The last weekend in February brought much needed snow to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The Appalachian Mountain Club's Pinkham Notch Visitor Center got slammed with fresh snow- around 23" inches. This latest accumulation is attracting skiers and riders from all over the Northeast and Canada- at the Hermit Lake shelters (just below the base of Tuckerman Ravine), there is an estimated 71" of snow, with hundreds of inches in Tuckerman Ravine. Numerous backcountry ski trails around Pinkham Notch provide ample opportunity for wildlife viewing and tracking, an activity not always thought of when one ventures on skis into the Whites.
The Blanchard Ski Loop is a short but sweet trail that circles up behind the AMC Joe Dodge Lodge and Visitor Center Facilities. After adjoining the Tuckerman Ravine Trail for a short distance, the trail drops back to the east, sloping down to the Old Jackson Road Trail (OJR). OJR, which is part of the 2, 172 mile Appalachian Trail, is also designated a ski trail. There are a few options to take at the junction, but no matter what way is decided upon, moose sign abounds. Pay special attention to striped maples (Acer pensylvanicum) and mountain ash (which often bear marks on their trunks left by hungry moose. Using their lower, or bottom, incisors, moose scrape up along the surface of the tree, removing the bark and the cambium layer.
The tracks of red squirrels zig-zag everywhere, running back and forth in the snow between trees. Smaller than the gray squirrel, the red variety is abundant in the notch due to the large number of red spruce and balsam fir; they feast upon the seeds found in the cones produced by these evergreens. Listen for the chattering of these creatures overhead while cruising along the trail.
Other popular ski trails that are accessible from the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center include the John Sherburne (referred to as the "Sherbie") Trail, the Square Ledge Ski Trail, the Avalanche Brook Ski Trail, Connie's Way and the Gulf of Slides. The Tuckerman Ravine Trailhead is also found here; thousands of people make the climb each spring season to the ravine; many believe that the most extreme skiing on the East Coast is found there. Make sure to check the daily avalanche advisory which is posted by the U.S. Forest Service's snow rangers. The picture to the right is a view of Mt. Washington from Wildcat Ski Area- Tuckerman Ravine is to the left of the summit.
Headed to Pinkham Notch for some spring skiing? Make sure you stop in the AMC's Visitor Center for last-minute trail updates and conditions as well as any supplies you may need (or that Tux sticker you want for your helmet). There is a $45 (plus NH state taxes) lodging and breakfast special starting March 28th which runs through May 27th 2010. Call AMC Reservations at 603-466-2727 for more information (ask about the "Tuckerman Ravine Spring Skiing Lodging Special").
Interested in learning more about the animals in the notch? Join a Naturalist Guide at the AMC's Pinkham Notch Visitor Center for a guided snowshoe walk. Call ahead (603-466-2721) for program times and details. Have a natural history question that you would like answered? Send out an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
AMC Naturalist Guide
**AMC file photos