With a 43 kilometer trail system and assortment of winter activities offered, Great Glen Trails at the base of Mount Washington’s historic Auto Road affords any winter enthusiast the potential for adventure. These rolling routes also provide opportunities for skiers accustomed to backcountry powder or parallel tracks to break into a sprint and try some skate skiing. Up to 20 kilometers of groomed skating trails compose the heart of Great Glen’s trail system.
“Skating over a smooth, gentle, hard-packed groomed surface or over spring crust, one has the feeling of flying,” says Sue Wemyss, Great Glen’s ski school director and a former U.S. Olympic Ski Team member.
Unlike the hiking routes that wind into the mountains above, the trails at Great Glen were designed specifically with skiing and snowshoeing in mind. Trails groomed for skate skiing also have tracks for classic skiers. “[They] range from easy [and] very flat to most difficult, with a hefty climb and descent that includes some major direction change,” says Wemyss. The rest of the system is left ungroomed, for snowshoeing and backcountry skiing.
For beginning skate skiers, Wemyss recommends Great Glen’s Clementine Wash and Fuzzbottom trails, which together make a flat loop of about 1.2 kilometers. The path includes a wooded section along the Peabody River and provides some spectacular views of the northern Presidential Mountains and Wildcat Ski Area.
Individuals new to skate skiing, or those looking to improve existing skills, may benefit from a lesson. “It’s common for self-taught beginning skaters to be able to move forward on flats and gradual downhills, but then they hit an uphill and suddenly [think], ‘Hey, this is hard,'” says Wemyss. “This is where a good instructor can really help out.” Great Glen offers private and group lessons for all ability levels, with fees ranging from $25 to $49.
While skaters at Great Glen are welcome to use classic equipment they already own, skate-specific gear is available for rental. With shorter skis and tighter bindings, skate skiing gear is designed to help skaters push out laterally and glide faster across snow.
For the particularly ambitious, Great Glen hosts several races. The Nordic Meisters begin on January 4 and continue on every Tuesday for eight weeks. Entering their 16th year as the largest weekly cross-country event in the country, the races offer skate and classic skiing as well as snowshoeing options. On March 6, the 15th Ski to the Clouds 10K Nordic freestyle race will be held on Great Glen’s trails, and partway up the Auto Road.
Guests at AMC’s Joe Dodge Lodge, just a short drive down the road, can ski and tube for free at Great Glen throughout the winter. A trail pass is otherwise $18.