Northeast Backcountry Ski Getaways

Pemigewasset Wilderness, New Hampshire

The Whites in winter. Even on a calm, blue-sky day, you can see that plume of snow at the top of Mount Washington. You've probably heard the tales, maybe collected a few yourself: the buffeting winds and plummeting temperatures; the worst recorded weather in the world. Just about every year, people die up there. It's something to think about before heading uphill.

Then again, no one says you have to go uphill.

"The Wilderness Trail in the Pemigewasset Wilderness," AMC ski leader D. Kurt Piper says immediately, when I ask him about a cross-country ski trail that doesn't require winter mountaineering skills.

If your only experience in the Whites has been summertime hiking (say, for instance, the belly-on-rock route along Garfield Ridge), you might be surprised to learn that this White Mountain trail is downright easy. "It follows an old railroad grade," explains Piper, "and that makes it ideal for beginners. You don't need telemarking equipment or technical skills. But you should be competent with a map and compass, because you'll want to make sure you don't accidentally stray onto one of the side trails."

Pemigewasset means"swift current" in Abenaki, and the trail follows the river course — not so swift in the winter chill — along the east branch of the Pemigewasset River for nine miles, through a variety of forest types including birch, aspen, maple, ash, and beech. But although the forests break the winds, Piper cautions that this is still New Hampshire, and the weather can be unpredictable and severe. The 10 essentials are, let's just say, essential.

Location: Trailhead is located just off the Kancamagus Highway, about five miles from Lincoln.
Contact: USDA White Mountain National Forest,
(603) 744-9165.
Guidebook: The Wilderness Trail and the Pemigewasset Wilderness are described in the AMC White Mountain Guide , which also recommends other White Mountain cross-country ski routes.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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