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Skiing: With help from friends, Big Tupper set for a comeback

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TUPPER LAKE — Thanks to volunteers, downhill skiers and snowboarders in the north country have an extra mountain to explore this winter.

Big Tupper Ski Area — with a history spanning more than 50 years — is expected to reopen the day after Christmas after being dormant last winter.

A local organization called ARISE — Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy — will operate Big Tupper with the assistance of about 300 volunteers.

“Because Big Tupper has such a history and seems to generate such passion, a lot of these folks are willing to volunteer their time to be a part of it,” ARISE chairman Jim LaValley said.

ARISE started managing the resort before the 2009-10 season opened but was forced to close after a mild 2011-12 winter, which produced just 11 days of skiing. Because of fiscal constraints, Big Tupper doesn’t have snow-making capabilities.

“You could just feel it in the community when Big Tupper was closed. It was not a great feeling,” LaValley said.

The mountain had been shut down for 10 years before ARISE took over.

“It started out as ski enthusiasts who really wanted to see it back open,” LaValley said. “A generation of kids lost the opportunity to ski at Big Tupper, so you had a lot of folks who supported that.”

“It was an epic undertaking for us to go in there and get it up and operating,” LaValley added. “You had roofs that were leaking, trails that had trees growing in them again, and equipment that wasn’t working. It was almost like starting from the beginning.”

During the decade it was closed, Big Tupper was missed by area skiers, including current volunteer lift operations manager and mechanic Cliff Lamere.

The Tupper Lake native left the area to join the military in the 1970s, and while planning a return trip for his brother’s wedding in the early 2000s, he was hoping to ski at Big Tupper for the first time since he was a teenager.

“I was all psyched. I was amped up and I got here and they were closed,” Lamere said. “I was so depressed. I don’t know if I was more excited to come skiing or go to my brother’s wedding.”

After returning home for good, Lamere helped ARISE get Big Tupper running four years ago and has been a key component in the drive to reopening the mountain.

“My heart and soul is with Big Tupper,” he said.

LaValley said he hopes Big Tupper can remain open from Thursday through mid-February.

The current plan is to offer day passes only, but LaValley said the ski area might offer a book of passes, depending on how often it snows.

