Comfortable Winter Camping: The AMC Huts

It takes a truly tough adventurer to go camping in the Northeast during winter. But, for anyone who wants to get out—but not spend a night lying in the snow—or for someone who just wants to switch things up for an easy weekend, there’s nothing more quintessential than sitting by a fire in a cozy cabin in the woods. And, in the White Mountain National Forest, that’s easier to do than you might think.

The Appalachian Mountain Club operates a series of huts throughout the Whites during the summer, and in the winter season, three of these backcountry outposts remain open for everyday hikers, thru-hikers, and anyone else trying to stay a little more comfortable during their overnights.

Credit: Jack Roberts
Credit: Jack Roberts

Lonesome Lake Hut

Getting to these huts requires a bit of a hike, with some longer than others, and none are a small task in the winter. The easiest to access is the Lonesome Lake Hut, located 1.6 miles from the Lafayette Place Campground in Franconia Notch on I-93. It is a relatively easy hike for experienced hikers, but it’s important everyone remembers snowshoes and crampons to effectively conquer the ice and snow that may be on the trail.

The Lonesome Lake Hut sits behind Lonesome Lake, offering a perfect view of Franconia Ridge: some of the most beautiful views New Hampshire winters have to offer. Caretakers light a fire in the hut after 4 p.m., and with plenty of games and books about the history of the mountains, it may be one of the most relaxing evenings you’ll find out here.

The Lonesome Lake Hut features bathrooms, running water, and a full kitchen with gas stoves to prepare food. Almost completely made from wood, the architecture and atmosphere will beat every hotel you could find. Even on the coldest winter days, they give you a warm, cozy, at-home feeling.

Credit: Jack Roberts
Credit: Jack Roberts

Carter Notch Hut

Carter Notch Hut, requiring a one-way 3.8-mile hike, is the next-most accessible, taking hikers up a beautiful trail through the Whites’ deep wilderness. Hikers pass the Carter Lakes, where you’ll find the massive peaks of Carter Dome and Wildcat Mountain in the background. This hut, like the others, will have some snacks available, and it also provides a pillow, so you still need to pack a sleeping bag and blankets in order to stay warm through the night. Additionally, two detached bunk houses offer more of a cabin experience.

For adventuring nearby, the trails close to the hut are a must for exploring and relaxing. Most hikers will continue—either the next day or after dropping of most of their heavy equipment in the hut—up Carter Dome. The huts are about 1.2 miles from the summit, where, on a clear day, the spectacular views are more than worth the trek.

Credit: Jack Roberts
Credit: Jack Roberts

Zealand Falls Hut

Zealand Falls Hut may not be the hardest to access, but it requires the longest journey. It is only about 2.8 mile miles from the trailhead, but during the winter, the Zealand Road is closed, which adds an additional 3.5 miles. While it’s certainly doable on foot or by snowshoe, cross-country skiing can speed it up.

Either way, the trail is a stunning trek that’s worth every second. For a hike in the Whites, the journey is relatively flat, so you can enjoy the frozen ponds and scenic backgrounds without having to think about every step, like most other routes you’ll take in winter.

After getting to the hut, one of the best ways to enjoy the evening is by continuing up about 1.3 miles to Zealand Cliff, where the lookout is often regarded as one of the top views in the entire White Mountain National Forest.

If you’re looking for something to do back inside, the hut’s sign-in books are a great source of entertainment. Caretakers store all of them on a shelf, each full of names, drawings, and stories from the hut’s visitors throughout the years.

Credit: Jack Roberts
Credit: Jack Roberts

Hut Etiquette

Even though these are relatively civilized spaces, visitors are still asked to adhere to standard Leave No Trace principles: Specifically, never leave trash behind in the hut and bunk houses, just like you wouldn’t want to leave waste at your campsite if you were tenting. Most people will bring a small plastic bag to store unwanted items until they get off the mountain.

It’s also important to be respectful of other hikers staying at the cabins. Many people come out here to get away from civilization, so try to keep noise levels down after sunset.


The comfort of staying out of the wind and cold costs $33 per night during the winter season ($27 if you are an AMC member), and in the process, you’re helping support the AMC’s work. The caretakers and hut “croo” members are some of the friendliest people on Earth, so get out the calendar and plan your next trip!

Credit: Jack Roberts
Credit: Jack Roberts

Women Who Crush It: Laura Drenen

Meet Western Massachusetts native Laura Drenen who is a true goEast gal at heart. Even after being seduced by the mountains of Colorado, Drenen found her way back East to the Green Mountains of Vermont. Through a balanced life, she manages to crush-it daily while being devoted to her career, husband, pup, and self.

