West Mountain Ski Center co-owner Spencer Montgomery has had a couple of pretty emotional moments recently as the center gears up for its Dec. 15 opening day.
The first came when he arrived at the mountain one evening after workers had been busy starting to assemble some of the chairs for the brand new “Face Jr.” chairlift.
As he got out of his truck and started walking over to investigate, the sun was beating down and shimmering off the galvanized steel chairs and he said he got choked up.
“They were all new, galvanized and shiny and you know we’ve never had new stuff at West Mountain,” he said. “It took me back for a couple of minutes. All the emotions and memories of the last five years came out … I was thinking, against all odds we’ve made it work.”
The new lift, which is placed to the left of the summit lift that was installed two years ago, replaced the former Face Chair installed in 1968.
But the lift is just one new aspect skiers and riders will enjoy this winter at West.
Montgomery said his second emotional moment came when he was hiking on the almost-never-open AOA trail on the northwestern most side of the mountain — an expert trail always totally reliant on natural snow and a favorite of more aggressive skiers and riders.
“Seeing the mounted aluminum snow guns was just mind-blowing,” he said.
AOA and every trail on the mountain will have snowmaking this year for the first time ever.
No longer will snowmakers be manually tugging guns across the mountain daily and with new pumps, water lines and power lines, West has the ability to pile up snow faster than ever before, he said. That means more terrain open faster, he said.
And when skiers and riders need a break or some food, no longer will they come into the chopped up, dated cafeteria. The mountain is undertaking a $600,000 renovation of the cafeteria expected to open in January, he said. It will feature an open plan with a horseshoe serving set-up offering a sandwich bar, fresh pizzas and a fresh grill station.
The restaurant upstairs will open earlier and serve as the cafeteria until the project is finished, he said.
The last piece of the puzzle, a new chairlift to replace the Northwest Triple, is expected to be done next summer — bringing a total 5-year expenditure to about $17 million, including $2 million to pay off old debt, he said.
At that point, the hope is that a developer will come in and build a “ski-and-stay resort,” he said.
“I’ve been looking forward to just operating a ski center,” he said. “We’ve been building it while running it, which is exhausting.”
West will host a ribbon-cutting for the new lift on opening day, Dec. 15, at 8 a.m. Local dignitaries are expected, he said.
With super steep The Cure trail now a main option funneled into the equally fun Gnar-Wall now coupled with AOA and all the cruisers like Frolic and Mach, I’m pretty excited for West to open.
Willard Mountain in Easton hopes to open Sunday, if predicted snowmaking temperatures stay low.
“It’s going to be close,” owner Charles “Chic” Wilson said Tuesday night as he was headed out to make snow. “If the forecast holds true, we might be able to make an opening on Sunday. If not, it’ll be next week sometime.”
Willard will open with skiing on Joe’s Special, The Meadow, Bunny Hop and two learning centers in front of the lodge, he said.
The mountain has increased lighting and snowmaking this year, but area kids will be more excited at the new Jib Park, with six new features and a new location at the end of Bunny Hop.
Wilson said to check Willard’s website for opening day.
Gore adds trails
Gore Mountain in Johnsburg will be adding more terrain from the summit by this weekend as snowmakers churn it out around the clock, adding to the early natural snow, Marketing Director Emily Stanton said Wednesday. “We opened Uncas today and will open Topridge tomorrow,” she said. “People should also look for more terrain from the summit this weekend, including Hawkeye. Conditions are really excellent for this time of year.”
Skiers and riders can still save $10 a ticket through Dec. 14 by bringing a food item for the annual food drive that stocks area pantries. The drive generates “thousands of pounds of food for those in need,” Stanton said.