5 Breathtaking Backcountry Ski Adventures

November 23, 2016
Backcountry Ski in Maine
Marc ChalufourAMC’s Maine Wilderness Lodges provide a basecamp for one of the finest backcountry ski adventures in New England.

If you want to experience the true wildness of winter in the Northeast, strap on your skis and slip into the backcountry. Here are five choice picks to get you started, from the tranquil Maine Woods to New York’s highest peak. For more on these and many other winter adventures (50 in total), check out David Goodman’s Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast, from AMC books.

AMC’s Maine Wilderness Lodges | Greenville, Maine
Enjoy multiple days of backcountry bliss with a winter stay at Little Lyford Lodge & Cabins and Gorman Chairback Lodge & Cabins, two of AMC’s Maine Wilderness Lodges. (A third, the rebuilt Medawisla Lodge, is scheduled to reopen in summer 2017.) Guests leave their cars in the winter parking area, drop their bags for the staff to shuttle in, and set off on skis. It’s 8.3 miles to Gorman Chairback or 7 miles to Little Lyford. Once in camp, get a fire going in your cabin’s stove or enjoy a session in the sauna to warm up. Numerous day trips on ski or snowshoe are accessible from either camp, or you can ski camp-to-camp, with your bags shuttled for you: a 6.5-mile jaunt.
DISTANCE: 21.8-mile loop starting at the winter parking area and visiting both lodges
INFO: Maine Lodge-to-Lodge Skiing; Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast (AMC Books)

Pinkham Notch | Jackson, N.H.
While Pinkham Notch and Joe Dodge Lodge might be better known as the starting point of the trek up to Tuckerman Ravine’s headwall, not all of the backcountry skiing here is that extreme. For a more relaxed outing, follow Old Jackson Road (OJR), a favorite of many White Mountain enthusiasts, and continue onto Connie’s Way to make a scenic loop. Old Jackson Road crosses other trails and rivers as it gradually ascends along the base of Mount Washington. At 0.9 mile, the incline gives way to an enjoyable and scenic downhill glide after passing George’s Gorge Trail. Take in views of the Gulf of Slides and Huntington Ravine. Eventually the trail reaches the Mount Washington Auto Road. A ski pass is typically required to ski the Auto Road unless you are connecting to Connie’s Way from OJR. Follow Connie’s Way about 2.75 miles then turn right on Blanchard Loop, left onto Link Trail, and a final left to return to Old Jackson Road, which leads you back to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.
DISTANCE: 6 miles round trip
INFO: Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide Online

Mount Moosilauke | Warren, N.H.
Some of New England’s best backcountry skiing can be found among the hills of the White Mountains, with Mount Moosilauke offering premier views. One of the best and most straightforward routes to the summit is up the Carriage Road, with more than 2,700 feet in elevation change. The trail begins at the northern terminus of Breezy Point Road, off Route 118, at the site of the former Breezy Point Hotel. A mile from the summit, the road merges with the Appalachian Trail. Ski a little farther and you’ll emerge above treeline. The 360-degree view includes the Green Mountains of Vermont, as well as New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The vista isn’t the trip’s only highlight: Historic ruins dot Moosilauke.
DISTANCE: 5.7 miles one way
INFO: Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide Online

The Long Trail | Stowe, Vt.
For some of the best views on Vermont’s 272-mile Long Trail, try the 5.7-mile stretch of Monroe Skyline between the Mad River Glen and Sugarbush ski areas, spotting a car on either end. It’s a challenging route—part mountaineering, part skiing, according to David Goodman—but you’ll be rewarded with views of Lake Champlain and New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Start at Mad River Glen, which allows uphill skiing and offers cheaper lift passes, then head south toward Sugarbush, planning for a stop at the Castle Rock warming hut along the way. Be sure to begin your day promptly: Sugarbush closes early for ski patrol sweeps.
DISTANCE: 5.7 miles one way
INFO: Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast (AMC Books); Green Mountain Club

Mount Marcy | Lake Placid, N.Y.
Mount Marcy, the highest peak in New York, is home to some of the state’s most legendary and beautiful backcountry ski trails. The best way to access the mountain is by parking at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center, where you can pick up a map. From there, follow Van Hoevenberg Trail 2.3 miles to Marcy Dam, where you’ll follow a blue-blazed trail leading to Phelps Brook. At 6.8 miles, after a rigorous and steep climb, you’ll arrive at the base of the exposed summit. The peak sees intense weather in the winter, so be sure to check the forecast before you set forth. Once at the summit, the fun begins: Mount Marcy offers diverse and exciting backcountry terrain that you can navigate as you please. When you’re ready to head back, rejoin Van Hoevenberg Trail for the descent to the information center.
DISTANCE: 14.4 miles round trip
INFO: Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast (AMC Books); Lake Placid Convention & Visitors Bureau


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Amanda Keohane

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