10 Tips for Backcountry Skiing This Spring

Although most people consider skiing a winter sport, true aficionados of sliding on snow know that the season’s best turns often occur during the spring. While ski resorts celebrate the season with Gaper-Days and pond skims, backcountry skiers enjoy not just the milder weather, but also everything from fewer crowds to a more stable snowpack. So, with longer days and warmer temperatures on the horizon, here are some tips for making the best out of one of skiing season’s best parts.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Location, location, location

The Northeast is replete with outstanding backcountry options for spring skiers. Mount Moosilauke and the Cog on Mount Washington are great intermediate spots, as is Vermont’s Camel’s Hump. In Maine, Sugarloaf Mountain offers backcountry-like skiing, accessed via touring gear or snowshoes on Burnt Mountain. Just don’t forget to buy an uphill pass. And, of course, spring in Tuckerman Ravine is a rite of passage for every New England skier. Pro Tip: Go on a weekday, so you don’t have to enjoy it with every other New Englander.

2. Play the conditions game

There’s nothing worse than driving a couple hours to the mountains, only to find that the snow has already melted. Before you settle on a location, do some research. For forecasted areas, like Tuckerman Ravine, read the avalanche forecast. It typically hints at skiing quality, too. For the rest, between Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you should be able to figure it out.

Credit: Douglas Martland
Credit: Douglas Martland

3. Wherever you go, start early

In spring, snow typically melts during the day and freezes at night, and within this cycle, the best runs happen when the snow has softened but hasn’t become slushy. An early start is often necessary, as you want to be at the top of your run to take advantage of that magic moment. It’s better to be on top of a line too early, rather than too late, as you can always wait for the snow to soften.

4. Protect your skins

Nothing kills the uphill pace (and stoke) faster than waterlogged skins. In addition to being heavy, they attract snow, causing it to build up on your ski’s underside. Pretty soon, you’ll be off on the side of the skin track, scraping snow off your skin. To avoid the indignity, treat your skins the night before with a skin wax, like Black Diamond’s Glob Stopper. Also, make sure at least one person in your group tucks a bar into their pack before hitting the trail.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

5. Protect your other skin

The only thing worse than turning red from the indignity of scraping your skins is the red you’ll turn if you forget sunblock. The spring sun might not feel strong, but the skin on your ski isn’t only what needs protection. Snow reflects the sun up at you, exposing you to its intensity from above and below. So, be sure to apply sunscreen before arriving at the trailhead and throughout the day.

6. Just say no to postholing

Soft spring snow is especially prone to postholing, which is the quickest way ruin a skin track or ski run—and get yourself exiled from the local backcountry ski community. Postholing is particularly egregious in the spring, since the likelihood of a storm undoing the damage is low. Prevent postholing by traveling on skis designed for touring, by splitboarding, or by using snowshoes.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck


7. Find the shades

The reflected sun also poses a threat to your eyes. Fortunately, on many spring days, sunglasses are suitable for both the ascent and the descent. Get a good polarized pair, and say goodbye to goggle tan lines.

8. Drink up

Spring’s warmer temperatures typically mean more sweating while touring, and more sweat increases your chances of dehydration. During the spring, get in the habit of bringing more water with you and stopping more frequently to drink than you would in the winter, or consider using a hydration bladder. While these can be difficult in the freezing cold, spring’s warmer days make them a reliable option.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

9. Don’t forget the puffy coat

Spring skiing in the backcountry often exposes you to two entirely different seasons, with summer weather in the parking lot and winter at the top of your run. Because of this, we regularly tuck a puffy (or two) into our packs. It’s lightweight and always a welcome sight when you wander into winter.

10. Wax your skis

Speaking of snow conditions, earning your turns loses a lot of its enjoyment when you suffer from sticky skis on the descent. Having a freshly waxed pair, then, is especially beneficial in slushy spring snow. Even better, wax your skis with a warm-weather wax to avoid those grabby moments. Interested in tuning your skis at home? Check out this goEast article for some great tuning tips.


Spring ski season frequently comes to an abrupt end in the Northeast, as seemingly huge snowpacks melt out over the course of a few days. Because of this, every spring ski day is precious, so follow these tips to make the most out of the season’s last hurrah!

Outings for a Presidents' Day in the Presidentials

Presidents’ Day falls on the third Monday of every February. In the Northeast, New Hampshire’s White Mountains make the perfect place to celebrate the holiday. Home to nine 4,000-footers named after past Presidents, they offer numerous outdoor activities with a historical connection. So, whether you’re looking to ski, climb, or hike, here’s how to have a genuinely Presidential Presidents’ Day.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Forget the White House – Visit the White Room

Presidents’ Day originated in the 1880s to commemmorate George Washington’s birthday. For those looking to slide on snow while also honoring the nation’s first President, the slopes of Mount Washington deliver something for everyone.

The Sherburne Ski Trail, often called “the Sherbie,” links the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center with HoJo’s, the caretaker’s cabin at Hermit Lake. Dating back to the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps, established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his New Deal Legislation, built the Sherbie just for skiers. Considering the innovations since then, most will find the Sherbie sufficiently broad for turning and never extremely steep. As David Goodman notes in his book AMC Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast, the Sherburne never exceeds 24 degrees and is as much as 60 feet across at its widest point.

Although many advanced skiers view the Sherburne Trail as a quick way to descend from the steeper Tuckerman Ravine, it’s a worthy destination by itself. Because of its moderate pitch and tree-lined location, it’s a great place to head when the weather above treeline is unfavorable, if avalanche danger is high, or to just gain confidence on less-consequential terrain.

The trail, however, is for downhill use only. You can access it via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, which also leaves Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. Heading up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, skiers will notice various entry points to the Sherbie on their left. As another popular option, you can cut over below HoJo’s to avoid the trail’s flat upper portion.

Of course, the Sherbie is just one of Mount Washington’s fantastic ski routes. You can find other intermediate backcountry skiing along the Cog Railway, while the Gulf of Slides and the iconic Tuckerman Ravine present more advanced options.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Better than Climbing the Political Ladder  

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

In the 1970s, Congress officially moved Presidents’ Day to the third Monday of February to give federal workers more three-day weekends. But, many believe that the move also broadened the holiday’s scope by additionally commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 15th). If you fall into this camp, get your presidential celebration started on Mount Lincoln.

While most people get to the summit via Franconia Ridge, ice climbing Lincoln’s Throat is the most direct way up. Viewed from a distance, Lincoln’s Throat is the pronounced gully between Lincoln and Lafayette that tops out on Franconia Ridge just below Lincoln’s summit.

The route also offers a bit of everything (except crowds) for alpine climbers. You’ll hike or bushwack off trail, do steep snow climbing, climb a single moderately rated WI3 ice pitch, and have the opportunity to summit a 4,000-footer. Or, if you choose to descend down the Old Bridle Path, you’ll get in two 4,000-footers.

If Lincoln Throat’s sole ice pitch isn’t fully formed, is rotten, or is over your head, consider alternatives. However, those involve mixed climbing, and not the type you’re thinking of. Instead of rock and ice, you’ll find krumholtz and snow. These might be less treacherous, but they’re also slower and more frustrating.

Consider making this trip early in the season or in low-snow years. But, if you’re going when heavy snow covers the ground, be sure to bring snowshoes, an avalanche kit, and the knowledge of how to navigate avalanche terrain.

