A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Advanced Desperation Skiing

February 14, 2016
Emilie Phillips

Desperation skiing is when there hasn’t been any snow, so you take your skis out on 6″ of snow and try to ignore the scraping sounds from the rocks. Then throw on top of that temperatures around 0F and a route following a hiking trail, and it gets downright advanced.

All the weather forecasts predicted this Sunday would be brutally cold. -10F in the morning to maybe 10F in the afternoon and winds 10mph gusting to 25mph. I was fine canceling our AMC trip, but my co-leader really wanted to lead it. Our posted destination was Avalanche Brook Trail from Pinkham Notch. Al and Tim scouted it mid-week and found insufficient snow. The two snow storms of the year passed closer to the coast, so we moved the trip down to Pawtuckaway State Park. Al and Joel poked a little after work and crossed off the Mountain Trail and Round Pond Trail because of snowmobile traffic.

Pawtuckaway Trails Map
Pawtuckaway Trails Map

We started at a leisurely hour to avoid the coldest part of the morning. At the main parking lot we agreed to try a through ski from Round Pond Rd back to the visitor center. We all started out a bit cold. The rocks in the road were barely covered by snow so we minced our snowplows and ran cautious straight runs. At the bottom we found Round Pond bathed in sun with very little wind, and everyone started to warm up. We skied across the frozen over lake and found the South Ridge hiking trail on the other side. Shortly thereafter it headed straight up the hill. This section required the most advanced technique as we side stepped and herringboned up the hill, zig-zagging between tight spots in the trees. Joel tried zig-zagging off trail, but I don’t know if he fared any better than the rest of us carefully fitting our skis around the trees, rocks, and logs on the trail. By the top of the hill, we were all quite warm.

From there we turned onto the much more gradual Shaw Trail. There wasn’t quite enough snow, but it was generally good going. All the stream crossings had bridges, though most were frozen solid any way. There was one bridge made out of half a tree trunk that got so narrow at one end you could barely move your skis past each other.

We ate lunch at the junction of the Shaw and Split Rock trail. Both trails could take us back to the visitor center. We opted for the shorter Split Rock trail. Unfortunately, the Split Rock Trail went through many hemlock groves. The hemlocks caught most of the snow in their branches leaving thin cover on the ground. The Woronoco Trail had better coverage, but it weaved and bobbled around through rocks as if it had been designed by a drunken chipmunk. I think I did the most damage to my skis on that section. The last few miles we slowed down because people were tiring from constantly catching their balance after hitting rocks, and side stepping and maneuvering to hopefully avoid rocks.

We and 95% of our skis got back to the car by 3PM. Everyone enjoyed getting outside for a short day.

I would consider Pawtuckaway again for a future ski trip now that I know some trails don’t have snowmobile traffic. Next time I’ll try skiing the ponds farther and the Shaw Trail that seemed relatively nicer.

No photos. I didn’t bring a camera given the forecast for cold fingers.