March conditions are favorable for cross-country and backcountry outings
By Mike Lynch
This winter’s backcountry ski season started off slowly in the High Peaks region, but conditions have picked up in recent weeks.
“Definitely the best skiing conditions of the year so far,” said Adirondack Mountain Club Communications Director Ben Brosseau.
And that was before this week’s storm that dropped additional snow onto trails.
The Lake Colden area had a base of nearly 4 feet of snow last week, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s March 9 report. Brosseau reported about 2 feet at the Adirondack Loj and a similar amount at Cascade Welcome Center east of Lake Placid.
“The skiing is great,” stated the Barkeater Trail Alliance’s March 9 condition report.
With good coverage on backcountry trails, enthusiasts may enjoy spring skiing and take advantage of conditions before warmer weather arrives. Temperatures are forecasted to be in the 30s and close to 40 degrees late this week in Lake Placid, before dipping below freezing Saturday and Sunday.
Below is a list of some trip options.
James Frenette Recreational Trails
Groomed trails should offer good conditions for the immediate future. The James Frenette Recreational Trails in Tupper Lake offers free skiing while other centers charge a fee.
“The trails are holding up well. We got about six inches over the weekend and more on the way through tomorrow,” said John Gillis, a volunteer at the Frenette trail system. “Things can change fast this time of year, but for now the 10-day forecast looks pretty good for continuing the season.
As for Nordic ski centers, Dewey Mountain in Saranac Lake, Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths, and Lake Placid’s Cascade Welcome Center, Mount Van Hoevenberg ski center and Scotts Cobble Nordic Center (free to locals) are all open and skiable.
This well-known trail, which runs from Paul Smiths to Keene, is in good shape for the most part. The section off of McKenzie Pond Road in Saranac Lake may have some thin spots, according to BETA’s March 9 report, but otherwise expect most roots and rocks to be covered by snow. This is a popular trail on weekends. To get away from the crowds, try the section by Paul Smiths, which is known for being in a snow belt. (Click here for some of our past coverage of ski trips on the trail)
Located north of Paul Smiths, the Hays Brook Truck Trail is an early- and late-season favorite because of its gentle terrain and reputation for good snow coverage, but there’s a nearby trail worth checking out. The Kettle Trail is located across the road from the Hays Brook parking area. This trail begins on Slush Pond Road and ends after 3.4 miles at McColloms Road. Neither road is plowed, so you’ll have to add an additional half mile from the parking lot. The trail goes through a pine forest that is lush with ferns in the summer.
Located about three miles outside of Lake Placid off Route 86, the 7.2 mile out-and-back trip to Whiteface Landing is suitable for people of all abilities. The trip heads through the woods to the Lake Placid shoreline, in a remote area away from development. It’s a good family-friendly sojourn.
For advanced skiers who are more adventurous, March can be a good time to ski Mount Marcy. From ADK’s High Peaks Information Center, the journey is about 15 miles round trip. The trip passes by the former Marcy Dam, Indian Falls and numerous points with views of the High Peaks. Former Adirondack Explorer Editor Phil Brown skied to the summit on Friday, reporting that conditions were very good.
“The snow on the edges of the trail was powdery,” he said. “Good cover everywhere, though not as deep as in some years, judging by last signpost.”