SKI/SNOWBOARD AREAS
(In New York, within about three hours of downtown Watertown)
• DRY HILL SKI AREA
Location: 18160 Alpine Ridge Road, Watertown
Distance from downtown: 3.6 miles (8 minutes)
Phone: (315) 782-8584
Website: www.skidryhill.com
Vertical drop: 300 feet
Notable: Considered ideal for beginners; vertical drop is among the smallest in the state.
• SNOW RIDGE SKI RESORT
Location: 4173 West Road, Turin
Distance from downtown Watertown: 38.1 miles (47 minutes)
Phone: (315) 348-8456
Website: www.snowridge.com
Vertical drop: 500 feet
Notable: Longtime skiers Jerry Britton and Bronny Davis are in the research/interview process of a book about the 68-year history of the resort.
• BRANTLING SKI SLOPES
Location: 4015 Fish Farm Road, Sodus
Distance from downtown Watertown: 107 miles (1 hour, 7 minutes)
Phone: (315) 331-2365
Website: www.brantling.com
Vertical drop: 240 feet
Notable: Resort has become popular for its “Brantling Bluegrass Festival,” a three-day music festival featuring national and regional bands each summer.
• FOUR SEASONS
Location: 8012 E. Genesee St., Fayetteville
Distance from downtown Watertown: 76.8 miles (1:17)
Phone: (315) 637-9023
Website: www.fourseasonsgolfandski.com
Vertical drop: 80 feet
Notable: Skiing Magazine recognizes Four Seasons as having the smallest vertical drop in the nation.
• WOODS VALLEY SKI AREA
Location: 9074 Dopp Hill Road, Westernville
Distance from downtown Watertown: 66.3 miles (1:21)
Phone: (315) 827-4721
Website: www.woodsvalleyskiarea.com
Vertical drop: 500 feet
Notable: Now in its 49th season, Woods Valley hosted a benefit concert for The Blind Owl Band, a local group that had equipment stolen after a recent show in Buffalo.
• SONG MOUNTAIN
Location: Song Mountain Road, Tully
Distance from downtown Watertown: 90.7 miles (1:30)
Phone: (315) 696-5711
Website: www.songmountain.com
Vertical drop: 700 feet
Notable: Resort has upgraded its snow-making process.
• BIG TUPPER SKI AREA
Location: 485 Big Tupper Road, Tupper Lake
Distance from downtown Watertown: 83.2 miles (1:32)
Phone: (518) 359-3730
Website: www.skibigtupper.org
Vertical drop: 1,200 feet
Notable: Scenes from the upcoming “Ninja Turtles” movie were shot on the ski hill in March. The movie is scheduled for an August 2014 release.
• McCAULEY MOUNTAIN
Location: 300 McCauley Mountain Road, Old Forge
Distance from downtown Watertown: 70.5 miles (1:35)
Phone: (315) 369-3225
Website: www.mccauleyny.com
Vertical drop: 633 feet
Notable: Hank Kashiwa, a former Olympian and 1975 world professional Alpine ski champion, is a native of the area. ... McCauley offers chairlift rides during the fall and summer for scenic mountain views.
• VAL BIALAS SKI CENTER
Location: 1312 Genesee St., Utica
Distance from downtown Watertown: 83.2 miles (1:36)
Phone: (315) 266-0453
Website: www.skibigval.com
Vertical drop: 400 feet
Notable: In 1954, the center was dedicated to Utica native Val Bialas, a three-time Olympian.
• TOGGENBURG MOUNTAIN
Location: 1135 Toggenburg Road, Fabius
Distance from downtown Watertown: 94 miles (1:36)
Phone: (315) 683-5842
Website: www.skitog.com
Vertical drop: 700 feet
Notable: Named the best place to learn to ski in central New York by Syracuse New Times magazine.
• LABRADOR MOUNTAIN
Location: 6935 Route 91, Truxton
Distance from downtown Watertown: 95.5 miles (1:36)
Phone: (607) 842-6204
Website: www.labradormtn.com
Vertical drop: 700 feet
Notable: The resort’s Tuesday Night Fun Racing Series, which goes by NASTAR scoring, is entering its 24th year. The six-week series concludes with an awards dinner and party in early February.
• GREEK PEAK MOUNTAIN RESORT
Location: 2000 State Route 392, Virgil
Distance from downtown Watertown: 111 miles (1:51)
Phone: (800) 955-2754
Website: www.greekpeakmtnresort.com
Vertical drop: 952 feet
Notable: New owners Marc Stemerman and John Meier invested $4 million in improvements this season, including a new high-speed chairlift and a new base lodge restaurant.
• OAK MOUNTAIN
Location: Elm Lake Road, Speculator
Distance from downtown Watertown: 114 miles (2:17)
Phone: (518) 548-3606
Website: oakmountainski.com
Vertical drop: 650 feet
Notable: Married couple Matt and Laura O’Brien took ownership of the resort before last season. Their most popular addition: a terrain park with 22 new features.
• ROYAL MOUNTAIN
Location: Route 10, Caroga Lake
Distance from downtown Watertown: 114 miles (2:18)
Phone: (518) 835-6445
Website: www.royalmountain.com
Vertical drop: 550 feet
Notable: $600,000 invested in upgrading snow-making equipment in the past five years. Snow Mountain now has snow equipment on more than 90 percent of its terrain.
• TITUS MOUNTAIN
Location: 215 Johnson Road, Malone
Distance from downtown Watertown: 115 miles (2:24)
Phone: (518) 483-3740
Website: www.titusmountain.com
Vertical drop: 640 feet
Notable: New for this season: an outdoor stone patio area with fireplaces, a bandstand and a wood-fired pizza oven.
• POWDER MILLS PARK
Location: 154 Park Road, Rochester
Distance from downtown Watertown: 151 miles (2:36)
Phone: (585) 753-7275
Website: www.monroecounty.gov/parks-powdermill.php
Vertical drop: 100 feet
Notable: A popular feature of the park is its year-round fish hatchery, established in 1933. It provides a unique opportunity to view nearly 20,000 fish in various stages of development.
• WHITEFACE MOUNTAIN
Location: Route 86, Wilmington
Distance from downtown Watertown: 134 miles (2:45)
Phone: (518) 523-4436
Website: www.whiteface.com
Vertical drop: 3,216 feet
Notable: Whiteface has the highest vertical drop in the Northeast and hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980.
• GORE MOUNTAIN
Location: Peaceful Valley Road, North Creek
Distance from downtown Watertown: 135 miles (2:52)
Phone: (518) 251-2411
Website: www.goremountain.com
Vertical drop: 2,100 feet
Notable: Gore has the most skiable acreage in the state (103 trails).
• HICKORY SKI CENTER
Location: 43 Hickory Hill Road, Warrensburg
Distance from downtown Watertown: 162 miles (3:12)
Phone: (518) 623-5754
Website: www.hickoryskicenter.com
Vertical drop: 1,200 feet
Notable: Warrensburg is the home base of the Ivy Ski Club, a national Alpine society with members in 15 states and the District of Columbia.
• WEST MOUNTAIN
Location: 59 West Mountain Road, Queensbury
Distance from downtown Watertown: 177 miles (3:26)
Phone: (518) 796-9674
Website: www.westmtn.net
Vertical drop: 1,010 feet
Notable: New management in place.
• WILLARD MOUNTAIN
Location: 77 Intervale Road, Greenwich
Distance from downtown Watertown: 202 miles (3:34)
Phone: (518) 692-7337
Website: www.willardmountain.com
Vertical drop: 505 feet
Notable: Bruce Bolesky, a former Willard Mountain member, was on the 1975 U.S. freestyle skiing team.
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