This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.
Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.
The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.
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? » Continue Reading.
When we needed to do an early-season ski tour for the Adirondack Explorer, we opted for the Hays Brook Truck Trail north of Paul Smiths, which needs only about six inches of snow to be skiable.
On December 7, four of us from the office spent a good part of the day gliding through fresh, fluffy powder on our way to the Sheep Meadow at the end of the truck trail and to Grass Pond via a side trail.
With snow adorning the tall pines, the forest was serene and beautiful, and we had a wonderful time. I’ll post a link to the story when it’s available online. Apart from two fairly steep hills, the truck trail traverses gentle terrain suitable for novice skiers. It’s a fun outing anytime in winter.
The biggest difficulty we faced was getting past two nasty pieces of blowdown about three miles from the trailhead. In one case, we thrashed through the woods to get around a large tree fallen across the trail.
Blowdown is something skiers and hikers put up with in the Adirondacks. It’s not a huge deal. Still, when I skied to the Sheep Meadow again with my daughter the day after Christmas, I was glad to discover that someone had cut through the blowdown with a chain saw. Hat’s off to whoever did it.
As we continued down the trail, it occurred to me that the doer of this good deed would have broken the law if the blowdown had been in a Wilderness Area instead of a Wild Forest Area. (The Hays Brook Truck Trail lies within the Debar Mountain Wild Forest.) Generally, the state Department of Environmental Conservation forbids the use of chain saws in Wilderness Areas except from April 1 to May 24. DEC can grant permission to use them from September 15 to April 1 as well, but this is not usually granted for routine blowdown such as we encountered on the Hays Brook Truck Trail.
I understand the rationale. A Wilderness Area is supposed to approximate nature in its primeval state. No motor vehicles, no snowmobiles, no bicycles, no motorized equipment.
As much as I support this management objective, I couldn’t help wondering what harm would have resulted if someone had cut through this blowdown even if it had been in a Wilderness Area. If the job were undertaken on a weekday, it’s possible that no one would have been around to hear the chain saw other than the person running the saw. In any case, the short interruption of natural serenity would serve the greater good. Although a few people who happened to be nearby might be bothered briefly by the noise, skiers would benefit all winter from the clearing of the trail.
I am not suggesting that forest rangers and others be allowed to use chain saws in Wilderness Areas anytime and anywhere. I do wonder if the regulations should be loosened somewhat to permit more clearing of trails before and during the ski season. I don’t have a specific proposal. I’m not even sure the regulations should be loosened. I’m just throwing out the idea for discussion.
The Wild Center and Big Tupper Ski Area are partnering again to offer skiers a great day on and off the slopes for just 15 bucks.
From opening day at Big Tupper (scheduled for this Friday December 17th) until Sunday, March 27th people who purchase either a ticket to The Wild Center or a day pass to ski at Big Tupper will get a pass to the other venue for free. Both the ski mountain and the Center have adult tickets priced at $15, and the free ticket can be redeemed for up to two weeks from when they are issued. You can buy a museum ticket one day, and hold off on the skiing until the next dump of snow or vice versa. Tickets are non-transferable. This is the second season that Big Tupper will open with support from the community. Big Tupper is opening a new chairlift to the top of the mountain that will run on Saturdays and Sundays, giving skiers and riders 1,200 feet of vertical. The Wild Center opened in 2006. It’s filled with live exhibits on the nature of the Adirondacks and has received rave reviews from The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today.
Both the mountain and the Center are open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays all winter. The Wild Center offers Wild Winter Weekends, with a full slate of indoor and outdoor activities and presentations. The museum website hosts an outdoor webcam that shows local snow conditions.
“The community is coming together to make Tupper Lake the place to be this winter,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe, Executive Director of The Wild Center. “It is so exciting to have two great things, so close to each other, for families to do this winter. Where else can you spend the morning on the slopes and then warm up with hot chocolate and an otter program in the afternoon. The best part is that it doesn’t break the bank.”