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen
All photos credit: Jennifer Langille

goEast: You are one of the busiest gals I know, crushing it from the yoga mat to the mountain, and every little bit in-between. Would you mind sharing with folks a little bit about what you do as a day job, the outdoor activities which inspire you the most to be outside, and your secret to finding the time to work and do what you love?

Laura: I am a Registered Nurse as well as a Nurse Practitioner, and have practiced in various settings including as an NP in orthopedics for almost 6 years. Currently working as a nurse at Copley Hospital in Morrisville, Vermont in the field of Oncology which I feel truly passionate about. I worked in this area previously and felt the desire to come back.

One of the reasons I love living and working in this area, I’m able to do the job I love while finding the balance to enjoy what really matters most to me. Unless I have the flu, you will find me outside playing. A typical day involves commuting to work on my bike, then returning home to fetch my dog Zoey. Depending on the time of year: mountain biking, skinning up any one of our local mountains, cross country skiing, and/or hiking. I practice yoga almost daily and when the weather is nice, I find a place to practice.

As for my “secret” – I’m very lucky to have an incredibly supportive partner in my husband, Noah. He supports my goals and visions for fitness. Shares the love of the outdoors. Luckily, we enjoy the same activities too!

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen

goEast: Vermont was not always your home, in fact you lived out in Colorado for a bit and came back East. What drew you back?

Laura: Yes, I lived in Colorado for a couple of years but eventually made my way back East. Vermont was the natural stopping point because of it’s proximity to family and it being an outdoor enthusiast haven due to it’s natural playground. There are lots of little secret zones I love to bike and back country ski, each very close to my home. Feel like I could live here my entire life and never find all of the amazing places the Green Mountains have in terms of great hiking, biking, swimming, and skiing.

I learned to mountain bike in western Mass where, believe it or not, the biking is super rugged. There are so many exposed rocks and roots, it made me love difficult and challenging terrain with a lot of natural technical features. The White Mountains are an area I would love to explore more of. I drive through those craggy mountains on my way to Highland Mountain Bike Park  and think, “I’d like to do more hiking and camping in that area, so that’s on my list for next summer!” The coast of Maine is also pretty sweet and I’d like to do more weekend surf trips in the future.

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen

goEast: Riding bikes and finding time to be on your bike is clearly important to your active lifestyle—so much so we met up with you at 6 a.m. to catch you on the way out the door to work one snowy morning! How do you stay motivated to hop on your bike and not into the car?

Laura: For me, I try to focus on how I will feel after I do something which initially may be difficult. Getting up to skin when it’s dark feels like, “why am I doing this, I could be sleeping in!?” But of course, the reward of watching the sunrise over the mountains and having early, fresh turns is always worth it. Biking to work is the same way (although with maybe a little bit less adrenaline). I often have a sense of gratitude that I am able to commute to work via bicycle, for my health, ability to afford a bike, and to live within proximity to work where bike commuting is even an option.


Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen

goEast: To make your commute more comfortable on a cold – snow – wintery morning, what are your must have pieces of gear?

Laura: Well, in short, bike commuting in the winter requires—at the very least—studded tires (or a fat bike which I do not have), and neoprene booties to keep your feet dry and warm. Fenders are also a must-have because they prevent the water from spraying you the entire way. Before I got the fenders, I would be soaking wet when I arrived to work! They aren’t cheap but these few things make a huge difference. Warm gloves and keeping all skin covered on super cold days is also necessary. I like to wear sunglasses to keep the wind from making my eyes water. I also suffer from a condition called Raynauds which is where there is very poor circulation to the extremities. This makes outdoor activities difficult in all of Vermont’s seasons, but most especially in the winter months. I am very prone to frostbite and painful fingers and toes. This requires a lot of planning: I sometimes take a hot shower before my activity, pack extra dry layers, hand warmers, etc.

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen

goEast: We caught you mixing up something of a potion, collecting eggs from your chickens, as we trekked through your now snow-covered veggie garden—all clues your nutrition is equally as important to you. As a nurse, a pretty reliable source for information on the topic, could you share more?

Laura: Nutrition is a huge part of an overall healthy lifestyle for me. I try to start my day with either a super food smoothie or a bowl of warm cereal like quinoa or oatmeal to heat me up in the winter. I think the best snacks are the homemade ones but I have to admit I don’t do that as often as I should! In general, I’ve been trying to incorporate some principles of Ayurveda into my diet and have found it’s had a dramatic influence on my health. This includes something as simple as starting the day with a warm glass of water with lemon which I have really found to be helpful with digestion.

