Return to the Mountains: Back to the MAX

Since my fateful and educational collision with a tree at Stratton in early December, I watched my social media feeds with a mixture of jealousy and anticipation as the east got some good early season snow. Surely, I thought, Ullr’s bloodthirst was slaked due to my offering, and he was preparing the mountains for my return.

Then, right on schedule, came the January thaw. All of that glorious fluff gone thanks to two days of rain and near-60-degree weather. I began to dread the ice that would follow as I now fear ice in a way I hadn’t before. But as I kept an eye on the forecast and saw that some areas were due to get up to eight inches of fresh snow, I grew excited and decided to head up north for the first time in six weeks.

Continue reading

Mount Washington Season Ender

As the days of spring grow longer and the valleys turn green, east coast skiers are left with two options: ski the man-made glacier on Superstar at Killington, or head to the high alpine terrain of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire.

Great Gulf

My plan was to backpack into the Great Gulf, a huge cirque cut by glaciers on the northeast side of Mount Washington. From there I’d set up a base camp which would allow me to access the snow-filled gullies spilling off the flank of the northeast’s highest peak.

I shouldered a heavy pack, loaded with camping and ski gear. I chose a campsite about three miles in, with a spectacular view into the gulf, and the rushing waters of the Peabody River below. That night I slept to the soothing sounds of thunderstorms, knowing that they would give the gullies a nice overnight grooming.

Continue reading

Zealand Falls Hut, NH: A Hard Pack Tour

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.

Zealand-Notch-Morning

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.

Continue reading