“Last year was so inspiring on so many levels for us,” said Jim LaValley of Ski Big Tupper. “So many people said it couldn’t be done, but we did it. The same was said before The Wild Center was built, and here it stands today. It just goes to show when people work together, anything can be achieved. We are thrilled to be working with The Wild Center again this winter.”
Last week I had the opportunity to interview Olavi Hirvonen and his wife Ann, who own and operate the Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center in Benson, near Northville. Olavi competed in the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympic Games as a member of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team., and in 1978 he founded Lapland Lake, which he and Ann have built into one of the East’s foremost cross country ski centers.
Jeff: What events led to you being selected for the U.S. Olympic Nordic Ski Team in 1960? Olavi: Well, it’s a long story… I was born in Montreal and was brought to Finland when I was eight months old. I was raised there by my grandmother and learned to ski as a youngster. I came to this country in 1949 after serving in the Finnish Army. After being here a couple years and married for a few months, I received greetings from the U.S. Army with special orders to go to Alaska as an instructor in the Arctic Indoctrination School. In the wintertime I taught skiing, snowshoeing, and Arctic survival, and in the summer it was mountain climbing, rock climbing, glacier travel.
Jeff: Alaska must have been an incredible place in the 1950s.
Olavi: I liked Alaska, yes. Good fishing and good hunting, and lots of lingonberries in the woods! [lingonberries are a Scandinavian food staple].
Jeff: Your service in the Army led to you being selected for the U.S. Olympic Ski Team?
Olavi: After the Army I had a ski lodge in Vermont that I was leasing. I had an invitation to go to the U.S. Olympic training camp in Colorado, but we were adding on to the ski lodge in ’59 and early ’60, and I couldn’t take the time to go because of all the work that I needed to do at home. So I trained by myself, until a week before the tryouts, and then I went out to meet up with the team in Winter Park, Colorado, which is at 10,000 feet. I had headaches night and day and didn’t do very well at all. On the fifth day, at a race in Aspen before the tryouts, I came in 26th and I thought I’ll never make it. The day after that we drove up to Steamboat Springs, and I went out to check the course for the first race of the tryouts. All of a sudden I felt like somebody turned the power switch on, like my old self. I came in second in the tryouts.
Olavi: Well, there’s more to the story. Because I hadn’t been trained by the Olympic coaches I was something of a black sheep. I didn’t get to race my best distance, the 30K, which was the first race. I found out the night before the race, and I was very disappointed. Instead I raced in the 15K and the 50K.
Jeff: Which event did you do better in?
Olavi: Well, the 50K, but I had never skied 50K in my life. I didn’t medal, but I ended up being the second US finisher, after breaking my ski. I had to ski on a single ski for more than a mile. I got a ski from a spectator and finished the race. That happened in the first 10K.
Jeff: That’s an incredible story, how did that happen?
Olavi: I stepped out of the track to make way for a Finnish competitor and that’s when I broke my ski. That was Veikko Hakulinen, and he won the silver medal. We became good friends after the Olympics. In the 40K team relay, he came from 20 seconds behind in the last leg to win the gold medal by just one meter. [Veikko Hakulinen was the only athlete at the Squaw Valley games to win three medals. The third medal was in the 15K].
Jeff: And what led you to eventually found Lapland Lake?
Olavi: We were living in Vermont in the 1960s and 1970s, and I had seen Trapp Family Lodge, the first cross country ski center in the United States. My late son worked there as an instructor in the 1970s, and it had been in my mind since the Olympics to one day start something like that.
In 1977 I had built two houses, one that we were living in and one that I was still finishing, and they were both for sale. I thought one of them might sell, but they both did, and so in the spring of 1978 we were homeless and we headed out. My plan was to head into upstate New York, but farther north than here. Driving north on Route 30, I saw the sign for Benson and I thought “I have to make that left.” It was like a magnet, I had not planned to come here. Eventually we found this place. It had cabins, lots of land and a lake, and it was for sale.
