You can tell a lot about a ski area by the base lodge. Some base lodges are warm and rustic, others more efficient, even institutional. Some feel really commercial, while others are clearly for people who are there to ski, not buy things. Some are small, and others are really, really big.
I think Gore Mountain (518-251-2411; www.goremountain.com)
in North Creek, N.Y., may have one of, if not the biggest base lodge I've ever seen, though I have no way to quantify that. It's been recently rebuilt, and doesn't look that big from the outside, but once you are inside it sure does.
The main room where the cafeteria is, is huge and there are other rooms tucked behind, and more down in the basement. Seriously, it looks like there's seating for hundreds upon hundreds of people at one time.
Then again, maybe it just looked huge because it was so empty on a beautiful Monday morning. I love having a great ski resort practically to myself!
Some resorts, especially those with lots and lots of slopeside lodging, don't really need a big base lodge. But some place like Gore does.
Gore is owned by the state of New York, so there are no condos impinging on the views. That also means there are very few people with multiday ski-and-stay packages. Most Gore Mountain skiers either live in the area, daytrip there from Albany, or have a second house there. So Gore must get really busy on weekends, especially when the weather and snow are good.
But, truthfully, I've never seen Gore crowded. Usually I go midweek, but the handful of times I've been there on Sundays, it just hasn't felt crowded.
You see, like some other areas, Gore is perfectly designed to spread out folks over a large area. The main mountain, called the Northwoods Area (sort of like that huge main room in the base lodge) on Bear Peak has a gondola, a high-speed triple, a double and some surface lifts servicing 26 trails on 153 aces.
To the left as you are looking at the mountain, there's the Topridge Area, south-facing, with some steep diamonds (five trails total), two major glades and its own triple chair.
To the right, there's Burnt Ridge, which has 70 acres, five trails, a bunch of glades and its own high speed. And beyond that is the North Side, with 37 more acres, some lovely blue-square cruisers and its own quad.
Sounds like a lot. doesn't it? But then you realize there's another whole mountain above Bear Peak. That one's Gore Mountain proper with two separate areas of its own -- Straight Brook with 57 acres, a quad chair and a bunch of scary-steep trails and glades, and the High Peaks Area, served by a double, with more black diamonds and "navy blue" squares. Not for beginners.
As if that wasn't enough, there's another whole mountain below Bear Peak, called Little Gore Mountain, with two triples, eight trails, and three glades on 47 acres. Seriously, this is a massive ski hill that most New Englanders have never visited.
On this particular Monday, the bottom had dropped out of the thermometer, and the wind was trying to tear everything off the mountain. So we spent most of the day just cruising perfectly groomed, beautiful, mostly empty blue square runs off the comfy gondola. We did ski one steep black diamond off Topridge on fresh snow blown in on the wind. But the ride back up with that wind in our faces was brutal, so even I didn't go back for more.
Seriously, it was a great day on a magnificent mountain. If you haven't tried Gore, you should.
Tim Jones can be reached at email@example.com