Video: First Ever Zeppelin Ski Drop

Ski season ‘aint over yet…if you have a blimp at your disposal.


This Hike is a Blue Square: The Problems with NYS's Plan to Rate Hikes Like Ski Runs

The New York State Assembly is currently considering a bill that would rate the difficulty of hikes in the same manner in which ski areas rank the difficulty of their trails—black diamond for experts, blue square for intermediates, and green circle for beginners. According to New York State Assemblyman Chris Tague, the bill’s sponsor, the purpose of this trail-rating measure is to improve hiker safety. But this also begs the question—how does slapping a circle, square, or diamond at a trailhead do this?

20180731_EMS_Adirondacks_Kemple-5529_Hike_Scene

While the bill may provide a very generalized assessment of difficulty, it doesn’t say anything definitive about what a hiker is “in for” on a particular trail. Nor does it explain what hikers should be carrying in their packs in case of emergency. This is information that has historically been included in guidebooks and on signage found at many trailheads. Why not refocus this bill toward improving the existing information by consolidating it into an online region-by-region guidebook, then posting detailed trail descriptions at trailheads? That way hikers could easily research their objective before they left home and, if it was a last-minute outing, read about the hike at the trailhead. From websites giving detailed trail descriptions, (such as our Alpha Guides) to dedicated enthusiast websites, to personal blogs, much of this information already exists and consolidating these sources would give hikers a much better picture of what to expect (mileage, elevation, terrain difficulty, etc.) than a single symbol.

From websites giving detailed trail descriptions, to dedicated enthusiast websites, to personal blogs, much of this information already exists and consolidating these sources would give hikers a much better picture of what to expect than a single symbol.

A second concern with the proposal is that it doesn’t account for seasonal and weather-related changes to trail conditions. Consider a situation common to hikers in the Northeast, where icy conditions, a winter snowpack, or a water crossing with high water turn a moderate hike into an epic. Diligent hikers do their research, seeking out an up-to-date picture of what to expect on the trail before they leave home. Is New York going to similarly dedicate staff to changing that green circle into a black diamond when conditions warrant? More so, where community-based websites are already filling this role, aren’t the State’s resources better allocated to helping foster a state-wide trail condition forum like NewEnglandTrailConditions.com or TrailsNH.com (which already cover some of the state’s higher peaks)?

2019-01-EMS-Kemple-Conway-5508_Backpacking

A third problem is that difficulty is incredibly subjective. Simply scroll through the comments on some of the hiking pieces we’ve written for goEast or on a website such as AllTrails.com and it quickly becomes clear that one person’s easy hike is another’s nightmare. And it’s not just the web where the subjectivity influences trail descriptions and level of challenge—hikers are rarely in sync with the suggested completion times found in popular guidebooks. Once again, the ever-changing nature of trails and weather can play a role in this. Dry conditions and mild temps can make for an easy ascent one day, while slick, wet trails or heat and humidity can lead to struggles the next. It’s not dissimilar to a problem shared by many ski resorts—shred a black diamond run that’s filled with snow and it may feel easy, but encounter it later in the day when the snow has been scraped off and the challenge rises exponentially.

Simply scroll through the comments on some of the hiking pieces we’ve written for goEast or on a website such as AllTrails.com and it quickly becomes clear that one person’s easy hike is another’s nightmare.

It’s not only the dynamic nature of trails that make using a single rating to define their difficulty a problem, but the question also arises, what do we, as hikers, think is difficult? Will the ratings merely be based on mileage and elevation gain? What about the quality of the terrain? After all, a rough and rocky trail is much slower to navigate than a smooth trail. What about how rapidly the elevation is gained? Many of us find a slow, gradual ascent easier than a steeper, more direct ascent. Then, of course, there are technical bits such as water crossings, ladders, and steep sections which, depending on experience and comfort level, will feel easy for some and turn others around.

EMS-LAKE-PLACID-3655

Finally, what happens if hikers are planning on using multiple trails? Do two greens equal a blue? Or, three greens equal a black diamond? It seems to us that this system could quickly cause more confusion than it helps to clarify. In addition to sowing confusion, could rating hiking trails like ski runs lead to complacency? For example, would hikers be encouraged to leave behind essentials such as a headlamp because a trail is a green circle?

Do two greens equal a blue? Or, three greens equal a black diamond?

Interest in hiking and exploring our wild places is on the rise and thinking about how to make our trails safer and more inclusive should be on the top of people’s minds, especially those in charge of managing these places. But, while we feel like the New York’s heart is in the right place, we don’t think that rating hiking trails like ski trails is the solution they’re looking for.


