Tag Archives: Lincoln Gap Road

Lincoln Gap, VT 18FEB2017

An image of Dylan backcountry skiing in powder in the Lincoln Gap area of Vermont
Today we headed to Lincoln Gap to check out some of the recent powder from Winter Storm Pluto.

For the first time in a while, none of the family had anything else on their agenda, so we were all free to ski together today.  Winter Storm Pluto wound down on Thursday night, which meant that unfortunately the resorts would have been pretty tracked up after all of Friday’s visitors.  Based on my Friday morning tour at Bolton Valley though, I knew the powder from upslope portion of Pluto was really good, so that had me thinking a backcountry session was the call (not to mention it’s a holiday weekend for the resorts).  But where to go?  We’ve basically hit the point where lines are viable essentially all the way down into the mountain valleys, at least on the east side of the Greens, so basically everything there is on the table.  The west side in general did well with Winter Storm Pluto, bit even with that boost, the base there is still lagging well behind the east side.  With temperatures expected to head above freezing by midday, I was looking for a protected area with some north-facing lines, and ultimately decided on Lincoln Gap.  Ty and I had visited Lincoln Gap back in February of 2015, and I was simply in awe of the massive acreage filled with steep open lines through the hardwoods.  This was our chance to show the area to E and Dylan.

An image showing trails at Sugarbush Ski Resort in Vermont
Morning views of Sugarbush as we drive through the Mad River Valley

Knowing that we had only until around midday before temperatures might be a concern with respect to the quality of the powder, we got a relatively early morning start.  We were heading out into a gorgeous day with temperatures in the mid-20s F as we passed through the Mad River Valley.  One thing that stuck me during our drive was that in the bottom of the Mad River Valley there only seemed to be about half the amount of snow on the ground relative to what we’ve got at our house, so I’m guessing the valley itself didn’t make out quite as well in the recent storms as we did farther north.  As usual, snowpack certainly wasn’t an issue as we headed up to closure area on Lincoln Gap Road.

An image of Ty skinning while Erica looks on in the Lincoln Gap area of Vermont
On today’s ascent.

When Ty and I were last at Lincoln Gap to ski, we headed to the south side of the gap road, where there are a lot of popular north-facing lines.  I was hoping to try something on the north side of the road this time – the terrain looks a little bit mellower for those getting their Tele legs.  With the sun out and temperatures rising though, I didn’t dare risk sticking around on those southerly-facing areas, so we ultimately decided to once again use the route to the popular north-facing terrain that Ty and I had used last time.  Once we got to the base of the main terrain area, I decided to alter our ascent from what Ty and I had done.  There’s a nice skin track that follows the forest road and wraps beneath some of the terrain, and while it’s got a nice gentle grade, it’s quite circuitous.  With concern for the warming temperatures, my plan was to instead just break a skin track right up the main north face.  It was extra work, but we were able to direct ourselves right toward areas that looked good.  And boy was there a lot of terrain that looked good, really good.  I’d actually forgotten what a gold mine of ski terrain the whole Lincoln Gap area is, but I was quickly reminded and spent a lot of time gawking at amazing lines as I broke trail for the skin track.

An image of Jay backcountry skiing in the Lincoln Gap area of Vermont
There are so many great areas to ski around Lincoln Gap!

We’d covered about half the potential vertical on that north face before I decided that we’d get a good run, and we’d hopefully outrun the warming temperatures.  As for the snow, my probes during the ascent generally revealed about 18 inches of powder over the subsurface.  I can’t say exactly which storms the powder should be attributed to, but it was looking great.  There wasn’t a single track in the various gullies and spines that we’d surveyed on our ascent, so we had the pick of whatever lines we wanted.  Everyone struggled at least a bit with their Telemark turns in the deep powder, but very, or at least moderately-fat skis were certainly helping.  Temperatures were pushing past the freezing mark as we finished our descent, so it was really comfortable out there.  The snow wasn’t quite as outrageously deep and light as the time that Ty and I went to the area by ourselves last, but I think E and Dylan were impressed with the area, so I suspect we’ll head back at some point.

