Hike and ski at Tuckerman Ravine in New Hampshire
Expert skiers who want to carve some turns away from the masses should head to a mountain that has no tow ropes, T-bars, or even super quads. Tuckerman Ravine (www.outdoors.org/recreation/tuckerman) is a large glacial cirque on the southeast shoulder of Mount Washington that fills up with snow from the mountain’s summit. By spring, this natural amphitheater is ready for skiers to cut their line down some of the steepest pitches in the country. “Tuck” should only be attempted by expert downhill and telemark skiers. The rest of us will find it just as exciting to watch the spectacle.
In 1932, the US Forest Service constructed a Fire Trail from behind the AMC Pinkham Notch visitors center. This is still the only way to get to Tuckerman. Called the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, it is an unrelenting, 2.4-mile, two-hour climb to Hermit Lake Cabin, or HoJo’s, as regulars call it, and another 0.7 mile to the base of the ravine. Throw on a fresh pair of polypropylene up top so you don’t freeze. Then decide your destiny. You can ski Left Gully, Right Gully, or the longest run, Hillman Highway. Pitches range from 35 to 55 degrees depending on the trail you choose. It’s wise to talk to other skiers to see which trail has the best snow and is the easiest to climb. On a sunny spring day, hundreds of spectators and skiers congregate on the Lunch Rocks. These large boulders on the lower right side of the headwall are the place to cheer on skiers.
Ice climb, then find comfort at the Omni Mount Washington Resort
There’s a reason inn-to-inn bike and hike trips are growing in popularity. People love to have a day of adventure and then reward themselves with a night of fine food and pampering. That’s the premise behind Mount Washington Resort’s customized backcountry adventures (603-278-8938, www.brettonwoods.com). Steve Nich-ipor has been leading the intrepid on winter explorations of the Whites for two decades. Now he’s offering more adventurous guests the chance to partake in an introductory ice climb on the Bretton Woods property or tackle the legendary Frankenstein Cliff. Located in Crawford Notch State Park, Frankenstein Cliff attracts all levels of ice climbers, from beginners just learning to use their ice ax and crampons to experts who can climb up an iced-over waterfall like Spiderman. Then it’s back to the historic Mount Washington to rave about your experience over a four-course meal in the formal dining room, while listening to the pianist play Count Basie tunes. Cost of a semi-private tour with Nichipor is $185 per person, private tour at $275 per person. Rates at the resort start at $170 a night per room in winter.
Extreme sled at Smugglers’ Notch, Vt.
Not far from the shores of Lake Champlain are the corporate headquarters of the Hammerhead Sled. This is not your grandmother’s Flexible Flyer with heavy wood and steel gliders. The Hammerhead boasts a lightweight aluminum frame with skis. You lie down on the mesh fabric and steer the sled from the front, easily maneuvering away from any obstacle, be it an uprooted tree or another sledder. To slow down, you can either drag a foot or make turns like you do on skis. Vermont roads that are closed in winter, like the pass that connects the Stowe Ski Resort to the town of Jeffersonville through Smugglers’ Notch, have become popular venues for the sport. Every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon in winter, Stowe’s Umiak Outfitters (802-253-2317, www.umiak.com) leads people on snowshoes up the notch and then back down on a Hammerhead Sled. Cost is $69 per person and includes a snack of hot apple cider from the nearby Cold Hollow Cider Mill and cheese from Cabot.
Stephen Jermanok can be reached at www.activetravels.com.