Whether or not last week’s storm dropped enough snow to make backcountry skiing safe depends on who one asks, according to local backcountry skier Ross Saxton (also the executive director of the Mad River Path Association).
Saxton, Waitsfield, said that the new snow came in wet and dense which was perfect, given the lack of any base.
“I’ve skinned Mad River Glen and a couple of other spots since Friday. You definitely want to be careful. There are what I call sharks, jagged rocks at low tide,” Saxton said.
He said that experienced skiers can probably go into a lot the back woods and find good lines. Saxton also noted that more snow fell south of The Valley, towards Granville and beyond.
“I talked to friends who skied the managed glades on U.S. Forest Service land off Brandon Gap and they said the skiing was good,” he said.
“There are other considerations. It depends on what gear people are using. If they’re skinning up and trying to get some turns, it’s one thing versus if they’re using metal edged touring skis. It’s more or less safe, if people are experienced and pay attention,” Saxton pointed out.
He encouraged people to check the skinning policies for Mad River Glen and Sugarbush and said that those can change daily depending on how they’re managing things.
“There’s not a lot of managed glades in the backcountry in the Mad River Valley right now. That’s one reason the Mad River Valley Backcountry Coalition exists – to look into those opportunities,” he said.
The closest managed lands, he said, are those off the Brandon Gap but he said people can also find open lines in hard woods.
“The best bets are to the south, off Route 100 when you get into forest service lands. There are some spots off the Catamount Trail to the north where there are public trails. People can also find forums online with information about public trails. But it’s a lot about exploring on your own, finding lines that may be good one year and have changed the next,” he explained.
Saxton said that people can cross-country ski on the Mad River Path but said that people skiing on the VAST snowmobile trails needed to remember that the permission given by private landowners for VAST members to use their property only extends to snowmobilers.