Tony Goodwin on changes to new edition of classic guide
By Annalise Panici
Tony Goodwin, an Adirondack skier and former executive director of the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society, recently published a new edition of his guidebook, “Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks.” Since the first edition in 2003, many changes have been made to trails and tours, reflecting a shift in the popularity of certain recreation areas in the Adirondacks.
Q: What made you decide to update this book?
A: One of the reasons was that recent state purchases had opened up some really interesting new terrain, particularly the Boreas and Essex Chain (tracts). There had been some new trail construction down in North Creek that created this Botheration Pond loop and also reopened the Raymond Brook ski trail. So there were some new opportunities that had already shown to be pretty popular.
That was a way to say goodbye to some of the other trips like Round Pond and Sharp Bridge. I ended up scouting a number of other trips and decided they didn’t work.
One of the other really nice tours that had been in there for a couple of editions was the East Branch of the Sacandaga River, which can be done as a key swap or a long shuttle. We started that one, and didn’t get too far before we came to Diamond Brook. There was a bridge out that looked like it had been out for about 10 years. In other words, not too long after the previous edition went out. There was no indication that anyone was trying to replace it, and it was just enough of a brook that crossing could be really problematic.
Someone who would ski it from the north would get three quarters or more of the way through [the trail], and then find this brook they couldn’t cross, and then they would have to turn around. So that’s how that [trail] came out [of this edition] and Second Pond was the immediate replacement because it was in the same area.
Q: Would you say in this new edition, you’re trying to expand outside the High Peaks region?
A: I wanted to give people other options that perhaps aren’t such a long drive for them. Coming from the Syracuse area or Utica area there’s skiing closer than the High Peaks. My motivation wasn’t to try to spread out use in trails, but it was to give people other options.
Q: I noticed this book explores different ability levels for trips and trails. What is the process for you to explore levels for novice and experienced skiers alike?
A: I’ve skied for a long time with a lot of other people of varying abilities. So that’s how I had the ability to judge whether the trails were novice, intermediate, expert, or somewhere in between. I put in that description that John Fredo came up with, which I thought was a real shorthand, amusing way of distinguishing the basic levels of cross country skiing ability. [John Fredo] was a longtime manager of Northfield Mountain (a cross country ski area down in Massachusetts). They cater to a lot of first time skiers who are very inexperienced.
When you came in to Northfield Mountain, you were handed a sheet of paper that explained “novice, intermediate, and expert” classifications on the trail system. So I put that system in the book, but then decided to do a more complete description of the trails. A novice trail would be something where you might be coasting along, but not have to make any turns. Obviously, it’s all somewhat subjective.
Q: When you were making those classification levels (novice, intermediate, and advanced) what were the factors on the trail you considered?
A: One consideration is the width of the trail. The wider the trail, the easier it is to control your speed. If there was a steep pitch with a real sharp turn at the bottom, and failing to make the turn would mean you were in a brook, then I might not even put that in the book to begin with. Raymond Brook ski trail has lots of options for how to ski it. The woods were open enough on the steepest part, that someone who really wasn’t skilled could still manage to ski across the slope, do a kick turn, traverse back, do another kick turn, and get down that way. There’s also the factor of how well packed the snow is. With knee deep fresh powder you’re obviously not going to need as much control as if it were hard packed.
More about Tony Goodwin
Tony Goodwin looks back on seven decades blazing trails, in this article by Mike Lynch that originally ran in our magazine.
Tony Goodwin and his dad, Jim, atop Pyramid Peak in 1966 after cutting the trail to the summit. Tony was 16 at the time. Photo courtesy of Tony Goodwin
Q: Would you say that you notice an increase in backcountry skiers since the last edition?
A: Yes, definitely. My first guide came out in 1991. There has been even a greater increase in those 40 some odd years. The first one that came out was just called “Northern Adirondack Ski Tours” because there had already been a book published by the New Hampshire publishing company that was titled “25 Ski Tours in the Adirondacks.” It was written by a guy named Almy Coggeshell who lived in the Albany area.
All of his ski tours were in the southern Adirondacks, so I felt like there was a void that could be filled. Ten years later, I contacted Coggeshell, who said he had no plans on doing an update. I asked him if there would be any copyright problems if I ended up describing some of the same tours. His reaction was: “I don’t see how you can copyright a trail, as long as you don’t just lift my description word for word.”
So that’s when I wrote the book, “Classic Adirondack Ski Tours.” Ten years [after publishing that book], was my first edition of “Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks.” With some further research, I discovered that some of these “classic tours” weren’t so classic. In other words, nobody was skiing them, even though it was nice terrain. So I came up with a different lineup.
And as of the early 2000s, the publications director of ADK said that snowshoeing was the fastest growing winter sport in the country and ADK needed to tap into this by having the word snowshoe in the title.
Some of my skiing friends thought that I had totally sold out by including snowshoe trips, but it’s fine.When you work with ADK you sometimes have to bend a little bit to keep them happy. They even wanted to call it “Snowshoe and Ski Trails” at first, but they admitted that that didn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily.
Q: Are there changes in the way people are skiing now or the types of trails people are gravitating to in the Adirondacks?
A: There are certainly just more people skiing the trails that I’m describing, but there’s also a lot more people who are doing the really adventurous down mountain skiing. Pharaoh Lake, for instance, was not receiving a great deal of use in the early 1990s, even though it had been an element of Coggeshell’s book. But now the DEC has improved the road and created a sizable winter parking lot for Pharaoh Lake that is consistently plowed in the wintertime. It definitely sees a lot of use now that it didn’t see before.W hether it’s my book or just general trends that have caused it to become so popular, I don’t know. That’s one trail, though, that I can say has definitely seen more use because it’s been in a series of guidebooks.
Q: You mentioned there isn’t a good local source of information for Cranberry Lake. So what does information gathering look like for you?
A: My source for the book was mainly going out there and either skiing or hiking the trail. Every time that I’ve done a guidebook, I’ve always seemed to run out of snow before I finished my research. So I ended up hiking, rather than actually skiing. The Peavine Swamp trail was the one that I had to add to hike. You know, part of it is just checking that the trail is still being maintained. Even just a few trees are much more of an impediment to a skier than they are to a hiker.
And with that, the good news was that the Cranberry Lake 50 now uses a good part of that Peavine Swamp ski trail and that is something that people are interested in maintaining. As of 2020, they were not allowing anybody to park there or start skiing there. The only thing they were allowing was anybody who was on a thru-hike around the Cranberry Lake 50 to sort of walk through the [Wanakena Ranger School] campus. That’s one of those things that probably has changed now, but you know, I can’t change the book. Too late, right?
Q: What would you say is your favorite trail from the book or one that you would recommend in general?
A: I volunteered as a summit steward last summer, and I had to be trained for three days. My trainer one day told me he was asked on the summit of Algonquin what his favorite peak was. He said: “My usual answer is whichever one I’m on top of right now.” I could just say, it’s whatever tour I am doing at the moment.
[That being said] an old classic trip is a ski into Lake Colden. I’ve done it a lot of times, sometimes just a ski into Lake Colden and out, other times as a key exchange. When I was the director of the Adirondack Ski Touring Council, [the key exchange] was a standard item on the winter trip calendar. It usually had a good number of people who would show up. Half would drive down to Upper Works and the other half would drive to the Adirondack Lodge). You’d meet somewhere, usually at Flowed Lands or the Calamity lean-to, and you’d exchange car keys then you’d go on through.
Annalise Panici was a recent intern for Adirondack Explorer. She’s a sophomore at St. Lawrence University.