By Nancie Battaglia
WHEN THERE’S deep snow in your own backyard, you might be reluctant to venture off to someone else’s stash, but that’s what we did last January. And we’re glad we did.
Caravaning from Keene on a sunny Saturday morning, we drove to North River on the edge of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness. Our goal was to try out the new Raymond Brook Ski Trail, among others.
The ski trails here date to the 1930s, before the advent of lifts. In those days, people traveled to North Creek from downstate in ski trains. Once here, they’d ride uphill in trucks and ski down the rugged trails and old logging roads. The slogan was “Ride Up, Slide Down.”
Over the past ten years, the Siamese Ponds Trail Improvement Society, whose members include retired Forest Ranger Steve Ovitt and like-minded volunteers, has been reviving the trails—clearing, sometimes rerouting, building bridges, putting up signs. As a result, these historic trails once again offer plenty of backcountry and glade skiing.
From the Old Farm Road trailhead near Thirteenth Lake, we skied eight miles to the North Creek Ski Bowl, where we had left a second vehicle. First we followed the Halfway Brook Ski Trail to William Blake Pond, a sunny spot for our lunch. Next we continued to Barton Mines Road, which we crossed to pick up the Raymond Brook Ski Trail, also marked by blue disks.
A short climb brought us to the height of land, the start of a much-touted downhill. In all, the trail descends 1,400 feet over about four miles. No problem for talented, agile, fearless schussers or cautious intermediates with good survival skills. A tricky, twisty first drop brought us to the old-time sled shed—the cultural highlight of our wilderness excursion. It’s a tin structure on six-foot stilts that housed rescue toboggans in days of yore (a sign explains its history). The shed is a good place to rest, refuel and gawk. The height of the stilts attests to how deep the snow can get here. Deep.
We took the Raymond Brook trail as far as a three-way junction. Daredevils can continue left here, following those blue markers, to descend the steepest part of the trail, ending on Route 28. We opted for a gentler finish. A trail marked by yellow disks led us to the Ski Bowl, where we glided downhill into the evening alpenglow.
Everyone in our crew—which included Tony and Bunny Goodwin, Scott and Tracy McClelland, and Heidi Roland—had a great day in the woods. If you’d like to follow in our tracks, I recommend Steve Ovitt’s map “13th Lake to North Creek Trail System.” It can be purchased in North Creek at the Hudson River Trading Company and Izzy’s Market and Deli for about $3.