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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast

When I was researching my first book, “Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England,” in 1995, I assembled quite a collection of books on the region. Two books in particular, “Maine: An Explorer's Guide” by Christina Tree and “Classic Backcountry Skiing” by David Goodman stood out among the rest. Both authors went far beyond the norm to delve into their subject, introducing me to areas of New England I would have never found. Now Goodman has revised his book and come out with a new edition titled “Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast: 50 Classic Ski Tours in New England and New York,” published by AMC Books. Included in the book are a detailed account of the  CCC Trails on the backside of Mount Mansfield, including Bruce, Teardrop, and Skytop, hand-cut serpentine trails that Goodman considers the “gold standard of backcountry skiing.” Goodman finally gets to cross Lake Champlain and taste the terrain of the Adirondacks, like the 35-mile wonder, the Jackrabbit Trail, that connects Saranac Lake with Lake Placid. He also delves into the carriage path trails at Acadia National Park in winter, one of my favorite spots to backcountry ski, and the emerging AMC sporting camps network in the 100-Mile Wilderness section of Maine’s North Woods. The book is a must for any skier who likes to carve their turns away from the crowds, where the only spectators lining your trails are tall pines and birches.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/27/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ski Tahoe

Lake Tahoe resorts are currently boasting the deepest season-to-date snowpack levels since they began keeping records more than a half century ago. Thanks to the snowiest early season on record, skiers and snowboarders have been enjoying powder conditions on almost a daily basis with over 25 feet of snow already blanketing the slopes of the Sierras. This winter’s bountiful snowfall has been attributed to a powerful La Nina weather pattern off the Pacific Coast, with Lake Tahoe’s ideal location channeling powerful winter storms into deep powder. While you’re in the area, check out the latest developments at Northstar-at-Tahoe. The same Ritz-Carlton team that helped transform Colorado’s Beaver Creek from Vail’s forgotten little sister into one of the finest family-friendly mountains in the country has descended on Northstar. A Ritz made its debut December 2009 mid-mountain, surrounded by a greatly expanded teaching area and a new Burton Snowboard Academy. If they have the same success as their Colorado cousin, expect Northstar to rise out of the shadows and challenge Squaw Creek and Heavenly as one of Tahoe’s premier ski areas.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/26/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Three of My Favorite Places to Cross-Country Ski in New England

Since Boston just got walloped with another winter nor’easter, dropping more than 15 inches of snow, I thought I’d devote this week to winter adventure in New England. First up, three wonderful cross-country ski areas:

Grafton Ponds
Grafton Ponds is one of the few cross-country ski centers in New England that provides snowmaking (a 5 km loop). If there’s already decent snow coverage, head from the center’s main lodge up through the dense forest on 30 kilometers of groomed trails. Make it to Big Bear Shelter atop the ridge and your reward is a cup of piping hot chocolate and views of the village of Grafton below.

Blueberry Hill
Lost within the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, 12 miles down the road from Middlebury, is the classic Vermont inn and cross-country ski center, Blueberry Hill, celebrating its 40th season in 2011. The 50 kilometers of groomed trails include the highest run in the state, at an elevation over 3,000 feet, and gentler routes through the pines.

Jackson Ski Touring Foundation
With over 150 kilometers of trails, Jackson Ski Touring Foundation is the largest cross-country skiing network in the northeast.  Novices can opt for the easy Ellis River Trail, which borders a babbling brook as it heads into the forest, while more experienced skiers should sample the challenging Wildcat Valley Trail, a classic 1930s throwback that slides steeply down the backside of the Wildcat ski area to the town of Jackson. Or take the Groomed Trail Challenge on February 12th, where avid x-c skiers try to do as much of the network as possible in an eleven-hour day.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/17/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Ski Saddleback for Free Midweek When Staying at the Rangeley Inn

In May 2003, the Saddleback Ski Area in Maine was down to one employee, general manager Tom McAllister. Forced to lay off his entire staff, McAllister announced that the family-friendly ski area in Rangeley would close down unless a buyer was found. In stepped Bill Berry, an avid skier who taught skiing for 25 years at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington, Maine, and had skied and cherished Saddleback. Few realized that this former professor of geology at the University of Maine, Farmington, had family money to play with. Now there are more than 100 employees working on the mountain and more than a quarter of them are at Saddleback year-round. The Berry family has invested more than $12 million in improvements so far, including a new base lodge, three times the size of its predecessor, lifts, a terrain park and halfpipe, and the opening of a new glade, Casablanca, which at 44 acres is the largest glade in the Northeast.  The mountain’s 2000-foot vertical drop is not far behind the 2,360-foot drop at Stowe, so don’t mistake Saddleback for a small ski area. The Rangeley Inn, my favorite hotel in the region, has just announced a midweek special where if you spend a night at the lodging, they’ll throw in a free lift ticket at Saddleback. Check it out!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/10/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Affordable Skiing in the Adirondacks

I grew up skiing little ole Maple Ski Ridge, just outside of Schenectady. Though I wouldn’t technically call it skiing. Every Saturday morning, my mother would drop me off with my ski class. I’d ski down once, straight to the lounge, where I’d order a hot chocolate and listen to Don McLean’s “American Pie” on the jukebox. Remember, this was long before Capilene and Gore-Tex products, when you froze your ass off in those plaid shirts and goofy overstuffed jackets. Maybe I’m feeling nostalgic or perhaps nostalgic for the ski lift prices of my youth, but upstate New York and the Adirondacks still offer some of the best deals in the country.

