Stella Tells Spring, “Not So Fast!”

The day before the blizzard, outdoor ski columnist Amy Patenaude went on an adventure to the Jim Liberty Cabin. This cabin is nestled on the southwest shoulder of Mount Chocorua on the site of the Old Peak House. The Old Peak House was built in 1891 and was destroyed in a windstorm in 1915. The Jim Liberty Cabin was built in 1932 and renovated in 1974, large chains still hold the roof down!

Late Winter Storm Brings Smiles To Fans of Snow…

A view of many first tracks made by skiers and snowboarders on Pats Peak’s Stella-snow-powdered trails the morning after the blizzard.

by Amy Patenaude
Outdoor/Ski Writer

Winter hasn’t given up yet and there’s proof! We’re still shoveling the snow that winter storm Stella left behind as she blew through our state.
Stella has made winter enthusiasts smile big. Skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and snowmobilers rejoiced. Even before the blizzard there still was a lot of snow in the mountains and covering your local ski slopes.
The day before Stella was forecasted to arrive it was a lovely Spring-like day. There was no snow in my yard, the sun was shining and it now stays light out well after 5pm. I grabbed my skis and backpack and jumped into my car and drove to ski Mount Chocorua.

 

The Liberty Trailhead on the unplowed section reached via the unplowed Paugus Mill Road, Tamworth, NH. The frozen foot/post hole and snowshoe tracks were not an ideal skiing surface but there was plenty of snow.

The final pitch to the summit of Mount Chocorua is a steep open rocky climb. The warm weather and bright sun made it a lucky ice-free climb for me.

I was wondering if I was crazy as I drove up the highway because the view didn’t include much snow. When I neared Tamworth I noticed that there were snowbanks and when I reached where they had stopped plowing Paugus Mill Road it was blocked by a large snowbank.
On the edge of the road I parked my car, gathered my gear and set out for the Liberty Trailhead. I cross-country skied for half a mile on the foot deep consolidated snow blanketing the road. There were some snowshoe tracks and post-holes and it was a speedy ski to the trailhead.
At the trailhead I decided to put on my climbing skins for my 3.3 mile climb to the Jim Liberty Cabin. Climbing skins are no longer animal skins but synthetic “fur” that prevents the ski from sliding backwards. Well, most of the time.
I had read that the Liberty Trail was used for skiing back in the 1930s and early 40s. “1934: Liberty Trail has been improved by CCC for skiing.” from NewEnglandSkiHistory.com. The trail is described as being excellent for novices from the Halfway House. (The house is long gone.)
The trail is no longer maintained for skiing and it is not a popular winter route to the summit of Mount Chocorua. I had hoped to find untracked snow. but it wasn’t to be and I had to navigate around frozen post holes and a few snowshoe tracks. Catching a ski tip in a frozen hole stops a ski quickly and is no fun.
There were bare spots down low, but I most often could enter the woods along the trail to find good snow.
I had to cross Durrell Brook and luckily the rocks had no ice on them and I was able to rock-hop and keep my feet dry.
As I climbed I knew I wouldn’t be able to ski all the way down, but I knew I’d be able to ski a good amount. A few times I had to carry my skis and climb up rocky sections but the higher I climbed the better the snow conditions.
At the cabin I abandoned my skis and put on my micro-spikes. I knew the last half mile near the summit cone would be open and exposed and I would find bare ledge and ice.

Peering over the summit of Mount Chocorua looking straight at Mount Washington and the Presidential Mountains. Chocorua’s large bare rocky summit provides a panorama of the surrounding mountains for miles and miles. Mount Chocorua is named after a Native American Chief that lived in the Tamworth area in the 1700s.

I was delighted to find little ice and mostly bare rock. But I kept my spikes on my feet because my hard plastic ski boots are slippery on rock.
I climbed carefully up the steep section to the summit. There was just a breath of wind and a splendid clear panorama of the surrounding mountains to greet me. It is a rare treat to stand alone on the summit of a popular peak on such a marvelous day. This was a wonderful place to eat my lunch.
Back at the cabin I peeked inside. It looked the same as the last time I was there, bunkbeds, rustic clean but the door didn’t latch. The trail and cabin are named for Jim Liberty after he improved the old bridle path and incorporated it in 1887—he charged a toll to travelers to use it. Interestingly enough the nearby Brook Trail was cut and maintained by locals so they could avoid paying the toll when climbing the mountain. The Chocorua Lake Conservancy (chocorualakeconservancy.org) website is a fun place to learn about the history of Mount Chocorua.
Now I wouldn’t recommend skiing the Liberty Trail to anyone, but combined with the Brook Trail in the summer it does make a dandy outing.
On the descent I lost count how many times I switched between my skis and my micro-spikes but I did ski most of the way.
The next day Stella arrived and I left work an hour early to go ski in the blizzard at Pats Peak. Lots of people that had cancelled school and work were happily out skiing too. Of course, I stopped to vote on the way.
Better yet, the next day I was late for work a couple hours because I went skiing again. Oh, the snow was lovely and making first tracks in the untouched snow was double the fun.

University of New Hampshire skier Peter Holmes competing in the 2017 NCAA Skiing Championships being hosted by UNH at Jackson Ski Touring Center. The alpine events were held at Cannon Mountain on the new Mittersill slopes.

NCAA Skiing Championships hosted by UNH
The University of New Hampshire hosted the 2017 NCAA Skiing Championships. The alpine events were held at Cannon Mountain and the cross-country races at Jackson Ski Touring Center. The resorts scrambled after the big warm-up and with the arrival of bitter cold allowed for snowmaking and good grooming days before the races. Both Cannon and Jackson did amazing jobs putting on these championships and proved to the nation that New Hampshire skiing is tops.
The University of Utah were the overall champions with the Universities of Colorado and Denver not far behind. Dartmouth College 4th, University of Vermont 5th, University of New Hampshire 9th and rounding out the top ten was Colby College.

Tuckerman
Inferno Race
Stella helped fill Tuckerman Ravine nicely. The Friends of Tuckerman Ravine’s annual fundraising event, the Tuckerman Inferno Race, will be held on April 7th. The Run, Kayak, bicycle, hike and ski—individuals and relay teams will start at Storyland and end in Tuckerman Ravine. Competitors climb the wall of the Ravine and ski race down! Many consider this the hardest and craziest race of all races! For more information visit FriendsofTuckermanRavine.org.
Have fun.