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

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.

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Mount Washington Season Finale

During the ski season I’ve said it often: “You don’t know ’til you go.” But last week — after Memorial Day and before the first heat wave of the summer season — wasn’t one of those times.

Mount-Washington

Not exactly. You see, I’d been watching the weather closely and was really optimistic about the skiing on Mount Washington. The Memorial Day snowfall closed the auto road on Saturday and reduced skier traffic in the ravine to those willing to come up via the trail. But snow conditions were only one part of my calculation.

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NY Ski Magazine: New Hampshire’s Whites

I’m a variety freak — someone who loves to mix it up and visit as many ski areas as possible, sometimes in pretty out-of-the-way places.  Still I had only made it up to northern New Hampshire’s White Mountain’s two times over the past 12 years. It wasn’t due to a lack of desire, but more a question of geography.

view of NH White Mountains

If New Yorkers are going to cross the Hudson for anything, the obvious choice is to head to Vermont, particularly the Big 5 in the northern Green Mountains: Jay, Stowe, Smugglers Notch, Sugarbush, and Mad River Glen. They get the most snow in the East and have what many would call the best terrain.

But after a whirlwind visit last March in which I hit all four ski areas in the Whites, there’s no question that the region deserves a closer look from Empire State skiers. Each of the mountains has a distinctive personality — Cannon is, as Harv called it, the quintessential “Man vs. Mountain” ski area; Attitash is a surprisingly interesting all-arounder; Wildcat offers truly classic New England terrain with value-added views of Mount Washington; and Bretton Woods is great for families.

Add to that cute New England towns, covered bridges, welcoming locals, stunning scenery, and fine food, and you have a destination region that’s worth an additional hour of drive time. Please read:

NY Ski Magazine’s
Wandering Skis: The White Mountains