The Forest through the Trees: Skiing the GBA’s Glades

If you haven’t skied any of the Granite Backcountry Alliance’s new glades in New Hampshire’s White Mountains yet, you’re missing out. Formed in 2016, the GBA’s mission is to provide low-impact human-powered backcountry skiing opportunities to the public through the creation, improvement, and maintenance of ski glades in New Hampshire and Western Maine. Working in partnerships with public and private landowners, the GBA has so far established five glades, with more on the horizon. Want to sample the GBA’s handiwork? Keep reading for the beta on a few of their most recent projects.

Skiing the trees on Bill Hill. | Credit: Tim Peck
Skiing the trees on Bill Hill. | Credit: Tim Peck

Great Glen North/Bill Hill Glades

Named after a local who “spent some time in them thar hills,” Bill Hill is located on land owned by the Gorham Land Company—who also own the Great Glen Trails, the Mount Washington Auto Road, and the newly opened Glen House Hotel. Categorized by the GBA as a “lunchtime lap” destination, don’t be dissuaded from spending a day sampling the skiing at Bill Hill; The various glades here may be short, but they feature tightly spaced trees in an area that was recently logged and have just the right amount of pitch. On top of that, Bill Hill is north facing so the glades hold snow after a storm.

To access Bill Hill, park in an obvious plowed area on Bellevue Road—just outside of downtown Gorham—and begin skinning on an established snowmobile track to the far end of the airport, which is easily identified by a brick building. Snowmobile traffic here can be heavy at times, especially on the weekends, so keep your guard up, wear bright colors and, if traveling in a group, skin in single file. At the end of the airport, traverse through an open area—that’s also clearly popular with snowmobilers—and loop back along the opposite side of the airstrip for a few hundred yards before entering the woods on the right. If this seems confusing, just picture the approach as a “U.”

Shortly after entering the woods, skiers will come across a mountain bike trail sign reading “For Pete’s Sake.” Follow that trail momentarily before breaking left onto an old logging road that leads to steeper terrain, eventually gaining a ridge and the top of the gladed skiing—if you’re not skiing in the middle of a storm, there is a good chance someone has done the hard work and put in a skin track to follow. From the top of the ridge, there are multiple glades to drop into and enjoy the 600-foot descent through the trees to the old logging road you entered on. From here, either head back up for another run or retrace your steps to the car.

Looking down on the Crescent Glades. | Credit: Tim Peck
Looking down on the Crescent Glades. | Credit: Tim Peck

Crescent Ridge Glade

Another great glade is just up the road in the Randolph Community Forest. Offering something for everyone, Crescent Ridge Glade features five distinct ski corridors—described by the GBA as “low-density vertical lines that are approximately 35-50 feet in width”—that all funnel skiers into a large hardwood glade and, eventually, back to the trail they entered on. From here, skiers can easily head up for another lap (or three) before returning the way they came to their car. Offering a wide variety of terrain in a relatively condensed area, the initial pitch of Crescent Ridge’s runs vary between 30 and 35 degrees, before mellowing to 20 to 25 degrees, eventually giving way to 10- and 15-degree terrain on the ski out.

Crescent Ridge skiers start the day at a plowed parking lot located at the end of Randolph Hill Road, right off of U.S. Highway 2 in Randolph. From the parking lot, skin past the kiosk on a wide track for a few minutes before entering the woods on the Carlton Notch Trail. Following the GBA’s blue blazes, skiers will skin through gently rolling terrain, through a large open field with amazing views of the Northern Presidentials (just turn around), and past the bottom of the large hardwood glade. It’s here that the skintrack steepens for the final push to the ridge and entry points to the ski corridors, which are numbered 1 through 5.

Skiers should plan on it taking between an hour and an hour and a half to make the little-under-two-mile, 1,000-foot climb from the parking lot to the ridge and expect it to take 20 to 30 minutes to transition and make the 600-foot climb needed to lap the trees. Getting back to the parking lot is easy and fast (provided the water crossings are filled in)—simply ski back the way you came in.

Skiing Maple Villa with Mount Washington in the distance through the trees. | Credit: Tim Peck
Skiing Maple Villa with Mount Washington in the distance through the trees. | Credit: Tim Peck

Maple Villa

Maple Villa Glade is the largest, longest, and most popular glade on this list. Skiing at Maple Villa—which is named for a hotel at the end of the original ski trail—has a long history, beginning in 1933 with the Civilian Conservation Corps cutting the “Maple Villa” ski trail. Shortly thereafter, Maple Villa became the Intervale Ski Area, which operated for approximately the next 40 years. Following the closing of Intervale Ski Area in the mid-1970s, the Maple Villa area was home to the Eastern Mountain Sports (cross-country) Ski Touring Center. Skiers today will discover everything from tightly spaced trees to resort-esque runs varying in length from 800 to 1,700 feet.