My husband is a lifelong vegetarian and we eat a vegetarian diet. I am super lucky that he loves to cook, and is really great at it! We both value healthy living and enjoy growing our own food when possible. We’ve also really love caring for chickens who give us delicious eggs. We are extremely fortunate to eat so well.

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen

goEast: A part of your story which really blows me away, aside from gearing up and riding your bike to work in all sorts of conditions, is learning that you use to be an avid snowboarding until an accident on your bike. Though your passion to be on the mountain inspired you to take up alpine skiing/touring. Could you share a little bit about your experience of letting go of something you loved, and what it took for your to take up a new sport later in life?

Laura: Getting hit by a car has affected my life more than I guess I really admit to. Most notably, I did stop snowboarding because it bothered my back. But I don’t focus on giving something up, but rather how happy I am to have discovered skiing. Unlike most people in a ski town, I did not grow up skiing. In fact, when I moved to Colorado I had hoped to chase the good weather and try to mountain bike and race year round.  But I made friends and people convinced me to stick around and experience the Rockies in the winter. I had never liked winter before then. I was 29 and learned to snowboard- it was my first ever experience on a ski slope. Instantly fell in love.

Since I love mountain culture, learning to ski at 35 was just another challenge; one I readily accepted! It’s never easy being new at something, and it certainly affects the ego, especially since I feel that everyone around me has been on skis since before they could walk! I feel grateful that I found all of these sports and hope to continue to enjoying them into old age. And I hope to continue to learn new skills on my bike, skis and yoga. Yoga is great at teaching us to take things slow, realizing growth comes in time and cannot be rushed. My practice has taught me to be easier on myself, and enjoy the present moment.

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen

goEast: You must tell us more about your adorable pup and the role she plays in your active lifestyle. From what I see she and your husband are your greatest cheerleaders in your crushing-it lifestyle!

Laura: Zoey is my constant companion on all adventures (except riding to work and the lifts at the mountain of course). We adopted her from an amazing no-kill animal shelter here in Morrisville and instantly fell in love with her. She loves bike rides and hiking, but skiing is her favorite—a true snow dog! Think she would’ve made an amazing sled dog, actually! I make it a priority to get out with her pretty much every day. A tired dog is a happy dog, which leads to a happy dog parent! I use to compete in down hill mountain biking, however gave it up because I didn’t want to leave her every weekend. It didn’t feel fair to her, but in the long run ended up finding more balance in my own life. That’s what it’s all about: doing what you love within reason.  I would never entirely stop something because of a dog, but in ending the weekly travel, I was able to enjoy my life here and find time for everything that I love!

Laura Drennen


Finding Backcountry Turns at Mount Cardigan

The fantastic backcountry skiing on New Hampshire’s Mount Cardigan is far from a secret. With an Appalachian Mountain Club-owned lodge at the mountain’s base, as well as an AMC-operated high cabin located a half-mile from the summit, Mount Cardigan draws an eclectic group of snowshoers, campers, and backcountry skiers during the winter. Further adding to the mountain’s popularity is its inclusion in David Goodman’s seminal book, Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast: 50 Classic Ski Tours in New England and New York.

It’s not uncommon to show up at the mountain, only to find the parking lot already packed with cars. But, don’t be discouraged; this has happened to me on more than one occasion, and once I was in the woods, I saw hardly anyone else…and still found some freshies!

Here are just a couple reasons it’s such a great spot:

1. It’s close

In addition to the AMC’s presence on the mountain, one of the main reasons for its popularity is its proximity to Southern New England. Located off exit 23 on I-93, it’s substantially further south than most other popular New Hampshire backcountry spots. Keep this in mind if conditions seem questionable, as the snow here is less predictable than its northern counterparts.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

2. It’s great for beginners

With relatively wide trails and nothing incredibly steep on Mount Cardigan, it’s no wonder that many backcountry skiers get their start here. Throw in trails protected by trees (it’s easy to enjoy great skiing below treeline if the weather isn’t cooperating), a lodge to get ready in, and a fire to sit in front of if you burn yourself out before the rest of your group, and Mount Cardigan is a great place to transition from skiing the resort to exploring the backcountry.

