Monday, January 23, 2012

-Trip Report- Lincoln Gap Road: Backcountry Groomer Lemonade (January 2012)

I did not use the low gear.

It seems like every place you take your skis in New England, you’ll hear this year’s catchphrase “If we could just get a little more snow...”

Sick of thinking about what “could be”, I decided to take my thin cover lemons and make some backcountry lemonade at Lincoln Gap in Vermont this past weekend.

There are going to be a lot of pictures with a road in them.
Prepare yourself. 
Not even the dog wanted to get up with me at the early hour I rolled out of bed.  She craned her neck to see me with a look that said “Seriously?” then flopped down into my warm spot.  “Thanks, dog.  Rub it in.”  But as cold as the room first felt when I climbed out of bed, it didn’t compare to the steely grip of below zero air that was waiting for me outside.

Lincoln Gap sits between the towns of Warren and Lincoln in central Vermont, just to the South of Mount Abraham.  The road that runs this gap is closed after the first snows in winter and remains un-manicured until springtime.  Given its elevation and smooth surface, it is an excellent destination early in the year, or when there's thin snow cover.  Needless to say, it has been on my mind a lot this year.
I spy powder.

The drive up to Lincoln was a haze until the coffee started to flow through my arteries.  By the time I reached the trailhead the car heater had just begun to bathe me in warm air.  And so I booted up in the cold morning air, shed one of my layers and headed up the closed Lincoln Gap road.

Although the road was unplowed, skiers and sledders had been busy turning the powdery run into a backcountry groomer. 

The lack of deep powder made for an easy ascent as I wound my way up into the gap.  Gorgeously spacious glades line both sides of the trail all the way to the top. Because the road switches back on its way up the mountain, there’s an excellent opportunity to duck into the woods without the worry of getting lost in a wayward drainage gully.  In addition, high above on the steepest section of hillside is a well defined slide that runs into the glades just above the road.  On this day, I was intent on skiing the road but as I climbed I ogled the carnival of features on all sides.
Mind the gap.
As much as the Lincoln side is a playground, the Warren side looks even more fun.  The road itself is steeper, and seems to get less skier and sledder traffic so there is more fresh powder to push around. Further, the Catamount X-country ski trail cuts north from the road at the gap, and provides a route for an alternate descent.  Lastly, rumors abound of narrow gaps in the cliffs above the Warren side road that, when hit in the right combination, yield an excellent top to bottom cliff/glade run.

After windng my way to the top, I happened upon a fellow backcountry skier who had just climbed the Lincoln Gap road from the Warren side.  On his recommendation I skied  toward Warren working my way down the powder covered road until the grade began to even out.

I donned the skins a second time, turned and skinned to the gap again: this time descending the Lincoln side back to my car.

Looking West.
Despite the relatively thin cover the conditions were excellent.  The packed powder on the road gave the tour the feel of skiing a resort groomer. 

As I zipped along back toward the car my eyes couldn’t help from wandering toward the glades again and I started to think to myself, “Now, if there was only a little more snow…”


  1. Great shots! "if only we had more snow" is also the mantra of Michiganders as well. It's great to see someone taking advantage of what they have.


  2. Thanks John and welcome to the blog. Let's hope this warm Dec/Jan means a snowy March.

  3. Why does winter hate us this year? It is nice seeing you are making the most of it!

  4. nice
    I was there sunday too but at last moment elected to skip the road and explore some unfilled woods across the mad river (fail). those woods on the back (lincoln) side look like they were, um, landscapped for skiing, no? the warren side woods skiers left (below the CT) are on my hit list this year. i expect to be back there super bowl weekend unless conditions dont measurable improve.
    thanks for the stoke andy

    1. I was eyeing those woods on the way up the Warren side. If you look climber's right from the road there's a pretty wide open glade not far from the road. I wondered if the CT ran above or below it. There certainly is a whole lot of fun stuff around there.

  5. Andy
    i did a bushwhacking session from the CT in october and the terrain is very mixed at the upper level, from seemingly manageable nearest the road to much hairier further in as the land below the CT drops into a deep defile.
    Better, I think, is to just drop in from a likely spot along the road.
    I did eye-spy something more serious further in that I hope to figure out access to this winter!

  6. Ha! A friend and I skied a small part of Lincoln Gap Road one night early this month. We arrived in the Mad River Valley late in the day and asked around and locals mentioned the road. I was skeptical, but my friend insisted, and there we were, strapping on skins by headlamp light. We went only a little way up, since it was late and cold and we didn't know where we were or if a crazed woodsman ax murderer was watching us. Also, it was a little icy. But the moon was out and there were patches of soft snow, and it was fun. I now know what to do the day I arrive in the area -- it's too far to do any long outings after arrival.

    1. The local crazed woodsman ax murderer only likes to come out when there's fresh powder and the moon is full.

  7. The ski lines under the Catamount Trail to the north of Lincoln Gap end in private property. The owners have been increasingly frustrated by idiots crossing their many sugar lines which abound there. Please refrain from skiing there, and explore elsewhere. Thanks in advance for being good backcountry stewards.......

    Lincoln local

  8. Thanks for the heads-up. We certainly are advocates of treading lightly on public and non-posted private land... And of course respecting the law when it comes to posted land. Idiots who show no respect (especially for sugaring.. For chips sakes!) just encourage landowners to post land and ruin it for the rest of us.