Finally, on Saturday, the howling cold weather which has kept me indoors far more than I would like gave us a reprieve. Saturday’s mid-teen temperatures, which under normal circumstances would still be a bit on the cold side felt absolutely balmy, so I went for a ski in the morning at the Snow Bowl. Some errands I had to do limited me to a half day, but by mid-afternoon I had completed them, so I decided to turn my ski day into the best of both worlds, and loaded my cross-country skis into the back of my Beetle, and headed out for round 2 of the day’s fun. I set off for the Ripton-Goshen Road, not really sure where exactly I would end up skiing as the afternoon’s snow started, and then increased in intensity. I was not in the mood to break trail, so I was looking for places where others had skied, snowshoed, or snowmobiled, but was looking for something a little less well groomed than the terrain offered by our local ski touring centers.
My first thought was to ski down the forest service road leading east to the Moosalamoo Campground and Voter Brook Overlook, but the ski track I found petered out in about a half mile, turning into a snowshoe track set by hikers intent on climbing Mt Moosalamoo, which would have required more time than I had at my disposal. So, I returned to my car, and looked for another entry into the forest. Heading south another mile or two, I came to a plowed turn off for the forest service road which heads up to one of my favorite backcountry sites, the Sugar Hill Reservoir. I didn’t make note of how exactly this is marked, but it is on your left as you head south, and is about a mile north of the Blueberry Hill Inn. I headed up this road, which is used by the cars of fishermen who use it to access the reservoir during the summer. I knew from past explorations that this road is heavily traveled and maintained for snowmobile travel in the winter. I also knew that this point of entry would bring me to the lesser-used northernmost nordic trails associated with the Blueberry Hill Inn’s Nordic Center. The ravages of Hurricane Irene took out a few bridges on this part of the trail network, and the funds have not yet been raised to revive them (although a funding campaign has been launched!), so I suspected that these trails would be skier-packed, but not groomed. While recent transplants to the area may not know this, older skiers (like me!) will probably remember that through much of the 70’s through the early 90’s (If anyone knows the full span of this, feel free to comment), Blueberry Hill sponsored the American Ski Marathon, which was part of the national ski marathon series known as the Great American Ski Chase. As a result this race, which galvanized the support of almost all the inhabitants of tiny Goshen, VT, brought in some of the finest ski racers from all over the country, and even a few random local college professors. My ski today covered a small segment of this race course.
I headed up the hill towards the reservoir, not really remembering how far I had to go. I realized that this would be a pretty short ski if this was my sole destination, as I reached the height of land above the reservoir only after 3/4 of a mile, and hit the reservoir shores after only a mile. The snow was starting to fall pretty heavily at this point, but there in front of me was the snow-covered lake, and I realized that I had, there in front of me, an opportunity to write my name, or at least my initials, in the snow on a scale which might be visible from space, or at least by our spy satellites. Perhaps a “JB” a quarter mile high, with a superscript afterwards to show off my science side? While I considered this, I also realized that if I was going to put the effort in to do this, I wanted a picture, and the heavy snow and increasingly late afternoon lighting precluded meaningful photography of any such attempts to defile the scenery.
I also noticed the sign, describing this reservoir as the geographic high point of the hydroelectric project culminating at Lake Dunmore. This sign, by the way, is usually at eye level. We have a lot of snow!
I began my descent, but wanted to extend my ski, even as the light was fading, so I took a left turn about halfway back, heading into the Blueberry Hill trails on what is known as the Sucker Brook Trail, which had been packed by the skis of a few others who had preceded me. This section of skiing, continued with a sharp right turn and short climb on the Stewart Trail (none of these names are marked, by the way – I just know them from past experiences – they are labelled by signs bearing numbers, relevant to the ski touring area’s map) took me into denser hardwood forest. Big old trees make lots of loud cracking sounds when it is cold outside, and by this point the temperature was dropping. Eventually I reached a point where I realized that I would soon be descending into the touring center, and I didn’t want to have to do the extra climb to extricate myself, probably in the dark, so I turned around and headed back to my car. En route, I passed a sign with the number 7 written on it. Lucky? Not really – this was a 7 Km marker from another of Blueberry Hill’s races, the summer Goshen Gallop trail run.
Reaching the forest service road, I took a left turn and descended to my now snow-covered Beetle. This ended up as a pretty easy and short ski tour. The short climb to the reservoir is particularly nice for less experienced skiers. I ended up putting in about 4 miles on this, with no more than 200 ft of climbing at any point. I can also see that we are going to have some impressive spring skiing this year!