by Amy Patenaude
By the end of October a year ago there was snow above 3000 feet. Winter hasn’t teased us yet and it has been easy enjoying this extended warm weather but I am looking forward to winter and to skiing.
Last weekend Becca and I went out hiking to visit the officially abandoned Sugarloaf Mountain Trail (Benton Range). The old trail still sees some use by people that haven’t forgotten it. Long ago the trail was maintained by Camp Walt Whitman, according to my 1976 AMC White Mountain Guide.
We easily followed the trail from the forest road but once we hit the ledges we quit the trail. Ladders or rock climbing gear would be necessary to be safe and that is most likely the reason this trail was abandoned. We bushwhacked along the base of the cliff to the south and we were able to wind our way up to the ridge between Sugarloaf and Hogsback. Our compass came in handy for making a beeline through the woods to the summit.
From the open ledges we enjoyed the big open views over to nearby mountains and afar–Black Mountain and the Kinsman and Franconia Ranges. Becca and I have been to the top of Sugarloaf before via more difficult bushwhacks.
While enjoying the summit we took the time to look at an old map and we noticed a nearby peak marked with a ski lift. We decided once we got back down we would go check that out.
The drive was short to the former Swiftwater Valley Ski Area on Whites Pinnacle in Haverhill. The ski lodge is still operational and a wedding reception was in full swing when we arrived. The lucky couple could not have asked for a nicer summer-like day. We walked way around the lodge and hiked up the mowed hillside and we checked out the defunct rope-tow that is decaying on side of the slope.
Becca and I continued up a path straight up the mountain that was once the line of the small ski area’s double chairlift. Well it wasn’t that small it had 650 vertical feet of skiing.
On the summit of Whites Pinnacle, elevation 1,470 feet there are a few relics of the former lift and one of the trails is still used for hiking. The old trail wound its way more gently down and we both think we should come back to ski and snowboard it sometime this winter.
We decided our day shouldn’t be over yet so we drove over to Kinsman Notch and then towards Franconia to check out a little pond. From the road we whacked down to the pond and found a fisherman’s path along its edge. The water was low and there were a few salamanders swimming around near the shore. There also was a unique view of South Kinsman high above and across the water that made this unplanned outing well worth our small effort.
We enjoyed our mostly unplanned and random day.
***Ski areas have been putting out reminders that they’ll be open in a month. There is still time to buy your season pass for the ski/snowboard season at the best rates but time is running out. The SkiNH.com website has all the links to your favorite resorts and an events calendar.
***Saturday, November 4th – 6th Annual Simmer n ’Brewfest at Cannon Mountain. Gourmet soups galore from local chefs & eateries, brews from over 15 New England breweries and live music. For online tickets— www.cannonmt.com.
***Also on Saturday, November 4th is the Gunstock Ski Club Sale in Gunstock’s Main Lodge. New shop and used consignment equipment will be for sale. The sale helps support the Gunstock Ski Club youth ski racing program; more information at www.gunstockskiclub.com.
***Sunday, November 5th –Pats Peak Ski Team 47th Annual Ski & Snowboard Sale and the Pats Peak Oktoberfest in November. Two great events in one—King Ludwig’s Bavarian Band, German Food and Beer Garden, kids’ activities, woodsman show and sale of new & used ski and snowboard equipment and apparel. You can register your items for sale on-line; for more information visit www.patspeak.com.
***The 35th Boston.com Ski & Snowboard Expo is November 10-13th at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center. This is the place to go to get excited about the upcoming winter snowsport season. Nearly every ski resort in New England is represented at the Expo along with many resorts from the Western United States and Canada. Ski and Snowboard manufactures will be showing off and selling their newest equipment. Super deals and giveaways are all part of the fun; for more information www.skisnowexpo.com.
Think Snow and have fun.