Friday, February 17, 2012

Thin Cover Sanctuaries

Better Days
I’m beginning to wonder if Old Man Winter is lying in a ditch with a bullet in his head.

If he’s not already dead, he’s definitely in hiding.  Before La Niña 2012 comes knocking looking take your backcountry mojo, it might be time to pack your bag, grab your rock skis, and seek some thin cover sanctuary.

To be fair, he did warn Old Man Winter to
stay off his lawn the first time.
So where does Old Man Winter and his bag of cold powdery fun go when the going gets tough?  Nobody knows for sure, but here are a few of my best guesses:

1.         Mowed Meadows

Although ski areas have cornered the market on this resource, they aren’t the only ones who keep the grundlefloss and tally-whackers at bay.  While livestock are the best at trimming high angle terrain, some farmers and greens-keepers can billy-goat with a power mower like nobody’s business.  So keep your eyes peeled while passing barns and golf courses and you just might find a place to schuss when the snow cover is thin. 

2.         Abandoned Ski Areas

"Aww.  Would you looky here.  Somebody threw away a
perfectly good ski area."
Just because somebody threw away a perfectly good ski hill doesn’t mean that it has to go to waste.  Reduce, recycle and re-use. 

The folks over at NELSAP have a handy list of used-to-be ski hills that at one point were manicured and possibly even graded for your skiing pleasure.

While the newest additions to the list are your best bets, even some of the long discarded mountains offer great spots for low snow turns.

3.         Seasonal Roads

Lincoln Gap Road, VT
Get a DeLorme book for every New England state.  Not only will you be supporting the Maine economy, but you’ll also have a great resource for finding one of the main thin cover sanctuaries: the seasonal road.

During the summer these roads provide shortcuts over mountain passes and up into high terrain.  Come late November the barricades go up, the traffic ceases, and snow is allowed to collect unattended.

Aside from the fact that they cleared of brush, the best thing about seasonal roads is that they often go to some very steep places.

These include places like Lincoln Gap, Evans Notch, and Sandwich Notch.
A view of the  Mt. Kearsarge (South) powerline in NH.

4.                  Pipelines/ Powerlines

44°37'6.90"N, 71°54'13.90"W 

Plug that into Google Earth and you’ll find a mowed line that you can see from space.  It’s a pipeline.   Follow that line long enough and you’ll come across some steep terrain that might be kinda fun to ski.

When the utility companies aren’t cleaning up tornado damage, they like to spend their summers spraying, cutting and blazing the forest into submission along their precious transmission corridors.

Just why they are required to keep these areas skiable still isn't clear to me.

5.                  High Ground

Aim high.
It’s amazing how temperature drops as you go higher.  The cold rain that has been falling in the valley might actually be a blizzard up high.  The current snow cover map confirms that the high ground has more snow.  Places like Mt. Washington, Mt. Mansfield and other 4000-foot-plus peaks have the best coverage.  When you also add in the effect of wind loading, there’s a good chance you’ll run into Old Man Winter.   After all, the Native American name for Mt. Washington: “Agiocochook” does mean “Home of the Great Spirit”. 

If you happen to see him up there tell him we’ve been looking for him, and let him know he’s welcome to drop by this March if he isn’t too busy. 

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