After four visits to Lake Placid in the last couple of years, we finally did it: we skied Whiteface. And it is definitely the best skiing in the Lake Placid area.
This has been a mountain we’ve wanted to conquer for a year or two, but didn’t feel like we were ready skill-wise until this year.
Ultimately, nothing could have been further from the truth — because Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort has something for everyone and we could have managed several parts of it three years ago when we first started skiing.
That said, I’m eternally grateful for all of the amazing lessons I’ve had over the years that contributed to the confidence I had when we went out with a resident expert who took us to every corner of this twice-Olympic mountain (thanks again, John!).
Best runs for beginners at Whiteface
We spent most of our time at Whiteface Mountain skiing as a family, and with The K Man in tow, that means we stick to greens and easy blues to keep him happy and comfortable. (After all, we’re hoping to instil a life-long love of skiing in our littles, so happy-on-the-slopes is key.)
One of the best things about Whiteface is that beginner terrain is really well thought out. New and nervous learners can start out at the Bear Den area, which is also where the covered magic carpet and all lessons are located. You can’t take a wrong turn here, because every single run is green and easy-breezy. Plus, Bear Den itself has a brand new, multimillion dollar lodge that’s big, beautiful, warm and inviting — and the perfect place to get ready, eat lunch and store your stuff for the day.
On the Base Lodge side, which you can reach by shuttle from Bear Den or by taking a series of easy green runs (Loon to Moose to to Moose Cut) from the top of the Bunny Hutch lift at Bear Den, there are two learner lifts and longer greens with a bit more slope to them.
Start at the Mixing Bowl lift and once the kiddos are feeling up to a longer lift and a few more runs, take Mixing Bowl up to the Bear lift and enjoy exploring all of the nice little runs in this area.
Both of these areas feel very separate from the blue and black runs that make up the rest of this gargantuan mountain (honestly — it feels like a big mountain from the West was just plopped in the middle of the northeast), and you won’t have people whipping past you at Mach 11.
The only thing missing for us at Whiteface Mountain was a ski school with lessons that last all day. They have 1.5-hour group lessons (for only $52, which is a great price) but that’s not really enough time for Mom and Dad to get out and explore the mountain.
Best runs for intermediate and advanced skiers at Whiteface
Intermediates, advanced and expert skiers will marvel at the variety of terrain available at Whiteface.
While I can’t comment on the expert terrain (because no way this gal is ready for double-black diamonds that take you over cliffs and frozen waterfalls!), I have a really good handle now on what intermediate and advanced skiers can expect from Whiteface Mountain.
My advice? Start with the Cloudsplitter gondola. It doesn’t go all the way to the summit, but the line moves fast and the ride up is fun. And it’ll still get you to an impressive elevation of 3,676 feet. From here, Excelsior is an easy blue run that will get you to several options, including one of our favourite runs of the day — Essex. It’s a solid black but easy to navigate since it’s nice and wide; it leads into two or three beautiful blue run choices, ending at the Summit Quad.
If you want the best view in the Lake Placid area, you need to get to the summit! It’s no joke at 4,386 feet high, and just looking over Riva Ridge is heart-pumping. That view, though…
I thought long and hard about trying to take on the Upper Skyward run right as you get off the chair lift, but ultimately decided that I don’t know this mountain well enough (yet) to get too risky. It has a daunting slope to it and I’d been having such a great day that I wanted to keep it that way. So, instead, we opted to get down to Lower Skyward, which is still a very steep black run that required concentration.
Skyward was the run used for the men’s Olympic downhill so I’m pleased that I managed to do the bottom section of it successfully.
From here, you can head over to the Lookout Mountain chairlift. The longest blue run at Whiteface is over here — The Wilmington Trail is about 2.5 miles of continuous skiing and it’s glorious. This leads you right back to the Bear Den area so if your kids are doing lessons, this is the route to get back to them.
Overall, the skiing at Whiteface was very impressive. I have friends who’ve skied for many years more than I have who say it’s not an easy mountain — and they’re right. It’s got challenging steeps like you’d find out at Lake Louise. But there’s enough variety that everyone can find a favourite run.
If you didn’t grab a trail map from guest services, the trails are really well marked, but you can also click for a Whiteface digital map.
Where to stay near Whiteface
The thing about Whiteface is that there are no on-mountain accommodations. So if you dream of skiing out of your timber chalet right onto some of those Olympic runs, well — forget it. It ain’t happening.