Of course, if this President-worthy climb gives you a case of the willies, you can always check out the beginner-friendly Willey’s Slide in Crawford Notch. It’s not on a peak named after a President, but on a clear day, you’ll get a great view of the southern Presidentials.     

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Don’t Settle for Fake Views

Over time, the public consensus about Presidents’ Day has broadened even further. These days, we think of it as a celebration of all past Presidents. Fortunately, the White Mountains include eight more 4,000-foot peaks named after Presidents (Adams, Madison, Jefferson, Monroe, Eisenhower, Pierce, and Garfield) or with a Presidential-sounding name. For the latter, Jackson is actually named after New Hampshire State Geologist Charles Jackson, not the seventh President, Andrew Jackson.

Of these, Mount Pierce—named after the only President born in New Hampshire—and Mount Garfield are both great options for a moderate day hike with fantastic views. For more of a challenge, Mount Adams (named after John Adams) is one of the Northeast 115’s toughest winter climbs. And, if you’re supremely motivated and the weather is good, consider attempting a Presidential Traverse. In one trip, you’ll hopefully bag Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower, Pierce, and Jackson.

Although the President might spend his days in the White House, you can get out of the house, away from the office, and into the fresh air to honor our nation’s past leaders. Let us know how you spent your Presidents’ Day in the comments below.

Senior Superlatives: Valentine's Day Adventure Dates

Whether you’re looking to slide into romance, hike into their heart, or tie the knot this Valentine’s Day, consider one of these awesome outdoor-inspired trips to stoke the adventurous spirit—and the passion—between you and your special someone.


Most Likely to Make Your Date Feel Like Royalty: Ice Castles, Lincoln, NH

Treat your significant other like the king or queen they are by surprising them with a trip to the Ice Castles in Lincoln, New Hampshire. If you tour the castles early, you can finish the day toasting to your relationship at Seven Birches Winery at the RiverWalk Resort less than a mile away. If wine tastings aren’t your thing, spend the day shredding the gnar at Loon Mountain instead, and hit the Ice Castles at night to see them all lit up. Once there, check out a fire dancing performance, and stay warm with cinnamon buns and cocoa.


Best Place for a Romantic Outdoor Getaway: The Berkshires, Western MA

No matter what your winter sport of choice is—skiing or snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking, or cross-country skiing—there are plenty of places to do it in the Berkshires. So, make Valentine’s Day last an entire weekend by treating your beloved snow bunny to a little bit of everything this winter wonderland has to offer: ski under the lights at Jiminy Peak on Friday night, hike Mount Greylock on Saturday, and then, spend a few hours Nordic skiing on trails designed by seven-time Olympian John Morton at Hilltop Orchards. And, be sure to end the weekend on a high note at Furnace Brook Winery while you’re there. Accommodations in the area range from quaint Rockwell-esque bed-and-breakfasts to lavish five-star resorts, making it easy to find the perfect place to turn up the romance (or just recover from the day’s activities) each night.


Most Likely to Earn You a Gold Medal in Dating: Olympic Sports Complex, Lake Placid, NY

Much like the Berkshires, Lake Placid is basically a winter athlete’s paradise. In addition to world-class skiing and so many great winter hikes that it’ll be hard to choose which one (or two) you want to tackle, this cold-weather haven nestled in the heart of the Adirondacks takes it a few steps further with some of the best ice climbing in the northeast, miles and miles of fat biking trails, and, of course, the Olympic Sports Complex, where you can take a run in a real bobsled, take a biathlon lesson, or ice skate on the same rink the 1932 USA Men’s Speed Skating Team made history with a gold medal sweep. If a date here doesn’t get you a podium finish, nothing will.


Coolest Date (Literally): Guided Mt. Washington Trip with EMS Schools

Bring your Valentine to the top of the world, or at least of New England, on one of the literally coolest dates ever: a winter ascent of Mount Washington with the EMS Climbing School. Bundle up and head to North Conway, New Hampshire to show the “world’s worst weather” that you’re not afraid of it. Because even if the snow is falling and the wind is blowing, it shows you can weather the storm; you’ve got your love to keep you warm.

Credit: Ashley Peck
Credit: Ashley Peck

Best Way to Warm Their Heart: With a Big, Fancy Rock…Climbing Trip in the South

Even people who truly enjoy winter eventually reach a point in which they’d like to escape it for a few days. If you and your honey are tired of the cold, use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to head south (or southwest) for a warm-weather climbing trip. I’m someone who is typically so anti-Valentine’s Day that my mom sends me a Halloween card every February 14th, but the year that my now-husband took me to Horse Pens 40 for a mid-February bouldering vacation was the best Valentine’s Day I can remember. In fact, I almost surprised him with a Vegas Valentine’s weekend to climb at Red Rocks this year, since we both loved climbing there so much last spring. If you’re into grand gestures, a trip like this is perfect…and even if it’s not the rock she was hoping for, I promise she’ll love it.

Stretch it Out: 7 Yoga Stretches To Do After a Day on the Slopes

I love a proper après just as much as the next person. But, after a long day on the slopes, a good stretch can be just as satisfying as a good brew. Throwing in a few yoga poses before getting hydrated not only helps the body recover from the runs taken that day, but it will also help build strength in all the right places, so you’ll be as ready as ever for your next ski day.


1. Reclined Child’s Pose

Skiing and snowboarding both ask a lot of your feet and ankles. So, let’s give them a break for a few minutes by lying down. Then, hug the knees in toward the chest, and slowly roll your feet around a few times in each direction to give the ankles some love. Your hips have also done a lot of work, so go ahead and “draw” circles in the air with your knees (one at a time or both together) to relieve some of the tension there, as well. If you’re still not quite ready to come up yet, take some time to gently roll back and forth for a nice little back massage first.

  • Variation: If hugging the knees toward your chest is uncomfortable, try guiding them toward the armpits instead.


2. Downward-Facing Dog

There’s a reason yoga classes typically involve so many down dogs. Well, actually, there are a lot of reasons. For skiers and boarders, some of the more relevant benefits of this “basic” pose include stretching and toning hamstrings and calves, working the small stabilizer muscles in the feet and ankles, and strengthening the muscles in your back and core.

To come into your Downward-Facing Dog, start on your hands and knees, with your toes tucked under. On an exhale, press through your hands, and start to lift the knees off the floor while keeping them slightly bent. As your spine begins to lengthen, start to straighten the legs, pressing your heels toward the floor and being careful not to lock out your knees. Keep in mind that they don’t have to touch all the way down! Then, take a few moments to “walk your dog” by pedaling through the feet, before you settle into stillness. As you do this, still actively press through the hands, working the heels toward the floor and lifting the hips high. Hold the pose for as long as you are comfortable, ideally up to two minutes.

  • Variation 1: With extra-tight calves or hammies, straightening the legs can feel not-so-great. Instead, try keeping a gentle bend in the knees to take some of the pressure off the backs of your legs.
  • Variation 2: If your wrists get cranky in this pose, practice Dolphin Pose instead by lowering onto your forearms while keeping the rest of your alignment the same.