A map of GPS tracking data plotted on Google Earth from a backcountry ski tour in the Lincoln Gap area of Vermont
The GPS tracking data from today’s backcountry ski tour in the Lincoln Gap area

An image of the sign for "The Mad Taco" restaurant in Waitsfield, VermontAs we drove back down the Lincoln Gap Road, it suddenly felt like the calendar had flipped to March.  The gravel/dirt portion of the road was already starting to have some mud on it!  For lunch we went to The Mad Taco, and low and behold, Chris was right at the bar and spotted us.  We caught up on lots of stuff (including his ski trip to Idaho to see friends) and being quite the regular at The Mad Taco, he gave us the lowdown on everything.  They make tons of different hot sauces all the time, and list them on various blackboards in the establishment.  They’re even numbered on a 1 to 10 scale based on how hot they are, but Chris said watch out because the numbers aren’t always right.  For sauces I tried “It Tingles” (2) and “Bad Hombre” (1) and both had a decent amount of spice.  The food was fantastic, and so was the atmosphere.  I suspected I was going to like the scene when I jump in line to place my order and Joy Division is coming through the speakers.  We’ll definitely be back, and Chris said he’d be happy to grab take-out for us anytime he’s heading toward our place.

An image of the various hot sauces available for the day at "The Mad Taco" restaurant in Waitsfield, Vermont
Pick your poison… by number.

On a final note, today was my third time using my iPhone to plot my GPS data from a ski tour in place of my old handheld GPS unit.  I’ve been using the MotionX-GPS app, and I’m totally sold.  It only costs a few bucks, it does basically everything my old GPS unit did, and it makes it all 10 times easier.  It’s so much more sensitive to picking up GPS signals as well – I can basically store it anywhere on my person or in my pack and the signal is fine.  I really enjoy the feature of announcing your speed, distance and tour time at various intervals.  Since it’s on my phone, which I’m carrying anyway, that means one less item I have to carry.  Anyway, I’m sold, so if you’re looking for a GPS app for your phone that acts like a real GPS, check out MotionX-GPS.

Lincoln Gap, VT 28FEB2015

An image of Ty on the skin track on a backcountry ski tour in the Lincoln Gap area of Vermont
Ty heads out on today’s backcountry ski tour in the Lincoln Gap area

Unlike last weekend, where Winter Storm Pandora provided fresh snow on both Saturday and Sunday, new snow this weekend isn’t really expected until tomorrow afternoon. It also hasn’t really been a particularly snowy week, with no new snow in five to six days. Snow preservation has continued to be great though, and that brought about some interest in heading for some backcountry turns. I’d come across an article about some of the skiing in the Lincoln Gap area at the Nor’easter Backcountry Blog, and it sounded like there was a lot of potential. Guru Gered had put plenty of detail into the report, as well as a map, so it was a good aid for getting the general lay of the land and some ideas of where to go for quality turns. One great aspect about today that I haven’t had on a lot of backcountry trips this season was the temperature – it looked like it was going to be up into the 20s F, which was going to feel like a warm spring day.

“It’s obvious that there’s a massing amount of ski terrain there on the east side of Lincoln Gap…”

An image of Lincoln Gap Road in Vermont at the winter closure area where the snow starts
Starting the tour at the Lincoln Gap Road closure area

E was taking care of Dylan and an afternoon birthday party at a friend’s house, but Ty was free, so we let the day warm up with the help of that almost March sun, and headed south toward Warren in the afternoon. The sunshine was brilliant as we made our way through the Mad River Valley and up Lincoln Gap Road. After a few miles, the plowing ended, and we found about a half dozen cars parked where the road closure and snow began. From one of the cars, a group of sledders was heading out to ride on the snowy road, which I suspect is a popular activity just the way folks like to do it on Route 108 through Smuggler’s Notch.

“The powder was fantastic; certainly not super fresh, but there were no crusts of any kind and it was definitely super bottomless.”

Ty and I started skinning right up the road, which was well packed through what seemed to be a combination of human and mechanized traffic. Off to the left of the road, the land sloped down toward Lincoln Brook, and off to the right it sloped upward the slope of Mount Abraham. You could immediately see great ski terrain right up in that direction to the northwest, but based on Guru Gered’s report, we were planning to tour off on the southern side of the road. After about five minutes or so, we found a service road in that direction marked with a brown “66”, and an obvious skin track on it; it was clear that this was a common route for skiers. The road headed gently upward in a southerly direction, still paralleling Lincoln Brook, and since the land still fell away in that direction, there was no obvious yet to the terrain beyond it. After roughly another ten minutes, the brook narrowed somewhat, the road bent in that direction, and we approached the foot of the mountainsides now visible to our south.

