Monday, March 25, 2013

Springtime Fun in the Snow

The last day of winter ended with about 13 inches of snow falling at my house with more in some surrounding areas.  This was the biggest snow we had this season.  The first part of March was on the warm side with much of the snow pack melting.  With the new snow I was eager to get back outside to do some snowsports.  Since last Wednesday I was able to get out four times.

Last Wednesday and today Puma and I snowshoed.  We have 20 acres of land that is mostly wooded and are surrounded by woods.  We have a couple of trails in the woods that where we start, then we explore the woods, making our own paths.  Both days we wandered for about an hour.  Wednesday was much tougher with fresh powdery snow.  The snow has melted quite a bit since then and was much more compressed making for easier going tonight.  It's nice to explore and see the untouched snow and woods.  We usually see some sort of animal tracks in the snow.  Tonight we saw coyote and snowshoe hare tracks.
Puma snowshoeing

On Saturday I headed to Big Moose Mountain (AKA Big Squaw Mtn) to snowshoe.  Big Moose is just outside Greenville, ME overlooking Moosehead Lake.  This mountain is about an hour from my house and takes in some beautiful views of the country surrounding the Moosehead Lake region.. It is the nearest hike with such views and I hike several times each year.  This trip I covered only about 5 miles round trip but it gains nearly 2000 feet to the summit.  The trail was unbroken since the snowfall.  About midmountain the snow cover was about 30 inches and the summit had some drifts well over 4 ft deep.  There is some fairly steep stretches making this trip quite a workout in the virgin snow.  On a clear day the summit views are far reaching.  Snow showers on the horizon obscured  the distant peaks. However, there was some nice views of Moosehead Lake which still looks very much like midwinter.  About half way to the summit there is a section that has lots of moose tracks and bedding sites.  I have yet to see a moose here in my many travels to the mountain despite the obvious moose traffic.
Moose Track in snow

Moose bedding spot in snow with some moose "nuggets"

Untouched snow high on Big Moose Mtn

Looking over Moosehead Lake from Big Moose 

On Sunday I headed to The Forks, ME.  There is a trail system called the Maine Huts and Trails that runs from The Forks to Sugarloaf.  The total trail system as of now is about 50 miles.  The trail is primarily a point to point trail so you can't make a loop out of it.  The J Man and I decided to cross country ski part of the trail starting in The Forks.  This section is quite hilly and not recommended for beginner skiers.  The trail travels roughly following the Dead River and is quite hilly.  Freezing temps in the morning made for some icy conditions.  However as the day warmed up the snow softened considerably making for some slow going.  With plenty of steep sections and snow conditions that were quite variable, we each had a few falls.  A fast icy pitch would hit a soft patch of snow causing some control problems.  I had less issues as the snow softened with the warmer temps.  We turned around at a set point covering just over 12 miles.  Some of the beginning stretches of trail were starting to get thin cover and bare spots  I would like to try skiing here in more consistent midwinter conditions some time. For info on Maine Huts and Trails see
Icy stretch of trail XC skiing

Downhill section of xc ski trail

Monday, March 18, 2013

Attitash and Wildcat Ski Trip

St Patrick's Day brought many ski deals throughout New England.  Some resorts were offering $17 lift tickets.  Attitash and Wildcat in New Hampshire were among these resorts.  Best of all the two resorts are 20 minutes apart and a lift ticket is good at both mountains and they are decent ski areas.  Since Puma was working all day I decided to make the trek to New Hampshire for the day to take advantage of the deal.
An early start got the J Man and me to Attitash just as the lifts started for the day.  Attitash is a fairly large ski area with 67 trails and a respectable 1750 foot vertical. There are two separate mountains to ski,  Attitash and Bear Peak.  Attitash is slightly higher with a little more vertical but both offered some nice groomed cruising runs. I wasn't sure what to expect since its elevation is rather low but I was pleasantly surprised.  Only two of its trails were roped.  They have a pretty extensive snow making system so the conditions were pretty good considering recent warm temps and rain.  Most of the trails were groomed and managed to stay in good shape through mid day.  The glades were pretty much bare and unskiable so I didn't hit them.  The day was consistent top to bottom skiing fast skiing on groomers.  The mountain never seemed to get icy despite cool temps below freezing.  The mountain was somewhat crowded given the nice clear day and $17 lift tickets but the wait in the lifts wasn't too terribly long.  For more info see

Shortly after noon we headed up to Wildcat.   I skied there before and it is a fum place to ski when the conditions are good.  It has 49 trails and over 2100 vertical feet of skiing.  The main lift is one of the fastest in the east taking you base to summit in about 6 minutes and every run takes in the 2100 feet of vertical.  The other impressive feature of Wildcat is the view.  Wildcat sits on the east side of Pinkham Notch directly across from Mt Washington and the Presidential Range.  The views are among the best from any ski area in the east.  

The recent warm up, rain, and lack of snow made for some icy conditions.  Windy conditions and morning skier traffic added to the iciness.  My skis are due for a tune up so I was having some difficulty navigating some of the ice.  There was a blowing snow falling with some cloudiness which made for decreased visibility making it difficult to see some of the ice.  With the blowing snow and clouds we missed out on that great view unfortunately. 