3. Standing Forward Fold

From Downward-Facing Dog, walk the feet up toward the hands on an inhale, keeping your feet about hip-distance apart and your knees as bent as they can stay comfortable. If possible, allow your palms or fingertips to rest on the floor. Otherwise, let your arms simply dangle, use the hands to clasp opposite elbows, or give yourself a hug by wrapping your arms around your legs. Spend anywhere from five to 10 breaths here to give your calves, hamstrings, and hips a well-earned stretch. This also makes it easier to buckle your boots or strap into your bindings without sitting down the next time you hit the slopes.

  • Variation: If your shoulders and upper back are asking for some attention, try my favorite variation. Wrap your arms around your legs, cross the wrists behind your calves, and hold the shins with opposite hands: right hand to left shin, and left hand to right shin.


4. Chair Pose

I know, I know. You’ve basically been in this position all day, and now that you’re off the mountain, it’s the last thing you want to do. But, trust me. This is definitely a “hurts so good” kind of thing. By holding this variation of a squat, the entire leg, from ankle to thigh, gets stronger. Many sports injuries—and not just from snow sports—happen when muscles get fatigued and your form gets sloppy. The way I see it, if holding Chair Pose for 30 to 60 seconds now makes it easier to maintain proper form for an extra run or two on your next ski day, it’s worth the burn!

Come into Chair Pose from Standing Forward Fold by bending your knees and lifting the upper body, keeping your spine long and strong. Keep your hips as low as you comfortably can without letting your knees move past your toes. Ideally, your knees should be more or less in line with the ankles. So, try shifting your weight into the heels and lifting your toes to ensure all of the leg muscles are getting in on the action, rather than making your quads do all the work. You can reach your arms overhead, and bring the palms together at heart center. Or, if you haven’t already put them away, hold onto your ski poles for extra “authenticity.”

  • Variation: If you shredded the gnar a little too hard today and can’t possibly hold yourself up in this pose, do a wall sit instead. You’ll still reap the benefits of Chair Pose, but the wall will take out some of the work for you.

DSC_0702 DSC_0711

5. Warrior I & II

The first two Warrior Poses are just about as common as downward-facing dog in a typical yoga class, and for just as many reasons. These poses have a sneaky way of working almost every part of the body—just like skiing and snowboarding. Not only do Warrior I and II stretch and tone your thighs, calves, and ankles, but they also strengthen your shoulders, chest, and back, work the psoas (deep-core muscles responsible for, among other things, maintaining good posture and stabilizing your spine), and help increase stamina.

To come into Warrior I, first settle into a high lunge by stepping your right leg back about three to four feet and bending into the left leg, so that the knee is over the ankle and your thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Once you’ve adjusted your stance and are comfortable, spin your right heel down, so that the foot is somewhere between 45 and 90 degrees, while keeping your hips and upper body facing forward.

  • Variation: Stay in high lunge with the back heel lifted, if taking it to the floor puts too much strain on the back leg.

Reach your arms overhead, and gaze up at your fingertips— only if it’s comfortable for your neck.

Hold Warrior I for five to 10 breaths, and then, transition into Warrior II on an exhale by rotating your torso to the right, opening your arms out to the sides and parallel to the floor, and resting your gaze wherever is most comfortable. Traditionally, this is over the left fingertips. Stay in Warrior II for five to 10 breaths, and then, repeat both poses on the opposite side.


6. One-Legged King Pigeon Pose

You may not notice it at the time, but while you’re busy having the best day ever sliding downhill, your hips are working overtime—especially if you’re skinning or booting up the mountain to earn those turns. Now that you’re done for the day, it’s time to reward those hips for their hard work with Pigeon Pose. Start in Downward-Facing Dog, lift your right leg, and shift your weight forward while hugging the right knee into the chest. Then, set the right leg down, resting the right knee behind the right wrist and the right ankle near the left wrist. Press your palms or fingertips into the floor to keep the spine long, and rest here for 30 to 60 seconds to help lengthen your hip flexors, increase your hips’ range of motion, and stretch the hamstrings. Repeat on the left side.

  • Variation 1: If it feels okay, walk the hands away from you. Then, fold the upper body down to also work into the lower back.
  • Variation 2: If your quads could use a deeper stretch, bend the back knee, and reach for the foot, ankle, or shin with your hand.
  • Variation 3: If this expression of Pigeon Pose causes too much stress, strain, or pain anywhere in your body, try performing a Figure 4 stretch while sitting in a chair or lying on your back instead.


7. Boat Pose

To wrap up your post-ski or snowboard yoga session, spend some time in Half Boat Pose to strengthen your core, including the psoas, spine, and hip flexors, and to stretch out the hamstrings a little bit more. Start by coming into a seated position with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Engage the core, and lift your arms out in front of you. Then, without rounding the spine, slowly start to lean back and lift the legs, until they’re in line with the arms and your calves are parallel to the floor. Hold for three to five breaths, release, and repeat one or two more times.

  • Variation 1: Hold onto the backs of the thighs, instead of keeping the arms outstretched, for additional support.
  • Variation 2: If you’re up for more of a challenge, begin to straighten the legs into “full” Boat Pose.

Traveling Stress-Free With Your Skis or Snowboards

Planning a ski and snowboard vacation that requires flying can be just as daunting as it is exciting. How do you get all your beloved (and expensive) gear out there with you? Traveling with your gear is easier, and less nerve-wracking, than you might think.

Airline Policies

First, find out your airline’s specific policy on checking skis/boards which should be available on their website. Many airlines treat ski gear the same as regular checked luggage regardless of the longer dimension, although standard weight restrictions will apply. Typically, skis and boots are considered one checked item, even if they are in separate bags. Again, check with the airline you’re flying on for their exact rules and if you have any doubts, give the airline a call.

Credit: Sarah Quandt
Credit: Sarah Quandt



Invest in a good bag or hard shell case for your skis or snowboard. It may be the biggest cost up front, but you’ll spend more to fix or replace damaged equipment. Look for ski/board bags that are padded, sturdy, has wheels, and is larger than your gear (I use a 156 cm bag for my 144 cm board). Some bags might have room for extra gear and clothing, as well as boots. If not, pack those in a separate boot bag.


Pro Tip: Make your luggage recognizable with duct tape, stickers, patches, or ribbon. If you have the same bag as another person, it will be easier for everyone to make sure they go home with the right gear.

Packing Tips

Look up suggested ski packing lists and create a thorough one for yourself. Use packing cubes, stuff sacks, or compression bags to keep items organized and separated; You can then use them for dirty laundry.

Credit: Sarah Quandt
Credit: Sarah Quandt


Begin by strapping each brake down to keep the bindings compact and make packing around them easier. Use a thick rubber band or gear tie and be sure to position it over the top of the binding, not around the ski which would create pressure on the ski’s edges.­ If you have a bag or case with room for additional gear, separate the skis in the bag to better distribute weight. Strap a pole to each ski so they don’t interfere with other items and cover the tips (wine corks work great).


Remove the bindings from the board to avoid damage while getting jostled around by handlers and in flight. Use a crayon to mark where your bindings are located before removal. It’ll stay put while traveling and riding, but can easily be removed with the rough side of a sponge or finger nail. This will make set up a breeze. Pack the binding hardware and a tool or screwdriver in a zip-lock bag.

