Better late than never. I had wanted to ski the Irishtown Trail on St. Patrick’s Day because, well, it just seemed appropriate. But as Robert Burns observed, the best laid schemes of mice and men don’t always go as planned. My trip was postponed by a few days, but the delay was a blessing in disguise, since the trail was now topped by a few inches of fresh dry powder from a post-St. Patty’s snow shower.
Starting on Route 28N, the trail traverses Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest for six miles, passing several ponds, and terminating at Irishtown. My goal, though, was to turn around at Stony Pond, a four-mile round trip that climbs about 700 feet. Beyond the pond, the trail is frequented by snowmobilers who access it from Irishtown, and skiers are advised not to compete with them for the trail. For a longer trip, a better option is to ski on the frozen surface of Stony Pond, circumnavigating its shoreline.
Leaving the parking lot, the narrow trail winds through the usual suspects of birch, beech and maple, rolling up and down on a gradual ascent to the pond. The trail had been packed out by previous skiers and snowshoe hikers, providing a firm base under the recent dusting, but the undisturbed snow off the trail was two feet deep. I decided to take a short detour, leaving the trail to explore a frozen beaver pond, but quickly changed my mind when I realized the depth of the snow. Skiing through knee-deep powder looks like fun in the magazine ads, but experienced skiers know that it’s exhausting.
The trail traverses Stony Pond Brook, crossing it on the top of a beaver dam. At the dam, I thought I saw a beaver foraging in the snow, but as he posed for a photo, I realized that it was a muskrat. Reaching the pond, I sat on the picnic table having a leisurely lunch. In a few months, wildflowers on the shoreline will frame the cobalt blue surface of the water, but today the view was of wind sculpted snowdrifts that resembled white sand dunes.
When lunch was done, I reluctantly headed back to my car, skiing faster than I had come because the trail was now broken out. Traveling fast and alone, it took me only 90 minutes of skiing to complete the trip to the pond and back, but less-skilled skiers or those traveling in a group will require more time.
As with all backcountry ski trips, the level of difficulty is dependent on snow conditions, so use your own experience and judgment. Still, the terrain is fairly easy, comparable to an intermediate trail at a cross-country ski resort. If you’re a novice backcountry skier looking for a step up from golf courses and logging roads, give it a try.
To get to the trailhead, go four miles north of Minerva on Rt 28N. Look for a small turnout on the side of the road, marked by a trail sign. Bring a map.