A Family Adventure


Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Ski Vacation in the Whites

February 21, 2019
Emilie Phillips updated February 27, 2019

My parents rented a cottage in Lincoln for school vacation week. We joined them for four ski tours. Isaac wanted cross country skiing at Jackson every day, but the rest of us wanted more variety.

Greeley Ponds

Wednesday, just Isaac went up with my parents while Tyson and I worked. They skied in from the north, the short way. They were back down by 3pm — the same time as my adult trip.

Afterwards, Isaac said it wasn’t quite as fun as Jackson, but still fun.

Crescent Ridge

Thursday it snowed. We certainly weren’t going to Jackson where they would crush all the fresh snow under the groomers. We settled on Crescent Ridge.

Climbing the approach trail

Isaac was miserable on the long gradual approach because his Telemark skis with skins wouldn’t glide like his cross country skis. Jackson would have been much better.

I sent Tyson and my parents ahead to do a first lap in the glades while Isaac and I plodded to the lunch spot at the edge of the meadow and glades. Isaac and I ate lunch before the others returned. I was getting chilly in the wind and wished for the shelter that Tyson carried in his pack. But, there are other ways to stay warm in the winter. I borrowed Isaac’s ski, the closest thing we had to a shovel, and dug Isaac and I a snow pit under a fallen tree trunk. We had to sit half on top of each other to fit, but it was warm.

Emilie and Isaac dug a snow pit to keep warm

Once Tyson returned, I left Isaac with him and my parents and charged uphill for a lap on my own. By the time I got to the bottom, only my Dad was waiting for me. The rest had started up. The steep hill motivated Isaac. He ended up doing two laps.

The main trail traverses the top of the ridge, with access to several descent routes. I skied three of them that day.

Tyson enjoying the run

Drop 1: Most of this route is gradual, and you have to traverse in a few spots. However, just out of sight of the top, it drops down a pinch point. It’s just wide enough for two ski lines around the trees.

Drop 2: This one descends an icy chute that none of us could ski. Then it joins drop 3.

John in the tight trees

Drop 3: There are no significant constrictions on this one. It’s straight downhill through wide open trees. Even though there were tracks ahead of us, we found fresh powder for ourselves.

Photos from the day

GPS Track

Jackson Ski Touring Center

The whole gang climbing the wave

Friday we went to Jackson. Isaac donned his track skis and set off with a grin. Cheri, a friend of ours, was off work that day and agreed to meet us up at the Eagle Fields.

Tyson figured, if he was stuck at a groomed cross country ski area, he aught to practice his Nordic technique in preparation for our PSIA class next week. Specifically skating. We had only brought classic skis. Tyson and I left ours free of grip wax. Then we tried to skate up from the main lodge to the Eagle fields. I did fine. Tyson, however, was huffing and puffing and struggling. Isaac plodding up the hill eventually outpaced him. I realized, in retrospect, I should have started with a lesson on core techniques. Trying to tweak Tyson’s untutored alpine skate into a proper Nordic skate wasn’t working.

Betty Whitney trail

Cheri loves skating, but she had agreed to ski classic with us. When we met up Tyson declared he was done with skating, and asked for his skis to be grip waxed. Then Cheri led us up The Wave and Betty Whitney. Isaac was really patient going up The Wave despite the many descent points. On the Betty Whitney, he asked why not turn around now, there was plenty of downhill below us after all. Cheri told him there was an even better downhill if he made it to the top of the Betty Whitney. And she was right. By the time we slid out onto Eagle Fields, Isaac declared this was the best day ever.

After lunch, Cheri convinced Tyson to demo some racing skate skis. They were so slippery, he kept almost falling over. They skated off along the Ellis River trail. Cheri gave Tyson some more pointers, enough so he wasn’t falling. When Tyson returned, he couldn’t stop commenting on how fast the skis were. When he put his own classic skis back on, he almost fell over on his nose because they were so much stickier. He isn’t sold on skating, though, so we aren’t in danger of buying $600 skate skis.

Photos from the day

GPS Track

Tyson forgot to turn his GPS on until after he recovered from the morning skate session.

Mount Washington Cog Rail Line

Climbing up the side access road

Much planning went into this trip — sunny, no wind, and no dreaded gradual approach. The weather was so good in fact that a steady stream of people summited Mount Washington. I wished to join them, but realistically with Isaac, we were just going to ski alongside the Cog railway.

The Cog changed their winter use policy this year. They are now advertising winter travel on their property. The base station bathrooms and cafe are open. In exchange, they charge $10 per person. My only complaint, is this seems to have brought out a lot of hikers with no snowshoes or skis and they messed up the trail.

