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The Gore Story

By Patricia & Robert Foulke

Monday, March 12, 2012

Like many ski mountains in North America—Sun Valley, Alta, Mont Tremblant, Stowe, Whiteface—Gore has roots in the 1930s.  In the depths of the Great Depression, downhill skiing grabbed the imagination of those who lived among or could get to mountain slopes covered with deep snow.

One of those was Vincent Schaefer, a General Electric scientist known for his work in cloud seeding who later directed the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center of the University at Albany.  A lifelong hiker in the Adirondacks, he attended the 1932 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid.  Even though the games had no alpine ski events, Schaefer soon had an idea that would generate the first downhill skiing at Gore.

Schaefer had been scouting the Adirondacks for areas that might provide good downhill skiing, North Creek among them. The Schenectady Wintersports Club, founded in 1932, indicated considerable interest skiing.  Why not run a train from Schenectady to North Creek to connect those folks with mountain ski trails?

He did just that, arranging the first ski train on March 4, 1934, with 378 eager skiers on board. The round trip ticket cost $1.50. The train left Schenectady at 8:14 a.m. and arrived in North Creek at 10:30 a.m. Then a truck provided transportation for a 10-mile ride to the head of ski trails near Barton Mines on Pete Gay Mountain.

Bill Gluesing dubbed early skiing in North Creek as “Ride Up, Slide Down.” Skiers shoved their hunting boots into toe straps fastened to homemade skis. As the skier started down two ruts in a four-foot wide trail he or she did not have poles or any braking method other than grabbing a nearby sapling or sitting down.

The first trails were Pete Gay, Cloud, Halfway Brook and Rabbit Pond. Locals delighted in playing practical jokes on skiers from the city. On Pete Gay Mountain they would hide in the trees and wait for a skier. Then they pushed a stuffed black bear sitting on a toboggan out into the trail accompanied by loud growling noises. Bill Gluesing often turned his movie camera on the hilarious scene.

In 1934 the Gore Mountain became the site of the first ski patrol, which served as a model for others as skiing grew. Lois Perret formed the volunteer first aid committee, with first aid kits, a doctor, toboggans and emergency plans in place. Their motto was, “Be careful, and think while you ski.” Lois and her “Clean-Up Crew,” swept the trails at the end of each day. Skiers were warned to start down trails before 3:30 to get back to the train for the return trip to Schenctady. By 1939 20 “husky boys” on the committee wore a triangular orange and black insignia.

At the end of the war, skiing development at Gore leaped forward. In 1946 a 3000 foot T-bar arrived at the North Creek Ski Bowl, creating an 830-foot vertical drop and a network of trails above the gentle bowl. Trails included easy Gentle Valley, intermediate Oak Ridge and Moxham, and expert 46er under the lift. When the action moved to the new Gore site on the other side of the mountain, the lift and the trails it served became dormant in 1977.

Just as Whiteface shifted from its Marble Mountain site to a new one on the east face of the mountain for development, the focus at Gore moved from the northern ski bowl to the west face. In 1964 the new development began with a J-bar, a T-bar and a double chair, then the longest lift in the East. Again in 1967 Gore installed the first gondola in New York State.

In1976 focus changed to snow making on Sleeping Bear, Sunway, Showcase and Cloud. After a protracted approval process, the snowmaking system was linked to the endless water supply of the Hudson in 1996. Now 85 new tower guns installed over the last two seasons to increase coverage throughout the mountain complex.

Throughout these years, new lifts kept appearing. In 1984 the Adirondack Express high-speed triple lift opened, in 1999 the Northwoods Gondola replaced the “old red gondola,” in 2002 the Topridge Triple created access to wonderful single black trails off Bear Mountain, and in 2008 a high-speed quad began to serve new Burnt Ridge Mountain terrain, including the premier blue/black scenic, winding Echo trail.

Redevelopment of the ski bowl would have to wait until 2002, when skiing and tubing began again.  In 2007 a triple chair replaced the small T-bar in the bowl, with lights for night skiing. Such improvements were not random, but part of a larger plan to connect little and big Gore.

At little Gore the original T-bar lift line was rededicated as the Hudson Chair last January.  State Senator Betty Little cut the ribbon remarking “This is where skiing began in the Adirondacks. This is an incredible moment on an incredible day.” She asked if any of those of us watching had skied on the original slopes and hands went up all over, including ours!

Emily Stanton welcomed the crowd who were eager to catch a chair up and declared the Hudson chairlift as “the starting point of an elevation of 3600 feet and a new starting point for the region. It is the people of Gore that make this special. I wish I had a bottle of champagne right now.”

Of the restored old Gore trails Mike Pratt said “We’ve maintained a lot of the original character so they’re kind of traditional Northeast trails, where they’re a little narrower than some of the others, and have some nice curves and bends to maintain the fall line. They’re just quality, fun trails.”

Continuing to comment on the expansion he has overseen, Pratt added: “ The Hudson Chair has 900 feet of verticals, and the projects mark work on a fourth mountain for Gore, making the current Gore system now encompass nine sides of four mountains, with 18 separate glades, stretching Gore’s vertical to 2,500 feet, sixth-largest in the East.”

Most advertising slogans make little sense, but “More Gore” does.  With eight distinct but connected ski regions, Gore has evolved into a major Eastern ski area. For those of us lucky enough to live in the Lake George region, it is already our destination resort, even before enough lodging is built to accommodate others from farther away.

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