3. It’s great for experienced skiers

With its close proximity to the Northeast’s population centers, Cardigan is a great choice for skiers looking to spend more time skiing and less time driving. Also, the lack of steepness and shorter trails allow fit skiers to take multiple runs in a day.

4. It gives you options

Mount Cardigan has two trails designated for backcountry skiing, and a handful of stashes if you feel like poking around. But, even if you don’t discover the stashes, you’re sure to have a blast! The Alexandria Trail is the shorter and steeper one of the two main routes. Specifically designed for skiers by the Civilian Conservation Corps, this trail widens right when you want it to and gives you plenty of room to carve. The Duke’s Trail is a great run for first-time backcountry skiers, and although longer than the Alexandria Trail, its gentler terrain is perfect for getting new skiers comfortable away from the groomers.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

5. It has incredible views

Although both the Alexandria Trail and the Duke’s Trail are mostly protected by trees, both do ascend above treeline to a bare summit (the result of an 1855 fire) and deliver great views of Monadnock to the south, the White Mountains’ larger peaks to the north, and Vermont in the west. Because of the unprotected nature of the slopes above treeline, I have found everything from bare rock to snow piled high, thanks to the wind. You never know!

Now, just add snow!

With the beta in hand, now all we have to do is wait for snow. Keep in mind that, while there is a lodge at the bottom of the mountain, this is still backcountry skiing, and there is no ski patrol there to mark hazards or take care of you if you get hurt.

If you want to learn more about how to pack for a backcountry ski trip, take a look at our What’s In Your Guide’s Pack article to see what EMS Climbing School professionals carry with them when heading into the backcountry.

What’s your favorite part of skiing Mount Cardigan?

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck


Newsflash: Killington's #BeastWorldCup breaks attendance records

For the first time since 1991, the East Coast played host to skiing’s FIS World Cup this weekend as athletes from all over the globe gathered at Killington for womens’ giant slalom and slalom events.

A raucous, record-breaking crowd of nearly 27,000 East Coast skiing fans between the two days of competition were treated to exciting racing, including a slalom win by hometown girl Mikaela Shiffrin. Shiffrin, 21, spent her formative years on the slopes of Vermont at the famed Burke Mountain Academy before going on to Olympic glory and becoming the games’ youngest slalom gold medalist in history.

According to U.S. Ski Racing officials, the large crowds made #BeastWorldCup, as the event was being referred to, one of the most well attended women’s skiing events in U.S. history and it’s attendance was on par with FIS events anywhere in North America.

“All of us would love to come back here,” said USSA’s Tom Kelly. “We’re going to take a serious look at it.  The World Cup calendar for next year will be determined in May at the International Ski Federation meetings, and we’re certainly going to continue to talk to Killington and talk to FIS to see if there’s an opportunity to come back here.  We just had a great opportunity to expose the sport to so many kids out here in the state of Vermont.”

Let us know in the comments: Would you like to see World Cup ski racing become a regular part of East Coast winters?

Courtesy of Killington/Facebook Photo
Courtesy of Killington/Facebook Photo

Guide's Pick: What's in my Avalanche-Ready Pack?

As the largest provider of avalanche training in the Northeast, the EMS Climbing School knows a thing or two about traveling in avy terrain. EMS guide Mike Lackman, an AMGA Apprentice Ski Guide and AIARE Level 1 instructor, was nice enough to share what he carries while teaching an AIARE class.




Before we get started, though, Mike wants to stress that many of these items aren’t essential to the class; in fact, taking an AIARE class is a great way to see what works, what you like, and what you should be looking for before spending big money on your avy kit. Regardless, this a great tutorial at what a professional brings for a day in the backcountry.


Mike prefers panel-loading packs, “so you can place the heavy objects in the appropriate spots, but still have access to the items you need readily available.” Whatever you do, Mike’s overall pack advice is to “buy a bag that holds all your gear, so you don’t end up cramming it so full that you can’t get at anything or end up lashing things to the outside.”


Pick your probe length based on where you’ll be skiing. Mike says a 230cm probe is plenty for East Coast skiing, but if you’re spending time in deeper western snowpacks, you might want something a bit longer. Mike prefers Ortovox probes because of their superior locking systems.


For Mike, a D-handle shovel is a nice option, as it makes digging more comfortable. An even bigger bonus is if your shovel can be used as a hoe. Additionally, metal construction is a necessity, not an exception! Shovel blade size should be chosen based on snowpack, and Mike reminds us that, “Bigger isn’t always better, especially when dealing with refrozen debris.”

