Clifton-Fine Adirondack Winter Whiteout Weekend 2016
Sub-zero temperatures and the first blizzard snowstorm of 2016 greeted the Adirondack Whiteout Weekend in Clifton and Fine, which kicked off on Friday, February 12th. Several of the outdoor events were cancelled or rescheduled due to the extreme cold, but that didn’t seem to stop attendees from making the best of their day. The planned events stretch from Cranberry Lake to Star Lake, drawing in locals and visitors to the small towns of Clifton and Fine. We stopped by several of the Saturday activities to find out for ourselves what this event is all about.
First stop: Curling. We walked into the Clifton-Fine arena to check out the curling event (which had been moved inside despite being an outdoor event last year), and within the first few minutes there was already a crowd arriving. A 75-year-old woman stepped off the ice, saying “I always wanted to do this, and I didn’t even break a knee trying.” She later came back with her two grandchildren, and they were followed by several other families who were excited to learn about the sport of curling. There is much more to the sport than what you can see on TV; we learned a lot and really enjoyed chatting with the volunteers.
At the arena, we met up with Greg Vaverchak, a professor at the SUNY ESF Ranger School, whose wife Vanessa has helped organize the Winter Whiteout events for the past two years. He explained to us that the curling volunteers, who are members of a club curling team, drive up from Albany to donate their time and share their passion for the sport in giving others a chance to learn for free. He also told us they would rather be outdoors, but this event got a lot of attention last year and they still anticipate a fair turnout. Later in the day, Greg and the volunteers would prepare the ice with their makeshift John Deer tractor “zamboni” before the hockey game and free skating events.
Second stop: Clifton-Fine Central School. We popped inside for a few minutes to find Greg’s wife, Vanessa Vaverchak, who is the volunteer Co-Chair for the Winter Whiteout Weekend for this year and last year’s event. “This is the third year the Winter Whiteout Weekend has run and it seems to be growing” she says. Vanessa tells us that last year attracted a crowd of 1,500 people and they expect to have around
2,000 this year. She explained how the dogsled presentation had to be rescheduled due to the wind chill, but the kids still had a chance to play and learn at the North Country Children’s Museum Kidstage, Price Chopper STEM presentations, Adirondack Raptors program and more. Eager to find more activities ourselves, we ventured over to Wanakena where the pig roast and photography show were still going on.
Third stop: Wanakena. When we arrived at the Pine Cone Grill, the Co-Owner, Suzie, informed us that the ice bowling, frying pan toss and snowmobile trivia fun run had all been cancelled due to the wind chill and trail conditions. Without asking, she began to tell us what she thinks this event means for the local communities, stating that “there’s not a lot going on in the area; there’s not a lot of industry and we get most of our traffic from snowmobilers, so we need more tourism events like this.” She went on to tell us that they have had up to 70 sleds parked along the lake before. The Pine Cone Grill also sits directly across the lake from trails to the Big Pine, an old-growth white pine tree estimated to be at least 300 years old. The hike to the tree is an attraction for snowshoers during the Whiteout Weekend as well. The Pine Cone Grill is just one of the many local restaurants and businesses in the area that partner with this event to help the local economy.
Despite temperatures dipping below -20F and some unexpected cancellations and reschedulings for Saturday, the spirits of the community and participants seemed to remain high. This non-profit event really offers something for all ages, from educational programs for kids, to curling, skating, geocaching, guided hikes, and of course good food and music to warm up indoors.
Be sure to head to Wanakena this weekend to check out the rescheduled events that will be happening, including “Find the Yeti” geocaching, ice bowling and the frying pan toss. You’ll surely be greeted with the warm company of locals and enjoy some good food and music.
Justin Dalaba and Jane Eifert