Monday, February 21, 2011

Phil Brown: On Secret Ski Trails

Last month I “discovered” some wonderful backcountry ski trails in the Bog River region south of Tupper Lake. I liked them so much I wrote a story about them for the March/April issue of the Adirondack Explorer.

I feel guilty about that.

You see, the trails lack the imprimatur of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. They’re marked by homemade disks and signs. As a journalist, I had to ask the question: is this legal?

The answer is no. In fact, DEC might remove the signs as a result of my inquiry.

I feel guilty because some people put a lot of time into creating a recreational resource for everyone to enjoy. It must have been a labor of love. And now their work may be undone.

I need to emphasize that the trails do not appear to have been cut. Indeed, you can find descriptions of the routes (as hiking trails) in Discover the Northwestern Adirondacks. For the most part, the trails follow old woods roads in the Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest and Round Lake Wilderness. In a few places, they follow rough carry trails along the Bog River or Round Lake Stream.

In short, the environment wasn’t harmed. As a matter of fact, the trails could use a little cutting in places. With some professional work, one of the routes, the Round Lake Ski Trail, could become one of the better novice-intermediate ski trails in the region. Two of the other routes, the Bog River Ski Trail and the River to River Ski Trail, could be joined to form an interesting loop that crosses both the Bog River and Round Lake Stream.

I won’t condone illegal work on the Forest Preserve, but whoever marked these trails was onto something. If properly marked, maintained, and promoted, the trails would be another selling point for Tupper Lake. Not only would the trail improvements facilitate skiing and hiking, but they also would benefit paddlers on the two rivers.

First, though, DEC would need to adopt the trails. Second, given DEC’s staffing shortage, some volunteers might need to step forward to do the work (under the department’s supervision).

If Tupper Lake officials press DEC to adopt the trails, I’m betting that between the skiers and the paddlers, enough volunteers can be found to get the job done.

But should DEC adopt the trails? Click here to read the story and then tell us what you think.

Incidentally, the department would consider adopting the trails when it develops management plans for the Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest (in DEC Region 6) and Round Lake Wilderness (Region 5). You can e-mail comments to Region 6 at and to Region 5 at

Photo by Phil Brown: confluence of Round Lake Stream and Bog River.


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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

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