Credit: Sarah Quandt
Credit: Sarah Quandt


While it may seem like a great idea to stuff your helmet in a checked bag and not drag it through airports, it’s recommended to carry it on the airplane with you. Although helmets are designed to withstand multiple minor bumps, they should only take one major hit and you don’t want that to be from a turbulent flight or rough baggage handling.


People are pretty divided on whether to carry-on or check boots. Carrying on can help reduce the weight of your checked luggage and ensure your boots make it to the mountain with you. However, boots are heavy, awkward, and can be a hassle in narrow airplane aisles and during layovers. Either way, stuff your boots with smaller items like socks, neck gaiters, hats and hand warmers to avoid wasted space. Sprinkle in a little baking soda or throw in a dryer sheet to keep things fresh.

Credit: Sarah Quandt
Credit: Sarah Quandt

Ski Clothes

It’s tempting to wear all your layers up on the plane in an effort to save space in your luggage…which isn’t a terrible idea if you have a short flight. But you shouldn’t need to wash all your gear by the time you land because you sweat through it already. Take one jacket on the flight, preferably a puffer since it can double as a pillow. If you choose to wear winter boots onboard, bring a pair of light slip-ons to switch into on the plane and while trekking between gates on a layover.

Street Clothes

Resist the urge to pack the same amount of street clothes you would for a non-ski trip. You’ll be spending most of your time on the slopes and in many mountain towns, ski clothes double as street threads. Remember non-ski socks and gloves, sunglasses and a swimsuit if you’ll have access to a pool or hot tub.

EMS -Winter Ski Mistaya Lodge -3760

Additional Recommendations

  • Book flights with layovers of at least one hour to give your skis/snowboard a better chance of arriving at your destination the same time you do.
  • If driving with others to the airport, have the driver drop-off all the gear and passengers at the airline’s designated entrance. The driver can then park the car and walk in bag-free. This also works on the return trip.
  • When you land at your destination and head to baggage claim, don’t panic if you don’t see your skis/boards on the carousel assigned to your flight. Most airports have a separate claim area for large and oversized baggage.
  • Research local ski shops and bookmark one or two in case you do forget something or need a tune-up or repair.
  • Worried the groomer skis you brought aren’t going to fare well after a dump fresh snow? Consider renting skis for the biggest powder day. Costs for a one-day ski rental are reasonable, and could make the difference between an okay and epic day. Be sure to get to the shop early or even the night before; They’ll be busy!
  • If you’re skiing more than a few days consider waxing your skis/board once during the trip, especially if there’s fresh snow.

Shipping Gear

An alternative to checking gear is to ship it to your destination ahead of time. Check with the resort or your accommodations to see if and how to ship it to them. You won’t need to haul your hard goods to and from the airport, but shipping gear is generally more expensive than checking it.

Visit your local ski shop and ask if they have any extra ski/board boxes you can snag. Have a backup plan if you make to the mountain before your skis do or your pickup location is closed because your flight was delayed and you got in late. Make arrangements or set aside time on your trip to ship the skis back before leaving. 


Don’t let the thought of flying with ski gear overwhelm you. Remember all options require some money, time and effort—whether it’s packing and checking luggage, shipping and picking up gear or visiting a shop to rent skis. But none have to be a hassle with a little planning.

Getting Ready for Backcountry Ski Season

Ski season is in full swing in the Northeast, with many New England-based backcountry skiers having already earned their first turns. Of course, with skiing in Tuckerman Ravine extending often into July, the reality is that now is just the beginning of the season. If you haven’t stepped into your ski boots yet, however, no worries. You still have a lot of time left! So, make the most of it with these tips to get you primed:


Tuning your skis is one of the simplest things you can do to prepare for the upcoming season. Doing so requires a little free space, a few simple tools, and a little elbow grease, making it a great way to pass time while waiting to get out there. Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable, bring them into the shop now, and beat the rush that occurs upon the season’s first real snowfall.

Want to learn more about tuning your own skis?


While your skis are on the bench, take a minute to inspect your bindings. Start by checking their mounting screws to make sure none are loose. If you encounter a loose screw, back it all the way out, and add some wood glue or epoxy to the hole before re-inserting and tightening the screw. Or, as another option, bring it to your local shop to have a pro do it. Next, give your bindings a visual inspection to ensure the binding itself has no cracks or loose screws, before finally clicking in your boots and making sure they still securely attach.



One of the main disruptors of early-season tours is skin failure. So, before you’re midway to your first pow day, make sure your skins are up to the challenge by giving them a good inspection. Is there a bunch of dirt and debris that should be removed? Are they still sticky? If not, it might be time to re-glue them. Is the skin showing much wear? Are the tip and tail connectors in good condition? As these small parts see significant use, tip and tail connectors are a common place for a skin to fail. Is it simply time to buy new skins? Remember, it’s better to make this decision yourself, rather than waiting for the universe to decide for you.

If your skins look good to go but you’re planning on using them with a new set of skis, make sure they are trimmed to match the skis’ shape. Using a skin-cutting tool, trim the skin to cover the ski’s base while leaving the ski’s edges showing. Exposed edges give your skis some bite on ascents with steep or icy traverses.


If your tour plans include some avalanche terrain, now is the time to get your avvy kit in order.

To start the season off right, treat your beacon to a fresh set of batteries. As a rule, old-fashioned alkaline batteries work best for beacons, while lithium-ion and rechargeable ones should be avoided. Checking with your beacon’s manufacturer is the simplest way to ensure you’re using the proper battery. However, alkaline batteries can leak, causing corrosion of a beacon’s contacts and negatively affecting its performance. So, if you didn’t take your beacon’s batteries out before storing it over the summer, check the contacts for corrosion as you replace the batteries.

If you have an extra beacon, now is the time to confirm that it’s functioning with a range test and a couple of practice searches. If you don’t have an extra one, consider getting together with your ski partner or group to confirm that everyone’s beacons function properly. Even better, this serves as a great chance for early-season avvy practice, and lets everyone you ski with re-familiarize themselves with their equipment and the basics of conducting a search. While you’re at it, check out the Backcountry Access website, which has a series of detailed videos designed to help skiers and riders improve their avalanche transceiver skills.

Pro Tip: Many newer avalanche beacons feature updatable firmware. If your beacon is updatable, check the manufacturer’s website to make sure yours is using the latest software.


Probe and Shovel

Just as with your beacon, you’ll want to be familiar with your avalanche probe and shovel before you need it. Before the season starts, spend some time practicing assembling them quickly. While you’re at it, confirm that your probe’s shock-cord still works. If it doesn’t, it’s time for a new one.

Hit the Resort

Thanks to snowmaking, Northeast resorts are far more likely to have skiable terrain than the backcountry early on. Take the opportunity to ride the lifts, find your ski legs, and make some low-consequence turns. Of course, if you’re committed to earning your turns, many resorts have something to offer skiers who like to go uphill as much as down. Places such as New Hampshire’s Cannon Mountain sell “skinning” tickets and have designated uphill travel routes, while ski areas like Vermont’s Magic Mountain not only allow free skinning on their slopes, but also reward skiers and splitboarders who climb the 1,700 feet to the resort’s summit with a ticket for one free lift ride via their “Hike One, Ride One” program.

