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All Skiing is Good Skiing…

February 1, 2017

Some is just better than others.

Tckerman's Ravine

Hillman’s Highway

29 January 2017

Today definitely fell into the latter category. In a stark contrast to the less than stellar “winter,” we received last year; it seems we’re off to an excellent start to ski season. Plagued with a historically low snow year, I don’t think I ever managed to ski above the Hermit Lake shelter all of last year. A winter to try and forget that’s for sure. However, fast forward to January 2017, it seems that winter is here to stay, and for all of us ski fanatics, it’s our favorite time of year. Which, of course, also means it’s the time of year I find myself perpetually glued to my computer screen monitoring the forecast for the next big snow storm.

So of course, I began my morning like I usually do: sipping a hearty cup of coffee while studying the avalanche forecast in conjunction with the higher summits forecast. Noticing the new snow reports combined with a workable avalanche rating, I had my mind made up. After a year of missing out on the various gullies and lips of Tuckerman’s ravine that so many come from afar to experience, I decided it was time to venture into the bowl at the bottom of Tuckerman’s, or at the very least, get an accurate idea of the current conditions. It was 8am, if I made good time I should be able to quickly skin up and ski down before my evening shift at the AMC’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center’s front desk.

John Sherburn Ski Trail

Arriving at the Pinkham around 8:30am, I was both excited and surprised to notice that the forecast was wrong—but in a good way. We had received several more inches of fresh snow, more than expected. Now I had another conundrum. Do I dash across the street for a couple lift served laps at Wildcat or do I put forth the effort to climb up to the ravine? After chatting with some fellow staffers over the oh so important second cup of coffee about the best lines of the day, I had my mind made up—It was time to venture up into the bowl.

Hillman's Highway

Sure enough, within 2 hours I was arriving at Hermit Lake covered in a fresh blanket of snow. Even as a lifelong resident of the area, no matter how many hundreds of times I’ve arrived at this spot, the dramatic view of Tuckerman’s ravine on a clear day is a sight to behold. Today, however, there wasn’t much visible past the headwall. But I was fine with that-my attention had already shifted to the moderate rating on the avalanche board. Conditions and information about the current snow pack is posted here every day. Traveling in groups with the proper safety equipment (beacon, probe,shovel) and the proper snow safety knowledge is strongly recommended in this type of high angle terrain. Nonetheless, I ran into some fellow ski buddies who were confident with their snow stability assessment to attempt a run on the infamous slide known to many as Hillman’s highway. This roughly half mile long run leads directly to the top of the John Shurburne ski trail, leaving skiers with a direct line to the inviting fireplaces of the Joe Dodge Lodge.

Hillman's Highway

Skeptical of the conditions on a fairly windy day, I had little expectations that I was going to encounter anything other than classic east coast wind scoured slab conditions. However, I turned out to be proven incorrect. As we topped out of this nearly 1400’ vertical run, I paused to savor the moment. For instead of wind scrabble, we were about to ski some soft and stable powder. I took one last photo, stepped into my skis, and began the long, powdery descent to the bottom. Keep an eye on those safety bulletins, watch the weather, and come enjoy what the White Mountains have to offer!

Ben on Hillman's Highway


Looking for trail conditions or weather? Check AMC conditions and/or call us at Pinkham Notch. We are available by phone at (603)466-2721 every day from 6:30am to 9:00pm or by email at amcpinkhaminfo@outdoors.org. To make reservations at AMC Lodges and Huts, please call (603)466-2727, Monday through Saturday, 9am-5pm.

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Ben Cargill

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.