One of the factors for Maple Villa’s popularity (in addition to its expansive terrain) is its proximity to North Conway. The parking lot for Maple Villa is found on 70 East Branch Road in Intervale and is just minutes from North Conway. Leaving the parking lot, skiers follow blue blazes along the original Maple Villa Ski Trail as it slowly gains elevation along the two(ish)-mile skin that climbs approximately 1,700 feet. A number of descent options are obvious from the top of the glade—all of which offer a mostly moderate pitch and terrain alternating between closely spaced trees to more widely spaced runs. Keep your eyes peeled as Mount Washington can be spied through the trees on the descent.

The upper half of Maple Villa is meant to be lapped, and the area’s primary runs all deposit skiers to the same place—allowing them to follow the skin track back up roughly 800 feet of elevation, or providing them with a gentle ski out the way they came, along the old Maple Villa Ski Trail. Skiers can expect it to take an hour to an hour and a half to go from the parking lot to the top of the gladed terrain and between 30 and 45 minutes to skin a lap.

 

Whether it’s establishing larger areas like Maple Villa or maintaining smaller “lunch lap” locations like Bill Hill, the Granite Backcountry Alliance has put a lot of time, work, and money into these projects. If you explore these glades, please be courteous of the area and respectful of the rules, especially where to park if a lot is full. If you’d like to support the GBA, consider donating, becoming a member, attending one of their events (like the upcoming Wild Corn on April 4th), or taking part in one of their workdays.


Video: Utah Avalanche Burial

This avalanche burial and rescue is hard to watch.


Abandoned But Not Forgotten: Skiing Mount Watatic

Here’s a little secret that backcountry skiers in Massachusetts have been keeping for years: Mount Watatic, in Ashby, Massachusetts, still has awesome skiing. Sure, it’s a small mountain that “officially” closed as a ski resort in the mid-1980s, but in recent years locals have revitalized the abandoned trails, turning it into a backcountry paradise for skiers and riders of all abilities. Read on for the beta of this prime destination, located less than 60 miles from Boston.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Watatic’s Backstory

Although skiing began on Mount Watatic as early as 1940 (when a rope tow was installed), the resort’s heyday ran from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. At its peak, the resort had multiple lifts, snowmaking, a ski school, a base lodge, and night skiing. There were also six top-to-bottom trails—Spruce, Wapack, The Line, Cascade, Big Dipper, and Little Dipper—each with between 500 and 600 feet of vertical drop.

Like so many smaller resorts, Mount Watatic eventually succumbed to larger, glitzier, and more convenient mountains, closing for good in 1984. Things remained quiet at Mount Watatic until the early 2000s, when a company made plans to build a cell tower on the mountain. Thankfully for skiers, the tower was never built, with the land instead purchased and set aside for conservation in 2002. However, this didn’t happen until after the telecom company that planned to build the tower had blasted a road to the top of the mountain, slicing diagonally across the ski area (and the remnants of the ski trails) in the process.

watatic_map

Accessing the Goods

Whichever lot you decide to park in, “the road” is now Watatic’s most distinct landmark. It is the easiest ski descent on the mountain and it is also the unofficial uphill route for skier traffic thanks to its wide, even surface and moderate grade.

The road also separates Mount Watatic into two sections, the upper mountain and the lower mountain. Although it feels strange to divide a mountain with less than a thousand feet of elevation into sections, both the upper and lower mountain have distinct characteristics.

The Upper Mountain

The runs on the upper half of Mount Watatic feature everything from short, steepish chutes to perfectly spaced pine glades. In line with the old ski trails, the most challenging terrain is found on skier’s right just below the summit—on top of the old ski resort’s two black diamond runs, Big Dipper and Little Dipper. Attentive skiers should look for the awesome glade run hidden between the two; make sure to check it out on a pow day!

Cascade and Thin Line drop straight down the center of the upper mountain. Their starts are easy to find and both lead to tight runs that are lots of fun in good snow conditions. Of the two, Cascade is better maintained and, in most conditions, a little wider and easier.

The remnants of the trails on skier’s left are a little harder to find; the upper portions of the road have subsumed a good part of the upper section of Wapack, while the start of Spruce is overgrown and partially hidden. However, spending the time to find the start of Spruce—you’ll essentially ski down a short section of the hiking trail to find it—is well worth it, as it’s a tight, fun run that flows uninterrupted to the base area.

