one large one, and you can pick your pod according to the type of skiing that interests you. Want a classic resort experience with wide, smooth groomers and fast lifts? The Northwoods area offers just that, with an array of spacious winding blue and green trails like Twister and Sunway that are perfect for beginners and intermediates. For similarly gentle trails but with a more wild, untouched vibe, you can meander through the shade of tall evergreens on the North Side via trails like Tahawus or Sleeping Bear.
From the top of the Gondola you can head to the Topridge area, which features black diamond cruisers like Uncas and the eponymous Topridge that feature steep rollers that come to life on powder days or with a rough coating of spring slush. You can alternately head down to the fixed-grip Straight Brook Quad which accesses the resort’s highest peak (Gore Mountain), home to steep, winding black diamonds like Chattiemac and Hawkeye as well as some of the steepest trails in the northeast: The Rumor, Upper Darby, and Lies (at some point each season, the snowmaking whales that breach the top of The Rumor help can push the headwall steepness over 40 degrees).
On the north side of the resort, you’ll find the High Peaks area, home to a series of short but wild steeps like Hullabaloo and lower Darby, as well as the Dark Side Glades; a rugged tree run bisected by a steep, cascading liftline trail that’s teeming with cliffs and the opportunities to look like a hero under the chair. When the snow is piled deep, you might even catch local legend, Benny Mikes hucking some of those monster cliffs.
For endlessly long, steep groomers and some of the best, marathon-length low-angle glade skiing in the East, head over to the Burnt Ridge pod. Echo is often closed for racing but, when it’s open to the public, there are few groomers anywhere that are as hungry for lightning-fast GS turns.
One of our crew’s favorite winter pastimes is the “Tour De Gore,” a full half-mile high (and several miles long) descent from the summit all the way to the base of the North Creek Ski Bowl, via a series of different downhills and traverses. You’ll see magnificent views of the snowy, jagged Adirondack High Peaks, skate across the shaded, remote valley of the Pipeline Traverse, and finally emerge seemingly in a completely different state at the resort’s final and lowest-elevation pod, The North Creek Ski Bowl. My personal favorite route is Cloud to Lower Steilhang to the traverse, but you can complete the full descent via various combinations of trails on the summit, high peaks and North side. And when you reach the Ski Bowl, stick around for a while as it’s got everything to offer, from steeps and trees to easy groomers, and almost never any crowds.
Gore isn’t a ski resort—it’s a ski area. A ski area in a remote part of the Adirondacks next to the paper mill town of Warrensburg and the tiny hamlet of North Creek. People have been skiing here since 1934 when a ski train was established to bring winter tourists to North Creek to ski what is now the North Creek Ski Bowl.
While it may not be as built up and glitzy as some of its resort neighbors in the Catskills and New England, Gore has continually made improvements to its infrastructure that enhance the experience in ways directly tied to skiing and riding. Snowmaking expansion (with access to the upper Hudson River) has helped them reliably open more trails earlier in the season and weather pesky midwinter thaws. In addition to the speedy Gondola and Express Quad on the frontside, Gore has now replaced both the Sunway chair and High Peaks chair with new quads as well, which will boost capacity and make the ride a bit more comfortable for big eaters like myself (I personally won’t miss stuffing the combined 400+ pounds of two dad bods onto the old High Peaks Double).
With my New York Ski3 frequent skier pass in hand (which also grants access to Whiteface and Belleayre, the other two state-owned New York ski areas), this was my first trip to Gore this season but it certainly won’t be my last. In a year when Vermont doesn’t want interstate travelers who can’t quarantine for a week, and the big resorts can’t offer their usual spread of amenities and accommodations, there has never been a better time to visit, explore, and almost certainly fall in love with the underappreciated gem that is Gore Mountain.