Woodward Mtn. ski trail, 2/17/2008

I post this plot here because there isn't much information online about the Woodward Mountain backcountry ski trail -- I looked, and, for the most part, did not find.

Trip report: Sunday I was on skis bright and early and was traversing the face of the dam on my backcountry touring gear. The normal way to do the entire Woodard Mountain trail is to spot a car at the reservoir and then drive to Bolton Valley and take a lift to the the top of Ricker Mountain. Being alone, and not much into lift-serviced skiing anyway, I decided to make it a very long out and back ski from my car.

From 9 until 11 I climbed steadily on my skis on logging roads and up a snowmobile trail. I was relying on waypoints that I had pre-loaded into my GPS the night before to navigate, and I am also pretty familiar with this area so I had some confidence that getting hopelessly lost would not be a problem.

Right at 11 am, and not without some degree of trepidation, I left the well marked VAST trail and headed off into the trail-less woods. No one knew exactly where I was and I wasn't carrying a cell phone. I thought I was reasonably well prepared and equipped for what I was doing and also I was not going to take any unnecessary risks: Still equipment failure (ie, a broken ski or binding) could have meant flailing around for hours in waist-deep snow, and an immobilizing injury could prove fatal in the remote and mostly untraveled winter woods: This area is remote, unpatrolled, and not many people go there.

Still, the snow was wonderful to ski on: Fresh, deep yet dense, so sinking in was not an issue, and it was initially very quiet and serene as edged my way up the Woodward ridgeline through pretty open hardwood forest. I had no exact idea where the ski trail was on the mountain but I figured that it must be near the top of the ridgeline and that if I cut across it I would eventually find it. I eventually found a saddle between two high points on the ridge; and right as I crested to the top, there was the trail, skied on and marked with blue blazes.

I skied up the trail for about another kilometer but it was gaining elevation rapidly and I wasn't making fast progress as I became hungry and more fatigued. At 2:30 pm I decided that I had had enough, took the skins of my skis, mounted my cable bindings, and started the long descent back to the reservoir. The trip back was mostly uneventful -- though I'm glad there is no video of this, my form is lacking, and very graceless.

Eventually I did emerge onto another VAST trail that descends rapidly down to the valley. I emerged from the woods only to discover that I was about a mile from my car... but by this point I was too tired to care and just shouldered the skis and walked up the road. After climbing Mt. Hunger on Saturday I was definitely fatigued at the end of this weekend.

I brought a camera but discovered that it did not have a memory card in it so it was just dead weight in my pack. I post this plot strictly for informational purposes -- use it at your own risk and discretion. I'm guessing that most people are not inclined to go uphill on skis for 5+ hours anyway. In the course of the entire day I saw one group of snowmobiles and one solitary skier (like me, a bushwhacker) who had climbed up from the Winooski valley side.

If there is more good snow this season I could see doing a variation of this route but just skiing down through the open woods into the Stevenson Brook basin -- I don't think it would be true glade skiing, but maybe some nice turns in the woods?

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