Isaac and Matteo climbed into the historic Wildcat gondola. “We’re in jail!” Isaac announced, grinning out the window at Betsy and I. Meanwhile, I pointed up to landmarks in Tuckerman’s Ravine and the Gulf of Slides.
“Tyson and I want to take Isaac to Gulf of Slides next weekend” I told Betsy. “The south snowfields aren’t too steep.” Indeed, from the bottom of the lift, the slope of the south slides looked fun.
A half hour later, we stood at the top of Wildcat with Marco and Tyson who had returned from the car shuttle. Mt Washington gleamed white against the blue sky. Unseen wind blew snow off the ridges into cold haze above. I was glad we were staying out of the wind and in the trees.
Off we skied, over the back side of Wildcat onto a narrow trail through the spruce woods. No side slips for us, even on the first steep zig-zags. We were on down mountain gear: Marco, Betsy, and Matteo on alpine skis; Tyson, Isaac, and I on Telemark. Marco, in front of me, pivoted tight turns down the trail. Ahead, Isaac sang to Matteo “back country trail, back country trail…”
As back country trails do, it leveled off and turned uphill. The rise, which was normally an inconsequential bump on our cross country skis, required effort on the down mountain gear. After several more rises, Isaac requested his skins. As a compromise, I applied my emergency red wax to his skis and mine. Tyson was enjoying his glide too much to sacrifice it for uphill performance.
Betsy was curious how the wax worked. Was this new technology that had replaced the fur skins she once strapped onto her alpine skis in college and shuffled up the hill? No, I explained, synthetic skins are still the preferred choice for ascending to the Gulf of Slides. They would want to rent AT gear with a free heel (or randonée as Betsy vaguely remembered it) to skin up.
Matteo set the pace up front, stopping every few minutes to wait for the adults. Most of the time, the kids were out of sight in the evergreen trees ahead. I heard Matteo asking his parents if they could do more skiing like this. We zoomed along with such enthusiasm that I forgot to call for a snack break until a quarter mile below the birch glade.
We skipped the Hall’s Ledge tour in deference to their fixed heel bindings. Instead we skied straight to Prospect Farm. I have now skied the Wildcat Valley Trail on both cross country and Telemark skis. I like the cross country tour better. Isaac likes the shorter downhill experience. We finished the trip in 2 hours with plans to ski Gulf of Slides together next weekend.