When we finally made the deal to buy the property, the lady who sold the property to us, the former owner, wanted to take us out to dinner. On the way to the restaurant she asked me what sports my late son had been involved in [Olavi lost his son Esa in an accident in 1977]. I said biathlon and cross-country skiing, and she said her nephew was on the U.S. biathlon team. So I asked her what’s his name, and she said John Hall. Well, I could hardly believe it because John Hall had been my son’s good buddy in college. That connection must have been the magnet that pulled me here.
Jeff: What were the early years like? Did you operate Lapland Lake as both a touring center and a vacation resort right from the start?
Olavi: Originally, this place was a farm. The lodge was a barn, for cows. In the 1930s, the owner put up some summer cottages but they weren’t winterized. We closed on the property August 3, 1978 and we had the first ski race December 15. There wasn’t much time to work on the trails that first year. We had to jack up all the cottages and put in foundations. I got a backhoe and I dug all of the water lines underground. We worked round the clock to get the place ready.
Jeff: Last year was a really tough year for snow. How did you do?
Ann: We average 117 days of skiing and over 11 feet of snow per year. Last year was our lowest snow year ever (80 inches), but we had over 100 days of skiing. We worked the snow and we were lucky with what we got.
Jeff: How much snow do you need to open?
Olavi: Well it depends on what type of snow. The best is a wet snow, and then cold after that. We can ski with just 2 inches on the lake trail. But six inches of wet snow lets us open just about everything.
Jeff: What’s involved in the trail grooming?
Olavi: At this time of year before the snow comes there’s clearing limbs and trees that have come down, and clearing drainage pipes. In the summer we mow the trails. It’s continuous maintenance. In the winter we groom every day. I’ve got a new 2010 Prinoth Husky Snowcat groomer, I think it’s our fourth snowcat groomer, plus a couple snowmobiles.
Jeff: Do you do all the grooming yourself?
Olavi: Yes, I still do. I have a young man who just started who I hope I can get to groom with the snowmobile, so at least I’ll have a backup if I get sick or hurt. It depends how good he is.
Jeff: How has the grooming evolved?
Olavi: When we first started I just had a snowmobile and track sled. We used mattress springs to break up the snow if it got hard or there was freezing rain. The trails were narrow, and groomed with tracks for classic skiing. Then people started skating, and I complained that people were destroying my tracks. So I widened the trails, bought our first snowcat, and started grooming for both skating and classic. Jeff: Has anyone taken you up on your “Groomer’s Challenge?”
Ann [explaining to Olavi, who apparently hasn’t seen this on the website]: That’s online. We checked with the Cross Country Ski Association, and we don’t think there’s anyone who has more hours of grooming experience than Olavi in North America. One gentleman said he had been grooming as many years, but he was from downstate where the seasons are short. So in terms of total number of days grooming, we haven’t heard of anyone who’s got the depth of experience that Olavi has. It’s been on the website for three years now.
Jeff: The grooming and the design of the trail network seem to have given Lapland Lake the reputation of being a skier’s ski center.
Olavi: From the start I had the idea of making the trails all one-way loops, other than some connecting trails. We have a limited amount of acreage, and I wanted to get as many kilometers of trail as possible and take advantage of the natural terrain. We also get lots of beginners. We have a great ski school and we do a lot of lessons.
Jeff: Olavi, do you still ski?
Olavi: I don’t ski much anymore. I work days, and usually when I do ski it’s in the evening with lights on the Lake Trail or the easier trails with a headlamp. But I find my balance is nothing like what it used to be. I’ll be 80 on December 26. You know your limitations.
Jeff: A number of cross country ski areas have installed snowmaking: Trapp, Mountain Top, and others. Is that something you’d consider here?
