Monday, February 24, 2014

Merck Forest Backcountry Skiing - 2/22/14

Usually, I try not to expose backcountry "stashes", but since the Merck Forest, outside of Manchester Vermont, is pretty well known, I figured I'd just say where we were. Since the recent rain/freeze, we figured we'd give the coral reef snow conditions a little time to warm up, so we flew sideways up the icy access road around 11:00. The parking lot and main road were completely iced over, making the walk to the visitor's center super treacherous. But we made it and, after a little planning session, we decided on a route up 2,600' Antone Mountain. We went back to the (actually pretty crowded) parking area and put on our skins, which made walking on the icy ground much more enjoyable.

We started hiking and tried to get off the main drag as soon as possible. We found ourselves on the empty McCormick Trail;

We got off the McCormick trail, took Antone Road to the "Ski Trail" (mellow, but a nice skin track in place), and got back on Antone road for the final push up. After about 2.5 hours, we made it to the summit. It was treed, but there was still a pretty good view.

The ski down was really tough. The snow never softened as much as we needed it to, so there was about 2" of crust that made everything really hard to turn through. We mostly had to stick with the tried and true backcountry technique of skiing our skin track, going too fast, panicking, leaving the track, and trying not to fall in the weird crusty snow.

Eventually, the trail widened and softened enough that we could make turns:

And we came out of the woods into full view of the farm:

There were some really fun horses:

This guy was just running around under this windmill, playing around in the snow - just like we were!

It was a great day to get away from the crowds of President's Week. Around this time of year, I always get burnt out on teaching and resort skiing. Days like this remind me why I love just being outside in the winter time.