“You also know that the terrain is pretty steep when you head over the handlebars for a crash into the powder, and wind up back on your feet after a full flip – Ty demonstrated that one for us.”

We met a couple there, who were out backcountry skiing with their young daughter – she was at the age where she was still riding in a pack (I can remember those days). We chatted for a bit, and the dad gave me an overview of the area. Above us to the west, we could see some fairly gentle slopes that formed the bottom of the drainage and headed up along the continuation of the brook. He said that a few skiers had been in there in the morning. We were informed that the main skin track wrapped back around the brook, heading east for a bit below the slopes above, and then turned more southward. We’d hit a sign marking the wilderness boundary, and from there you could continue south up that drainage where there were some options of trimmed lines as well as the streambed itself. From that point there was also the option to head back to the west and work your way up to the slopes right above us.

An image of a sign marking the boundary of the Breadloaf Wilderness Area in VermontWe thanked him and made our way along the main skin track that wrapped around the brook. The skin track was on a nice gradual grade that seemed to be an old logging road. Even after just a few minutes up that route, we could start to see some nice open lines dropping below us toward the brook. We hit the wilderness sign after about a mile of total distance, and based on time, we opted to head back west up above the slopes that would lead us back down to where met the family earlier. From that point the skin track went up and up and up (so it seemed) generally heading westward but with lots of switchbacks. We actually saw the family again, because they were heading up into that area as well and had taken a more direct skin track that eventually merged with the one we’d used. It seemed like it took forever, but we eventually hit the ridgeline above us as the terrain flattened out. One option of the skin track actually continued upward as the ridgeline continued to rise to the east, and that’s actually the way that the family was headed. I’m not sure exactly how much higher it went, since Ty and I took another track that headed along the ridgeline in a more westerly direction. We followed that for a few minutes until we came to where the previous skiers had started their descent. We could tell that this was generally going to get us back to the drainage where we’d started, and it looked like a decent option.

An image of Ty crashing in the powder on a backcountry ski tour in the Lincoln Gap area of Vermont
Ty making great use of that deep powder out there to cushion a spectacular fall with a full flip

We did a quick changeover to descent mode and were on our way down. There were the few tracks of other skiers in the general area, but there were plenty of fairly open trees all around, and you could spread out with plenty of space if you wanted to get away from signs of other tracks. The powder was fantastic; certainly not super fresh, but there were no crusts of any kind and it was definitely super bottomless. The terrain was steep, with plenty of shots of 25 or even 30 degrees, and you know the surface snow is seriously deep above the base when you can crank turns on those pitches and not touch a thing. There were good lines all over the place, and some of the most fun was riding the main streambed – everything is so buried in there under deep snow that there’s really nothing to worry about when the snowpack is like this. Ty was on fire with the Telemark turns, and I think he might have even been more consistent with them than me. He’s been doing cross country skiing in a program at school, and I think that’s gotten him even more attuned to his free heel work. If we had our druthers, we actually would have chosen a run with a shallower pitch than what we hit, since we’d been planning of something of a more intermediate pitch that really made for easy Telemark turns. But by the time we were done we’d realized that it didn’t matter; the powder was so consistent the tree spacing so good that even the steeper pitches had been working well.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of a backcountry ski tour in the Lincoln Gap area of Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data from today’s backcountry ski tour in the Lincoln Gap area

We eventually hit the bottom of the drainage, and headed down it to the right. We hadn’t known just how close we were to the service road, but were hit it in just a minute or two. From there it was a few minutes of gliding back to the car on the skin track. It’s obvious that there’s a massing amount of ski terrain there on the east side of Lincoln Gap, and much in line with what Guru Gered said in his report, there is a lot of prime hardwood skiing terrain out there. If you don’t have a couple feet of powder, I’m sure some of those steeper lines are tougher to ski, but there’s plenty of mellower terrain out there as well. I have no idea how long it would take to explore even half of the potential terrain that’s out there, but I’m sure it will be fun.