For skiers who prefer earning their turns away from resorts, few winter pleasures compare to overnighting in a backcountry hut. No traveling to the trailhead: Just open the front door.
In the Northeast hut options are limited, but hardly non-existent. David Goodman, author of Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast, considers the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Zealand Falls Hut the best option for hut-based ski touring in the region. With two nights booked between Christmas and New Year’s, my party of two hit the trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest.
Unfortunately, the Grinch stole Christmas for northeastern skiers, decimating our early-season snowpack with rain and warm temperatures. Over three days along the busy Zealand Winter Trails, we were the only group foolhardy enough to attempt a ski tour – everyone else sported hiking boots with traction aids and just-in-case snowshoes that they never used.
North River NY is our home away from home in the mountains. As the little sister of a more well-known ski town to the south, North Creek, it can be overlooked, but the ski culture runs deep.
The two towns are joined at the hip, and in many ways North River relies on North Creek for it’s very existence. But North River has a personality of it’s own.
Like North Creek, North River’s ski roots are nordic. Both towns have been kicking and gliding for decades. But while North Creek maintains big beautiful lift-served mountains, mechanical lifts have been silent in North River since the closure of Harvey Mountain in the 1970s.
Cascade concrete. Sierra cement. West Coast skiers have endearing nicknames for the moisture-laden snow that doesn’t ski like champagne powder but can come down in fountains.
While the northeast sees every imaginable kind of winter precipitation, our mountains tend to get icy before they get heavy. Not this past week. Now we’ve earned our own coinage: Adirondack Asphalt.
Winter Storm Damon was touch-and-go for much of the region as sleet, ice, freezing rain, and plain old rain foiled the hopes for a 100% snow event. Luckily, on our side of Lake Champlain, the Adirondack High Peaks stayed almost entirely snow to the tune of two feet.