Monday, April 21, 2008

White Mountain Wandering

With longer sunlight and warm temps, the East Coast corn season is fully in session. Brian Mohr checks in from the White Mountains.

Ahhh spring! Barely fifty miles east of Vermont’s Green Mountains lie the snowcapped ranges and mountain clusters that characterize New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

(Dave Bouchard looking out across the options. Photos by EmberPhoto)

The Whites are significantly higher than the Greens, with the region's highest summit, the infamous Mount Washington, topping out at 6288' – nearly 2000' higher than Vermont's highest. Top to bottom descents of over 4000' vertical lure many skiers to the Whites, while an abundance of challenging alpine terrain, open slide paths and snow-filled cirques (e.g. Tuckerman's Ravine) offers a nice change of scenery for the forest-dwelling Northeastern skier. Mid-winter, the best ski terrain in the highest elevations of the Whites is often plagued by high winds and dangerous – if not totally unskiable – snow conditions. That is not to say that you can't score an incredible day of skiing here in mid-January. However, come early April, when the warmer days of spring begin to consolidate the snowpack, the Whites come into their element.

Although there were still 100" of settled snowpack at treeline in Vermont earlier this month, a stretch of warm, clear days and cool, clear nights made it impossible for many to resist the lure of Whites. Personally, I kicked off the spring with a fun, solo traverse of a good stretch of the region's Presidential Range (from Castle Ravine to Franklin Brook), scoring several runs of beautiful, untracked corn along the way. In the days that followed, with bluebird weather prevailing, I connected with various friends. We shared some truly adventurous turns in some seldom visited places, as well as some great descents right off the popular summit flanks of Mount Washington.

Then, just a few days ago, I finally got to connect with Karhu skier
Dave Bouchard, of Hinesburg, Vermont. Always a joy to ski with, Dave recently scored first place in the men's telemark division of Mad River Glen's annual Triple Crown. Busy all week as a school teacher and busy at home with two growing kids, Dave was psyched to have a whole day to go ski. So we made the most of it, with a 5am start here in Vermont and a tour that included some of our favorite White Mountain gems.

By 9am, we were up high on the White Mountain divide, dropping into our first of many fine lines we planned to ski. A thin coat of fresh snow that had plastered itself to the springtime base was still skiing dry and nearly powder-like in the shadier aspects, while corn was already taking shape in wind-scoured zones and gullies catching the direct morning rays. By noontime, the fresh snow in the direct sun was getting sticky and best avoided, while anything else in the sun was delectable.

After another great day in the mountains, we spotted this beautiful little fox back at the trailhead.

Back home in Vermont, most of the ski areas are now shut down for the season, but an impressive snowpack leaves us with another 1-2 weeks of top to bottom skiing. We'll likely be hopping on the bikes a bit, too – but with the skis in tow – to access some of this skiing, so stay tuned...

Moretown, VT

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