Skinning at the resort has numerous benefits for backcountry skiers, as it allows them to build fitness for the upcoming season, dial in transitions, and, most importantly early on, confirm that their gear is in good workable condition in a comparatively controlled environment. Every mountain has unique rules and restrictions, however, so make sure you know its policy before you go. The United States Ski Mountaineering Association is a great resource for uphill policies across the U.S.


Repair Kit

Things break. To be prepared for these types of failures in the mountains, always carry a repair kit. A good one can mean the difference between an inconvenience and an epic.

For day trips, a multitool is extremely valuable, good for clearing ice from tech fittings, making a binding adjustment, cracking a beer in the parking lot, and doing far more. It’s also worth adding the various bits you will need to repair your boot or binding and a driver for the bits. Another lightweight addition to your kit, a spare ski pole basket can save an unfathomable amount of aggravation. The same can be said about skin wax. A few blocks weighing just a few ounces can prevent snow from building up on your skis, saving energy and frustration.

Additionally, we like to bring two or three ski straps—basically, the duct tape of the backcountry ski world. Extremely helpful, the material can be used for everything from holding your skis together to fixing a boot. And, speaking of duct tape, we carry that, too! Lastly, complete your kit with a few extra binding screws and tip and tail loops for your skins.

First Aid Kit

Since many backcountry areas don’t have ski patrol or pre-placed rescue equipment, the knowledge to provide first aid and the gear necessary to treat and evacuate a patient are essential. A good backcountry skiing-specific first aid kit starts with the staples: gauze, bandages, and ibuprofen. We then like to add a few ski-specific items, including a bivy or small sleeping bag to keep an injured person warm.

Seeing that cold is the enemy, we also tuck in a few hand warmers, as they are great for everything from an emergency to a morale boost. As well, a SAM splint fits into most packs and makes splinting easy. We’ve also gotten into the habit of bringing along an extra set of batteries, in the event that a headlamp dies or someone shows up to the trailhead with a beacon but no batteries.

Carrying a rescue sled is a good step to safety and self-sufficiency. If building a makeshift sled to evacuate an injured skier seems overly complicated, you can simply carry one of the numerous lightweight models sold for backcountry skiing.

Finally, it’s extremely critical to know how to use the equipment you’re carrying. If you’re heading into the backcountry this winter, seriously consider taking a wilderness first aid or wilderness first-responder course. SOLO offers classes throughout the Northeast.

Helmet and Goggles

If you’re backcountry skiing in the Northeast, you’ll most likely be carrying a helmet and goggles. Before the season starts, inspect your helmet to ensure that it has no cracks or dings. If the inspection gives you any doubt about its reliability, upgrade! Also, spend a few minutes cleaning your goggles, and give them a coat of anti-fogging Cat Crap.

Did we miss anything? Share with us your favorite tips for the preseason in the comments!


Alpha Guide: Skiing in Tuckerman Ravine

alpha Guides | Better than beta.

Who says the East doesn’t have bigtime, open backcountry skiing? A classic not just among Northeast skiers, Tuckerman Ravine is a serious challenge for all skiers and boarders.

“Skiing Tucks” is a rite of passage for almost every East Coast skier. The glacial cirque offers some of the best terrain east of the Mississippi, with high alpine conditions, steep chutes, and cozy gullies. The birthplace of “extreme” skiing in the 1930s and ’40s, it’s now the East’s most well-known and highly traveled backcountry skiing destination. Amongst its beautiful, rugged, and powerful terrain, its rich community, and addicting atmosphere, Tucks keeps the locals and the travelers alike coming back year after year.

The trip is easily done in a day, but staying multiple days allows for more skiing, earlier starts, and bigger weather windows.

Quick Facts

Distance: 2.9 miles to Tuckerman Ravine Floor, one way.
Time to Complete: 1 day

Season: December through April; best February and later.
Fees/Permits: None
Contact: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/whitemountain/recarea?recid=78538 



Parking and trailhead access to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail are at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center located on Route 16 between Gotham and Jackson. Weekend parking fills up quickly, but an overflow lot is located just south of the Visitor Center. Stop in the Visitor Center for last-minute supplies, trail conditions, and weather information before starting your ski up the trail.

Credit: Andrew Drummond

The Approach

Follow the Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Pinkham Notch Visitor Center for 2.4 miles to the Caretaker Cabin at Hermit Lake Shelters (44.13269° N 74.85318° W). From the Visitor Center, the trail switchbacks before straightening out for a sustained climb to the intersection with the Huntington Ravine Trail. From there, you’ll pass the Harvard Cabin Fire Road junction before climbing to the Hermit Lake Shelters, where you’ll finally gain stunning views of the ravine. Chat with a Ranger or stop into the Caretaker Cabin for up-to-date weather, snow, and safety information before heading up into the ravine. From the Caretaker Cabin, continue up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail for just over a half-mile to reach the ravine’s floor.

While skiers can hike or skin to the floor, once you choose your runs for the day, climbing on foot is necessary to get to the top of the steep slopes. It is strongly recommended to climb up what you intend to ski down to get an accurate view of the conditions and terrain. Remember that the runs are always changing due to the amount of snow and how the snow fills into each run.

Credit: Andrew Drummond

After Your Ski

The fastest and most enjoyable way down is the Sherburne Ski Trail, which is accessible from the Caretaker Cabin at Hermit Lake. This trail is roughly three miles long, would equate to a “Blue Square” in difficulty at your local ski resort, and, at the end, drops you off at the south side of the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center parking lot. The “Sherbie” is also a great objective when avalanche danger is high for the day, or if you just want to go for a quick ski tour. As spring progresses, however, Sherburne’s skiable area decreases. So, keep an eye out for a cross-cut back to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail when the coverage gets thin.

If you are looking to spend the night, check out the AMC Hermit Lake Shelters for a winter camping experience and quick access to the ravine; Harvard Cabin for a cozy, rustic night halfway up the trail; or Joe Dodge Lodge next to the trailhead for a bunk, a shower, and a meal.

The Runs

Courtesy: Colin Boyd
Courtesy: Colin Boyd

Hillman’s Highway

Aspect: East-Northeast
Steepest Slope Angle: 40 degrees
Vertical Distance: 1200 feet

Hillman’s is slightly removed from the main “bowl” and is located under the Boott Spur Buttresses. Get a great view of the run from Hermit Lake Shelters’ visitor deck. Easy access is found by heading up the Sherburne Ski Trail from the Caretaker Cabin. Points of reference on Hillman’s include “the dog leg,” the skiers’ left-hand curve near the bottom; the top of “the Christmas Tree,” an area of vegetation to the climber’s right of the slide path that, when filled with snow, looks like a Christmas tree from a distance; and the fork near the top of the run, where skiers have a choice of two different variations.

Credit: Jamie Walter

Left Gully

Aspect: East-Northeast
Steepest Slope Angle: 45 degrees
Vertical Distance: 850 feet

The ravine’s left-most prominent run is Left Gully. In the ravine, this run is often the first and last to be skied over the course of the season, as its northeast orientation helps the slope hold snow a bit longer due to decreased sun exposure. The top offers two general entrances to get into the run. When climbing up the gully, look to the right for a steeper entrance, or continue straight up for a slightly more mellow one. About halfway down, the run narrows a bit before making a left turn to drop you back into the bowl.