Trudy and John on the first pitch of the cog

On the way up, Tyson volunteered to stay with Isaac while Cheri, my parents, and I scooted ahead for a first partial lap. We set off as fast as we could. We climbed up to the Waumbek tank, at least half an hour full speed uphill. But by the time we converted to downhill mode and ate a snack, Isaac and Tyson were halfway up the steep section below us.

Other folks on the mountain were impressed.

“When I was that age, my parents had to drag me onto chair lifts.”

“Good parenting!”

“She’s [sic] rocking it.”

And, from folks out of sight after Isaac hollered to Tyson near our top, “Is that a kid?” “I think so.”

We ate lunch at picnic tables near Waumbek tank. I think they might be new from the Santa trains this year.

Rest break

Isaac decided he wanted to climb up to Jacob’s ladder, a large trestle at tree line. He wanted to tell his cousin, also named Jacob. It’s a good spot to stop. Farther up it is steep and, typically, icy. From Jacob’s ladder, you can see across the southern Whites and western NH.

My Dad helped Isaac pick out milestones to help him track his progress during the climb, a rock, or a small sign. These helped. Tyson considered turning around where the access road diverges from the train tracks. But Isaac insisted he was going to make it to Jacob’s ladder, even if at his own pace.

Cheri arriving at Jacob’s Ladder

I love getting above treeline, especially on a sunny day. The deep blue sky, the white snow, the endless views, the feeling of being above the whole world and separate from it. But we only had a short time to savor our ascension to Jacob’s Ladder. Then it was time to ski down.

Cheri enjoying the ride

The snow was cut up and compacted by other skiers, and in places dangerously pock marked by booted hikers. Here and there on the side I found some untouched powder that was divine. I rode the access road like a half pipe. Then we slalomed through the avalanche classes digging out their simulated victims. And finally we rambled down the intermediate terrain at the bottom. Tyson said my technique looked so good that he had to try harder. My Mom wished I had been paying attention to her skiing and given her some tips. Cheri was just happy on her split board.

“This was totally different from Jackson,” I asked Isaac, “but how did you like it?”

“Not Jackson,” he hedged, “but it might have been more fun. Can we hike Mount Washington in the summer?”

Photos from the day

GPS Track

Avalanche Brook

Sunday’s weather was elevation dependent. We didn’t want to ski in the rain, so we went up to Pinkham Notch. With two cars, we could set up the shuttle for Avalanche Brook.

Last time I skied it, I was with a crew that insisted on skins and wider skis, but I thought we could do it with cross country skis and a few herringbones. It turned out I didn’t remember the trail that well.

Isaac brought his track skis. I brought my waxable classic skis. Tyson tried his new crossover scaled tele skis and lightweight plastic boots. And my parents brought their backcountry scaled skis.

I remembered the trail going gradually up and then gradually back down. What we found, was the trail went gradually up, then down and up and down and up, a few across’es, and then a final long down. My Dad insisted the last down was steep, not gradual.

The bigger problem was the snow pouring down on us. It wasn’t quite rain, but it melted at the least excuse. My gloves and mittens were wet by lunch. When I leaned over to open my pack, snow from my hood slid down my neck. And while I was dealing with that, snowflakes started turning the jackets in my pack white. We decided to eat lunch inside our shelter so we wouldn’t get even wetter.

Lunch in the shelter

Back when Isaac was one year old, we had a six person that easily accommodated four adults and one baby. We have since downsized to a much lighter four person shelter. On our first attempt to get everyone inside, there were feet squishing feet and knees poking chins. We gave up and started over. Here’s what worked.

I found a flat, unblemished section of snow. With my skis off, I stomped out a knee deep trench for our feet. Then I laid three skis upside down on the top of the snow to either side. The skis reinforced the edges of the snow benches so they wouldn’t collapse when we sat down. I put our insulating foam pads on top of the skis. Then we all shuffled into the trench, two on one side, three on the other. We alternated feet in the trench. We put the shelter over our heads and then all sat down at the count of three.

It worked. We made it steamy inside, but we stayed drier than we would have outside. The only problem was we couldn’t access our packs and my Mom hadn’t donned enough jackets for the stop. We fed her most of the hot chocolate.

After lunch, I swapped into dry mittens. That was my last pair of dry liner gloves. My hands had been getting wet when I took pictures, so I stopped.

Skiing down the hill, the falling snow made it hard to see. Tyson, who had no glasses or goggles, had to squint to keep the snow out of his eyes. My Dad had sport glasses, but they crusted over with snow. He had to ski some of the dips by braille. All but Tyson face planted several times. The snow was so sticky it adhered to my face in an icy white mask.

We arrived at the lower car before anyone got too wet, but we were all glad to be inside.

Photos from the day

GPS Track

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. See the Comment Policy for appropriate content.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments