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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

DEC hopes to reroute Wright Peak Ski Trail

Backcountry skiers on Wright Peak. Photo by Susan Bibeau

Several years ago we skied two High Peaks in spring with Ron Konowitz. We did a few laps in the bowl on Algonquin Peak, climbed over Wright Peak, and descended the Wright Peak Ski Trail.

The Wright Peak trail is one of the few trails designed for down-mountain skiing in the Adirondacks. It was built in the 1930s, fell into disuse, and then was restored in 1980s by volunteers, including Tony Goodwin, the longtime executive director of the Adirondack Ski Touring Council.

But there was a problem. After a mile or so, the ski trail converged with the Algonquin hiking trail. After making turns on a wide trail, skiers suddenly found themselves barreling down a narrow and often rocky trail shared with snowshoers.

It wasn’t always this way. Originally, the ski trail and hiking trail were separate. However, the original hiking trail became so eroded that the state Department of Environmental Conservation closed it in the 1970s and moved hikers onto the ski trail. The old ski trail is now maintained as a hiking trail. Over the years, it has grown in along the sides and become eroded by use.

On the day of our spring ski trip, Ron Kon complained bitterly about the state of affairs.

But he has a reason to be happy now.

In an amendment to the High Peaks Wilderness management plan, DEC proposes to make things right by cutting a new trail that will extend the Wright Peak Ski Trail to the Whale’s Tail Ski Trail, keeping it off the hiking trail. The Adirondack Park Agency is expected to discuss the amendment—which contains dozens of proposals—at Thursday’s meeting.

“The vision of this proposal is to provide a unique and improved skiing opportunity in the High Peaks Wilderness. The Department will work with the Agency in developing guidelines for backcountry ski trails that define the nature of backcountry skiing opportunities.” DEC says in the amendment. It says it will develop the trail only after the APA adopts new guidelines for ski trails.

“It’s not a done deal,” Ron Kon remarked in an interview this week, but he is encouraged by DEC’s proposal.

“If approved, this trail will provide low-impact safer access for those seeking a winter wilderness experience,” Ron Kon said in a written statement for the Adirondack Powder Skier Association, a group he heads.

Click link below to read Ron Kon’s full statement.

Ron Kon statement

Ron Kon said the new trail would pass through an open hardwood forest on its way to the Whale’s Tail Ski Trail, which runs between the Algonquin hiking trail and Marcy Dam.

DEC also proposes to make several other trails in the High Peaks skier-friendly, including the Indian Pass Trail, the Preston Ponds Trail, and the Round Pond Trail to the base of the Dix Mountain slides.

 

Phil Brown

Phil Brown has been editing the Adirondack Explorer since 1999. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important. You can follow his adventures and his musings on the Adirondacks in the Explorer and on this blog.

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