Credit: Andrew Drummond
Credit: Andrew Drummond


Aspect: East
Steepest Slope Angle: 50 degrees
Vertical Distance: 750 feet

Chute is easily identified by the hour glass-shaped choke point near the center. The steep entry funnels skiers through this 30-foot-wide point into open skiing and lower slope angles below. Use caution when climbing through the choke point, as skiers (and their sluff) may be descending. A great spot for a rest on the way up or down, a natural bench is under the rock buttress to the climber’s left of the choke point. It’s ideal for taking a minute to decide whether to keep going, to have a snack, or to take in the great views across the ravine.

Credit: Jamie Walter
Credit: Jamie Walter

The Lip

Aspect: Southeast
Steepest Slope Angle: 45 degrees
Vertical Distance: 750 feet

The Lip is located on the climber’s right-hand side of the headwall, where a gap in the steep wall of rock and ice lets skiers sneak through and make big, open turns into the bowl. When skiing into The Lip, trend to the left to avoid going over the icefall area. The Lip becomes progressively steeper as you ski into it; this decreases the visibility of the run below you, until you reach the steepest pitch. As such, find visual landmarks as you climb up, and use them as a route-finding tool on the way down. All eyes are on you when you’re skiing The Lip, so make it count!

Credit: Andrew Drummond
Credit: Andrew Drummond


Aspect: South-Southeast
Steepest Slope Angle: 50 degrees
Vertical Distance: 700 feet

Sluice is found between The Lip and Right Gully. Its entrance is steep and has a tricky double fall-line, when the obvious ski run dictates one direction of travel, but gravity wants to take you in another. A good reference point for this climb is Sluice Ice, a cliff that holds vertical ice a few hundred feet up from Lunch Rocks. Use caution with your route-finding in the spring, as ice begins to shed as the temperatures rise. Skiers finish the run by skiing to the left side of Lunch Rocks.

Credit: Andrew Drummond
Credit: Andrew Drummond

Right Gully

Aspect: South
Steepest Slope Angle: 45 degrees
Vertical Distance: 700 feet

The most prominent gully on the south-facing wall is Right Gully. Because of their orientation, this run and Lobster Claw see the most sun in the ravine, so keep this in mind when searching for the perfect soft spring corn. Though it’s a bit shorter than some of the others, the consistent slope angle and half-pipe-like feel make this a favorite. A great place to scope out the line, decide whether to keep climbing, or have a snack is on the natural bench that forms under the climber’s right side of the slight choke point, just under halfway up the run.

Credit: Andrew Drummond

Lobster Claw

Aspect: South
Steepest Slope Angle: 40 degrees
Vertical Distance: 700 feet

Once you locate Right Gully, look a few hundred feet to the right to find Lobster Claw. This run is under the ravine’s Lion Head area. Slightly narrower than Right Gully, the slope angle is a bit mellower and gets about the same amount of sunlight. Lobster Claw is home to quite a bit of vegetation and can often take longer to fill in enough to be skiable. When the ravine is crowded with skiers, however, Lobster Claw is often a less-crowded option. Use caution exiting the run, because plenty of rocks and trees sit below the main part of the gully.


The Kit

  • Your avalanche rescue kit and the skills to use it are crucial when you’re traveling into the ravine. A popular combo is the PIEPS DSP Sport beacon, Black Diamond Transfer 3 shovel, and Black Diamond QuickDraw 280 probe.
  • Though they are not a substitute for crampons on steep slopes, Kahtoola MICROspikes are useful on lower-angle trails, or if you have to hike with your ski boots on a slick surface.
  • The slope angles in Tuckerman are steep! Having a small, lightweight ice axe, like the Black Diamond Raven Ultra, and knowing how to use it are extremely valuable tools for steep skiing and can add a bit of extra security.
  • An ultra-portable sunscreen like the Beyond Coastal Natural Lip and Face Sun Protection will help protect your face from burning while skiing in the ravine. Remember that snow is highly reflective and can amplify the effects of your goggle tan to a very unpleasant point.

Credit: Andrew Drummond
Credit: Andrew Drummond

Keys to the Trip

  • Avalanches are real and happen very regularly in the ravine. Check out the Mount Washington Avalanche Center forecast online in the morning, before you head into the ravine, and then, check in with USFS Avalanche Rangers or the AMC Caretaker for up-to-date beta on the best spots of the day.
  • On the way through North Conway, stop by Frontside Grind Coffee Roasters for a hot brew and bagel before you start your climb.
  • For beers and burgers after the trip, check out Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co. and Tuckerman Brewing Co.
  • For some early morning pre- or afternoon post-skiing yoga, check out the yoga classes at The Local Grocer. This is a great way to both warm your body up before a big day and recover after by stretching and keeping your body moving before the car ride home.
  • North Conway has many quirky shops that are unique to New Hampshire. Some of my favorites are the candy counter and hot sauce aisle at Zeb’s General Store; Dondero’s Rock Shop, where any geological nerds can find local and global samples of rocks and minerals; and Beef & Ski for truly bangin’ sandwiches.

Senior Superlatives: Ski Resort Bars

Winter is finally upon us, which means it’s time to dust off your skis or snowboard and head for the glorious, snow-covered hills. For the drinkers among us, it also means it’s time to reacquaint ourselves with some of New England’s greatest watering holes. As you plan your next ski trip, don’t forget to take into account the après scene at whichever resort you’re considering, and spend a little time thinking about the perfect bar for you.


Bar most likely to have snowboarders pretending to be skiers: General Stark’s Pub, Mad River Glen

While the trails at Mad River Glen are available only to skiers, General Stark’s Pub welcomes boarders as well. Boasting some of Vermont’s best brews on tap, a view of the iconic single chair, and a rad old-school atmosphere that other resorts would die for, General Stark’s is a two-plank paradise guaranteed to convince snowboarders that “two is better than one” applies to more than just drinks.


Best bar for a midday refueling: Onset Pub, Crotched Mountain

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Uh, isn’t every ski bar good for a midday drink?” And, the answer is “yes.” But, Onset Pub at Crotched teamed up with Henniker Brewing a few seasons ago to create their delicious signature IPA called “Rocket Fuel,” named after the mountain’s high-speed lift, the Rocket. Thus, this drink makes Onset the best bar for a lunchtime refuel. Just be careful, though. This super-smooth brew is 7% ABV and has maybe resulted in skiers calling it a day a little earlier than planned.


Bar most likely to have skiers wearing jeans: Coppertop Lounge, Wachusett Mountain

I’ve often heard that Wachusett Mountain is one of the country’s most profitable ski areas. It sounds absurd at first, but then, you realize how conveniently located it is—30 minutes from Worcester, an hour from Boston, and just over an hour from Providence—and it all makes sense. However, Wachusett’s proximity also means that it attracts a large number of “I ski once or twice a year and don’t actually own ski pants” skiers. If you don’t notice them on the slopes, they’ll definitely catch your attention when you head into the bar for some après libations. They’re the ones rocking snow-soaked denim and looking miserable.


Most fun bar name: Schwendi Hutte, Waterville Valley

I mean, does this one even need an explanation? If you’re not convinced “Schwendi Hutte” is fun to say, you’re probably pronouncing it incorrectly. Or, perhaps, you just need a second round.


