Snowshoe and ski trails

Bum Pond, Hadley Mountain, Copperas Pond and Split Rock Mountain

A young snowshoer enjoys time on the trail. Photo by Carl Heilman.

By Phil Brown

Not every classic stands the test of time—not when the public’s tastes keep changing.

For nearly a decade, cross-country enthusiasts have relied on Tony Goodwin’s Classic Adirondack Ski Tours for advice on where to ski in the Adirondack Park. The book is a minor classic in itself, with its spare descriptions of the author’s favorite ski routes and its attractive, easy-to-follow maps.

This winter, the Adirondack Mountain Club has reissued the book as Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks and included a bunch of trips to summits that will appeal primarily to snowshoers (and daredevil skiers). Since snowshoeing has grown in popularity in recent years, the change is understandable.

Goodwin said one aim of the book is to introduce novice snowshoers to the Park’s great variety of scenic routes and destinations. “This is a way of getting them off the golf courses and groomed trails,” he said.

But should skiers feel slighted? At first glance, it might appear so. Both books contain 50 trip ideas. Since 14 of the trips in Ski and Snowshoe Trails are new and most of them were chosen with snowshoers in mind, it follows that the book offers fewer trips for the average skier.

Goodwin, however, said the 14 ski routes removed from the book are not such a great loss. In most cases, he said, they were trails that saw little use by skiers or had become overrun by snowmobilers. “The ones that I dropped deserved to be dropped,” he said.

There was one trip he agonized over cutting: the ski across a mile of Lake Champlain to Valcour Island. “It was a unique experience when the skiing was good,” he said, but in recent years, the lake has not frozen. “It was a victim of global warming,” Goodwin said of the island circuit.

Of the 14 new trips, nine go up peaks, including such hikers’ favorites as Blue, Bald, Hadley and St. Regis mountains. The original book included trips to just three summits: Mount Marcy, Whiteface Mountain and Frederica Mountain (overlooking Lake Lila). All three are retained in the new book.

Despite the greater emphasis on high terrain, novice cross-country skiers will find four new destinations in Ski and Snowshoe Trails, including Bum Pond in the Whitney Wilderness, purchased by the state in 1998. The others are High Rock on the Oswegatchie River, Moss Lake near the hamlet of Eagle Bay and Moose Pond near the village of Saranac Lake. In addition, the book offers one new suggestion for intermediate skiers: the trail to Owen, Copperas and Winch ponds near Wilmington Notch. Better intermediate skiers may also be able to handle a few of the summit trails added to the book.

The bottom line: If you’re an average skier, you still can enjoy most of the trips in Ski and Snowshoe Trails. And who knows? Perhaps by the time you’ve done all the novice and intermediate excursions, you’ll be ready for some peak skiing.

Following are four of the new trips in Goodwin’s book (the quotations are from an interview with the author):

Bum Pond

The 15,000 acres purchased from Whitney Industries contained a number of logging roads that make gentle routes for skiing. Goodwin recommends that beginners take the Burn Road only as far as Bum Pond, a 10-mile round-trip, but some skiers may want to go as far as Rock Pond, a 17-mile round-trip. Although the Whitney land was cut heavily before its sale, Goodwin said the property looks much more attractive in winter, when snow has covered the slash. The trail passes near Little Tupper Lake in a few places. At Charley Pond outlet, it crosses a clearing with views of the surrounding hills. A bonus: The Whitney Wilderness lies in a snow belt. “Like the road to Camp Santanoni, it’s another ace in the hole for low-snow years,” Goodwin said.

Burn Road to Bum Pond. Maps from Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks.

Bum Pond
Distance: 10 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Beginner ski or snowshoe
Directions: From NY 30 between Tupper
Lake and Long Lake, turn west onto Sabattis Road (also known at the start as Circle Road). The road has two branches off NY 30, one 11.5 miles south of Tupper Lake, the other 7 miles north of Long Lake. The two branches meet after 3 miles. At this junction, continue driving west 2.9 miles to trailhead on left.

Hadley Mountain

Many hikers know that this 2,675-foot summit offers one of the best vistas in the southern Adirondacks. In recent years, it has become popular with snowshoers, but Goodwin be-lieves skiers with intermediate-expert skills should be able to negotiate the rather wide trail. “The woods are pretty open, so with good conditions you have a little bit more room to maneuver than just the width of the trail,” he said. He regards Hadley as harder than Avalanche Pass but easier than Mount Marcy—two classic routes also found in the book. The 1.8-mile trail leads to an open summit with views of Great Sacandaga Lake nearby and, on a clear day, the High Peaks in the distance.

Hadley Mountain. Maps from Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks.

Hadley Mountain
Distance: 3.6 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Intermediate-expert ski,
novice snowshoe
Directions: Take NY 9N to Lake
Luzerne, turn west and cross the Hudson River, then turn north onto Stony Creek Road and drive for 3 miles to Hadley Hill Road. Turn left and go 4.6 miles to Tower Road. Turn right and go 1.5 miles to trailhead on right.

Copperas Pond

Owen, Copperas and Winch Ponds.

The trail to Copperas Pond has two starting points off Route 86 east of Lake Placid. Goodwin recommends that skiers and snowshoers start and finish at the southern trailhead, thus avoiding the steep pitch between the pond and the northern trailhead. Even from the south, the trail offers enough ups and downs to qualify as an intermediate ski. In less than a mile, you arrive at Owen Pond, where you can see the white slide on Kilburn Mountain. At 1.3 miles, passing the eastern shore of Copperas Pond, you are treated to a view of Whiteface Mountain. If you’re thinking about skiing on the pond, beware that the water is deep so the ice may not be as thick as that on Owen Pond. At 1.9 miles, you reach Winch Pond, which, Goodwin noted, “is a lot prettier in winter when it has snow on it than it is in summer, when it’s just a mudhole.”

Copperas Pond
Distance: 3.8 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Intermediate ski,
novice snowshoe
Directions: From junction
of NY 73 and NY 86 in Lake Placid, drive east on NY 86 for 5 miles to southern trailhead on right.

Split Rock Mountain

In another recent purchase, the state acquired about 3,000 acres on this mountain overlooking Lake Champlain. Logging roads crisscross this tract as well and someday, when marked as trails, should provide the public with a variety of skiing opportunities. Goodwin describes a route to the 1,000-foot summit that already is marked, but because of a few steep pitches, he recommends it only for expert skiers (it’s also a good intermediate snowshoe hike). The best view from the ridge is a panorama that takes in the High Peaks, Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Green Mountains. If you plan to do this 5.4-mile loop, bear in mind that the Champlain Valley doesn’t get as much snow as the Adirondack interior.

Split Rock Mountain.

Split Rock Mountain
Distance: 5.4-mile loop
Difficulty: Expert ski, intermediate snowshoe
Directions: From the intersection of NY 9N and NY 22 in Westport, drive north on NY 22 for 0.4 mile and turn right onto Lakeshore Road. Drive 4.3 miles to trailhead on right.

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The Adirondack Explorer is a nonprofit magazine covering the Adirondack Park's environment, recreation and communities.

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