Mt. Moosilauke – 3/08/2003

I posted this Trip Report Saturday, March 08, 2003 – 10:59 pm on First Tracks Online: No-Bull Ski Reports. The TR was lost by FTO NBSR a few years later, so I’ve reposted it in the Ski Trip Report archives.

I’m sure NBSR will fill up with fine reports for today from across New England. Today was absolutely beautiful in northern New Hampshire, better than forecasted, with blue skies most of the day, until some thin clouds filtered in late afternoon. Temps started out in the mid twenties early morning, and reached the mid forties in the valleys by the end of the day.

I left home planning to ski Tucks, but had lingering doubts about whether it would warm up enough at higher elevations to soften conditions in the Bowl that the snow rangers described as hard surfaces, ice crust, and windslab. I decided to take my chances on a lower summit, and headed back to a mountain I’ve planned to revisit since I first skied it 9 years ago.

At the relatively late hour of 9:15, I left the car at Rte. 118, and started up the road to Ravine Lodge. There were a couple snowshoers ahead of me, and a group of 8 from White Mountain School that I played tag with, all the way to the summit. There was a half inch of new snow on the road, on top of a firm base with a slight crust.

It’s about a mile and a half up steady grades on the road to the Ravine Lodge, and the trailheads based there. I stopped by the Lodge to refresh my memory of this landmark in D.O.C. skiing history.

Dartmouth Outing Club’s Ravine Lodge

From there, I headed down to the brook, and across the footbridge to the trailhead. The Snapper and Gorge Brook Trails start out following the same route. Nine years ago, I had skinned up the Snapper to the Carriage Road, then up to South Peak, and along the col to the North Peak summit. Later, a friend of mine advised that he preferred to take Gorge Brook Trail directly to the summit. Taking his advice, I turned right on Gorge Brook Trl.

junction of Gorge Brook & Snapper Trails

It was a really nice trail, although with few views until near the top. Steady grades most of the way were easy skiing, until a few steep pitches near the East Summit, where the WMS skiers and I were too proud to take off the skis and hike (though that would have been faster).

looking back down Gorge Brook Trail

On these steeper pitches, it was hard to keep the skins from slipping, especially on a long traverse across the fall line near treeline. Here, the new windslab was either too hard for the skins to grip on edge, or soft enough that it sheared and slid off the old surface underneath. With fine views of Lafayette and the Presidentials in the background, here’s one of the WMS skiers at treeline.

WMS skier

Reached the summit in three hours, and found a few hikers already there at 12:15. The two snowshoers I passed, and the WMS group all reached the summit shortly. The views from Moosilauke are outstanding. To the northeast are Kinsman, Lafayette & the Franconia Range, North Twin, & the Presidentials. To the west in Vermont are Stowe/Mt. Mansfield, Sugarbush North & South, Killington Peak.

not fast enough for the timer!

On the way up, temps were climbing as the sun rose higher. Snow was melting off trees, and softening up in exposed sunny areas. Above treeline, the temps were still below freezing. The summit was windscoured in most places, with an icy crust, although hard windpack powder had stuck on some of the snowfields on the east side.

First Tracks

After four runs on the summit cone, it was time to descend.

Another good line

On my way towards South Peak, I found a few more turns in snowfields along the col.

More Tracks

By 1:15, the route along the col had two dozen skiers and hikers strung out along it. Skiing the narrow trail wasn’t too bad, as enough powder had filled in to allow check turns to control speed. However, not all the uphill hikers took kindly to downhill skiers.

view of Summit from the col

The Carriage Road below treeline from South Peak has been widened considerably since 1994. Snowmobiles are allowed to South Peak, but no further. Luckily, at this lower elevation the sun had softened things up. Skiing in the snow machine tracks was OK, but there was also plenty of untracked snow to ski on the sides.

If you keep your eyes open, there is a narrow shot through the trees, a “shortcut”, about a hundred yards before you reach the trail sign and official start of the Snapper trail. This would have cut off some of a slow traverse at the top of the Snapper, and was untracked. I was surprised when descending the Snapper how much it has grown in over 9 years. Now it is narrower than the Carriage Road, but in 1994 the opposite was true. Back then I noted a few twenty-foot wide turns, which hinted at the Snapper’s former glory days as a ski trail. I’m afraid that contemporary trail maintenance aims only at clearing a narrow path for hiking. The Snapper Trail now is only about six feet wide the whole way down, roughly the same as the Gorge Brook Trail I ascended. I’d have to say the Snapper is no longer ideal for a ski descent. Luckily, today the snow on the edges was deep and soft enough for check turns, and I was able to make it the whole way down without hiking.

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