Spring: the part of the ski season where the weather is more enjoyable.

That’s right, even after hanging out on the beach in California I could not be deterred.  As of April 30th there was still plenty of snow on the mountains (if you know where to look) and it wasn’t going to get skied on by itself!  This time out, me managed to round up a pretty epic crew: myself, Alex, Rob, Shane, Hannah, Ziehl, and Christine.  The plan was ski Tucks (or more accurately, what’s left of it) on Saturday.  The weather was shaping up nicely: partly sunny, breezy, and highs in the mid 40s.  An excellent day of spring skiing by any measure!

Anticipating crowds, we tried to arrive reasonably early.  Even so, we ended up parking down the street from the trail head.  All of the overflow parking was in use.  I dropped Alex, Ziehl and the gear in the main parking lot and went to park the car.  Miraculously (given the thousands shambling around the area), when I got back to the parking lot, Alex and Ziehl had managed to meet up with the rest of the party who had arrived separately.  After messing around with our backpacks and skis for a good 20 minutes we were ready to hit the trail.

Tucks, on a late spring day is a sight to see.  Whether you love it or hate it, it’s a spectacle.  In fact there is no shortage of people who are along just for the ride: to watch hundreds of people rocket down the icy slopes.  On  one hand, the situation is annoying: you’ve come to do some backcounty skiing and enjoy the pristine White Mountains but find yourself surrounded by hordes of people who may or may not have any idea what they’re doing, and seemingly going out of their way to be right in front of you at all times.  On the other hand, it’s pretty cool: the place is transformed into a huge staging area, full of people ready to embark on various expeditions, which likely have gone through several stages of planning and possibly hours of travel, all leading up to this point.    You really have to take a glass is half full approach here: it just so happens that loads of like minded people have arrived to enjoy the same awesome place.  Who can blame them?

After a couple hours of mixed hiking and skinning, we arrive at Hojos, which serves as a base camp of sorts.  Here we get our first good look at the bowl.

Some obvious deterioration, but still plenty of snow!

After a quick breather, we start planning our attack.  Word on the street was that Dodge’s Drop, one of steepest, tightest and most technical runs in the area was skiable.  The Drop is not really in the bowl proper, it’s to looker’s left of Hillman’s Highway, which in turn is to lookers left of the Bowl.  We decided that we’d head for Dodge’s by way of Hillman’s Highway and take a stab at it, while anyone not wishing to tackle the Drop could return via the slightly mellower Hillman’s.

Wait, so much further?
Photo Credit: Ziehl
A long way up!
Photo Credit: Ziehl
Our approach: Hillman’s Highway.
And a long way down…
Photo Credit: Ziehl

Anxious to get to the top, we climb up about as fast as we can, laden with skis, clothes and other equipment.

Just for frame of reference…

Once at the top we re-assemble and start getting into our ski gear – near the top of the run the wind is quite a bit stronger and the temps are probably a good 10 degrees cooler than at the base.  From the top of Hillman’s be begin the short walk south-east toward Dodge’s Drop.  Up on the ridge, the weather is up to it’s usual tricks.  High winds, wand fast moving clouds race up and over the ridge in dramatic fashion.

The usual business…
Shane outrunning the clouds.
We find the Drop without too much trouble, click into our skis and give Rob the honor of first tracks, as it was mostly his route finding that led us here.

Rob, off to an aggressive start…

Unfortunately, shortly after he dropped in, we started to hear him calling back to us.  Over the wind, we can just barely make out something along the lines of ‘still pretty firm’, ‘not worth it’ and ‘no fun.’  We hastily get out of our skis and head back to Hillman’s Highway, where we knew the snow to be plenty soft.  Rob took one for the team this time…

The staging area.
Hannah declares victory.
Photo Credit: Ziehl
Just about ready for the good part.
Photo Credit: Ziehl

This is where the left entrance to Hillman’s
rejoins the main part of the run.

We take a nice run about two thirds of the way down Hillman’s where we stop for lunch and rest.  We find a sunny spot by a rock where we can all sit comfortably and watch other skiers going up an down.  

Snacks and beers.
Photo Credit: Ziehl

After another run we pack up our gear and roll out.  The snow from the top of Hillman’s, all the way down past Hojo’s until about one mile from the end of the the Sherburne was excellent spring skiing: bumped up but soft and forgiving.  We all but ran our way out for the last mile.  By this stage of the game I was starting to turn my thoughts toward dinner, which would certainly be more attainable at the bottom of the mountain, out of my ski boots and with the aid of car.

View Hillman’s Highway in a larger map

Gear List (click links for more product info):

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