Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hide & Seek in the Adirondacks

One more trip report from Nils Larsen’s swing through the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains in early March…

The Adirondack Backcountry Festival continued on Sunday with another 4-6 inches of low-density snow overnight. Conditions looked stellar and Ron Konowitz - a near legendary local skier who has skied in the ‘Dacks since the late 70s - agreed to take me touring. Ron is also famous for his secrecy about where he skis, something I had heard about from other locals. Maybe it was because I was from across the country, maybe it was because we were both old-time (some might say over the hill) tele/XCD skiers, but Ron led me off to some choice private stashes.

Ron and Nils near an unnamed woods slash. Numerous Adirondack slides in the distance. Photos courtesy of Nils Larsen.

The snow was cold and light, knee-deep in places.

Ron, bringing up the rear and covering tracks.

Our second ski of the day clued me in to the extent of the previously mentioned secrecy. We parked along a main road (I must be ambiguous here as I am sworn to secrecy), quickly grabbed our ski gear and dodged into the bushes. We put our skis on and took a roundabout route up to a well-used snowshoe trail, carefully disguising our tracks entering the trail. We climbed for an hour or so, passing lots of snowshoers but no skiers (the dumbing down of winter sports is a sad thing). Ron was careful - very careful. The trail was narrow and studded with roots and rocks, but we let all questioners know that this was our planned route down. I won some points here for diving into the role, telling people in my folksiest voice that ‘we may be foolish but, hey, what do we know?’ People looked at us strangely and, Ron thought, sometimes suspiciously. He recognized a few folks which made him all the more careful.

Finally, near the top and in what I thought to be an impenetrable thicket of spruce, we stopped. There was no one in sight and Ron and I quickly took off our skis. "Throw your skis as far into the thicket as you can," Ron whispered. There was a sense of urgency as we crawled into the thicket after our skis. While we may have been able to throw the casual snowshoer off our true intentions as we skinned up the trail, throwing our skis into the woods and dog-crawling in after them would be hard to explain. Ron continued to whisper directions. I had just found my skis when he told me, "Throw them again, we're not far enough yet." I hucked them again, and we crawled on. Ron, bringing up the rear was filling in our tracks as we went – erasing tracks in snow is impossible but when you throw snow in them, they could be anything. If anything, they would likely be considered dog tracks... people don't normally crawl into thickets.

Finally we stopped and put our skis on. Ron did a few final loops through the brush and trees to throw off any possible trackers – something I considered highly unlikely at this point. The snow was excellent, deep and light, and we were now scouting for skiable lines. As we dropped a bit things started to open up. This is a relative term, and I use it here measuring with an Eastern yardstick. It seemed unskiable to me, but Ron knew my limitations in Eastern forests and he led onward.

Ron, scoping for good lines.

We finally hit some narrow but skiable slots in the trees, once again in Yellow Birch. These trees were quickly endearing themselves to me.

True to his word, Ron delivered excellent skiing. We did a few laps in here, our private forest. We did see another ski track, though Ron thought he knew who it was. Our ski out was thickety in places, but I had the extended forearm position wired, and combined with the good snow, I almost felt proficient in these Eastern forests.

We circled wide to get back on the trail, again disguising our tracks as we hit the track.

It was a great day of skiing, made all the more interesting by our need for secrecy. The ‘Dacks are a big range, but there is not a lot of good skiable terrain close in. Secrecy is certainly common with backcountry skiers, especially in well-used areas. Out West the landscape is far more open, so it becomes problematic to try and hide your tracks. In the East though, the finding and protecting of secret stashes has been developed into a fine art. Who knows what gems lurk just out of my range of view as I drive through the mountains back insto VT.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That amount of secrecy in the Daks is hilarious. There is nobody out there. There are probably less than 1000 turn earners in 6 million acres. I never see anybody.