You’ve gotta slum it on a shuttle or brave the parking lots like the rest of us mere mortals.
The good news is that Whiteface and Lake Placid’s shuttle game is on point. Several of the hotels in the village have pick-up and drop-off shuttle access, and there are even a couple of generic stops en route as well. Once you’re at Whiteface, there are shuttles to get you everywhere — from the parking lots to the Main Lodge or Bear Den and from the Lodge to the Den and back again.
During this visit, we stayed at the beautiful High Peaks Resort at the top end of Main Street. We LOVED the location, the rooms, the lobby, the staff — and especially the shuttle access point right out the front doors! And it’s near the beginning of the shuttle run, which means you’re almost guaranteed a seat (and once those seats and standing room only are gone, you’re SOL and waiting another hour for the next shuttle).
Our room had a killer sun-kissed view of Mirror Lake each morning:
Where to eat near Whiteface
Big Slide Brewery is probably the best restaurant for dinner in Lake Placid in our experience. Everything we have ever eaten there has been fresh, presented beautifully, interesting and #YUMazing.
For snacks and treats or a quick, on-the-go breakfast, you have to visit Bluesberry Bakery. The apple strudel is something I’d want to have on my death bed, and the chocolate croissants aren’t far behind. The scones, cinnamon buns and muffins are also all huge and amazing. The coffee is quite good, too!
If you have time for a java, be sure to get over to Around The Lake — a coffee shop on Main Street that has the most divine mochas.
the breakfast club, etc. is Lake Placid’s best restaurant for breakfast, in our opinion…and the competition is fierce. Come for the crazy hot chocolates (the unicorn and s’mores ones are big hits with our kids) and stay for the amazing breakfast sandwiches, HUGE pancakes and homemade sausage everything.
The Great Adirondack Brewery makes a killer sea scallop dinner! Some of the best-prepared and -tasting scallops I’ve had in my life. (Just note that if you order the baked potato, there’s going to be a slice of melted fake cheese on it. I wish I’d known ahead of time.) If the softshell crab BLT is a special the night you’re there — YOU MUST EAT IT. And, OMG, the chocolate peanut butter ice cream sandwich? That dessert should be bronzed and displayed in a foodie hall of fame somewhere.
McDougall’s Pub is probably the closest family restaurant to Whiteface Mountain. Hungry Trout upstairs is more fine dining but it’s super chill down at the pub and you can order from the Hungry Trout menu if you like. The food is fine, but we wouldn’t make a special trip from the Lake Placid village to eat there. This is more about convenience when you roll off the hill at 4 p.m. and need to get some food in you, stat.
Other things to do near Whiteface
There’s so much more to Lake Placid than just skiing at Whiteface. In fact, families who split off because not everyone skis or boards will find plenty to do — and most of it is within walking distance of Main Street:
- Ice skating on Mirror Lake — bring your own skates and it’s free. There’s a big loop around the outer edge of the lake on which to skate and a few areas carved out for hockey and other skating fun. It’s typical of outdoor skating on a frozen pond or lake, so don’t expect a really smooth surface. Skates can be rented on Main Street next to the Golden Arrow Hotel
- Crazy toboggan chute on Mirror Lake — take a piece of an old (but sturdy!) ski-jumping track and convert it into one heck of a toboggan ride that shoots you off into the middle of an iced-over Mirror Lake. It looked like it could have been so much fun but the dates and times didn’t work out with our schedule, sadly
- Bobsled & Olympic venues — whether you’re as fortunate as we were to attend the Bobsled World Cup in Lake Placid or you want to experience the thrill of bobsledding with your own personal driver, the Olympic venues in Lake Placid offer plenty of adrenaline-filled fun
- Swim in your hotel — if your hotel has an indoor pool like ours did at High Peaks Resort, you can spend some time after a day on the hill chilling in the pool with your kids (or sit on the side as they splash each other wildly). Ours decided to forego our last morning of skiing in favour of a swim, which killed me because it was snowy and perfect, but — after all — this was their vacation, too
Happy wintering in Lake Placid!
DISCLAIMER: The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism in the Adirondacks provided several aspects of this stay to facilitate this post. We also made many contributions of our own to the Lake Placid economy! And, as always, thoughts and opinions are my own.