• Laura Ventresco

Backcountry Skiing: John Sherburne Ski Trail -Mt. Washington

Laura the Explorer accidentally took a year off to adventure, hike, live life to the fullest, and spend less time on the computer, and more time outside. But I have returned wiser, filled to the brim with mountains and stories, and I'm ready to share them if you care to listen (or read) pull up a chair and join me!

WHOOOOO. Ok. So where do I even begin. Pandemic happening. THANK ALL OF OF STARS that I can still play outside, or I wouldn't be ok right now. I haven't been to the gym since last March. But to be honest, I am thriving. I have totally relied on the outdoors to still get my exercise in. I spent 2020 walking my dogs, biking, hiking, moving and settling into our new home, camping, and we even snuck in a vacation to Glacier National Park. Didn't die. More to come on that. Movement is mucho important to me. My husband likes to joke that my dogs and I are the same: we need to be walked or we're grumpy. It's so true. I am happiest when I can incorporate movement and exercise into my life. Biggest stress reliever, and it truly brings me peace, especially when I can get that exercise in outdoors. There is something so rewarding about waking up sore the next day, growth you can actually feel working!

Now that it's winter, I am still trying to stay super active. I have been doing a lot of skiing this year, getting into cross country, backcountry and working on my downhill. As you guys know everything is weird with Covid and being in the middle of a pandemic. Ski resorts are so pricy, you have to make reservations for everything and that just kind of cramps my spontaneous style. Plus ski resorts have to limit capacity, which means they aren't really offering discounts, some places have even raised their prices. Also, ew people. Backcountry skiing I am starting to dabble in as it combines both of my loves- hiking up and skiing down into one grand adventure. Other plus side: no pricy resort tickets, reservations, or lift lines.

On Saturday morning I headed up to Pinkham Notch to meet Samantha, Ricky Bobby (her Shiba Inu) and her friend John, we're going to call him John the Intern for story telling sakes, otherwise it's going to get real confusing. He was an intern at the Mt. Washington Observatory and worked with Sam. We've got John the intern, John Sherburne ski trail, my husband's name is also John, and I used the John before I went skiing (Dad joke! so good at those). Hope that cleared things up for you. Lots of Johns. We planned to skin up Tuckerman's and ski down the "Sherbie." I was super excited as I had been practicing my skiing skills- even did a bunch of glades and ungroomed trails the weekend prior to really try and get comfortable in a variety of trail conditions. Backcountry skiing is not going to be as predictable and smooth sailing as first tracks on groomed trails. But the benefits outweigh resort skiing. Plus as mentioned above - I am in love with exercising so free bonus a workout with a ski. I backcountry skied one other time at Black Mountain in Jackson, skinning up and skiing down at a resort to start. This was a good intro to get used to skinning up, the bindings system, and practice switching between hike and ski mode. I was instantly in love! This day on the Sherbie- we were doing the real deal but in a nice friendly intro rated trail for beginners.

I felt like a badass starting out! One thing I got over a long time ago, is that I never want to be afraid to be new at something. I think it's really brave to try new things, learn new skills, and not be scared to look stupid doing it. There were groups of guided hikers heading up Mt. Washington. Everyone had serious gear- mountaineer boots, ice axes. We talked about Avalanche safety. A backcountry skier had just died skiing Ammonoosuc Ravine the week prior in an avalanche. Rest in peace. Very sad but also a good reminder. The avalanche safety is posted at the trail head, and again at Hojo's. It was listed as considerable for the day, but the Sherbie is not a risk for that as it is a pretty moderate grade. We'll see where my backcountry skiing career takes me, I would definitely take an avalanche course and purchase safety equipment before heading into anything more risky than this. I plan to live until I'm 101 years old so good luck getting rid of me before then.

We start our skin up Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Tuckerman's is a famous and well known route up Mt. Washington. Believe it or not, I have never ascended this way, but bucklisted this for another time. What started off as freezing cold in the parking lot - we are quickly warming up and dropping layers. My theory for winter has always been it's only cold if you're standing still. I'm loving skinning up and the ski set up I'm on. We rented gear from Ski the Whites ski shop in Jackson, NH. Awesome place with an in shop doggo, good gear, and knowledgeable staff. Skinning comes second nature after dabbling a few times prior with Cross Country skiing. The skis just glide along so nicely, and they stick in the snow so you aren't counter productively sliding backwards after every step you take. We are gliding along, chit chatting and before we know it we arrive at Hojo's, the AMC hut. Although the building is closed for winter it's still a comforting sight to arrive to our destination and have a picnic table to use while we switch over from Hike to Ski mode.

We break here for a quick calorie refill with snacks, and layering up. Although temps are warm in the sun it cools down fast when you stop moving and building up that work of the uphill. Changing to ski mode for me was putting on a balaclava (or baclava as I like to say), helmet, ski goggles, ski shell, and heavier gloves. Also have to switch your skis over by removing the skins, rotating the binding so that your heel can clip in, and switching boots to ski mode. I'm a little clunky at the converting part currently. I realize at this point I am nerrrrrrvous, pretty good, like pit of my stomach nerves. I had no idea what to expect for the ski trail but I had to embrace whatever came at me next.

We start skiing down, it is powdery! Lots of natural made moguls. We let John the Intern go down first on his snowboard, betting that he is the fastest. We all kind of ski/board a bit and then take a break to catch up to each other. So much fun. My legs are tired from the skin up, also probably the 3 hours of sleep I got the night before. Every so often I have to break since my quads are burning, burning, burning love. Ricky bobby is chasing us, doing a great job of staying on trail but out of the way of our skis. Honestly, just so much fun to ski down and enjoy the fruits of your labor from that skin up. I'm pretty sure my legs must be jacked after this because it was a Quad juice explosion the whole way down of feeling the burn.

The ski trail ends right at our cars, we come out high fiving and celebrating a great accomplishment of a successful day in the mountains, and enjoy a parking lot beer together before we head our separate ways. There is just such a high from a good mountain adventure, I ride that all the way home. Everything just makes sense here in the mountains. It just matters that you're here right now, and how do you want to make the most of your day? I hope that you all are taking time for yourselves, being happy and living your best life. If not, what are you going to do about it? Life is grand, make sure you're living it grand.

Glad to be back loves <3

-Laura the Explorer