The Nordic ski season is on a trend of starting earlier each season, thanks to climate change. That's right. Because natural snow is becoming less reliable these days, many Nordic ski centers have invested in snow making equipment. Rikert, Craftsbury, Waterville Valley, Great Glen and Weston Ski Track are just a few. Rikert and Craftsbury are full-up Nordic ski centers that are serious about putting Nordic skiers on snow early. Rikert just installed a huge snow making system and is closer to my house than Craftsbury. It only needs to get cold at night to start the season.
The last two weekends have been solid ski-bike weekends. Ski hard on Saturday, bike in damaged state on Sunday. Last week Saturday Rikert had perfect conditions on mix of man-made and natural snow. It looked like mid-winter there. They had only 2.5km open, but it was perfect for getting the snow feel back in the legs. Rollerskis on pavement cannot emulate snow feel. The hills jacked the heart rate up on the climbs and allowed practicing turns on the descents. I got in a solid 33km workout, one of my best season opener skates.
Thanksgiving weekend skiing at Rikert. Doesn't get any better.
Wide FIS race course trails.
The following day, Sunday, was frigid. Isaac was looking to do a local three hour ride. Working all of the new NEMBA built singletrack in Merrimack and Amherst into a super-loop would fit the bill. We parked at the Horse Hill trail head and started by bombing down Amherst Rd to the Grater Woods Preserve. Talk about ice cream headache! The ground was frozen hard as concrete. I love riding when conditions are like that. Just have to watch out for errant patches of ice. We covered 27 miles with 2600ft of climbing. A two day one-two punch for me.
Isaac on Greens Pond Connector Trail by Wasserman Park.
Loop Trail in Horse Hill. Seems blue bird sky days are always bitter cold.
This past weekend was a near repeat of last weekend: ski Rikert on Saturday, ride with Soups and Isaac on Sunday. After the warm, rainy spell, Rikert was not nearly as pristine as the week before. They barely kept their man-made base. They churned up a nice sugar granular with the Piston Bully, but over a hundred high school kids doing drills with their coaches there all morning scraped things down to ice in many spots. I got held up a lot in the first hour, slow conga lines going up the climb, obstacle course on the descent. Things thinned out after an hour and I got some good laps in before two more bus loads of kids came. Despite some frustration with congestion and sketchy conditions, I got in a pretty brutal workout with 36km and 3600ft vertical skied.
Not quite like a week earlier at Rikert.
For the Sunday ride, I met Isaac and Soups at Bear Brook. Since most of Vermont and New Hampshire had no snow on the ground, I expected Bear Brook State Park to be bare too. It wasn't. Not a biggie. It was an inch of very cold, dry snow that didn't impact traction much at all (except that one time I hit a patch of black ice on granite!). Plan was to do a full perimeter loop, hitting all the NEMBA built trail with an out and back to Fort Mountain along the way.
Isaac exiting Big Bear Trail
I hadn't ridden up Fort Mtn in a few years. Soups had never been up it. The day was overcast, but I still hoped for a decent view. From the rocky outcropping up top, you have about a 300 degree panoramic view to the east, north and west. Only the communication towers block the view to the south. The Presidential Mountains were visible. Not sure how far away they are from there, maybe 100 miles? The descent was a white knuckle affair on white powder. The service road to the summit exceeds 20% grade over long stretches, even peaking out at 25% on one section. Simply brutal to climb in snow, but we all cleaned it.
Summit of Fort Mountain. Presidentials in background.
View west, Uncanoonucs on left, probably Monadnock in center
Once the "bonus climb" was completed, it was nuttin' but singletrack bliss for the rest of the ride. We hit all the parts I don't normally hit when I do a 50+ mile Massabesic-Bear Brook loop, such as Bear Pond and Hedgehog Ledge. We finished with a punishing 31 miles and 4000ft of climbing per my Garmin 705. I also ran a Garmin 500 and 510 and Soups ran his Droid app on the ride. I'll save the discussion of this comparison for a separate post.
Hemlock Trail. Pretty, eh? Other parts of the park had almost no snow.
Soups bombing down Hedgehog Ledge Trail. Tires aren't even touching and he's trying
to get one of his feet clipped in. I screamed like a girl going down this.