Cross Country / Back Country Skiing, & Skiing

I figured I had to start a cross-country / back-country & Alping skiing page seeing that we spend so much of our time doing this activity. Hardly a winter weekend goes by without at least one or two 1/2 day long cross-country skiing outings. When it comes to SNOW, we figure: If we have to drive to and from work through it, shovel it off the driveway, rake it off the roof, and occasionally dig it out of the gutters,,, we’re damn well going to play in it!

And there’s no better way to play in it than bagging a snow covered peak on back-country skis. Cross-country skiing is one of those activities that we can see ourselves participating in as long as we have the health to keep active. When we’re out skiing in popular areas where we’re likely to come across other skiers, we’re just as likely to fine people well into their 60’s as we are to find people younger than us. (That encourages us that we too should be able to keep participating in this very healthy activity for a long time.)

Simone and I follow the same approach with our cross-county skiing as we do with most every thing else. (If it doesn’t have a summit in it, why bother doing it.) As such, we don’t spend all that much time on the rail trails and golf courses. We’ve done them,,, but only if our usual back country trails up to the top’s of local peaks don’t have good enough conditions to ski on. We’ve invested in quality back-country ski gear to support such activities as getting off the more popular ski paths & skiing some of the more challenging paths and navigating down some of the hiking trails on the back of Mt. Wachusett.

I’d love to be able to put up some really cool pictures of us cross country skiing some wicked cool back country trails, but we just don’t have many. When we’re skiing we don’t think to take the time to snap pictures of ourselves. It’s such a pain to cope with a camera with gloves on and ski poles strapped to your wrists, while you’re either cranking up the steep side of a hill or gliding down some back woods trail investing every muscle, skill and shear grit we have to keep from crashing.

Harris Hill Ski Jump: A Brattleboro Tradition

The Harris Hill Ski Jump, founded by Fred Harris in 1922, attracts several thousand spectators each year not only to watch our own local jumpers reach great heights but also to view world renown jumpers soar in the sport of ski jumping.

Check out our pictures and videos from Feb. 14 2010

Where we ski:

Wachusett Mountain

If the snow is deep enough and conditions are sensible, you’ll find us skiing our favorite local mountain most every weekend, the backside of Wachusett Mountain in Princeton Massachusetts. Follow this link to a map: The old fire roads offer us all the challenge we need and if the conditions are right we’ll get off the roads and out onto several of the trails. We’re very familiar with all the hiking trails and we know the sections of them that fit within our skill level. Cross-country skiing doesn’t require new terrain every time you go out. Each time it’s always different. The snow conditions keep things interesting, the weather add it’s own challenges, and on those rare times when everything is just perfect, we stretch the envelope by hitting the hiking trails. The Semuhanna Trail is just our speed. Speaking of speed!!! It doesn’t take much to make you think, “This is absolutely insane” when you’re clipping through the woods ducking branches and brushing tree trunks with your shoulders; but what a rush! I don’t / wouldn’t recommend skiing the hiking the hiking trails unless there is a least 1ft. of good base in the woods and for us the snow has to be loose / powder’ish so we can have something to turn in, (Absolutely not do-able for us in icy conditions.).

The upper section of the Semuhanna is only a few hundred yards long between the twist on summit road, but it has lots of short quick drops and critical quick turns. Still, very do-able. The lower section of the Semuhanna connecting to Harrington has one wide steep drop that’s only 70ft. or so and can work up or down, (and can be walked if it’s above you skill level.) Catching the bridge at Administration Road can be tricky. Our typical run (without doing hiking trails) is to park at the Echo Lake parking lot off Echo Road and ski Echo Lake fire road to Administration road to Summit road to the summit, and then back track. It usually takes under 2hrs. up and a 1/2hr. down.

Fitswilliam (Pinncale Hill)

Follow these links to information about the trail

We love this cross-country ski park, (Especially the price for a groomed trail. FREE!) That’s right, this trail is well groomed, (no grooves) but it is groomed flat and wide enough for side stepping the steeps, and snowplowing if you need it. The trails are very well marked. There are a few down sections that are tight, and will get you going nice and fast, but they are short and most novice skiers should be able to ride them out. We like to ski the un-official extended loop for the extra couple of miles. This extra loop really gives you a back-country experience. If you’ve got a good base (at least 6 solid inches in the woods), and a nice day this is a must do cross-country ski park. There is enough challenge in this run for every skill level and the long wide open (old alpine ski) hill at the end of the run is a great way to finish the day. Start at the opening in the woods at the back of the field directly across from the main entrance gate. (Sometimes there are maps at the mailbox next to the entrance to the ski trails.) This really is back-country skiing at its best so it will challenge anybody that is only used to skiing rail trails and golf courses. The course offers you lots of little criss-cross trails in a small section of forest and the difficulty ratings at the beginning of each of the trails are very well matched to what you can expect. (No surprises here, if says difficult, it will be.)

Northfield Mountain

Link to their web site:

$12 a day and all the hills you can ski up or down. This groomed cross-country ski area is the cats meow. Set on the spectacular Northfield Mountain’s west side over looking the Connecticut River valley, they offer a small cross-country ski shop with wax’s and a few other basic needs, rentals, training, and a host of other offerings for kids and adults. When it’s open, the yurt is a great place to sit and warm up between runs. Anytime the backwoods trails aren’t in good enough shape to run on, Simone and I have no qualms about spending $12 and a fantastic day on these trails. They groom for skate skiing and traditional Nordic.

There are plenty of trails of every skill level, and if you personally have no skill level limitations then there are more than enough trails on this mountain that you’d be hard pressed to cover them all in an entire day. If you’re just starting out and skiing the flats are your bag for a little while, they groom a large open field to hone your Nordic legs and there are lots of lower hill trails to experiment with while you learn. This mountain is part of the FirstLight Power generation facility that pumps water from the Connecticut River up into the reservoir on top of the mountain during the night and generates hydro-electric power during peak consumption hours by releasing the water into their generators buried deep inside the mountain.

Northfield Mountain as a cross-country ski area is more than enough to want to get connected with them on a regular basis for, but Northfield Mountain as Firstlight Power’s community outreach recreation center, it has activities for the young and old, year round. If you live within an hours ride, Please! Do yourself a favor and check out all the activities they have available for you to participate in: From the Paddle Wheel River Boat rides on the Connecticut River, to midnight pot-luck hikes up to the reservoir, to tours into the power generation plant, to children’s programs on orienteering and nature. CHECK THEM OUT!