Credit: Mike Lackman
Credit: Mike Lackman

Snow Kit

Mike’s snow kit varies, based on the day’s objective. If he’s digging a pit, for example, he’ll have a saw, a Rutschblock cord, a crystal card and loupe, and a thermometer. Mike also likes to bring along a measuring tool, because “the markings on the probes aren’t always user friendly.”

Lightweight Ice Axe and Crampons

When Mike is traveling above treeline, he will always bring a lightweight ice axe and crampons. Conditions change quickly when you’re up high, and all it takes is a little shade to turn that sweet corn snow into a sheet of ice.


Every season, headlamps get brighter, last longer, and feel lighter. So, invest in a good one like the Petzl RXP and justify the expense by thinking of the great turns you can get by skiing at night!

Rescue Sled

“The ability to self-rescue is critical in the winter,” Mike says. Because of this, he frequently carries a rescue sled and the cordage and carabiners needed to drag it with him when skiing. If he leaves it behind, he at least carries a light tarp and the knowledge of how to build a sled.

Small First Aid Kit

If you need a rescue sled, you also need a first aid kit. Keep in mind that it might not be a person that needs attention, so further throw in a repair kit and, as Mike recommends, “add in a real bit driver with the appropriate bits for everyone in the team.” While you’re at it, include a small sleeping bag; if you or someone in your group gets hurt, you’ll be glad to have it.

Ski Straps

Lightweight, inexpensive, and incredibly handy, they’re kind of like a backcountry skier’s duct tape. Mike likes to carry five or six 25-inch long straps with him.

Helmet, Goggles, and Sunglasses

Keep your goggles in your pack when you’re not skiing. Mike warns that wearing them on your head while climbing, putting in a skin track, or digging a pit only invites sweating, and once that perspiration freezes, your goggles are useless. Instead, for this situation, bring a pair of sunglasses along: They fog less than goggles when you’re working hard.


Depending on conditions, Mike will wear a lightweight soft shell jacket that rarely, if ever, works its way into the pack. For layers, Mike packs a hard shell, intermediate insulation, like a lightweight puffer, and a big puffer jacket—and he makes sure to keep the last one accessible. He says, “Your puffy should be the first thing you are able to get to inside your pack.”

Although Mike doesn’t bring any extra socks or base layers, he does pack three or four pairs of gloves. He also includes a few Buffs because of their incredible versatility: Use them as a hat or a balaclava, or supplement your first aid kit’s bandages with them if you’re in a bind!


When in the backcountry, Mike likes to bring both something warm to drink and some water in a hydration bladder. And, while gels and energy bars might be all the rage, Mike prefers real, high-quality food, especially leftover pizza.

Pro tip: The warmth from your thermos and the heat from your back will keep your bladder from freezing on most days.

Credit: Mike Lackman
Credit: Mike Lackman


Other Stuff

Mike says to have “a plan,” or, specifically, do your research before you get there, and carry a field book with a pencil, a map, and a compass.

Notice Mike Didn’t Mention a Beacon?

That’s because it doesn’t belong in your pack! Your beacon should have three antennas at a minimum, be no more than 10 years old, and should be worn.

Traveling through avalanche terrain isn’t something you can pick up on the streets. EMS guides, with this year’s fresh new courses, can get you started on the right path to safely enjoying the Northeast backcountry’s incredible terrain and skiing adventures. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll ski with Mike. And, if you’re really lucky, maybe you’ll ski like Mike!

Top 5 Past and Present Winter Sports Events to Hit the East Coast

The crowds are buzzing for a good reason. Killington Ski Resort is hosting the women’s 2016 Audi FIS Ski World Cup slalom and other great slalom events this Thanksgiving weekend. Women from 27 countries will be converging in Vermont and competing to ski away with the trophy and, more importantly, with bragging rights. Plus, over 2 million people are expected to watch the broadcast!

The West Coast has a hobby of stealing the hosting spotlight, so Vermont may not seem like the most conspicuous location for such a massive competition. But, the East Coast is no stranger to the big stage and bright lights. Throughout history, a fair share of major winter sports events have put the upper-right USA on the map. Here is a list of five representing the Eastern seaboard.

Credit: Harvey Barrison
Credit: Harvey Barrison

1. The 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics

Lake Placid, New York

Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 and again in 1980, the latter of which included one of the most famous victories in sports history. When the U.S. hockey team defeated the Soviet Union, then the defending champion, the “Miracle on Ice” was born. This stunning and unpredictable victory is still today arguably one of the best Olympics moments. Many facilities can still be toured, so be prepared to feel that Olympic spirit.

