Big Tupper hopes for snow; ARISE to host 'snow dance'

While most ski centers in the Adirondacks opened for business in time for the holidays, the Big Tupper Ski Area is still waiting for a little more precipitation.

Officials with ARISE - the group that's led the push to reopen the popular ski area - say the mountain needs more snow before it can open for the season.

This weekend, ARISE and the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce will join forces to host a "snow dance" in hopes that some higher power will blanket the slopes with powder.

Jim LaValley is chairman of ARISE. He notes that Big Tupper lacks snowmaking capabilities - meaning the mountain is completely dependent on natural snow.

He says there's not enough of a base for safe skiing.

"Everything is in place for skiing," LaValley said. "We have all of our groomers ready; all of the equipment is inspected and ready to go. Now we're just counting on Mother Nature."

He adds that this Saturday's event will feature a Scottish bagpiper, a traditional medicine man from the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation, and Santa Claus, all of whom aim to please the - quote - "snow gods," LaValley says.

As soon as the mountain has enough snow, LaValley says skiers will find an atmosphere very similar to Big Tupper's heydays in the 1990s.

"We have two chairlifts ready to go, giving us about 1,200 feet vertical," he said. "And almost all of the trails that people are familiar with at Big Tupper will be open - that's about 23 trails. And along with the two chairs we'll have the Mighty Mite - the rope tow."

LaValley is hopeful that Big Tupper will gain snowmaking capabilities in the near future, noting that any progress with the Adirondack Club & Resort will help efforts.

"The hope is that 2011 will be good to the ACR and they'll receive their permits this year," he said. "They've already begun discussions on snowmaking options with key companies. Certainly down the road, in the next two to three years, we hope to bring snowmaking back to Big Tupper."

Late last year, a pair of local men from Avant skis - Joel Nashett and Ben Callaghan - unveiled designs for limited-edition Big Tupper skis.

LaValley says 19 pairs of skis with a five-year ski pass will be sold for $950. One pair with a lifetime pass auctioned on Ebay for $3,100 - the winner of that auction will be announced in the coming days.

All of the proceeds will go toward operational costs at Big Tupper, LaValley notes.

This weekend's "snow dance" kicks off at 2 p.m.

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