January, 2017

A Frustrating Winter For Backcountry Skiers

It’s been another frustrating winter for backcountry skiers. We haven’t had a big storm. Just as the snow starts to build up, we’re hit with a rainy thaw. That was the case again this week. Following an icy rain, we got a few inches of heavy, wet snow in Saranac Lake. This afternoon I skied the trails at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center to check out the conditions. The groomed trails on the lower slopes were in fine shape, as expected, but I was more interested in the ungroomed trails at the top, which are one indication of backcountry conditions. Again, no >>More


December, 2016

The Powder Is Gone, But We Still Have A Good Base

On Saturday, my girlfriend Carol and I skied up the unplowed Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway. From the tollbooth to the end of the road it’s a 5.4-mile climb, long but not very steep. It took us roughly three hours. Of course, the descent is the fun part. It normally takes less than an hour. Because there was so much powder, our downhill run took a little longer. In places, the skiing was almost too mellow, especially between the two hairpin turns. Often we pushed with our poles to sustain momentum. Since this was Carol’s first time skiing the highway, this >>More


November, 2016

‘Explorer’ Publishes Multisport Guide To Finch, Pruyn Lands

The Adirondack Explorer has published a multisport guidebook to the former Finch, Pruyn lands to let people know of the many recreational opportunities on tracts that had been off limits to the public for more than a century. 12 Adventures on New State Lands: Exploring the Finch, Pruyn Tracts has something for everyone: the hiker, the paddler, the mountain biker, the cross-country skier, even the rock climber. The book is a celebration of the state’s acquisition of 65,000 acres of the former Finch lands from the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy. The last parcel, the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract, was purchased by >>More


January, 2015

Backcountry-Ski Conditions Still Getting Better

On Friday afternoon I checked out the cross-country trails at Dewey Mountain in Saranac Lake. As expected, the groomed trails were in fine shape, but I was more interested in the ungroomed, rougher trails that lead to the top of the mountain as they more closely mirror conditions likely to be found on many backcountry trails. I hadn’t been on Dewey’s ungroomed trails in several weeks due to a dearth of snow. In the past week, however, we had a few light snowfalls (including two or three inches in the past 24 hours), so I figured they’d be skiable. And >>More


January, 2014

Fresh snow helps, but we need more

We got several inches of light snow over the weekend, so I went to the Jackrabbit Trail on my lunch hour to check out the ski conditions. I skied the two miles from McKenzie Pond Road to McKenzie Pond. The woods were beautiful, with fluffy snow adorning the branches of the evergreens. The trail looked nice, too. Unfortunately, there was little or no base underneath the fluff. For the most part, this was not a problem. In several places, though, roots and rocks lurked beneath the surface. The diciest spots were on two small downhills on the return trip. Both >>More


January, 2013

Skiing on Oseetah Marsh and the Jackrabbit Trail

Oseetah Marsh in winter

Oseetah Marsh just outside Saranac Lake is the destination of one of my regular lunch-hour ski trips. It’s short, easy, and scenic, with views of the McKenzie Range, the Sawtooth Range, and nearby Scarface Mountain. Today I did the trip for the first time this winter. Why did I wait so long? To get to the marsh, I follow a snowmobile trail through a beautiful pine forest. Until this afternoon, every time I reached the edge of the marsh I found a small pool of black water, bordered by very thin ice. I tried to ski the marsh as recently >>More


December, 2012

A bad week for skiers

Adirondack Visitor Interpretive Center ski trail

Last Friday I went on my first ski of the season, a long loop around Heron Marsh and over an esker at the Adirondack Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths. Although Paul Smiths is only a dozen miles from our office in Saranac Lake, it usually receives noticeably more snow. And so it was on this day: there must have been at least six inches, enough to kick and glide over the VIC’s smooth trails. I snapped the photo above near the outlet of Heron Marsh. A week later, thanks to rain and a few warm days, cross-country skiers are >>More


November, 2011

‘Long Distance’ by Bill McKibben

Several years ago, we asked Bill McKibben to ski the entire Jackrabbit Trail in a single day and write about it. Saranac Lake to Keene. That’s twenty-four miles, but that wasn’t enough for McKibben. When he turned his story in, I learned he started instead at Paul Smith’s, where there is an orphan piece of the Jackrabbit. By following this trail and then a railroad bed, he was able to make it to Saranac Lake and add ten or eleven miles to the trek. Why extend an already-lengthy trip by slogging along a boring railroad track? I thought Bill must >>More


December, 2009

How deep is the snow?

We got enough snow last week to do a little backcountry skiing. One day I skied to McKenzie Pond; on another, I skied part way up Debar Mountain. The flats were fine, but on both trails, my skis scraped rocks on the hills. Expect the cover to remain thin for a while, at least in the Lake Placid region, as no big storms are in the forecast. Of course, whenever you’re planning on cross-country skiing in the Adirondacks and coming from outside the Park, you’d probably like to know how much snow we have. Well, if you’re going to ski >>More


December, 2009

Early-season skiing

We finally have enough snow to ski on some of the early-season trails, such as the road to Camp Santanoni in Newcomb, the Marcy Dam Truck Trail in the High Peaks Wilderness, the Fish Pond Truck Trail in the St. Regis Canoe Area, and the Hayes Brook Truck Trail in the Debar Mountain Wild Forest. Yesterday afternoon, I took a short ski on a new trail outside Lake Placid—a 2.5-mile round trip/loop through Henry’s Woods, a preserve owned by the Uihlein Foundation. The trail is graded and most of it is covered with crushed stone, so it’s skiable with about >>More


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