Despite the ice it was still fun making the fast top to bottom runs. We made nearly two hours worth of runs before calling it quits.  about 8 runs were closed due to poor cover, mostly black diamonds.  You can ski lots of vertical feet in a short time on some fast runs at Wildcat which is fun.  I recommend skiing it soon after a good snow to help avoid the ice.  In my opinion Wildcat isn't the most challenging ski area.  Many of the runs have a similar feel after a while.  The view and the ability to ski lap after lap with lots of vertical per run is Wildcat's strong suit. For more info see  I was pleased with the skiing for the day overall and having to pay only $17 for two ski area,  you just can't complain.
View of Mt Washington from Wildcat on a clearer day two years ago

View of Mt Adams and Madison from Wildcat on a clearer day two years ago

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ski Trip-Vermont & Quebec

I still had a few lift ticket vouchers to use so I made another trip to Vermont and Quebec.  I was hoping to go last weekend which was snowier but the stomach flu kept me home.  With rain and temps reaching the 50s in the forecast, I figured I was running out of ski season to use the tickets so I left Friday morning.

I got up at 230AM Friday morning and headed for Mad River Glen in Vermont 5 1/2 hours away.  I got there early of enough to get on the lifts when they opened at 9AM.  The previous three weeks Mad River Glen had about three feet of snow and claimed to have some of their best conditions of the year.  Early in the morning the colder temps made the snow tough but as it warmed up and cleared the snow softened making for some decent spring conditions.

Mad River Glen is something of an iconic ski area for several reasons.  It's known for its old school ski feel.  They depend on mostly all natural snow.  Their snow making system consists of a few mobile snow cannons and that's it.  Compared to most ski areas, their grooming is minimal, focusing on mostly just the beginner terrain and some of the intermediate terrain.  This leaves the trails with interesting snow and lots of moguls.  Mad River Glen has the only public single chair lift in North America.  Interestingly enough it is also one of the fastest fixed grip lifts taking skiers to the summit in about 10 minutes.  It's one of the few ski areas left that doesn't allow snowboards.  Mostly it's known for some of it's challenging terrain.  It has plenty of tight trails mixed with the trees making for some challenging runs.  It's signature trail Paradise has been listed as one of the most challenging trails in the US (debatable).

I skied from open to close breaking only for a short lunch.  The place definitely  had character and some challenging skiing.  I  For the most part even with a weak snow season, coverage was pretty good.  The 2000+ vertical make for some long tiring runs.  Some of the large bumps on even the intermediate runs made the day even more tiring, especially since I was awake since 230 AM.  Although Upper Paradise was closed, I made a run down Lower Paradise which bypasses the frozen waterfall.  It was a steep tight trail in the trees, definitely challenging.  I had a harder time with the neighboring trail Fall Line (I think I just picked a bad line).  I ended up skiing every open trail and glade and had a pretty good time. has more info.

I had reservations at the Subaru Motel  and slept in my car again at a hiking/cross country skiing trailhead about 15 minutes south of the Quebec border.  I slept here last trip in Vermont last month when skiing Jay Peak.  Near midnight I was awaken by flashing police lights and I though I was going to be told to move.  It ended up being a car accident and I was let alone.

The following morning I made my way 40 minutes north to Owls Head, Quebec.  Owls Head is located just north of the border and sits overlooking Lake Memphremagog.  Owls Head is a nice little gem.  It is perhaps  the most scenic ski area I have been to in the east.  The lake is about 30 miles long and the trails seem like you are skiing right into the lake.  The ski area is smaller than many of the ski areas in Quebec's Eastern Townships but big enough and has nice variety to make for some fun skiing.  There are 50 trails of all levels with 1750 feet of vertical.   I skied from 830 to just past 330. Again I skied every open trail and all of the glades.  It was a gorgeous blue bird day hitting maybe 40F without a cloud in the sky and it was relatively free of crowds.  For the most part the conditions were better  than Mad River Glen with better snow coverage. The other novelty skiing Owls Head is that it's in Quebec and you hear almost exclusively French.  The staff at the resort could speak English if necessary though.  The lift ticket prices are very reasonable too.  The weekend rate was only $49.  During the week it is only $20 on Tuesday and Wednesday.  has more info on the ski area.

I headed back into Vermont in the evening toward Burke Mountain.  I slept in the Subaru again about 15 minutes from the mountain and was at the resort ready to go when the lifts started spinning.  Burke is tucked away in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and lacks the sophistication of the big Vermont destination resorts.  It is strictly a ski area, not a resort.  It has a Saddleback vibe (see last post for Saddleback info).  It typically sees less crowds as a result.  The mountain has a good variety of terrain, quite a few glades, and over 2000 feet of vertical.  Burke had a rough winter with snow and despite being 100% open some of the trails were in rough shape.  On the natural snow trails there were lots of bare spots with rocks and ground poking through the snow.  The skiing on the groomed trails was nearly perfect though.  I hit nearly all of the open trails with the exception of a couple that were extra rocky and bare.  I skied a handful of glades which varied from poor to fair coverage.   The temps warmed up into the 40s quickly and the snow started to get quite slushy in some areas.  I skied a little past 1PM putting in a solid nonstop half day of skiing before heading back home.  has more info about Burke.  Puma's homemade soup was a good treat when I made it back home about 6PM Sunday evening.  With 50s and rain the next couple days, this might be my last skiing of the year downhill or cross country if there is no more significant snow.

Riding up the Single Chair at Mad River Glen

The Camels Hump from Fall Line at Mad River Glen

Looking toward Camels Hump on Antelope

Looking at Jay Peak from Owls Head

Skiing down Colorado toward Lake Memphremagog at Owls Head

Another view of the lake 

Upper Glade at Mad River Glen

Ponsoon Glade at Owls Head