Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Snowpocalypse In the Blue Hills Burbcountry

You could fit a car through there.  I can't say the same about my street.
Ullr is playing a cruel joke on the people of Boston this winter.  He has taken some of the narrowest, most congested streets in the country, and made them even more impassible.  At the same time he's crippled the city’s mass transit system.  It is a traffic shitstorm of epic proportions.  Commute times have tripled, kids have forgotten what school looks like, roofs are collapsing and Southie is one more nor’easter away from Walking Dead level of anarchy.  Funny what ninety inches of snow in a few short weeks can do.

The bright side of this giant frozen turd is the appearance of skiable glades, ledges and couloirs throughout the Boston burbcountry.  And nowhere has the transformation been more evident than the Blue Hills area south of Boston.

I’ve skied the backcountry at Blue Hills near Canton, MA before with less than inspiring results.  My first trip was around 2010 and despite living only about twenty minutes away,  I hadn’t been back nearly five years later.  But with the recent snow I figured it was time to give Blue Hills another try.
So on a cold blustery morning I parked at the  Brookwood Community Farm lot which sits below the south facing aspects of the mountain.
Look at those drifts.
I crossed the road and donned my skis high on the far snowbank, where I spied a skin track that circled the base of the mountain, and eventually snaked upward.

The glades at the bottom are mostly softwood, but with the plentiful amounts of snow, they’ve filled up nicely.  Slightly higher up are gorgeously steep and wide open hardwood glades.  I salivated as I passed through them to the ledges above.  While all the ledges appear to be open from a distance they are covered by thickets of scrub brush.   They create a labyrinth separating the uppermountain from the glades below. The key is finding a route through these thickets that doesn’t involve copious amounts of swearing, backtracking and pole pushing.

Although the slope is somewhat mellower, the runs that slant toward the southeastern flank of the mountain from the weather station are quite open and provide nicely spaced hardwood glades all the way to the road.  With only enough time for a few hours of touring I spent my first day skiing the glades on the southern and south eastern aspects.

The skiing was so good I had to go back for more.

Scrub brush chess match.
It was on my second trip to Blue Hills later that week when I discovered the best skiable lines on the mountain.  I arrived for my second powder session and pulled up to the Brookwood Farm entrance to find that the road was still unplowed from the previous day’s storm.  Out of necessity I turned around and landed at the Park-and-Ride just past Dunkin Donuts on Route 138.  I crossed the road and hiked up the mountain from the western flank.  I found another set of softwoods down low, followed by a large hardwood glade just above the circumferential skin track.  Higher still, a snow covered cliff band separates the hardwoods from mostly open ledges and scrub trees.  The lines down this side are much more interesting and challenging.  The cliff band has several notches allowing those who aren’t into hucking six to ten foot drops (i.e. me) the option of descending to the acres of open hardwoods below.

My first trip up the mountain was a bear.  I was pushing a mountain of powder in front of me- deep enough to send my 90mm waisted skis diving if I didn’t keep my feet close together.  After the first skin track was set the climbing became much easier.  All four hundred feet of it.

More untracked powder for the taking.
As I carved line after line between the trees, I was in heaven.  I could see soft mounds where trees or rocks lurked beneath the surface but my bases touched nothing but snow all day.  The powder in the trees was mostly knee to thigh deep.  These were some of the best powder runs I’d ever taken and I was inside Boston’s friggin beltway.

Ullr’s cruel joke continues for Boston with another storm on the way this weekend.  You can bet you’ll find me laughing it up in the woods somewhere in the Boston burbcountry.  Just nowhere near Southie.



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