Because these runs are not formally maintained, conditions can vary from totally clear to shwacky depending on factors like skier traffic and snowfall. Be sure to also pay attention to your turns as these trails intersect the road separating the upper and lower mountain; the terrain here is sometimes tricky, as the road builders put little thought into preserving the ski trails.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Lower Mountain

The lower mountain’s three distinct runs (Wapack, Cascade, and Little Dipper) remain in their historic locations. They are easy to find from the road and tend to be more open and lower angle than the upper mountain trails, making them perfect for newer backcountry skiers and a pleasant reprieve from dodging trees (and the occasional rock) up top. Moreover, frequently windy conditions near the top of the mountain can often leave it scoured, but great snow can be found down low with powder pockets deposited generously across Watatic’s lower slopes.

The first trail that skiers descending the road see is Wapack. Dropping off the road just after it makes a sharp bend, Wapack is a tight chute, with interspersed mini-glades, that runs to the base area. It is the longest and most challenging of the lower three runs.

The drop in for Cascade is a short distance further down, just before the one steep section on the road. Although once fairly tight due to regrowth, Cascade was, and is again, the widest run on the mountain and offers fun skiing on moderate terrain.

At the bottom of the road’s decline, skiers can take a sharp left onto Little Dipper. Although not as wide as Cascade, it is the lowest angle of the three runs and is pleasant, easy skiing, especially near the bottom.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Base Area

All of the lower slope’s runs deposit into a large open area at the base of Mount Watatic, which makes it easy to regroup between laps. This area also gets a considerable amount of sun, allowing for comfortable conditions to refuel and transition between downhill and uphill skiing.

Have you skied Mount Watic either under your own power or when it was still operational? If so, tell us about your experience in the comments below!


Video: 10 Hacks for Skiers

“Hey, is that your line? Yeah, I’m tracking it.”


Be My Adventure Valentine: Romantic Outdoor Date Ideas for You and Your S.O.

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and surely the outdoorsy readership of goEast won’t be keen on celebrating inside. If you’re in need of inspiration, we’ve gathered a winter’s kaleidoscope of romantic, adventurous, and outdoorsy date ideas. There are options for all levels of exposure and comfort, from ice skating in America’s oldest public park to 100 miles of snowshoe masochism to learning new skills so you can enjoy the outdoors for a lifetime to come with your sweetheart.

Courtesy: Destination Moosehead Lake
Courtesy: Destination Moosehead Lake

Something Sweet Awaits in Maine

Nestled in the great north woods of Maine, Moosehead Lake is an island-studded getaway. Spend your days snowshoeing, ice climbing, or skiing, then come back for an evening of scrumptious chocolate sampling (to replenish your carbohydrate stores, of course). Destination Moosehead Lake’s 15th annual Chocolate Festival offers over 40 delights for your sampling pleasure.

Nothing Says “I Love You” like 100 Miles of Misery

Step out into the scenic woods of the Green Mountains, and keep stepping, and then don’t stop stepping until you’ve gone 100 miles (or about 195,000 steps if you’re counting). That is what’s in store at the Peak Snow Devil Snowshoe Ultra for the couple that wants to test their mettle, and see how each partner holds up under the long haul.

Courtesy: Muddy Paw
Courtesy: Muddy Paw

A Howliday Treat for Fans of Furry Friends

Have you gone dog sledding before? What is the chance your partner has? Bingo!… one of the pack leaders, is ready to take you on a dog sledding tour through the woods of Jefferson, New Hampshire. Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel has over 80 handsome canines, many of which are rescues from “ruff” backgrounds or second chance adoptees. Tours range from 1.5 to 3 hours and you can choose to sit bundled up in the toboggan (cozy!) or try your hand at mushing too.

Courtesy: Peak Resorts
Courtesy: Peak Resorts

Are You in a Serious Relationship with Skiing—and Your Partner?

What’s more special than a day on the slopes with your one-and-only? Well, popping the big one before shredding a steep run might make your ski day extra special. Just imagine: Blue skies glimmering against snow-covered pines, and fresh pow waiting for you to say, “I do.” Thanks to Mount Snow, you’ll be riding on Cloud Nine before taking the first run of your new lives together.

The Best Partner Is a Climbing Partner

Not every winter sport has to do with ice or snow. If you enjoy bouldering in the fall, try your hand at winter climbing where the added friction might be just what you need to send your next problem. Pack a thermos full of hot chocolate, bring a kangaroo pouch full of hand warmers and enjoy the day out at the crag with your favorite climbing partner.