Olavi: No, I think it’s too much of an expense to be worth it for us, it wouldn’t pay. So far we’ve been very lucky with our natural snowfall.
Jeff: Where do your customers come from?
Olavi: We get day skiers from the Capital District, Johnstown and Amsterdam, even Kingston and New Paltz. Overnight guests from Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio. We get lots of Canadians and Europeans. About 65% of our skiers are experienced skiers. We get racers early in the season, but later they travel to races. We also have a great volunteer Ski Patrol.
Ann: On weekends we’ll have 300 to 400 skiers. We hit 1,000 once, but it was just too many: people were elbow-to-elbow in the ski shop.
Jeff: How does this winter look?
Ann: Our reservations and our season passes are up. People seem to feel more comfortable spending money.
Jeff: Do you think a ski center can exist on its own as a viable business, or does it need to be paired with an inn or lodging business to be successful?
Olavi: I think it works best with lodging. It gives you something to fall back on, something for the summertime. And lodging in the winter without the skiing doesn’t do very well either. You have to have that combination.
Jeff: One thing that has always stood out is your website and the way you communicate with skiers.
Olavi: That’s Ann. When we met she was a PR person at Ellis Hospital. She doesn’t want to miss a ski report, and quite often she’ll update it more than once during the day. I’ll give her a report while I’m grooming. We try our best to be honest, but sometimes you still get it wrong.
Ann: At the time, I thought I was taking a big gamble spending money on the website, but it’s really paid off.
Jeff: How do you two share the work: the ski trails, the retail shop, the cottages and the restaurant?
Olavi: Ann is really the manager, and I do most of the outside work, the trails. In the winter, after the trail grooming, I come in and work in the ski shop selling skis and doing repairs. Ann gives me a to-do list.
Ann: Olavi may say I am the manager, but he’s really the heart and soul of the operation. He puts so much of himself into the trails and the grooming… Olavi says “I groom it the way I want to ski it.”
Jeff: Thanks very much Ann and Olavi for your time, and congratulations on your continued success with Lapland Lake. Olavi, congratulations on your upcoming birthday, and your Olympic anniversary. Kudos!
Photo of Olavi and Ann courtesy the Finland Center Foundation.
Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.
Please join me in welcoming Jeff Farbaniec as the newest contributor here at the Adirondack Almanack. Jeff is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures. This winter, Jeff’s emphasis will be on the ski sports – everything and anything related to Adirondack skiing.
His first piece for the Almanack runs at noon today, an interview with Olavi and Ann Hirvonen founders of the Lapland Lake ski touring center in Benson (near Northville). Olavi is a former Olympian (1960 Squaw Valley) and at age 80, may be the most experienced groomer in the country. For now, check out Jeff’s blog. He recently took a look at the pre-season ski movie ritual, took the snowmaking media tour at Whiteface, and spent opening weekend at Gore.
Jeff Farbaniec lives in Wilton, just south of the Blue Line in Saratoga County, with his wife and their 2 young children.
I got back from a long holiday weekend Sunday night to find a few inches of snow in my driveway in Saranac Lake. It won’t be long before the cross-country-ski season begins in earnest.
So far, I have been out only once—on the Whiteface highway, the traditional first ski of the season in the Adirondacks. The highway needs only a few inches of snow to be skiable.
A few years ago, the Adirondack Explorer published an article by Tony Goodwin—the author of Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks — on other places to ski that don’t require a lot of snow. He came up with ten early – season suggestions in addition to the Whiteface road. Click here to read Tony’s story. You’ll find some other old favorites, such as the road to Camp Santanoni, as well as lesser-known destinations, such as Bum Pond in the Whitney Wilderness.
If you have other ideas for early-season ski trips, let us know.
And if you’re planning ahead for trips later in the season, bookmark this site. I’ll be adding links to more ski trips as they become available.
Photo by Phil Brown: A skier on Whiteface Memorial Highway.
