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Brooks Road

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

The continued snow drought is keeping me in the higher elevations.  That said – the snow is still great up there!  This week’s ski is a winter variation on one of my running posts from last summer, the Sugar Hill Reservoir run.  Start this ski tour in the Brooks Road parking lot,which is found about a quarter mile from Rt. 125 just east of The Rikert Ski touring area.  This parking lot is a popular starting point for skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers.  I have also found that it is a great place to ski in low snow conditions, like this year, or early in the season before the first serious snow dumpings hit.  Once again, some of the best skiing is on snowmobile trails this season, and since the lower 2/3 of the Brooks Rd. climb is groomed for and by snowmobiles, this is where I started!

The first hundred yards or so were pretty rocky, so I made a mental note to make sure I was not going too fast at the end of the descent (a little literary foreshadowing there) so that I wouldn’t get hurt.   The snow coverage got a lot better as soon as the climbing started, however, except for a few short stretches where overhanging pine trees diminished the ground snow cover.  These few minor problems aside, it was a steady easy climb on skating skis due to the fast, granular snow which has seen a few freeze-thaw cycles and just enough traffic to keep it from icing up.  I knew the lowest 2/3 of the road would be fine, as this section is almost always well groomed for snowmobilers, and had planned on turning off the road towards the Sugar Hill Reservoir – following the route of my aforementioned summer run.  I was pleasantly surprised, however, to see that the upper reaches of Brooks Rd. had been groomed for skiing for the first time in my recent memory.  I presume our friends at Blueberry Hill have run their super-duper ski groomer Pisten Bully over this section at some point in the not too distant past, as this stretch is not open to winter motor sports. After about another mile of easy climbing, there was a slight descent to the end of the road.  Given that it had been a few years since I last ventured up here in winter or summer, I was a little bit surprised to see the road end prematurely, but I followed the less impeccably groomed trail beyond this point.  I quickly saw why the road had ended – apparently the old bridge up here had washed out at some point, and it was replaced by a nice little footbridge.  I am not sure when exactly this went in, but I suspect that it was another of the fixes necessitated by the massive thunderstorms which wreaked havoc on Hancock, Ripton and East Middlebury in August 2008.

brooks Road 002

Brooks Road Washout Bridge

Immediately past the new bridge,  the remnants of the old road funnel into a true trail, marking the entry into the Blueberry Hill Ski Touring Area, so continuation beyond this point leaves you morally and fiscally obligated to drop by the touring center and pay for use of their well-kept trails.  I have no objection to paying their very fair fee, but since I really didn’t have time to make full use of their trails, I chose to turn around and return to my car.  The return was fast and easy, and with the steady, but not too steep descent I thought I would use my GPS to see how fast I could get going.  The very lowest sections are the steepest, so this provided to opportunity to check my pace.  While my speed was not at all alarming, I wanted to see if I could at least break 20 miles per hour, so was skiing with my eyes on my wrist rather than the trail.  Just a little faster……A moment after I saw my speed break 20, (21 mph to be exact), I looked up and saw a small bare patch in the snow which was too late to avoid!  Note to self – old granular snow makes for easy gliding, while old granular dirt does not.  While my skis put on the brakes, the momentum of my body kept the rest of me traveling along briskly, with the expected result.  Ouch!  Fortunately, the worst bruises were to my ego as I got up, dusted off, and returned to my waiting car a short distance away.

This ski trip is 12 km (about 7.5 miles) round trip with about a 750 ft climb and descent.

Google Earth of Brooks Road

Google Earth of Brooks Road

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile

Romance Mountain

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

As promised, I am posting occasional ski tours over the winter.  I have been an avid cross-country skier even longer than a runner – in fact I started running in the first place to stay in shape for skiing, feeding my delusions that I was a nordic racer.  Some of my ski tours are within the confines of ski touring areas, while some are along less manicured routes.  Today’s post is the former.  There are two fabulous ski touring areas in the mountains above Middlebury, and the Romance Mountain route is part of one of them, the Blueberry Hill Ski Touring Center in Goshen.  A previous post on their summer race, the Goshen Gallop, described some of the same trails, albeit under very different conditions.   Blueberry Hill does charge a trail fee for use of the ski touring area, but it is well worth it for well maintained trails, gorgeous winter scenery, and includes homemade soup for lunch in the touring center lodge.

Since I knew the trails would be well groomed, I chose my skate skis for a little extra speed, but the well-set tracks would have been great for classic style skiing as well.  This tour starts heading behind the Inn and follows the road to the south.  After about 3/4 of a mile,  follow the trail with a sharp turn back to the left, where it climbs for a few minutes, before taking the next right.  After a few minutes of continued gradual climbing, this short section tops out in an open meadow with the best views of the day – the view towards the main ridge of the Green Mts. from the side of Hogback Mt.

hogback view

Hogback Mt. view

After a short descent, the trail joins a forest service road which continues to climb gradually along the south side of Romance Mt.  One of the trails heading off to the left has had a sign reading “Ned Gillette’s Dip” for many years, so while slurping my soup at the end of the ski, I asked the owner, Tony Clark, about the significance of the sign.  Ned Gillette was one of the world’s  most accomplished adventurers, a close friend of Tony’s,  and a frequent skier at Blueberry Hill.  Ned was senselessly killed in a robbery while trekking in the Karakoram in 1998.  Apparently, during one running of the American Ski Marathon, a 50 Km race formerly held at the area, Ned broke both skis simultaneously at the dip in the trail with the aforementioned sign.  Probably the only time I ever finished ahead of him in a race….  Shortly after this point, the forest service road dead ends, and the ski trail begins its serious ascent, marked by an ominous rusty yellow gate.

Rusty yellow gate

Rusty yellow gate

Over the course of the next mile, the trail climbs close to 1000 vertical feet.  Just keep telling yourself how much fun the descent will be.  The trail winds upwards through young hardwood forest (probably lumbered in the not too distant past) with so  many false summits that when you reach the top, you almost expect a sign saying “just kidding”.  When I finally topped out, I could tell from a few patches of yellow snow that I was not the first person to be relieved at reaching the high point!  The trail reaches about 2700 ft elevation, and this could be the highest groomed cross country ski trail in Vt.

The Rare Green Mountain Clipperbush

The Rare Green Mountain Clipperbush

As you might guess, the descent is fast, with several sharp turns, but in good enough condition that you can push it without fear of getting upended by rough spots, other than the occasional sitzmark.   Snowplowing is a horrible waste of potential energy!  After about 5 min of this more technical section, the trail settles in to a more gradual descent, making for fun fast skiing.  The second trail merging from the left will take you back to the ski touring center.  You can tell you have missed it, if you hit another forest service road, necessitating just a few minutes of backtracking.  After a short, fast final descent to the touring center, I was enjoying the day too much to call it quits, so I added on a short section below the touring center.  Cross the meadow below the  touring center and follow the obvious trail heading into the woods.  From here on, the trail is pretty flat and fun cruising.  Take the left turn onto the “Beginner Loop”, and this brings you back after a few fast miles, albeit with a few road crossings.  The full loop was about 11 miles, and took me about 2 hours with a few stops to catch my breath and take pictures.

blueberry hill 2

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