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.
I recently read Bill McKibben’s book about cross-country-ski racing and wrote the following review, which will appear in the next issue of the Adirondack Explorer.
Several years ago, we asked Bill McKibben to ski the entire Jackrabbit Trail in a single day and write about it. Saranac Lake to Keene. That’s twenty-four miles, but that wasn’t enough for McKibben.
When he turned his story in, I learned he started instead at Paul Smith’s, where there is an orphan piece of the Jackrabbit. By following this trail and then a railroad bed, he was able to make it to Saranac Lake and add ten or eleven miles to the trek. Why extend an already-lengthy trip by slogging along a boring railroad track? I thought Bill must be a bit nuts, but now that I’ve read Long Distance, I understand what motivates him.
Long Distancechronicles McKibben’s yearlong quest to become the best Nordic ski racer he could. He trained like a pro, working out for hours each day, and competed on three continents. Originally published in 2000, the book was reissued in paperback by Rodale this past fall.
Early on, McKibben visits the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid to undergo a series of unpleasant tests involving a treadmill, a snorkel-like device, and numerous blood-lettings to ascertain his VO2 Max—a measurement of how efficiently his body uses oxygen. The tests reveal he has a higher-than-average VO2 Max, but it’s still far below that of elite athletes. And no amount of training will change that. The upper limit of his VO2 Max and thus of his competitive potential are determined by genetics.
It is not McKibben’s destiny to become a champion. Nevertheless, he diligently puts in six hundred hours of training over the year, all to prepare for a grand total of maybe twelve hours of racing. In one event in Lake Placid, he manages to come in first in his age group, but usually he’s closer to the middle of the pack.
What’s the payoff then? McKibben describes the “absolute immersion in the present” that he feels during a fifty-kilometer race in Ottawa, when all the cares of modern life fall by the wayside. “Everything really had come together for a moment,” he writes. “Or perhaps a better way to say it is that everything had disappeared.”
McKibben, of course, is best known as an environmental writer, the guy who sounded the alarm about global warming in The End of Nature and who founded a worldwide movement to try to get politicians to do something about it. When I saw him speak a few months ago in Saranac Lake, he struck me as an Old Testament prophet with a sense of humor.
Long Distance reveals the private side of the public intellectual. Despite all his accomplishments—as a Harvard graduate, staff writer for the New Yorker, best-selling author, and global activist—McKibben still longs to be what so many males long to be: an athlete. Growing up, he felt like a wimp, because he wasn’t much good at basketball, hockey, baseball, or the other crucibles of boyhood. He writes that “gym became a recurring bad dream, highlighted each year by the President’s Physical Fitness Test, when I got to prove to myself that I still couldn’t do a pull-up.”
He feared he didn’t measure up to his athletic father, who went out for baseball and climbed mountains in his youth. Bill gravitated toward intellectual pursuits. While still in high school, he covered the school’s basketball team for the local paper. His father picked him up after the games. “He was proud of me, I knew, but I think some part of me always wondered if he’d have been prouder had I been out on the court myself,” he writes.
Part way through his training year, McKibben receives word that his father has a malignant brain tumor. He spends the next several months shuttling between Vermont, where he lives, and Boston, where his father is dying. He continues to exercise and ski, when possible, but the ordeal of watching his father deteriorate, physically and mentally, puts cross-country skiing into perspective. Training for a race becomes a metaphor for training for life. Our real tests are the difficulties thrown in our path—depression, illness, the demands of human relationships.
“The most profound test, of course, is the last one, dealing with your death,” he says. “But if you’ve done the training, the race will take care of itself—or so it seemed, watching Dad.”
After his father’s death, McKibben travels to Norway with his wife, Sue, and their daughter, Sophie, to enter one last competition, the Birkebeiner, a grueling fifty-eight-kilometer race that attracts several thousand serious skiers each year. He’s happy to finish in the middle of his age group.
“The next morning dawned clear and cold, so Sue and Sophie and I went for another ski,” he says. “For the first time in a long time, it meant nothing at all, and that was nice, too.”
Don’t expect to find lots of tips about wax, poling technique, and such in Long Distance. You’ll learn more about life than about skiing.
Click here to see a video of a downhill run on the Jackrabbit Trail.
Supporters of the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) efforts on behalf of New York snow sport athletes will be hitting the Mountain Course at the Lake Placid Club for the 12th Annual NYSEF Open golf tournament on Sunday, June 6, 2010. With the event less than a month away 24 teams and 26 sponsors have already registered, with an expected 35+ teams to compete.
