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Monday, February 3, 2014

Marcy Trail Needs More Snow For Skiing

Unbroken trail above Indian Falls. Photo by Phil Brown.

Unbroken trail above Indian Falls. Photo by Phil Brown.

Well, I couldn’t wait any longer. After we got a few inches of snow Saturday night, I decided to ski Mount Marcy.

From Adirondak Loj Road, I started by skiing up South Meadow Road. On Saturday afternoon, I had skied the road and the Marcy Dam Truck Trail as far as Marcy Dam. The road had been in great shape for skiing, but the truck trail had a lot of exposed rocks.

What a difference a day makes. The extra snow was enough to bury virtually all the rocks. Also, Forest Ranger Jim Giglinto cut through the worst of a tree that had fallen across the trail. It’s now possible to slide over the tree with skis on. After a few more inches of snow, you probably won’t even notice it.

The trouble began above Marcy Dam, along the section of the Van Hoevenberg Trail that parallels Phelps Brook. After the initial crossing of the brook, I encountered numerous rocks over the next mile to the wooden bridge at the second crossing.

After crossing the wooden bridge, I found more rocks on the short ascent to the junction of the hiking trail and Indian Falls Ski Trail. The ski trail was covered in deep, untracked powder. I figured I’d save the powder for the descent, so I put the climbing skins on my skis and ascended to Indian Falls by the hiking trail.

I met a pair of snowshoers coming down the trail. They had gone to Indian Falls and turned around. They would be the last people I saw all day. Above Indian Falls, the trail was untracked. I had the mountain to myself—a rare thing on a weekend. Probably had something to do with that football game on TV.

The woods were beautiful, draped in fresh snow. I broke trail as far as the Plateau, just under a mile from the summit. Because of the late hour, I turned around.

The descent to Indian Falls was a delight. Since the trail wasn’t packed down, it was slower than usual, but I was in no rush.

The ski trail below Indian Falls, however, was too slow. Since it hasn’t been getting much traffic, the powder has been building up for weeks. It was so deep that I couldn’t pick up momentum even if I pointed my skis straight downhill. I’d go a dozen feet, the snow would pile up to my knees, and I’d come to a halt. (I should mention that my skis are not super-fat powder boards.)

That was not the only problem with the ski trail. Many of the hollows have yet to fill in, and trees had fallen across the trail in three places.

Eventually, I made it back to Phelps Brook. Usually, the ski from the wooden bridge to Marcy Dam is a relaxing cruise, something I always look forward to on my return from Marcy’s summit. On Sunday, it was a gantlet of rocks. I picked my way down the trail, but could not avoid numerous scrapes. If you value your life—or at least your skis—don’t try it until we get more snow.

We’re supposed to get three to six inches of snow Tuesday night and Wednesday. That will help, but I’d say we need a foot or more to make the whole trail enjoyable skiing.

You can find more photos from the trip by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

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