While skiers and snowboarders raced to Tuckerman Ravine, we decided to take advantage of the lingering snow on Mount Cardigan.
Maple syrup farmers and spring skiing enthusiasts like the same weather. Cold nights and warm days not only makes the sap run but it makes for great snow conditions.
We met at the AMC’s Cardigan Lodge at 8am. The dirt road to the lodge was still partly frozen and would surely be a muddy mess by the time we would be headed home (it was).
My friend, Becca Monroe, loves snowboarding Mount Cardigan’s classic ski trails. When the trails were first laid out and then cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s they had only skiers in mind. The trails have good steady grades, nice sweeping turns and have widths that vary between 10 and 40 feet. They’re actually pretty snowboard friendly and of course some trails are more so than others.
Yes, Becca is a snowboarder. Well all my friends can’t be perfect but she sure is pretty close since she can split her snowboard into two pieces. She slaps climbing skins onto the bottom of each piece and then switches her snowboard boot bindings into climbing mode and she is good to go.
I am impressed how quickly she changes her equipment into climbing gear and back to a snowboard. Not as quick as I am able to click in and out of telemark gear, but this gave me time to practice ripping off or putting on my skins without removing my skis from my feet. I got a little less clumsy at it.
The Cardigan Lodge looked like it had a good number of guests judging by the number of cars that appeared to have been parked overnight. But we didn’t see anyone outside and we didn’t see any fresh tracks in the snow as we headed up the trail.
We decided we would ski the Alexandria Ski Trail first. We skinned up the Holt-Clark Cutoff and Clark hiking trails all the way to the Warden’s Cabin. We were only 2/10ths of a mile from Cardigan’s summit but the open ledges were still covered with ice and it didn’t seem worth the risk and effort to go any higher.
The early morning wind was chilly and we used the cabin as a wind block while we changed our clothes and gear. Down the trail we went on the firm snow and we broke through a thin ice crust as we turned our boards. The turns and steep drops were fun. Becca made quick round turns on her snowboard. We made nice figure 8 tracks in the middle of the trail. The snow got softer as we reached the end of the Alexandria and the beginning of the Kimball Ski Trails.
Here we put back on our skins and climbed to the high point of the Kimball Ski Trail. This trail is nice for the less experienced. The climbs up and the ride down are gentler, not steep and have a straighter line. Happily we slid down over the perfect spring snow and we were back at down in no time.
The sunny pasture at the bottom of Duke’s Ski Trail was a good place to take a rest and grab a bite to eat. People were out and about now and we saw fresh tracks and a few people heading up the trail from where we just came down.
At one time there was a rope-tow here at Duke’s Pasture and parts of the contraption can be seen rusting away up on side of the ski trail.
Duke’s Ski Trail is not as steep and curvy as the Alexandria Ski Trail but it has splendid old school character. You can easily imagine using long wood skis and wearing short leather boots while having a joyous time bopping down this ski run.
By mid morning the sun was shining brightly and we stripped down to our short sleeve shirts. Amazing how quickly the day can warm up. We passed a few people making their way up the trail and then two young men came skiing down past us. This was the biggest crowd we encountered the entire morning.
Duke’s tops out on the open ledges just below the summit of Firescrew. We enjoyed a clear grand vista of the many surrounding mountains.
The trip back down seemed to zip by too quickly. We had fun turning in the soft granular snow. Up high there was more than a foot of snow but down below the snow was thin on Duke’s Pasture. By the end of the day the bare spots would grow large and it wouldn’t be long before it would all be melted away.
To round out our adventure we decided to head back up the Kimball Trail. As we neared the Lodge I was carrying good speed and I decided to skid across the bare wood bridge to the other side of Bailey Brook. Becca followed me and her wider snowboard halves came to a quick stop in the middle of the bridge. I have no idea how she did it but she managed to stay on her feet and not go swimming.
Truly it was a beautiful exciting day on Mount Cardigan.
I look forward to fun hiking on Mount Cardigan this summer, hopefully soon.
Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: email@example.com.