At a recent public hearing in Keene, more than a dozen people spoke in favor of keeping the fire tower on Hurricane Mountain. Several others spoke in favor of keeping the lean-to along Gulf Brook. And one person spoke in favor of improving trails for backcountry skiing.
That would be Ron Konowitz.
Konowitz, a Keene schoolteacher, has long been one of the region’s most passionate and adventurous backcountry skiers. He is the only person to have skied all forty-six of the High Peaks. In a typical year, he skis more than 150 days. Whenever I ski with Ron, he fills my ear with complaints about how backcountry skiers are getting a raw deal in the Adirondacks. I heard them again one afternoon last weekend when we skied the first five miles of the Mount Marcy trail from Adirondak Loj.
Since I’m a backcountry skier, you might say I’m biased, but I think he has a point.
One problem is that the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan—the document that guides management of the Forest Preserve—fails to recognize Ron’s sport. This is not surprising, because few people pursued this sport back in the early 1970s, when the plan was written.
I’m referring to down-mountain backcountry skiing—climbing and descending a peak, slide path, or steep glade.
The State Land Master Plan does recognize ski touring, or cross-country skiing, but this isn’t the same thing. The plan requires that cross-country trails must have “the same dimensions and character” as foot trails. Generally, skiers are sharing hiking trails, but in any case, a ski or foot trail is supposed to be only six feet wide. That’s okay if you’re skiing over gently rolling terrain, but for safety’s sake you need more room to make turns and control your speed when descending steep slopes. That’s just common sense.
Down-mountain skiing in the backcountry has grown greatly in popularity over the past twenty years, thanks to improvements in backcountry equipment: wider, shaped skis, plastic boots, and beefier bindings. At the same time, snowshoeing also has grown in popularity. So we now have more skiers and more winter hikers sharing the same narrow trails.
One solution would be to widen, only where necessary, those trails commonly used by down-mountain skiers. This is not a new idea: a 1952 state brochure titled “Lake Placid Trails” notes that “in 1936 the original Van Hoevenberg Trail was conditioned for skiing.” This was in the era before lift-service resorts lured skiers out of the woods. Over the decades, the trail has been allowed to grow back in to its current dimensions.
As Ron and I ascended the Van Hoevenberg Trail along Phelps Brook the other day, he pointed out the older trees off to the sides that once marked the boundaries of the trail. Clearly, the older trail was several feet wider.
What’s more, Ron said this section of trail was once reserved for skiing. Since the 1970s, it has been used by hikers as well and has been eroded as a result of heavy foot traffic in summer. A similar thing happened to the old Wright Peak Ski Trail. Hikers once used a different trail, but when that trail became eroded, DEC closed it and moved hikers to the lower section of the ski trail. Since then, this part of the ski trail has become eroded and grown in. Skiers now dodge rocks, trees, and snowshoers on the descent.
In an earlier post, I noted that Tony Goodwin of the Adirondack Ski Touring Council has proposed an easy fix for the Wright situation: reopening the old hiking trail as a ski trail, deploying volunteer labor. It shouldn’t cost the state a dime, but DEC isn’t interested. Nor does DEC seem inclined to widen trails to accommodate down-mountain skiers.
In contrast, DEC spent a great deal of time and money on writing new guidelines for snowmobile trails in response to complaints from the snowmobiling community. The guidelines were approved by the Adirondack Park Agency last year.
Like ski trails, snowmobile trails are required by the State Land Master Plan to retain the character of a foot trail. Yet DEC’s new guidelines allow snowmobile trails to be up to twelve feet wide in places.
Proponents say the snowmobile guidelines are needed for safety. They note that snowmobiling has changed: today’s snow sleds are bigger and faster than those of yesteryear.
Well, backcountry skiing has changed, too. We need to talk about that.
Photo by Phil Brown: Ron Konowitz at Indian Falls. Video taken along Phelps Brook.
