Ski Touring at the Base of Mount Washington

Lindsay and Andrew skiing at Great Glen Trails.

Neither one of us has ever been on the trails at  Great Glen Trails and we finally checked it out last weekend.  We wanted to get out on our skis, but the snow in the backcountry was too crusty, so we had to go to a groomed place and Great Glen is just down the road from us.  We know someone who works at Great Glen and got a special discount on our tickets, although the prices seem to be reasonable.  The trails are right at the base of Mount Washington including 45 km of ski trails, a snow tubing hill, snowshoeing, and a snow coach that will take you to treeline up Mount Washington.  In the summer, the trails are open to mountain bikers and hikers, and they also run the shuttles up to the summit of the mountain.  They also have regular events and a ski school.  The day we went, there were representatives from Atomic, Swix and Rossignol letting people try out equipment for free.

Discussing skis with the Swix Rep. The clouds mask the views of Mount Washington across the road.

We spent several hours skiing the trails for a total of 6.9 miles.  The touring center is on the east side of Route 16 and a tunnel under the road brings you to the west side of the road to the majority of the trails.  A quick ski through the open fields (mowed grass in the summer) brings you into the woods.  The trails were nicely groomed with set tracks and many skiers were out enjoying the conditions.  The trails meandered through the hardwood forest interspersed with glacial boulders.

Andrew skiing past one of the many large boulders along the trails.

We found the trail junctions to come quickly and we refered to the maps on display to help us navigate to the most difficult trails.  We stopped at the Great Angel Station and had a snack and chatted with other skiers taking a break.  This cabin is new, replacing a yurt that black bears were fond of breaking into for the wrappers and crumbs visitors left behind.  We finally found the black diamond trails, at the northern edge, but they had not been groomed that morning.  This made for a little more difficult ski through the hilly section, but we handled ourselves expertly wishing for more when we reached the bottom.

Andrew skis ahead on the nicely groomed trails at Great Glen.

Great Angel Station gives visitors a dry place to warm up, have a snack, and take a load off.

We looped back past the Great Angel Station and took “The Wringer”.  However, before making our way all the way through, we heard the West Branch of the Peabody River and Andrew couldn’t resist going off trail, crashing through the thick softwoods.  He took off his skis and hiked down to the river while Lindsay stayed on top and took pictures. We suspect this is the area identified on maps as “Long Island Rapids”, but we have not had the chance to cross-reference GPS info with our maps to confirm.

Clever signs along the trail excite (or worry) the skier.

Where's Andrew?

A light snow began to fall and the air temperature began to drop.  We noticed the change in snow conditions under our skis.  We found a nice downhill and decided to climb back up and ski it again.  A couple that also headed up the hill confirmed that this was the steepest downhill section and we were glad we had decided to ski it twice.

Lindsay skiing through the snow flurries.

We skied back toward the touring center, looking forward to some lunch.  We ordered veggie burgers and chips and ate a late lunch watching the snow fall on Mount Washington, as well as attempted to observe the progress of Snow Coaches on the auto road.  We explored the gear shop and promised to come back soon.

Lindsay in front of the massive windows. On a clear day, the view from the lunch tables is impressive.

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4 thoughts on “Ski Touring at the Base of Mount Washington

  1. Thank you for posting this! Sometimes I need something such as this to jog my memory (failing perhaps! :)).

    I recall doing this exact same thing a few years ago when we had a “winter of discontent” regarding horrid XC-skiing at the lower elevations due to the snow conditions. So, unless we have a huge turnaround with our snow situation, I’ll most likely be travelling over to Great Glen to try to salvage what’s left of winter!

    As always, this was a very enjoyable report!

    John

    • Thanks John!

      Consider it a favor returned since we often get inspiration/information from your blog. In fact, this weekend we went to Bald Mountain Notch in Nash Stream since Andrew’s been obsessed with going there for over a year. When we got home he thought he remembered reading something from you about it and sure enough we found your report and that it is possible to get to the top (on our to-do list this spring/summer). We’ll get our blog on the Bald Mountain Notch hike up this weekend.

      ~Lindsay

  2. Next time you are at Great Glen ask for my friend Meg. She works there in the winter and at the Auto Rd in the summer. She is neat, you’d like her. She is the first person to ever unicycle up the Auto Rd.

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