By Phil Brown
Back in 1979, Almy and Anne Coggeshall published 25 Ski Tours in the Adirondacks, the first guide to cross-country skiing in the North Country. They dedicated it to John Apperson, an ardent conservationist and the first person to climb Mount Marcy on skis.
Tony Goodwin’s Classic Adirondack Ski Tours has superseded the earlier book, but appropriately enough, it is dedicated to Almy Coggeshall. Al-though the Coggeshalls’ guidebook is out of print, Goodwin writes, “Almy’s descriptions of how to glide through the winter landscape are as good as any that exist in print today.”
Out of print or not, 25 Ski Tours piqued our curiosity, and so we asked the author to send us a copy. As you might expect, the two books overlap, but they also differ considerably. Whereas Goodwin’s book covers the whole Adirondack Park, the Coggeshalls stick to the southern Adirondacks and then stretch the Park boundaries to encompass the Capital Region to the south and Tug Hill to the west. We’ve selected four Coggeshall favorites inside the Blue Line that we think you’ll enjoy.
Big Otter Lake
This popular route follows an old truck trail over rolling terrain on the edge of the Ha-de-ron-dah Wilderness west of Old Forge. It coincides with a snowmobile trail for a few hundred feet before reaching the boundary of the Wilderness, where motor vehicles are prohibited.
“A series of ups and downs follows, ending in a downhill run that carries you out into the meadows of Indian Brook,” the Coggeshalls write. “Winter rambles along the banks of this waterway are delightful.” Soon afterward, the trail climbs over the shoulder of Moose River Mountain, affording occasional views.
The truck trail ends at 7.4 miles. The Big Otter Lake trail goes left, paralleling the eastern shore, but skiers are advised to turn right on an unmarked woods road just before the end of the truck trail. This leads to the lake at 7.5 miles.
While strong skiers may want to go all the way to the lake, others can turn around at Indian Brook (1.5 miles) or the high point on Moose River Mountain (3 miles).
DIRECTIONS: From Old Forge, drive west on Route 28 to neighboring Thendara. Just after driving under a railroad underpass, turn north on a side road. Take this road about 0.4 mile to its end.
Most people skiing to Tirrell Pond start on Route 28 between the hamlets of Indian Lake and Blue Mountain Lake. The pond lies along the Northville-Placid Trail. The 3.5-mile approach from the road passes through private timberlands and “forever wild” Forest Preserve.
“The trail winds up and down over small bumps and twists about to avoid destroying major trees,” the Coggeshalls tell us. “The combination of continually climbing and falling and many turns means that some skiing skill is needed.”
After an easy descent, you reach O’Neil Flow at the southern end of the pond. There is a lean-to here and another at the northern end. It’s also possible to ski to Tirrell Pond from Route 30 just up the hill from the Adirondack Museum. This route is about a mile longer and entails a tricky descent. If you have two cars, you can start on Route 30 and do an end-to-end trip of 8 miles with a net drop of 400 feet in elevation.
DIRECTIONS: For the southern trailhead, drive east from the T intersection in Blue Mountain Lake on NY 28/30 for 2.7 miles to a parking area on the left. For the northern trailhead, drive north on NY 30 from the intersection for 1.6 miles to a parking area on the right.
The State University at Albany owns about 847 acres north of Warrensburg with 8 miles of trails used for hiking, skiing and snowshoeing. You must be a UAlbany graduate or guest of a graduate to stay in the cabins, but anyone can use the trails for free. All visitors must register at the camp office.
The Dippikill map lists only some of the trails as ski trails. Generally, these are wider than the other trails, but in fact all are skiable. The couple recommends an end-to-end trip of about 5 miles that loops around some rustic cabins, dips down to Dippikill Pond and ends with an exciting descent to Glen Lodge on the Hudson River. The trail loses 500 feet in a mile. “This trip is definitely geared to those for whom the fast downhill ride is of the essence,” the Coggeshalls point out.
If you have only one car, you can park at the Glen Lodge (just let them know) and ski uphill about 2½ miles to Camp Dippikill and explore the trails on the higher ground before returning. Another option is to park at the camp and stick to the higher trails. These, too, have exciting descents, but you can always circle back to your car.
DIRECTIONS: From Warrensburg, drive north on US 9 a few miles to NY 28. Turn left and go 5.6 miles to Glen Creek Road, reached shortly after crossing the Hudson River. Turn left and go 2.5 miles to Dippikill Road. Turn left and drive a mile or so to the office on the left.
The southern end of the Northville-Placid Trail has long been a popular ski route. The Coggeshalls suggest a 9.2-mile round trip to Rock Lake, the first lake encountered on the 121-mile hiking trail.
The trail begins with a short downhill right off the bat, crosses private land, climbs a hill and then descends to a branch of West Stony Creek at 1.2 miles. Upstream a bit, you cross the creek on a footbridge. “There is an attractive set of falls here that will be all sheathed in ice with the sound of water gurgling underneath,” the Coggeshalls say.
You then climb gradually for about a mile and pass over Goldmine Creek. After a few more ups and downs, you reach a side trail that leads a tenth of a mile to Rock Lake. You can ski across the lake and follow the marshy outlet a half-mile to another marsh that appears on the right. If you ski to the northern end of this marsh, a short bushwhack will bring you back to the Northville-Placid Trail. Turn right on the trail to return to your car.
DIRECTIONS: From Route 30, turn east on Benson Road between Northville and Wells. Go 5.8 miles to Washburn Road. Turn right and go 0.5 mile to Godfrey Road near the Trailhead Lodge in Upper Benson. Turn left and go 0.5 mile to trailhead.