Every year I skin up and ski down this mountain, at 5,344 feet the highest in the state. Sometimes twice. The 14-mile route is considered by many to be one of the finest backcountry tours on the East Coast.
All these trips, and I still can’t help feeling on the way down that I’m about to die. Mind you, my ski gear has improved significantly from the first time nearly 20 years ago, when I used cross-country skis and boots so floppy that when I sat down and held my legs out in front of me the skis ticked back and forth like a metronome.
Today, I use telemark skis and plastic boots. I wear safety goggles. But I still can’t shake the feeling that around every curve is sure to be a fatal collision with a blue spruce tree or an overweight snowshoer.
Fear is my undoing, because it’s not my terrible skiing that turns a ski down Mt. Marcy to a fall down Mt. Marcy. It’s the speed, which makes me want to stop, which then causes me to fall. The only good side of this is that there’s not a chairlift in sight, so at least no one’s watching.
Marcy, being New York’s highest mountain, has always attracted visitors. And the extra bonus is that the trail was made for skiing. Unfortunately, it was made for skiers who clearly don’t mind shooting pell-mell down a tobaggan-run of a trail so curvy you never know what’s 20 feet ahead until you’ve risked becoming intimately acquainted with it.
I’ve always been envious of those who can ski down this trail with grace and poise. A few years ago, I was doing my usual ass-over-teakettle descent when I passed Tony Goodwin, the local trail guru. He was calmly and methodically descending the mountain on his old leather boots and cross-country skis, carving out a perfect snowplow in the spring powder as I blundered by. How did he do it?
I’ve had some good descents, generally dependent on snow conditions. Powder slows you down a lot, and makes turning easier, as does wet spring snow. During my most recent descent, with Adirondack Explorer Editor Phil Brown, the snow was powdery but also quite fast. Phil fell once. I lost track of the times that I threw my hurling body to the ground. But I made it down unpunctured by errant tree branch and uncontusioned by face plants.
The record for descent from peak to trailhead, as I understand it, is about 43 minutes. That’s by local skimeister Pat Munn of the famed Ski to Die Club, who was accompanied by his dog Otis. The time includes the few minutes he used to chat with friends at Marcy Dam. Doubtless he stayed upright the entire time. My descent time was more like two hours, though Phil and I did stop to take pictures (and a video, which you can see here).
Why do I keep coming back? Mt. Marcy is the consummate backcountry ski experience: a long skin up, a treeless summit (sometimes with a bowl filled with powder just below the top) and 3,000 feet of vertical drop that is — well, no matter what your skill level — never boring.
You push your way up, with each step the view growing more and more impressive. And then, on a perfect day, the top is bathed in sunshine; the summit cone standing out like a tower amid the stunted forest below treeline; the High Peak’s most rugged peaks are your closest neighbors.
At the top, you fuel up on food and water, rip off your skins and prepare for the long descent. In Phil’s case, he brought a ski helmet. I just wore my fear. And some safety glasses.
Still, for all my sloppy schussing, I’ll keep coming back. The effort, the view (or the white-out, as was the case this year), and that exhausted feeling of satisfaction at the end makes it all worth it.
And the knowledge that with every trip I’m learning. Some day, I know, I’ll ski it clean.
* * * Interested in skiing Marcy? Park at Adirondack Loj near Lake Placid (fee), and plan for five to seven hours for the round-trip. Backcountry ski gear is available for rent at The Mountaineer in Keene Valley and EMS in Lake Placid. The Visitor’s Center at the Loj parking lot also rents ski gear, but most skiers may find the equipment more suited to lower-angle trails than the steep slopes on Marcy. Remember not to go too fast!
The Adirondack Almanack is pleased to have the unique opportunity to present the first-hand experience of Ian Measeck of Glens Falls, who along with Jamie McNeill of Vergennes, Vermont was caught in an avalanche on Angel Slide, Wright Peak on February 27th. The potentially deadly avalanche occurred just a month after Phil Brown wrote A Short History of Adirondack Avalanches. Phil reported a week ago that Angel Slide was still unsafe.
