The best thing about Whiteface is the worst thing about Whiteface: no slopeside condos, no base village, just trees. That, of course, means uncluttered scenery-and a 10-mile commute to nearby Lake Placid for lodging. Lucky you. This gem of an Adirondack community benefits from its serene setting on Mirror Lake. The feel is small-town, but Lake Placid's dining and lodging options are scaled to meet the greater demands of summer visitors, who come to enjoy the vast Adirondack Park wilderness. So it never feels crowded in winter. Add a dose of Olympic heritage held over from the 1932 and 1980 Winter Games, then mix in state-of-the-art winter sports facilities, and a ski vacation at Whiteface seems a no-brainer. "When conditions are right, it's the best in the East," a reader asserts. Why? Size, for starters. Whiteface's 3,216 feet is the longest continuous vertical in the East, and when a late-season dump opens up The Slides (treeless avalanche chutes just off the summit), you'd swear you're skiing Colorado. The ambiance is more camp than corporate (Whiteface is state-owned), which adds to the charm. And while there's plenty of gentle terrain for learners (Mixing Bowl, Wolf Run) and views that make you go "ahh," Whiteface is known as an expert's escape. The knock against it is that it's cold and icy. "They don't call it 'Iceface' for nothing," complains one reader. Others swear it's no colder than any of the more crowded Vermont resorts just 50 miles east. And help has arrived: The new Cloudsplitter Gondola's heated cabins cover the 2,432 vertical to the top of Little Whiteface in nine toasty minutes, making cocoa stops all but unnecessary.
WHAT'S NEW Thirteen acres of medium-difficult glades from Upper Northway down to Upper Empire; new terrain park; base-lodge expansion.
A GOOD DEAL Midweek three-day lift ticket for guests of area lodges: adults, teens, seniors $60; 12-and-under $45.
MEDALS GOLD Terrain, Challenge, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities, Scenery; SILVER Value, Lodging, Family.
HIGH/LOW RANK Off-Hill Activities (1), Après-Ski (10), Scenery (12); Snow (78), Grooming (78), Weather (83).
DON'T MISS The thrilling bobsled ride at the Olympic complex, or at least a ride on the toboggan chute onto frozen Mirror Lake.
READER REMARKS (+) "As good as it gets when conditions are right." "Lake Placid is beautiful." (-) "Icy." "Lack of snowmaking, grooming."