I have always believed that SKI's readers travel ahead of the curve (you had Whistler at the top of the list years before the ski world discovered the place). But the selection of Whiteface as No. 2 in the East shows just how savvy you are. Unfortunately, most Eastern skiers remain clueless. How else to explain Whiteface hosting a paltry 148,000 skier visits during last year's spectacular snow? (On the positive side, that leaves the hill empty most of the time.) For the uninformed, let's dispel some popular misconceptions. 1) "It's too far." Credit the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics for Whiteface's reputation as remote. In fact, Lake Placid is a five-hour drive from Manhattan, less from outlying suburbs, and mostly on open highway. 2) "It's too tough and too cold." Two seasons ago, reversing two decades of post-Olympic neglect, the New York State Legislature began reinvesting in the state-owned resort. Snowmaking and grooming arsenals were pumped up and trails were recontoured, providing desperately needed intermediate routes from the 4,416-foot summit. Two years ago, the big piece of the puzzle was placed: the heated, eight-passenger Cloudsplitter gondola, which soars to the top of Little Whiteface peak. 3) "Beginners should stay away." Whiteface has become a great place to learn how to ski. Its Direct to Parallel program, which employs ultra-short skis, has had great success. Toss in that Lake Placid, 10 miles distant, is the East's most vibrant mountain town (sorry, Stowe), and you'll be hard pressed to find a better winter vacation spot in the East.
WHAT'S NEW Lodge renovations eliminate lots of stairway climbing and provide much-needed space for ticketing, rentals and a tune-up center.
A GOOD DEAL Six Super Sundays, throughout the season, reduce lift prices to $25 for adults, $15 for juniors.
MEDALS Gold Terrain, Challenge, Value, Lodging, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities; SILVER Lifts, Family Programs, Scenery.
HIGH/LOW RANK Off-Hill Activities (1), Après-Ski (7), Dining (10); Weather (68), Snow (69), Grooming (72).
DON'T MISS Dinner at Goldberries. Superb Continental cuisine and a chance to hear restaurateur/ski-school director Ed Kreil yodel the night away.
READER'S REMARKS (+) "Lake Placid is great; there's so much to do." "Constant pitch on trails makes for top-notch skiing."
(-) "The wind can blow like stink. Parking is a hassle." "Need better grooming on the popular trails."