Last year’s event raised over $10,000 for area athletes competing in snow sports – alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, cross country skiing, nordic combined and biathlon. This year’s 2010 Olympics boasted 7 former and current NYSEF athletes representing the United States, including: Nick Alexander (Ski Jumping), Lowell Bailey (Biathlon), Tim Burke (Biathlon), Bill Demong (Nordic Combined), Peter Frenette (Ski Jumping), Haley Johnson (Biathlon), and Andrew Weibrecht (Alpine Skiing). » Continue Reading.
More Olympic metal is heading for the Adirondacks. Silver this time, with an American second place finish in the Nordic Combined 4 X 5K relay yesterday, anchored by Vermontville’s Bill Demong. Added to Lake Placid’s Andrew Weibrecht’s bronze performance in the Men’s Super-G last week, Demong’s silver brings the Adirondacks even with Slovenia, Croatia, and Belarus (and surpassing Great Britain) in the medal count. Demong competes again Thursday in Nordic combined long hill/10k (1 p.m. Eastern time competition round and 4 p.m. final). Tim Burke of Paul Smiths and Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid compete in a 4 x 7.5k Relay at 2:30 (Eastern time) Friday.
Lake Placid is holding a welcome home parade for Super G bronze medalist Andrew Weibrecht at 4 p.m. Friday. Saranac Lake will hold a parade for its Olympians at 1:30 p.m. Saturday March 13. Demong, who will still be competing in Europe, will be honored in absentia.
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.
This past Saturday cross-country skiers enjoyed the 28th Annual Lake Placid Loppet at the Olympic Sports Complex Cross-Country Ski Center. Novice and expert skiers alike skied the same track as the 1980 Olympic athletes.
So what is a loppet? Basically, it refers to a long-distance cross country ski race in which participants mass-start and skate various marathon distances. Like most marathons, a lot of food is consumed during the event, and a party, banquet and awards ceremony is held after the races. The term “loppet” originated in Scandinavia, where cross country races are an important part of the culture. For example, approximately 15,000 people participate in the Mora Vasaloppet in Sweden and nearly 2 million Swedes watch it on television. The sport originated as a mode of transportation and became a national pastime. » Continue Reading.
The 114,000-acre Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area has always been one of the premiere places to cross-country ski in the Adirondacks. But this winter, the region offers something even more compelling: a new trail.
This is the first winter that skiers can travel the eight-mile Botheration Pond Loop, a route that circles around the Balm of Gilead Mountain and several lesser hills. The route begins and ends at Old Farm Clearing, located near the Garnet Hill cross-country ski resort. The loop combines existing trails with more than a mile of new trails and two bridges, 35- and 55-feet long, that were built last summer by nearly a dozen volunteers and DEC staff under the supervision of Ranger Steve Ovitt. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) will kick-off their 2011 educational series with an interpretive cross-country ski into the 19th-century, Adirondack Great Camp, Camp Santanoni. Participants will learn about the camp’s history and the architectural significance that makes it a National Historic Landmark. The 10-mile round trip ski, along the preserve’s gently sloping historic carriage road, leads us into the majestic wilderness estate. Participants will visit the camp’s three complexes; the Gate Lodge, the Farm, and the Main Camp, the design of architect Robert Robertson.
The tour will be led by AARCH staff and John Friauf, former AARCH Board Member. The group will depart Santanoni Preserve parking area, off Route 28N in the hamlet of Newcomb at 10AM, returning around 3 PM. This is a remote site so participants are encouraged to bring a trail lunch and plenty of hydration. The fee is $20 for members and $30 for non-members. Advance registration is required by calling AARCH at (518) 834-9328. Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) is the private, non-profit, historic preservation organization for the Adirondack Park region. AARCH works in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Town of Newcomb to preserve and interpret Camp Santanoni.
This tour is one of over fifty events in our annual series highlighting the region’s architectural legacy. For more information on AARCH including membership and a complete 2011 program schedule contact AARCH at (518) 834-9328 or visit their website.
Photo: Recent repairs on part of the extensive covered porches at main camp, Camp Santanoni during winter. Photo courtesy AARCH.
The Adirondack Almanack is a public forum dedicated to promoting and discussing current events, history, arts, nature and outdoor recreation and other topics of interest to the Adirondacks and its communities
We publish commentary and opinion pieces from voluntary contributors, as well as news updates and event notices from area organizations. Contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The information, views and opinions expressed by these various authors are not necessarily those of the Adirondack Almanack or its publisher, the Adirondack Explorer.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to editor Melissa Hart.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.