Check out the bouldering at Lincoln Woods, Rumney, Pawtuckaway, or these great local gems close to Boston.

Stay Close to Home and Enjoy a Winter Classic

Ice skating is a quintessential winter activity in New England, and it has a long history at the oldest public park in the United States. Frog Pond is considered one of the best outdoor skating rinks in the country, and for good reason: Its airy setting is nestled among historical brownstones and stately elms. If you don’t live close to Boston, you are sure to find an outdoor rink close to you.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Take Your Relationship to New Heights   

New Hampshire offers 48 mountains over 4,000 feet and the winter offers a chance to fall in love with your favorite hikes all over again. You don’t have to go high or hike far to enjoy a winter trek though, there are plenty of trails you can do in a half-day or even a few hours. If you are an ambitious couple, try the Lion Head route up New England’s highest peak.

 


View this post on Instagram

Nothing beats Sundays at Frankenstein⛏️

A post shared by EMS Schools Guides (@emsguides) on

Level up Your Relationship with a New Skill

The winter offers exposure you simply don’t get in any other season: Blustery white-out mountain conditions and serpentine columns of frozen waterfalls let you enjoy the cold in a new way. With an EMS-guided Introduction to Ice Climbing course, you can gain a complete understanding of the fundamentals in one-day, so you and your partner can pursue ever more adventures, together!

Courtesy: The Ice Castles
Courtesy: The Ice Castles

Be the King and Queen for a Day

Ice slides, ice towers, ice tunnels and arches with hanging icicles, oh my! If you grew up in New England there’s a good chance you built a snow fort as a kid, and loved it. Rekindle that magic with the adult version of the snow fort, the majestic Ice Castle, fit for a king and queen. There is plenty to explore with your date, from towering spires that rise like icy sentinels to dungeonesque tunnels you can crawl through like an arctic mouse. There is even an ice slide to cap off your romantic day together.

We wish you all a fun and safe Valentine’s Day adventure! If you go on one of these dates, please tag us on instagram using the #goEast hashtag.


Newsflash: Dreaming of Adventure in 2019? The AAC Live Your Dream Grant Will Fund It

Who says climbing grants are only for first ascents or professionals? If you have a mountain goal to accomplish this year, the American Alpine Club’s Live Your Dream Grant could help you accomplish it, regardless of scale.

Founded in 2012, The Live Your Dream grant “was born from the idea that “the most important climbs out there are our own.” The program is designed to help every-day adventurers achieve personal progression and to support unforgettable experiences. In other words, the AAC wants you to pursue your goals, to be psyched to get out into the mountains, to grow, and to inspire yourself and others. There is no dream too big or too small.

Last year, the AAC awarded $72,150 to 158 individuals with a wide-range of objectives.

Grants are open to mountain folk of all ages, ability levels and climbing disciplines. Whether you’re looking to sport climb 5.11 by the end of the year, learn the trade of trad, attempt your first multi-pitch, summit mountains close to home or abroad, or attempt a trail running ultra, it’s all on the table as long as it pushes your abilities to the next level, whatever that may be.

To apply, submit your application online by March 31st. Submissions are reviewed at the regional level (Northeast, Southeast, Central, Rocky Mountain, Western, Northwestern, and a Ski/Snowboard Mountaineering focus) and winners will be announced in May.

When applying, make sure to hone in on the specificity of your goal: “The project must accurately demonstrate a progression in skills and experience and outline a specific obtainable yet personally difficult goal. The objective should be at the edge of your physical and technical ability level. However, your individual experience level should be appropriate for the proposed objective.”

For further advice on writing your application, 2015 winners, Ben Beck-Coon and Anthony Nguyen, have outlined tips on crafting a great proposal.

Courtesy: The American Alpine Club
Courtesy: The American Alpine Club

If you’re looking for inspiration, the following award winners have shared their epic experiences:

Established in 1902, the American Alpine Club’s (AAC) mission is to “support our shared passion for climbing and respect for the places we climb.” For years the AAC funded cutting-edge and highly technical ascents with the aim of advancing the possibilities of the sport. Yet these expeditions are at the fringe and often seem unrelatable. With the growth of climbing, the AAC (in partnership with The North Face) wanted to help more people enjoy the varied disciplines of the vertical world.

Sure, the pros get the limelight, but we all experience the same joy and exaltation that comes from personal growth and achieving our mountain dreams. I for one, a 5.10 climber, will certainly be applying with the goal of climbing 5.11 by the end of the year. 


Video: Skiing Stereotypes

Which skiing stereotype are you?