XC Skiing the Blanchard Loop Trail

With the recent snowfall of almost a foot in Pinkham Notch since Saturday this has been great news for winter outdoors enthusiasts! I had originally planned a hike up to Square Ledge, one of my favorite short hikes in NH, but when I got to the trailhead I was almost thigh deep in snow! Nobody had hiked this trail since Saturday, so none of it was packed down; you will definitely need to have snowshoes in order to hike this trail...as well as most trails in the Whites. Since I had forgotten my snowshoes today, I went back to Pinkham to go and rent a pair, however I had remembered that my nordic classic skis were still in my car, so I decided that I would go do some skiing instead! Some of my favorites in Pinkham are the Blanchard Loop Trail, Square Ledge Loop Trail and Connie's Way. I figured that since I hadn't been on my skis doing backcountry nordic since April I would take it easy today, so I opted to stick to the Blanchard Loop Trail system.

The Blanchard Loop Trail is an easy 1 mile (1.6 km) trail that goes around the perimeter of the AMC Visitor Center. There are numerous locations that you can access this trail. I decided to start on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail (picture above) which is very well packed down right now with all of the heavy traffic there has been on it, and there is plenty of snow coverage to skin up this trail as well. After a few hundred yards you then take the first marked trail you will see on your left (picture to the left) and follow this down to the intersection with the John Sherburne Ski Trail ("The Sherbie"). This section of trail is flat for most of the way with a very slight elevation loss; as you will feel the climb on your way back (picture below). When I intersected with the Sherbie I met up with another skier who had just skied this trail, and said that the conditions were still great after the few inches of snow we received last night.

From the intersection of the Sherbie I then decided to go see if anyone had been to the Avalanche Brook Trail, which is a great challenging decent from Pinkham Notch down to the Rocky Branch trailhead, a solid 5.6 mile (9.0 km) run. Once you get to the Rocky Branch trailhead you can also pick up the trails that the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation maintains. This past March I skied on their Ellis River Trail (picture below) that easily links to the Avalanche Brook Trail. This is a great 8.8 km easy trail that parallels the Ellis River south into the town of Jackson.  The Avalanche Brook Trail today already had some tracks, which made for some easy skiing for me. I only went to the intersection to where you pick up the Gulf of Slides trail; another popular expert backcountry skiing trail with a 2,200 foot elevation climb, but am looking forward to making an all day adventure to the town of Jackson later on in the season!

There are some great backcountry skiing resources out there, my favorite book is the Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast by David Goodman. This covers 50 classic ski tours in New England and New York. If you plan to stick to skiing in the White Mountains there is a great Winter Trails map that has some great information in the areas of Pinkham Notch, Twin Mountain and the Kancamagus.
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 amcpinkhaminfo@outdoors.org. 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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