2. Burton US Open

Stratton Mountain, Vermont

Although the competition has since moved to Vail, Colorado, Stratton Mountain hosted the US Open Snowboarding Championships for 27 years. Prior to Stratton, the competition was held at Suicide Six and Snow Valley, meaning it lived in Vermont for a grand total of 30 seasons. These events certainly helped with snowboarding’s progression and shaped the path for future US Opens.

Credit: stillwellmike
Credit: stillwellmike

3. World Cup Skiing

Stratton, Vermont and Waterville Valley, New Hampshire

Prior to this year, the last time World Cup events were held on the East Coast was in 1991 at Waterville Valley Resort and, before that, in 1978 at Stratton Mountain. With this trend, hopefully we can look forward to seeing more slalom events close by in the future.

4. Big Air at Fenway

Boston, Massachusetts

In February 2016, Fenway Park was filled with some of the world’s best slopestyle skiers and snowboarders impressing the crowd with big air entertainment, all part of a U.S. Grand Prix and FIS World Cup touring event. Fans normally look forward to seeing the green baseball field, but for this occasion, it was all about the white snow.

5. U.S. Grand Prix

Killington Mountain, Vermont

Hosting the 2016 World Cup on November 26th and 27th, Killington Ski Resort has been the location for several famous past and present events. In more recent memory, the U.S. Grand Prix used the grounds in 2008 and again in 2009, while the Dew Tour and the Gatorade Free Flow Tour have also passed through. As Killington offers the largest ski area and a longer winter season, it’s no wonder this resort has been selected multiple times.

Six Ways to Break Even on Thanksgiving Dinner

The average American consumes somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 calories every regular day. But, on Thanksgiving Day? That’s a different story. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, carrots, and more, all doused in a puddle of gravy, balloon the typical caloric intake to more than 4,500 on the holiday alone.

While most people doze off, dreaming of the leftovers they’ll eat, some of us might be interested in getting out to put all that food-energy to work, but breaking even might be a little harder than you think. To help, here are a few activities the average 150-pound male might have to do to burn off all that deliciousness:

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann

1. Climb Mount Isolation after a snowstorm

Mount Isolation’s name speaks for itself, with 14.6 miles round-trip and no views until the summit, but a nine-hour trek in snowshoes, the day after a dumping, would just about compensate for a Thanksgiving filling, and you can cross it off your list of 48! Don’t forget your snowshoes and your cold-weather gear!

2. Bike from Boston to North Conway

A full meal calls for a full day of biking, and this 150-mile route is at least a simple, if not easy, way to burn off your dinner. Start your route at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, follow through Boston and into New Hampshire through various little towns, and finish at the base of the White Mountains in North Conway. This scenic route will leave you tired, but fully relieved of everything you ate.

Credit: Chris Bennett
Credit: Chris Bennett

3. Ski Tuckerman’s Ravine four times

All the way up, and all the way down, for 13 straight hours. Thousands travel to New Hampshire to break in ski season and head down the ravine, but you’ll have to work a little harder post-Thanksgiving. Start your hike at Pinkham Notch off of Route 16 and take the Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail 3.6 miles until you reach the top of the bowl. Climb up, drop in, and then take the Sherburne Ski Trail, before you ski back down to the parking lot. For this to really burn off everything you consumed, you’ll have to repeat this path around three or four times, for a total of 13 hours of skinning and descending.

4. Run an ultra-marathon

Sure, this requires months and months of training, but for burning off all of those calories, this activity is perfect! 50 miles of straight running should about take care of it, but if you have any leftovers to snack on along the way, you might need to add a little extra distance.

5. Ice skate for 9.5 hours

If you live in an area with a lake frozen over by Thanksgiving, 9.5 hours of skating is always another option! This frozen fun can involve the whole family, as long as the ice is thick enough! If it turns into a hockey game, you’ll be able to drop an hour and a half of ice time.

6. Play 17 hours of table tennis

With the family home for the holidays, it can be a great time for game nights! If you’re looking for some friendly competition indoors or out, table tennis for 17 hours straight will burn those calories away! If you’re skilled enough to rally the ball the entire time, you could even set a world record!


Although some of these activities are out of reach for the average person, it’s always important to be aware of what goes into your body, and how you can stay healthy. Have a safe and happy holiday, and if you’re out exploring, don’t forget to tag your photos with #goEast for a chance to be featured!