Best bar to leave your boots on: Paul Bunyan Room, Loon Mountain

Whether it’s the roaring fire, the stoked patrons, or its closeness to the gondola (and the accompanying lure of “just one more run!”), there’s something about the Bunyan Room in Loon Mountain’s Base Lodge that begs you to keep your boots on. Of course, it could also be that the 11 a.m. opening time has you seated at the bar well before après has begun, and there’s just no way you can call it a day so soon.


Best spring deck scene: Wildcat Pub, Wildcat Mountain

In addition to having some of the best spring skiing conditions in New Hampshire, Wildcat is also one of my favorite places to après in the late season. While the deck itself seems small and quickly gets crowded, everyone there is undoubtedly happy—the aforementioned baller conditions may play a role—and the air is simply abuzz with stoke. From the deck, you can also get a great view of the slopes and prime seating for watching the action without getting wet on pond skim day.


Best bar at a “family friendly” mountain: Black Bear Tavern, Smugglers’ Notch

Just because Vermont’s Smugglers’ Notch has earned a reputation for being one of the Northeast’s most family-friendly resorts doesn’t mean it isn’t equipped with an awesome bar. The Black Bear Tavern, located in the mountain’s base lodge, offers a great selection of strong local Vermont beers. It’s perfect for drowning your sorrows after getting smoked by the kiddos on the region’s only triple black diamond run, Black Hole.


Most likely to make you spend even more than the cost of your lift ticket: Castlerock Pub, Sugarbush

Vermont is renowned for many things: rolling green hills, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and, most importantly, micro brews. Located in the heart of beer country are Sugarbush Resort and Castlerock Pub. While Sugarbush’s Castlerock Peak delivers some of the resort’s best terrain, its namesake pub features some of Vermont’s best and most-sought-after brews, including iconic ales from producers like the Alchemist, Lawson’s, and Hill Farmstead. You can easily spend more time at the bar than on the hill, and more money at the bar than at the ticket window.


And, now, over to you, fellow ski beer enthusiasts: Which New England ski resort bar is your favorite and why? Tell us about it in the comments, so we can head there next weekend!

Alpha Guide: Mount Colden's Trap Dike in Winter

alpha Guides | Better than beta.

Mild technical climbing, remote and rugged terrain, and spectacular Adirondack High Peak views make the Trap Dike a classic Northeast winter ascent.

Climbing the Trap Dike in winter—a great route for climbers looking for an adventure in a more remote, alpine setting—makes for an unforgettable experience. The approach is mellow but long, and the climb is technically simple yet committing. Once you’re at the top of Mount Colden, the descent options are plentiful, from hiking the trail back to a backcountry ski descent. Conditions vary wildly, depending on the time of season or weather, and any party’s experience can be incredibly unique from another’s, which means you’ll always be able to come back for more.


Quick Facts

Distance: 11 miles, out-and-back
Time to Complete: 1 day

Season: December through March
Fees/Permits: $10 parking at Heart Lake ($8 for ADK Members)
Contact: http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/9164.html 



Start at the Adirondack Loj trailhead, located at the end of Adirondack Loj Road off Route 73 in Lake Placid. Try to arrive early, as the parking area often fills up on weekends. While a few ski trails weave throughout the immediate area, be sure not to use them for the approach, unless, of course, you are skiing in.

Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Credit: Ryan Wichelns

Marcy Dam

Travel south on the Van Hoevenberg Trail from the trailhead for 1.5 miles to a major trail intersection (44.1728, -73.9589). Continue southeast another 1.1 miles to Marcy Dam. Marcy Dam is the first landmark location for the approach to the Trap Dike, and is a destination for many day-hikers and skiers. Plus, with little elevation change between the trailhead and Marcy Dam, expect this section to have moderate to heavy traffic on weekends.

Marcy Dam offers views of the surrounding peaks and slides, as well as multiple lean-tos and campsites. For multi-day trips, this makes a great base camp location.

Credit: Aaron Courain
Credit: Aaron Courain

Into the Pass

From Marcy Dam, continue south, around the eastern side of the pond towards Avalanche Pass. The trail here will begin to climb slightly. After passing some additional lean-tos, the trail then becomes steeper for the final ascent to Avalanche Pass. Be extra careful on the trail’s beginning section; it serves as the end portion of the Avalanche Pass’ ski descent trail, so you might find people skiing down at you.

About one mile after Marcy Dam, the trail splits between the hiking and skiing paths. Always ascend the hiking trail, as skiers are not expecting anyone to be coming up. From this point, the trail climbs a final 400 feet in just over a half-mile, until it opens up to the picturesque Avalanche Lake.

Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Credit: Ryan Wichelns

Finding the Trap Dike

In the early or late season, Avalanche Lake may have little to no ice and may not be crossable. However, barring any strange warm spells, the lake freezes over and provides a direct finish to the approach for the majority of the winter season. But, regardless of the time of year, always use caution when crossing frozen lakes. The entrance to the Trap Dike (44.1318, -73.9678) is the obvious, massive cleft in Mount Colden that spills out onto Avalanche Lake’s eastern side. Here begins the route’s technical portion; so, the Trap Dike’s entrance makes for a good location to refuel, rehydrate, and reorganize gear before you begin the technical ascent.

If Avalanche Lake is not frozen, access takes a little bit longer. Remain on the hiker’s trail and follow it south, across the wooden “Hitch-Up Matildas” anchored into the cliffs alongside Avalanche Lake. At the lake’s south end, leave the hiker’s trail, and follow the lake shore north 250 yards to the Trap Dike’s entrance.

Credit: Aaron Courain
Credit: Aaron Courain

Climbing The Ice

The Trap Dike’s technical portion contains two single-pitch ice steps, with snow climbing in between. These pitches are generally rated at WI2, but early in the season, the ice steps can be thin and chandeliered, providing a challenge for climbers and offering few options for protection. Mid to late season, however, the ice becomes fat and reliable, offering greater protection and the choice to build screw anchors or snow anchors. Good rope management saves time, as the two steps are separated by a short snow field, which requires the anchor for pitch 1 to be broken down before you start pitch 2.

At the top of pitch 2, continue to hike up the Trap Dike while remembering to stop and check out the view behind you. Caution is required here. Even though the route has mellowed out to low-angle ice and snow, an unprotected slip could result in sliding out of control over the second ice pitch’s top edge. As you ascend the Trap Dike’s upper section, the large, wide upper slide will come down to meet you on climber’s right, providing an exit onto the exposed slab.

Credit: Aaron Courain
Credit: Aaron Courain

Up The Slide

Climbing up the steep slab towards Mount Colden’s summit is relatively straightforward. However, the slab’s conditions can vary greatly, depending on the weather and time of season. Early-season climbers should expect to find thin patches of unconsolidated snow, verglas ice, and bare rock. In these conditions, the push to the summit can be treacherous and difficult, requiring careful steps the entire way.

Credit: Aaron Courain
Credit: Aaron Courain

In mid to late season, the slab accumulates more snow, which allows for seemingly endless, leg-burning step-kicking to the summit. Lucky climbers may encounter perfect neve snow, which can help to conserve climbing energy. Regardless of conditions, however, the slog up can sometimes seem endless, so it is important to stop and take in the view of Algonquin and the surrounding mountains to help recharge the spirit. Before you reach the summit (44.1268, -73.9600) and subsequent hiking trail, you’ll pass through a short band of trees at the end of the slide.