This coming weekend (March 6th and 7th) The Mountaineer in Keene Valley will be hosting the 8th Annual Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival. Although most of the clinics have been filled, there are still two openings in the Karhu Traverse (Tahawus to Adirondack Loj).
On Saturday there will free demos and mini clinics at Otis Mountain in Elizabethtown from 10am-3pm. Reps from Black Diamond, Dynafit, G3, Garmont and Scarpa will be there to outfit you with the latest in backcountry ski equipment to test out. Local legend Ron Konowitz will offer free telemark turn clinics at 11am and 1pm, with a skinning clinic at noon. There will also be an avalanche transceiver clinic sponsored by Mammut at 2pm (Mammut’s beacon park will be available all day for those who want to practice beacon searches on their own).
On Saturday evening at 7:30 Backcountry Magazine will be hosting a backcountry ski movie night at The Mountaineer. “The Freeheel Life” is a telemark ski movie by John Madsen, and “Fine Line,” an avalanche film by Rocky Mountain Sherpas. The fee is $10 at the door, and the running time is about 2 hours.
A few weeks ago, I posted a video of my ski descent from Avalanche Pass. In the post, I mentioned that I had taken several short clips of my ski tour to Avalanche Lake and planned to piece them together to make a movie. Well, I’ve done that. It’s eight minutes long, including the descent posted earlier, and features such scenic highlights as Marcy Dam, the slide on Little Colden, the rock walls of the pass, the Trap Dyke, and of course the lake itself. You can watch the movie on my Adirondack Explorer blog.
The tour from Adirondak Loj to Avalanche Lake in the High Peaks Wilderness may be the best day trip for intermediate skiers in the Adirondacks. Both the scenery and skiing are superb.
The scenic highlight is Avalanche Lake, a sliver of frozen water walled in by the cliffs on Mount Colden and Avalanche Mountain. This iconic Adirondack landscape is stunning in any season, but skiing across the ice offers a perspective impossible to obtain in summer.
The skiing highlight is a half-mile downhill on the return from Avalanche Pass on one of the few trails in the High Peaks designed for skiing. How hard is the descent? That’s a question asked by probably every skier contemplating the trip for the first time. Of course, the answer depends on conditions, but you can get some idea of what’s involved by watching a video I made this past weekend. I strapped a point-and-shoot camera to my chest before making the descent.
Note: I pretty much pointed my skis straight down the trail. Others may prefer to check their speed by making more turns or stemming their skis.
Mine isn’t the only YouTube video on Adirondack backcountry skiing. Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides has posted two lengthy clips, with music. One was taken on the Whale’s Tail and Wright Peak ski trails during the 2008 Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival. The other is from the Angel Slides on Wright Peak. Their links follow.
One of my favorite winter trips is what one might call “extreme cross-country skiing.” That is, skiing on routes that aren’t generally considered by the cross-country community. Routes you won’t find in Tony Goodwin’s Classic Adirondack Ski Tours.
Some of these routes are long and committing. Others require the use of snowshoes or skins (unless you’re a member of the Ski-To-Die Club, a group of locals who took extreme skiing to a new height by taking wooden cross-country skis in the 1970s down mountain descents that would give most people on modern alpine gear pause). » Continue Reading.
You can see the Angel Slides from Marcy Dam: two adjoining bedrock scars—one wide, one thin—on the southeastern slopes of Wright Peak. They are a well-known destination for expert backcountry skiers.
The slides got their nickname following the death of Toma Vracarich. Ten years ago this month, Vracarich and three other skiers were caught in an avalanche on the wider slide. Vracarich died under the snow. He was twenty-seven. The other skiers were injured.
It remains the only avalanche fatality in the Adirondacks, but it put people on notice that the avalanche risk here is real. » Continue Reading.
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