Monday, January 17, 2011

New Stickney Glades: Worth It

Smiles seem to have been the fashion this past weekend at Bretton Woods. Even on a busy long weekend, staff, skiers and riders alike seemed to be relishing the perfect conditions on the slopes. Myself included.

After an amazing week of snow, I was excited to be able to explore the new Stickney Backcountry Glades for the first time. Our friends Chris and Lollie and their two boys were visiting for some playing in the snow, and after a day of adult frolic while the kids were in lessons and the nursery, we took Sunday to trade off on Base Lodge duty.

Mount Stickney is on the eastern end of the alpine area. From the top of the Rosebrook Express Quad chairlift, I headed down the Two Miles Home trail, past the entrances to Black Forest and Enchanted Bear, to a traverse up to the right. It’s easy to miss the entrance – it’s a wide groomed trail, but there’s no immediate sign. Up a bit there’s a sign announcing your entrance to the Stickney Backcountry Glades, with all the usual warnings that come with skiing the woods. And yes, you should heed those warnings. It is advanced terrain and you should be prepared to encounter trees and rocks that you need to maneuver around.

The traverse to the new trails is a bit of a hike… but so worth it. I was glad to see that there were snowboarders making the trek up to the glades as well as skiers. For my first run I chose to go as far as the ski area boundary, making sure I didn’t go past the boundary signs – I didn’t want to find myself down some drainage that didn’t lead back to the Resort! I was amazed at how much snow was out there – even with a handful of tracks from previous skiers, the snow was deep and powdery, four days after the big storm. I relished the burn I felt in my quads as I made turn after turn, looking ahead to pick my path through the trees.

The glades cross over Mountain Road, the cross-country ski trail that winds from the top of the mountain to the Nordic Center, and then make another drop through the trees before a traverse back to Two Miles Home. There were a few open streams on the traverse back, but it kept things interesting as I cruised back. Once back on Two Miles Home, I could duck back into the Rosebrook Canyon Glades and hit Inferno or Snowmaker’s Gully. I did the loop from the base, up the Bethlehem Express Quad, up the Rosebrook Express Quad, and over to the Stickney Glades three times before I had to check back in with the kids in the Lodge.

One of my favorite things about skiing at Bretton Woods is the ability to find uncrowded terrain, even on the busiest of weekends. There was a wait at the Bethlehem Express Quad at times this weekend, but I skied right on to the Rosebrook Express Quad all day and usually had whatever trail I was on to myself. People new to the Resort often just ski what they see under the lifts, but there really is so much to explore beyond the obvious runs.

There’s a mountain biking trail at Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont, called Worth It. It’s a long climb to the top of a wonderful, winding descent. It reminded me of today’s endeavor. A bit of work to get there, but the “whoo-hooooos” I heard echoing through the woods reminded me: it was SO worth it.

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