Winter Wonderland in the Whites!

This past weekend it started to snow in the White Mountains Saturday night, and most of us woke up to 6 inches to over a foot of snow early Sunday morning! The skiing here in Pinkham Notch was fantastic at Wildcat Mountain as well as the John Shurburne Backcountry Ski Trail; also known as "The Sherbie" (picture above)
In the afternoon after my shift I decided to throw on my climbing skins and head up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail (picture to the left) the 2.4 miles up to the Hermit Lake Shelter where you can access the Sherbie. This trail gains about 1,800' feet of elevation, and with the newly fallen snow has a moderate grade now that the areas around the rocks are filled in. The hikers that I came across had some good floatation devices, but if you are headed up in the next couple of days the trail should be packed down enough that you may not need them, however on trails that are less traveled floatation and traction devices will be needed. If you are staying at the Joe Dodge Lodge you can demo these devices for free.

Climbing skins are strips of material (nylon, mohair, or a mixture of the two) that attach to the bottom of your skis to provide traction for climbing. The outer surface of the climbing skin has hairs or scales that grab the snow, preventing backward movement of the skis. When the skis are moved forward, these surfaces flatten out to allow glide. You would need these skins coupled with a telemark or AT (Alpine Touring) binding.
This Sherbie starts from the base of the Little Headwall and travels almost 3 miles down the trail to the south end of the parking lot at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. This trail was originally cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930′s, and has been a popular descent route from Tuckerman Ravine for more than 70 years. 
The difficulty of the grade of this trail is equivalent to an intermediate run at a ski resort, however it is an ungroomed backcountry trail, making for it be more difficult with the variable conditions. The trail has several steep pitches, waterbars, rocks and the occasional downed tree. There are challenges on this trail including water ice, wind-scoured sections, exposed rocks, and other typical backcountry hazards. Conditions change quickly, so be prepared for anything on this trail, especially during the early and late seasons.

With this recent large amount of snowfall the hard working USFS Snow Rangers moved the advisory to a 5-Scale Avalanche Scale for the first time this season. Everything in the ravines (Tuckerman and Huntington) was at a considerable danger level. This means that those entering these areas must assess the snowpack and make cautious and conservative decision making. Natural avalanches are likely in these conditions and human triggered avalanches are very likely. This guide above tells in detail what each level indicates, provided by the Mount Washington Avalanche Center. You can find these postings at the beginning of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail next to the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center as well as Huntington and Tuckerman Ravines.

Once I got to the Hermit Lake Shelter I quickly changed into warmer gear as the temperatures were plummeting as the night approached, took off my climbing skins, drank some well deserved hot chocolate and took off onto the John Sherburne Ski Trail. Ski conditions were good, thankfully the snow rangers and earlier skiers had made a great base by packing down the snow. There were only a few areas that I needed to avoid. The next snowfall will have some great skiing conditions on this trail. I was able to ski from the shelter down to the parking area!
 Go on for the latest weather conditions and be sure to check in with Mount Washington Avalanche Center for avalanche bulletins as we now have general advisories in effect!  As always you can check AMC Conditions for the latest report from the snow stakes and/or call us here at Pinkham to see what we're seeing out our windows and for the best trail advice we can give you!   
The AMC also offers clinics and group trips for ice climbing, skiing, snowshoeing winter mountaineering and avalanche classes. All of our programs for the '13/'14 season can be found on our Activities and Events Page. For any general questions, conditions information, or trail advice, please feel free to contact us here at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center front desk.  We are available by phone at (603) 466-2721 every day from 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM or by email at To make reservations at AMC Lodges and Huts, please call (603)466-2727 available Monday through Saturday 9am-5pm. We also offer ski and stay packages at our Joe Dodge Lodge and the Highland Center

Happy winter adventuring!

Danielle J.
Backcountry Information Specialist
AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
(603) 466-8116 

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