How will you be burning off those 4,500 calories?

Getting Tuned Up for Ski Season

Ski conditions tend to appear overnight, so when the time comes to hit the slopes each winter, even the people who are the most devoted to sliding on snow find themselves woefully underprepared. To make sure everyone is good to go from the start, I spent an afternoon in Peterborough, New Hampshire, with EMS ski guru James McDonough. For nearly a decade, James has been behind the Peterborough shop’s ski bench, and he’s the company’s go-to guy for everything from the skinniest cross-country skis to today’s widest powder planks. In fact, he’s even got snowboards dialed in.

You did a summer tune, right?

In the Northeast, it feels like the ski season ends almost as quickly as it begins, and with the arrival of good weather, guys like James are psyched to get on their bikes and into their kayaks. But, savvy skiers know that, before retiring your sticks for the season, you should give them a good cleaning and a thick coat of wax to keep the bases from drying out over the summer.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Ehhhh…The day the snow melted, my skis got buried behind my mountain bike

If you’re one of the few ski bums who did a summer tune, congratulations! All you need to do now is scrape the wax from your skis, buff, and polish them, and you’re good to go! If you didn’t, no worries—James has a five-step plan:

  1. Clean the bases: Think of this as a doctor washing his or her hands before surgery. Everything you do from here on happens on a clean slate.
  2. Base Repair: Did you hit a rock in the spring? Get a little too aggressive on a day that wasn’t quite deep enough? Now is the time to patch those holes!
  3. Sharpen your edges: James suggests buying a sharpener with angles for simple home tunes.
  4. Clean the bases again: As you sharpened your edges, you left tiny metal shavings on each base. Cleaning the base again removes those sinister shavings before the next step.
  5. Wax on, wax off: Iron a coat of wax onto your skis, wait for them to cool to room temperature, scrape the wax off, brush the base from tip to tail, and, finally, polish it off with a fiber pad.

Behind James’s ski bench, you’ll find a full set of SWIX ski tuning supplies—and, luckily for the home tuners out there, and our ski stores carry a full assortment. Of course, if this sounds like a fair amount of work, you can always drop your skis off to James or any of our other great ski techs.

Now that your skis are all set, it’s time to check your boots and bindings

Since you have your skis out, it’s a good idea to give your bindings a once-over before you head to the mountains. Check them to make sure the mounting screws are tight, and click your boots into them to see that everything fits and is aligned correctly. As James pointed out to me, there is nothing worse than showing up for your first day, only to discover that something simple is wrong.

While your boots are out, put them on your feet, and see how they feel. If they’re not just right, it might be time to remold them. Over the years, James has breathed new life into old boots by simply “cooking” them more times than he can remember. If you’re doing this at home, don’t just toss your liners into the oven—make sure you follow the directions that come with your boots.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Now for everything else?

According to James, going through all of your ski stuff is an easy way to ensure the best opening day possible. Dig out your helmet and goggles to give them an inspection. Does your helmet look worse for wear? Are your goggles scratched? It might be worth replacing them now. Also, do you know where your balaclava and gloves are? Do you have a supply of hand warmers? If you use adjustable poles, are they bent, or do they still adjust?

James is an old-school telemark skier and is the type of guy who brown-bags it to the mountain. He warns, “Don’t get stuck paying extra cash on the mountain for stuff you can buy beforehand. Go through everything you used last season, make sure it’s functional, and take care of any problems you find at home, where it’s easy and cheap.”

James reminds us that, “Although the temptation is to just dump all ski stuff into the back of the Subie and head for the mountains, spending a little time getting yourself ready can save you big dollars, lots of aggravation, and ensure your first day is a good day.” Because even though James has never had a bad day skiing, he’s pretty sure he has seen a few people who have.

Do you have any other tips to get ready for the season?

Guide's Picks: Choosing the Right Base Layers

For success in the outdoors, having a good base is one of the most important qualities to possess. Whether your focus is fitness, knowledge, or experience, you can’t expect to advance in your discipline or achieve big goals without having a solid foundation to build upon. Like everything else in the mountains, having the right base layer when it comes to dressing for the outdoors is also extremely important. Wearing the correct garments can have a dramatic effect on the outcome of your excursion and can influence the enjoyability of your day.

