As soon as the snow starts falling, the Western White Mountains turn into a winter wonderland. People come from near and far to enjoy its abundance of incredible outdoor activities. With several top-rated ski resorts within the region, alpine skiing and snowboarding are often a major attraction. While the ski resorts are still planning to open this winter, in light of current events, you may find yourself more interested in trying some of the other fun winter activities in the mountains away from the crowds.
We’ve interviewed a few of our local outdoor experts to provide some inside information and tips on how to enjoy the Western White Mountains this winter away from the ski resorts. With winter hiking, cross country skiing, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and other, you certainly won’t be bored this winter!
Hundreds of thousands of people flock to the White Mountains every year to hike many of the area’s famous peaks, but few get to experience the beauty of the White Mountains during the winter months. Justin Walsh, the General Manager at Burgeon Outdoor and a registered mountain guide, says, “If you have the skills and equipment, there’s no better feeling than crossing a ridge (such as Franconia Ridge or the Presidential Range) when it’s 40 below zero with winds blowing at 70 miles an hour, all while feeling completely comfortable.” While Justin, who has climbed Denali, Mount Rainier, Cotopaxi, and the Matterhorn among other high peaks around the globe, is a mountaineering expert, even those who have never hiked in the winter can enjoy the mountains in the winter.
The Western White Mountains has no shortage of beginner-friendly hikes like Lincoln Woods Trail, Lonesome Lake, and Mt. Lafayette. For the adrenaline junkies, book a mountaineering adventure through one of the local guide services and experience the so-called “alpine zone.” As Justin says, “it’s an incredible natural asset.”
While most people prefer to stick to the groomed trails and glades of the local ski resorts, more and more people are adventuring out to the backcountry of the White Mountains. Alpine backcountry skiing has increased tremendously in recent years. Gary of Village Ski and Sport in Lincoln says, “there are tons of great backcountry ski spots in the White Mountains, but you often need someone to show you where they are.” Granite Backcountry Alliance is a great resource to discover the abundance of local glades for skiing and also to connect with other likeminded backcountry skiers.
Backcountry skiing is different than skiing at a resort, like Loon Mountain or Cannon Mountain. You need specialized gear and must be prepared to handle all the elements and risks of backcountry skiing. As Gary says, “you need the knowledge to do things, like basic winter survival skills and avalanche safety.” Several local guide services will be happy to take you backcountry skiing for your first time. Stop by Village Ski and Sport, and Gary and his team will help outfit you with all the equipment you need.
Cross Country Skiing
Cross country skiing is another popular winter sport in the Western White Mountains. There are tons of great locally groomed trails and backcountry trails just waiting to be explored. The White Mountain National Forest has some great trails, like the Lincoln Woods Trail, Greeley Ponds Trail, and Kancamagus Brook Cross Country Ski Trail that are great for a variety of skiers. Locals love the quieter and less developed Lafayette XC-Ski Trail as well.
Winter hiking and snowshoeing often go hand-in-hand. Most hiking trails can be utilized in the winter for snowshoeing. Steve Smith of Mountain Wanderer in Lincoln recommends Mt. Pemigewasset, Lonesome Lake, the Old Bridle Path on Mt. Lafayette up to the first outlook ledges, the Flume, Lincoln Woods Trail, and Greeley Ponds for easy to moderate snowshoeing. For the more experienced and fit hikers, Mt. Liberty is a great choice. For a unique Western White Mountains experience, Steve says, “Lonesome Lake is a great full moon hike, but be prepared for very cold nighttime temperatures!” Steve has owned and operated the Mountain Wanderer Map & Bookstore for over 22 years in Lincoln and is the co-editor of the AMC White Mountain Guide. Stop by his shop and he’ll point you to the right trail.
Helpful Tips on Dressing for Winter Activities
Our local experts who have well over 50 years of experience combined have provided some great tips on how to dress for winter activities in the White Mountains. As you may already know, the weather can change with a drop of a hat at any time in the White Mountains, especially during the winter months.
- “Layers! Modularity is key, so make sure you can adjust your “insulation” to be appropriate at any level of exposure and any level of bodily activity.” – Justin
- “Microspikes or similar traction devices are suitable for hard-packed trails. Icy conditions, such as what is often found above treeline on the higher peaks, require full crampons. This kind of hike is for experienced winter hikers only.” – Steve
- “Your feet are almost always the first thing to get cold. The temptation is often to add more layers of socks or add heavier weight socks, but the key to warm feet is almost always adequate circulation. Make sure that both your boots and socks fit loosely enough to allow your circulation to keep your feet warm.” – Justin
- “For backcountry skiing, you need to be prepared. That means bringing food, water, a sleeping bag or warm coat, and a first aid kit. You never know what could happen, especially if you’re far from your car.” – Gary
Enjoy Winter in the Western White Mountains
The Western White Mountains is your winter playground. Experience a variety of outdoor activities this winter while maintaining social distancing measures. Make sure you stop by our local experts’ shops and say thank you for all their great advice!