Home on the Range - or the local Ski Slope to be more specific!
Like many Adirondack towns, Saranac Lake has a hometown ski hill. Here is where local children have learned to ski for generations. Now Mount Pisgah offers family fun with alpine, glade, and cross country skiing, along with tubing and snowshoeing.
Saranac Lake started skiing in 1892 when the first pair of skis came to town, courtesy of John R. Booth of Ottawa. (Yes, it was news.) A local mill off Depot Street began making skis under the supervision of local carpenter, Napoleon Bailey.
Ski jumping became popular, using a ramp set up on Blood Hill - it’s claimed the name came from a family of early settlers. It is a pretty big hill that overlooks the village from the south end of Main Street. Enthusiasts held weekly contests and ultimately formed the U.S. Eastern Amateur Ski Association.
So it was only a matter of time before townsfolk looked around for more skiable slopes, and their gaze fell upon Preacher Smith's Hill. This had been the site of a short-lived gold rush around 1900. Two sampling tunnels were dug into the north side of the hill running over twenty feet, one of which still lingers as a ruin.
In the fevered dreams of the gold seekers, the vein ran for two miles: through the hill, crossing the Bloomingdale Road, and extending into a dairy farm across from it. But, as they say, the mining "didn't pan out."
The first rope tow appeared in 1938, but at a more distant slope. People wanted to be able to walk to their ski center, and Preacher Smith's Hill was both generously sloped and more local. The tow was moved over, trails were cleared, and a dedication ceremony in 1950 declared 100 acres as a living memorial in honor of Saranac Lake's Veterans. The ski center kept growing as Saranac Lake explored the abundant recreational possibilities in this generously sized location.
Now renamed Mount Pisgah, after the peak which revealed the promised land in the Bible, management added snowmaking, expanded trails, a faster t-bar lift, and built a lodge where skiiers could warm up and enjoy snacks and drinks.
Grooming the Slopes - and Our Future Olympians
With such added attractions Pisgah began developing a reputation as a great place to bring the family. They were on the cutting edge with the snow-making in 1952. That same year Grossinger's in the Catskills installed the first commercial snowmaking setup. It was a sign of how skiing itself had evolved from an ancient, practical, form of transport in snowy conditions to a fun activity.
With a large segment of the town’s population looking for winter recreation, Saranac Lake joined the many Adirondack towns managing local skiing facilities, just as they supported a town beach in the summer. This is how Pisgah developed into such a relaxed, friendly, and enjoyable skiing hill.
The original work was done by Mother Nature with Pisgah's gentle slopes. The t-bar lift added flexibility. This type of lift lets skiiers of all skill levels choose how high up the mountain they want to start their run.
The lodge design, recently revamped, is also a family-friendly one. Large windows give great views of the ski slopes, letting parents or grandparents keep an eye on the children. The large, native stone, fireplace has seating all around. This makes for easy conversation and quick warm-ups before setting out again.
Mount Pisgah has been the ideal learning center for many ski students. In the 1950's and '60's, learning to ski was part of the local school curriculum. Some of these youngsters went on to become one of the eighteen Winter Olympic athletes born in Saranac Lake.
It's an ideal setting for beginners and children, or just folks looking for an unpressured environment. Ski like a kid again! Whether you are one, or not.
Ski, Ride, Slide - All Ages, All Abilities
Mount Pisgah is an ideal spot for those looking for a place the whole family can enjoy. Even if some of the family does not ski, there's snowshoeing with 3.5 kilometers of trails and a beginner snowboarding slope.
Nature lovers can enjoy 30 acres of forested glade skiing, while devotees of skate skiing have their own trails, too. And for the easiest fun of all, try Pisgah's rope-towed tubing slides, which require only the ability to stay seated while gliding over the snow.
In all, there's a bit over 100 acres of winter fun, all carefully tended by staff who ski there, too.
The fun does not stop when the sun goes down. Mount Pisgah has night skiing and tubing. This allows for a full day of fun, or an easy evening before or after dinner.
Pisgah hosts many Saranac Lake Winter Carnival events like the White Stag Downhill Ski Races, which are two runs of giant slalom for prizes. There are age groups ranging from five-and-under to seventy-and-over. Warm up with some Arctic Bar-B-Que and stay for the Torchlight Skiing and Fireworks.
But the most popular Carnival event is the Innertube Races, down Pisgah's twin tubing tracks. This usually has the highest entry numbers of any of the Carnival's sporting events. Age-grouped contenders, many in costume, vie for the fastest times in their head to head sliding races.
Expect a Mount Pisgah adventure to be welcoming, relaxed, and kid-friendly. There are so many kinds of winter fun, the whole family can find an activity to their liking - even if it's not the same activity! It's great to meet in the lodge and share stories by the roaring fire.