Off the beaten track, away from the crowds, the roads, the lifts… If that is where you prefer to ski then the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Mount Washington Valley is the place for you. The White Mountain National Forest boasts over 100,000 acres of wilderness and more than 1200 miles of hiking trails. Many of these trails and some of the forest roads make for a fantastic ski day away from it all. Whether you prefer milder terrain in beautiful forest surroundings or the thrill of the Tuckerman’s Ravine you will find all all the opportunity you can ski!
We certainly do not claim to be experts on the backcountry ski terrain in the White Mountains and most of you probably already know many of the popular areas but here is a small sampling of what you might try on a winter or spring day in the White Mountains. If this list wets your appetite then stop in at one of the local guide shops for more complete information. As always, check the weather, be knowledgeable and go prepared. Be safe and have fun! Kancamagus Highway
The Kancamagus Highway area near Albany has many backcountry ski opportunities, particularly around the Bear Notch Road. Here are a few options.
Lower Nanamacomuck Trail
This trail runs between the Albany Covered Bridge on the Kancamagus Highway to Bear Notch Road. Roughly following the Swift River for the duration of the trip the trail travels over mild terrain through mixed hardwood-evergreen forest. This is an easy outing great for the whole family or novice cross-country skiers.
Upper Nanamacomuck Trail
This portion, continuing on from Bear Notch Road is more challenging than the lower trail portion though still mild in terms of elevation gain. With many side trails the options for loops are tremendous. Many people enjoy cross-country skiing the area around this trail throughout the winter season.
Oliverian Brook – Downes Trail
Also on the Kanc, these easy to moderate backcountry cross-country ski trails provide a nice short scenic opportunity to get out into winter in the White Mountains.
Doublehead Ski Trail
Step into a bit of ski history on the Doublehead trail. Originally cut in the 1930’s this winding mountainside trail in Jackson NH will challenge your downhill technique with plenty of turns and the classic New England double fall line. At up to 25 feet wide however, novice backcountry skiers will still enjoy the outing especially in fresh snow.
Avalanche Brook Trail
Descend from the base of Mount Washington to the Dana Place Inn in Jackson NH. Although the overall trip is downhill the trail covers rolling terrain just to keep things interesting. A challenging day for sure, especially if you don’t spot a car and have to reverse the trip back up the mountain! 5.5miles.
John Sherburne Ski Trail
Without question my favorite ski day ever was one run down this classic New England ski trail. Descending from the Hermit Lake Shelters below Tuckerman’s Ravine, the John Sherburne Trail can deliver you back to Pinkham Notch in mere minutes after the two hour hike up. Of course you can take your time and enjoy the turns as well. Conditions can vary greatly so be sure to check in at the Pinkam Notch visitor center for information. I have seen this trail with everything from blue ice to waist deep powder to wet pack with water bars so be prepared!
On a spring weekend a trip to Tuckerman’s Ravine will be crowded but there is no other place like it in the East. Once in the bowl you will understand. With crowds of onlookers at the base, skiers attempt the various lines of decent down the steep face of the bowl to cheers and jeers. Much of the terrain is steeper than anything you will find at a ski area and all of it is more wide open. Heading into Tucks requires excellent skiing skills as well as mountaineering skills. There are many risks, not all of which can be readily seen so be prepared. If you have never attempted this type of trip before check with one of the local guide companies. Also be sure to check the current avalanche conditions and weather reports. Mount Washington is a serious place so be safe.