Route Map Entrance to the Slide
Begin at the Ski Center, located on Route 86 between Lake Placid and Wilmington. There is no charge to park at one of the many large lots at the Center. If you don't want to hike the entire mountain, you can take the chair lifts/gondola, but there will be a charge for lift tickets.
Ascend the ski slopes (2,000 vertical feet) to Slide Out, located at the bottom of the Summit Quad lift (ski trail map
). Slide Out will lead to the bowl at the base of the backcountry slides. As an alternate route (not attempted), you may be able to ascend the bedrock in the streambead from Ladies Bridge up to the slide bowl. Once on the open slab in the bowl, descend approximately 40 feet keeping an eye to the north for a small rocky drainage that marks the base of the slide. Looking up the drainage, the slide will be visible through the trees.
After summiting, hike back to the Ski Center via the ORDA trail that descends to the upper ski lift from the south ridge. During the summer, the upper ski slopes are a rocky clear-cut mess of stumps and slash. It is easier to descend the service road towards Little Whiteface then down to the Ski Center. Some of the mountain bike trails are very nice hikes through the woods, and break up the monotony of the ski slopes. Another option is to spot a car at the Atmospheric Research Center, Wilmington reservoir, or Connery Pond trailheads.
A total of five major slides (and a possible overgrown slide) are located on the east flank (ski slopes) of Whiteface. When looking from the Ski Center, they are numbered 1-5, starting at climbers left. This route gains approximately 1,200 feet in 0.3 mile, resulting in an average slope of 37 degrees. The slide gets steeper as you ascend.
Once you begin ascending the drainage that develops into the slide, you will have no problem staying on course.
Except for the very beginning and very end, this slide is all slab. The rock is often polished, and doesn't provide a lot of grip. The slab is also covered with dry lichen that would flake away beneath your feet, and very slippery wet loose sphagum moss near the cracks/edges where it could anchor itself around vegetation... take extra precaution.
Most of the sections below the headwall are Class 2+, with the occasional Class 3 section. Just before you reach the headwall, you must bushwhack through a thick band of fir/spruce trees. You will immediately hit a 60-degree Class 4 headwall.
WWBF on the headwall
Another short bushwhack from the top of this second wall leads to a 10-foot vertical step. You can either go straight up or angle up into the bushes to the right.
WWBF at the top of the headwall
A minute more of bushwhacking leads to the base of the ridge (Class 3). Once on top, the ridge trail is located approximately 15 feet directly in front of you.
Essential and Recommended Gear
Summer: Approach shoes (trail runners) with good sole for the section up to the base of the headwall, rock shoes for terrain above. Rock shoes would be preferable to boots/approach shoes for descent of the slide. Consider wearing eye protection for the short bushwhack portions. Rope and a hiking partner would be advisable.
Winter: Agressive snowshoes, 12-pt crampons, ice axe, avalanche safety gear
Visit the Whiteface Mountain webpage
for ski lift operating hours, open ski trails, and mountain conditions.
: Uphill travel is not allowed during ski season, so if attempting during winter, you must be on the slide by the time the chair lifts begin operating. If there is enough snow, the Ski Center will open the slides to skiing, and uphill travel will not be allowed. Obviously, be aware of avalanche potential... these slides are here for a reason.
: Uphill travel is allowed, but be aware of mountain bikers bombing down the trails, trail maintenance equipment, and logging operations. If you don't want to hike the entire mountain, the gondola to Little Whiteface remains operational during the summer, but you will be charged a fee.
: Expect ice and snow to remain on the upper portions of the slide into mid-May. The backcountry slide area of Whiteface is a notorious blackfly breeding ground. Typical blackfly season is Memorial Day (late May) to Independence Day (early July).
: Expect ice and snow on the upper portions of the slide beginning in early October. Since the slide faces east, morning frosts will likely melt by late morning.
I climbed this route with MudRat in August 2008
. This was a very challenging, but fun climb. An option would be to ascend Ski Slide #3, then traverse over to Slide #4 at the base of the headwall. If you're looking for a much less challenging slide, ascend Slide #1 instead.