Big Tupper Resort in Tupper Lake re-opened in 2009 as a not-for-profit, no-frills, re-invigorated Adirondack ski resort run entirely by volunteers. With a 1,200-foot vertical drop and 17 trails of beginner-to-expert terrain, Big Tupper is the biggest bargain in the Adirondacks. Lift tickets cost only $15. Since the 1940s, Titus Mountain in Malone has been a hub for Adirondack skiing. Originally called Moon Valley, Titus has undergone some major changes in the past 70 years. Eight chairlifts, 27 trails, a ski school and a 1,200-foot vertical drop make Titus a great option for Canadians, as well as skiers and boarders from nearby Vermont. It’s also the third highest ski area in the entire Adirondacks, yet an all-day ski pass costs less than $40. Back at Maple Ski Ridge, a 4-hour ticket costs $32, with access to their new terrain park. Hot chocolate is extra.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/13/10 at 01:59 PM
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Ski Badger Pass, California

Don’t make the mistake of overlooking America’s National Parks in the winter. Exquisitely beautiful year-round, Yosemite is home to one of the oldest downhill ski areas in California. Badger Pass was built in the late 20s in a bid to get the 1930 Winter Olympics. The bid failed but the resort, with a vertical drop of only 800 feet, is now one of the best places in the West to learn how to ski. The bargains at Badger include two-hour ski lessons for only $35 a child. But, alas, this is Yosemite, so take advantage of your surroundings. A short snowshoe trek into Mariposa Grove and you’ll be making snow angels at the roots of 200-foot sequoia trees. Cross-country skiers will cherish the ten miles of groomed track that leads to 7,000-foot high Glacier Point. Ice skaters can swirl around the Curry Village rink dwarfed by the majestic cliff walls of Half Dome. 

Next week, I’ll be traveling around New England, giving 3-hour workshops with my brother Jim called Beyond the Craft: How to Be Proactive and Take Charge of Your Creative Career. This will take up most of my time, so I’m going to take a week off from ActiveTravels. See you on the 25th!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/15/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ski Lake Louise, Alberta

It was 1892 when a young employee for the Canadian Pacific Railroad came upon a gem of a lake in the Canadian Rockies that sat beneath a towering glacier. He would write in his journal: “As God is my judge, I never in all my explorations saw such a matchless scene.” Taking his recommendation, Canadian Pacific would build a one-story log cabin that would serve as a hotel for guests who savored the outdoors. By 1912, word spread about this majestic spot in the mountains, enticing more than 50,000 people to reach the shores of Lake Louise. It was time for Canadian Pacific to build a grand chateau with blue roofs and turrets, and furnished with the finest craftsmanship of the Edwardian era.  A place that royalty, heads of state, and celebrities could hobnob in comfort. Today, the 513-room Chateau Lake Louise is run by Fairmont Hotels and is still considered the premiere address in the Canadian Rockies. In winter, the chateau stays open so you can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride over the lake, cross-country ski in shaded forest below the peaks, or downhill ski at one of Canada’s largest ski areas at Lake Louise. Then return to the grand lobby where the fireplace is always roaring to warm you up.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/14/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ski Jay, Vermont

When it’s balmy in Boston in winter, you can still expect a blizzard at Vermont’s northernmost ski resort, Jay Peak. Bordering Quebec, Jay gets more snow than any other ski area in New England (about 350 inches of powder). Being this far north, Jay also accommodates far more Quebecois than New Yorkers. The ski area is cherished for its glade skiing. Black diamond lovers will enjoy the steeper tree runs off the tram while novices will find the trails in Bonaventure Basin to their liking. New this year is 57 luxury suites in the Tram Haus Lodge, opened last December. Also making its debut this past May is the 700-seat Ice Haus Arena, featuring an NHL-sized rink that offers skating lessons, hockey games, and curling tournaments. Phase two of the $120 million revitalization includes the unveiling of 170-room Hotel Jay and an indoor water park, expected some time in 2012.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/13/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ski The Ditch, Milwaukee

It has a vertical drop of 245 feet and is situated about 20 minutes from downtown Milwaukee in Franklin, Wisconsin. But since it was built atop a garbage dump in the mid-80s, skiers and boarders have been making their way to the Ditch, otherwise known as Crystal Ridge. There are two lifts for the intermediate and expert terrain and a tow rope for the bunny hill, totaling 7 runs altogether. But hey, you can’t beat the price, $25 for adults, $22 for children on weekends, $20 for all on weekday nights. And how many times do you get to ski atop a former garbage dump?

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/12/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Park City Preview

I just returned from my annual dim sum lunch in Boston with Craig McCarthy, Communications Manager at the Park City Chamber of Commerce. Park City has always been one of my favorite mountain locales in the West, be it winter or summer. Its history as a former mining town lends to its authenticity. It’s not your run-of-the-mill prefabricated ski town. But that’s not to say things don’t change. The Park City area is in the midst of a building spree. The Waldorf Astoria Park City was built at the base of the Canyons Resort last winter and this year, the Montage Resort, known for its spectacular property in Laguna Beach, plans to open at Deer Valley. The Canyons is also unveiling an orange-bubbled heated high-speed quad, the first of its kind in the States. Park City Mountain Resort is expanding their night skiing. But the big news is off the town lift in downtown Park City, where the High West Distillery opened its doors last year. Distilling small batch whiskeys and vodkas, it’s the first distillery to open in Utah since Prohibition. Throw back a glass of that rye whiskey and you have that extra edge you might need to try that double diamond.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/29/10 at 01:00 PM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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