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Meet the Guide: Keith Moon! Originally from Minnesota, Keith relocated to New Hampshire in 2007 to work for the EMS Climbing School and has been there ever since. He’s an AMGA Certified Alpine Guide (one of only 170 in the US), AMGA Certified Rock Instructor, AIARE 3 Avalanche Certified, an AIARE 1 Avalanche Course Instructor, and Wilderness First Responder. Advice he has for those interested in giving climbing a try: “Give it a shot in a low risk setting. Like an indoor day or an outdoor intro type day. Most folks know right away if it is for them or not.” Three favorite pieces of gear that he can’t live without? “My first aid kit, some sort of shell jacket, and sunscreen/sunglasses. Oh, and my espresso machine, can’t live without that….” For more suggestions, visit his Guide’s Pick article on goEast where he talks base layers– Link in Story. Check back for more @emsguides features! | #goEast

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To make sure everyone heading north to climb, ski, and hike with the EMS Climbing School in North Conway is layered appropriately, I spoke with EMS Climbing School manager Keith Moon to get his professional opinion on what he looks for, and how to match the right base layers with their most popular winter trips and classes.

Credit: Chris Bennett
Credit: Chris Bennett

Climbing Mount Washington?

One of the most popular trips the EMS Climbing School offers during the winter is a guided ascent of Mount Washington. While Mount Washington is famously known for having the world’s worst weather, many clients are surprised when Keith advises them to choose EMS’s lightweight base layer. Keith believes a good rule of thumb when picking out garments is, “The more you’re moving, the lighter the base layer,” and remarked that clients are often surprised how warm they can get on an ascent of Mount Washington, even on some of the coldest days of the year.

Whether taking the classic day trip up the Lion Head, climbing a gully in Huntington Ravine, or going on EMS’s popular overnight trip to the Mount Washington Observatory, clients can expect to move while carrying a pack, and that effort can generate a large amount of heat. In these situations, EMS lightweight base layers are perfect for providing just enough insulation while wicking moisture away to keep you cool, dry, and warm.

Credit: Chris Bennett
Credit: Chris Bennett

Dropping a backcountry line?

With backcountry skiing continuing to become more accessible and growing in popularity, American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) classes are filling faster than ever. Advanced and novice backcountry skiers alike enroll to learn more about snow, snow conditions, and traveling safely in ungroomed terrain. As the largest AIARE provider on the East Coast, the EMS Climbing School is very familiar with the conditions you’ll face during your course.

According to Keith, the sport’s stop-and-go nature and EMS’s AIARE classes are perfect for EMS’s do-everything mid-weight layer. During an AIARE class, you’ll find yourself working hard skinning and hiking up to ski-able terrain before stopping to assess snow conditions and waiting for your turn to ski a line. Shortly thereafter, you’ll be working hard again as you nab a classic backcountry descent. EMS mid-weight layers offer an excellent compromise of wicking and breathability with insulation, allowing you to remain warm without overheating.

Credit: Mark Meinrenken
Credit: Mark Meinrenken

Climbing a frozen waterfall?

While winter of ascents of Mount Washington and backcountry skiing are certainly fun, this is the EMS Climbing School, and in North Conway, they don’t let a little thing like winter put a damper on the fun. In fact, many of the EMS guides would argue this is the best time of year to climb! Whether it’s at Cathedral’s North End or on the iconic Frankenstein Cliff, the guides of the EMS Climbing School spend a good chunk of their winter guiding people up everything from the White Mountain’s largest ice falls to its smallest smears. Whether you’re tackling the moderate Trestle Slabs or the classic hard route Dracula, Keith says the EMS heavyweight base layer should be your garment of choice.

One of the main challenges of ice climbing is staying warm. Even though you will spend a fair amount of energy on the initial hike and the climbing itself can be physically demanding, a large portion of single-pitch ice climbing is spent waiting for others and belaying them while standing in what amounts to a freezer. According to Keith, the EMS heavyweight base layers provide just the right amount of warmth to keep you comfortable in this scenario, without overheating you on the approach—helping you stay warm, psyched, and sending!

The big takeaway from talking to Keith is that there is no one layer that does it all. Well-prepared outdoor people have several to choose from, allowing them to tailor their layering systems to both the conditions of the day and their activity of choice.

The other takeaway is that these are only suggestions and not rules. Finding the perfect combination is a constant quest that takes into consideration the garment’s breathability, wicking, dryness, and insulation while figuring in the sport, exertion level, weather, and conditions you can expect to face in the outdoors. What you can be sure of is that EMS base layers have got you covered, whether you’re climbing Mount Washington, skiing Tuckerman Ravine, or ice climbing at Frankenstein Cliff with the EMS Climbing School this winter.