Mount March through an undercast from Colden's summit. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Mount Marcy through an undercast from Colden’s summit. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns

Coming Back Down

One of the best parts about climbing the Trap Dike is the multiple options for returning back to the trailhead. Backcountry skiers can choose a ski descent, with a required rappel down the ice pitches, or one of Mt. Colden’s many other slides. Without skis, however, the quickest route back follows the summit trail, heading northeast for 3.6 miles past Lake Arnold and down to Marcy Dam. Once again, be wary of skiers descending the trail between Avalanche Pass and Marcy Dam. From Marcy Dam, follow the same Van Hoevenberg Trail for 2.6 miles back north to the Adirondack Loj to complete a long but rewarding adventure.

Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Credit: Ryan Wichelns

The Kit

  • A technical mountaineering tool or axe, like the Petzl Sum’Tec, is ideal for the Trap Dike. The slightly curved shaft and aggressive pick allow you to climb ice pitches with ease, without impeding your ability to plunge the shaft into the snow for climbing on the upper slide or creating a snow anchor.
  • Much like the hybrid axe or tool, a crampon that can handle both vertical ice and snow steps, like the Black Diamond Snaggletooth Pro, will make your climbing more efficient. The Black Diamond Snaggletooth brings the best of both worlds together with its unique single-horizontal spike.
  • Hikers in the Adirondacks might not be used to wearing a helmet. But, climbing is dangerous, and dropping an ice axe on your partner’s head can make for a really bad day. The Petzl Sirocco will protect your noggin, and due to its lightweight design, you won’t even notice it’s there.
  • Winter travel through the High Peaks requires snowshoes or skis when there’s more than eight inches of snow on the ground. This helps prevent postholing and protects the trail conditions for everyone. The MSR Revo Explore 25 Snowshoes are lightweight and easy to take on or off, so you aren’t fumbling around when it’s time to change to your crampons.
  • Every year, there are reports of people getting lost or rescued during winter in the High Peaks. Everybody thinks it won’t happen to them, but it is important to be prepared if you are stuck overnight and need warmth. The SOL 2-Person Survival Blanket from Adventure Medical Kits will keep you and your climbing partner warm in case of an unexpected overnight.

Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Credit: Ryan Wichelns

Keys to the Trip

  • While, compared to other parts of the U.S., the East Coast sees fewer avalanches, they still do happen, and the risk is still real, especially on exposed slides like the Trap Dike’s upper portion. So, consider educating yourself on traveling through avalanche-prone terrain with the EMS Climbing School’s AIARE training. The Trap Dike, while usually considered safe, has all of the ingredients for avalanche danger.
  • Weather predictions in the Adirondacks can be very fickle. If you are planning the Trap Dike as a day trip, consider having a flexible window open to pick the best day. While poor weather poses greater challenges, the views on a nice day are second to none, and are a great way to pay yourself back for all the hard work.
  • This guide was written for a day trip, but the Adirondacks, and particularly the Marcy Dam area, offer many other hikes and climbing adventures. Consider planning for a longer journey and camping out. As such, your return hike back to base camp will be shorter, and you will be set up to head back out for a different hike or climb the next morning!
  • After your triumphant climb, you are sure to be hungry. Lake Placid is overflowing with great restaurants, but a dependable go-to is always the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery. The food is delicious and filling, and the Ubu Ale is as classic as the Trap Dike itself

Credit: Aaron Courain
Credit: Aaron Courain

Current Conditions

Have you climbed the Trap Dike recently? Post your experience and the trail conditions (with the date of your hike) in the comments for others!

Gifts for Girls Who are "One of the Guys"

Whenever I do anything outdoors, I’m almost always the only girl in the group. This means I’ve had plenty of time over the years to figure out the best gear to help me either keep up or kick butt. So, if you’re shopping for a girl who often finds herself in the same situation, here’s a list of things I use to make hanging out with a bunch of dudes easier and more fun.

Courtesy: Ashley Peck
Courtesy: Ashley Peck

Climbing: Petzl Elia Climbing Helmet

I was tired of a helmet that only sat on my head properly if my ponytail was in just the right spot. The boys were also tired of waiting for me to fix my hair before or after each climb. A few years ago, I received the Petzl Elia as a gift, and this problem hasn’t been an issue since! Other companies “girl-ify” helmets by simply making them in prettier colors, but taking it a step further, Petzl developed a headband that actually accommodates a ponytail in multiple positions. It also weighs just 10 ounces and adjusts to fit any head perfectly. So, your climber girl will probably forget she’s even wearing it and will have an extra-safe hike back to the car after a day of cragging.

Hiking and Camping: GoGirl Female Urination Device

I wouldn’t say I’ve ever wished I was, um, “built like a man.” But, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of how much easier it is for my male hiking partners to heed nature’s call when we’re out on the trail. If the lady hiker on your list has ever complained about popping a squat in the woods, treat her to a GoGirl this holiday! Not only does it have a fun name (if you ignore the medieval-sounding “Female Urination Device” part of it), but it also helps level the pee-playing field and virtually eliminates the risk of getting poison ivy in unfortunate places.

Courtesy: Ashley Peck
Courtesy: Ashley Peck

Biking: CamelBak Women’s L.U.X.E. Hydration Pack

It might just be that my husband and his friends are crazy people, but they hate taking breaks during a bike ride. If I start to get hangry while we’re mountain biking, they’ll cave and let me take a quick food break. However, I wouldn’t stand a chance of staying properly hydrated without my Camelbak Women’s L.U.X.E Hydration Pack. If the biker chick on your list has to keep up with the boys, or if she’s the ambitious one who doesn’t like to stop, make sure she stays sufficiently watered out on the trail with this super-comfy pack that holds enough fluid to ride for hours on end.

Skiing: DryGuy Green HEAT 2-in-1 Heater

Just because the weather gets cold that doesn’t mean the outdoors-woman will stop adventuring. It does, however, mean she might need some extra help staying warm. Whenever I’m skiing, snowboarding, or winter hiking with the boys, it always seems like I’m the only one whose hands are freezing, no matter how nice my gloves or mittens are. Hand-warmer packs help a little, but the DryGuy GreenHEAT 2-in-1 Heater is the BEST. It’ll warm your snow sister’s hands instantly, recharge her phone (or headlamp), and help the planet by reducing hand-warmer waste—making it a win-win-win.

Courtesy: MTI Adventurewear
Courtesy: MTI Adventurewear

Paddling: MTI Moxie PFD

Don’t let your water woman settle for any ol’ life jacket. She may have to wait a few months to use it, but when she unwraps a made-for-her PFD like the MTI Moxie this holiday, she’ll be happier than a seagull with a french fry. What makes the Moxie so comfy is its Adjust-a-Bust fit System—certainly giggle-worthy every time she and her guy friends get on the water. It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Courtesy: Mountainsmith
Courtesy: Mountainsmith

All of the Above: Mountainsmith Sixer

If all else fails, the Mountainsmith Sixer is always a safe bet. For a girl who’s one of the guys, you can be sure of one thing: Beers are a staple of every adventure. And, if the mountain maven you’re shopping for is the one who supplies the cold brews at the end of the day, she’ll always be the boys’ favorite bro.