Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cross Country Ski in Maine, NH, and VT

Trapp Family Outdoor Center, Stowe, VT
Although I grew up hitting the alpine slopes of Mt. Hood in Oregon, it wasn't until I moved to Maine as an adult that I tried cross country skiing. Since then, I have discovered that Northern New England is the perfect place to enjoy the sport.  With plenty of snow all winter long and extensive wilderness, it is America's cross country playground.

If you are new to the sport, cross country skiing is best experienced on flat or rolling hills terrain.  The leather boots are flexible compared to rigid alpine boots.  This makes turning and stopping more challenging then its downhill counterpart. 

Cross country skiing is also cheaper than downhill skiing.  In New England, it is easy to find snowy trails to explore for free. If you are new to New England, or new to cross country skiing, I recommend trying out a ski center that will provide rental gear and groomed trails at varied ability levels.

Here are my recommendations for Southern Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont cross country ski parks...

Taking a break, Maine

Southern Maine

Harris Farm
Location: Dayton, Maine
Website: http://www.harrisfarm.com/trail-fees-rentals-lessons.html
Rentals: Yes ($10-$20)
Lessons: Yes ($30-$60)
Trail Fees: ($8-$18)
Lodge: Yes
Snowshoe: Yes

There are many places to cross country ski in Maine.  I've always been partial to Harris Farm since this was where I first tried the sport.  Harris Farm is a 600 acre eco-friendly dairy and crop farm located on Buzzel Road in Dayton, Maine.  In the winter, the farm converts to a cross country park.  They offer 40 kilometers of trail ranging from beginners loops to advanced hills with views of fields and forest.  It is a great family outing and local secret.  After an adventure, skiers can purchase food/drink or bring their own to the lodge.  Dogs are welcome on the trails on weekdays.

New Hampshire

Great Glen Trails
Location: Gorham, New Hampshire
Website: https://greatglentrails.com/xcskiing
Rentals: Yes ($10-$20)
Lessons:  Yes ($35-$45)
Trail Fees:  ($10-$22)
Lodge:  Yes
Snowshoe: Yes

Views from Great Glen Trails - White Mountains, NH
Great Glen Trails is a outdoor adventure outfitter that provides lessons, gear, and 40 kilometers of groomed trail for everyone from beginners to advanced skiers.  It is located on Route 16 at the start of the Mt. Washington Auto Road.  The Outdoor Center offers tubing, snowshoeing and skiing.  You can purchase lessons from experts, including the opportunity to ski with a former US Olympian.  When skiing with Great Glen, you'll also enjoy amazing views of the White Mountains and Mt. Washington. 


Trapp Family Lodge
Location:  Stowe, Vermont
Website: https://www.trappfamily.com/activities/cross-country-skiing
Rentals:  Yes ($20-$30 with week packages)
Lessons:  Yes ($30 with week and rental packages)
Trail Fees: ($10-$20 with week packages)
Lodge: Yes
Skiing to warming hut at Trapp Family Lodge
Snowshoe: Yes

The Trapp Family Lodge offers the largest trail system of the three, with over 100 kilometers of trails.  This outdoor center is part of the Trapp Family Resort - the family made famous by the Sound of Music.  Knowledgeable staff and endless options makes it not a day destination - but a week!  I love the diverse trails through forest and fields with views of the Green Mountain range of Vermont.  This center is located on Trapp Hill Road in Stowe Vermont. 

I've discovered that cross country skiing is as much a New England tradition as lobster dinners and Red Sox games.  There are many places to explore and adventure on skis.  Once you get the hang on it on one of the resorts, try exploring into local trails, farms, and parks.  While gracefully gliding through New England on skis, I recall the first stanza of New Hampshire poet Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"...

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow

Stopping by woods on a snowy evening...

Please leave comments and questions below...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Pawtuckaway in Winter

Beautiful Snowy Day Hike!
Looking for a mountain view in Southern New Hampshire?  Go no further than Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham, New Hampshire.  This 5,000 acre preserve is located just 38 miles from Boston.  Matt and I drive the 20 minutes from Exeter to this local hike.  We took Rt 156 to the Mountain Road entrance.  After parking in the snowy parking lot, we walked down the unplowed road to the Mountain Trail.  Hiking past frozen ponds and hardwood forests, we made tracks to the South Ridge trail where we turned right to reach the summit of South Mountain (908 feet) and fire tower.  Here is how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  Pawtuckaway South Mountain snow hike

Getting there: From Exeter, NH, I took Highway 101 East to Exit 5.  Take 156/102/107 toward Nottingham.  Turn left on Nottingham Rd/156-N and turn left on Mountain Road.  Look for signs for the Pawtuckaway State Park Visitor Center.

Trail: We hiked the 6 mile out and back up to the South Mountain peak (908') from the visitor center.  Take the Mountain Trail to the South Ridge Trail right towards the fire tower and summit. The trail is mostly flat with the last mile a moderate scramble to the summit.  Prior to the fire tower you will get a open view of the valley below as well as another partial view from the fire tower summit.

Difficulty:  Easy to Moderate - The trail in snow was easy for 90% of the hike.  With little to no traction, we easily walked the flat and wide trail towards the peak.  The last mile, I used my micro-spikes to scramble the moderate climb.  Matt did fine without, but it took a little more effort.  We met a few other hikers using snow shoes, but the trail was packed enough to go without.  This is a great option for first time snow hikers or families.

Distance: 6 miles round trip, 2-2.5 hours

- Pick up a complementary trail map from the parking lot.
- Bring a simple traction for the last mile that you can keep in your pack (micro spikes or yak trax).
- Dress in non cotton layers that can be shed when you get hot.
- Pack water, snack, waterproof snow boots (I wear LL Bean snow boots), and a cell phone.

Matt and I had a great adventure hiking up the local Pawtuckaway State Park.  I can't wait to go back and explore some more!

Please leave comments and question below....