CUE THE NOSTALGIA
TUPPER’S REVIVAL STIRS WARM MEMORIES FOR TWO OF ITS MOST FAMOUS SLOPE RATS.
destinations Ski-film careers took Robb and Scott Gaffney to some of the most spectacular places in the world. But if you want to see that faraway look in their eyes, ask them about Big Tupper, the humble slopes of their Adirondack childhood in Tupper Lake, New York.
Robb: “You’d just see these packs of kids skiing around. We all had the hair and the mirrored sunglasses. Journey would be playing on the lodge speakers.”
Scott: “We were all over that place with shovels, building jumps wherever we wanted. There was just a real relaxed attitude.”
So much has been written about the demise of town hills. Now there are signs that nostalgic skiers, maybe old enough to have kids of their own, are rallying to reverse the trend, especially in the East, where at least six formerly defunct town hills are in various stages of resurrection.
Like so many little hills in the age of resort conglomeration, Tupper failed in the late ’90s. A decade later, volunteers revived it, and developers have obtained permits to build a massive resort comprising the ski area, a new marina on adjacent Tupper Lake, private homes, and a 40-unit inn—some 350 structures in all. Adirondack environmental activists and the Sierra Club have challenged and delayed the project, but the developers are confident they’ll have a favorable ruling by spring. Meanwhile, after taking a season off, volunteers again plan to operate Tupper this winter.
The Gaffneys have vivid Big Tupper memories: Kangaroo Jump, Mouse Trail, hiking for illicit powder turns when the summit lift was closed, the time Robb bashed his teeth in. (Scott: “Blood everywhere. The nerves were, like, dangling out of his teeth.”)
Both hope future Big Tupper shredders have the same opportunity they did as kids. “I was back there with my son [Noah] a couple summers ago,” says Robb. “He’s pretty spoiled from skiing Squaw all the time. But he got the vibe—I guess he felt it through me—and he definitely wanted to come back and ski it someday.”
Both remember early tangles with the T-bar. About halfway up, somewhere around Tower 7, underweight tykes trying to ride it alone would be lifted off the snow. Making it to the top was a rite of passage.
“It would be so great to go back and ski it again,” Scott adds wistfully. “Lots of good memories.”
List Get your warm fuzzies for community skiing at Cochran’s (Richmond, Vermont), Lyndon (Vermont) Outing Club, Camden (Maine) Snow Bowl. All are alive and ripping.
The skiing Gaffneys at Big Tupper. It may look idyllic, but Scott remembers his patroller/doctor
dad leaving him alone on the hill with a tib-fib fracture. (Dad was fetching
a sled, of course.)