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Active Outdoors

Active Outdoors: Dreaming of a white Christmas

  • Many of the trails at the Bethel Inn in Bethel, Maine are laid out on a nice, smooth golf course which makes early opening easy. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    Many of the trails at the Bethel Inn in Bethel, Maine are laid out on a nice, smooth golf course which makes early opening easy. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • The high altitude location at Great Glen Outdoor Center (that's Mount Washington in the background) usually gives them a good shot at early snowfall. They should be open this year for Christmas week. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    The high altitude location at Great Glen Outdoor Center (that's Mount Washington in the background) usually gives them a good shot at early snowfall. They should be open this year for Christmas week. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Jackson Ski Touring in Jackson, NH has some smooth trails and a naturally snowy location, which lets them open early. They’ll be open Christmas Week. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    Jackson Ski Touring in Jackson, NH has some smooth trails and a naturally snowy location, which lets them open early. They’ll be open Christmas Week. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Many of the trails at the Bethel Inn in Bethel, Maine are laid out on a nice, smooth golf course which makes early opening easy. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
  • The high altitude location at Great Glen Outdoor Center (that's Mount Washington in the background) usually gives them a good shot at early snowfall. They should be open this year for Christmas week. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
  • Jackson Ski Touring in Jackson, NH has some smooth trails and a naturally snowy location, which lets them open early. They’ll be open Christmas Week. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

I’ve been writing this Active Outdoors column weekly for almost eight years, and a ski column every week all winter long since 1992. Looking back on past Decembers, I can tell you that however much we want them, great natural snow conditions are pretty rare. Even early January can be pretty iffy. Of course we do get some banner snow seasons, and those are the years we remember with great fondness, even as we try to forget the December rains (and ice storms), January thaws, snowless Februaries and March meltdowns.

We’ve really been on the December weather roller coaster over much of New England recently. In the last week, we’ve seen heavy snows in spots, sleet, freezing rain, and, of course, lots of just plain rain in others. But some places got snow, lots of it, and it’s sticking! To see

who has snow right now, go to erh.noaa.gov/nerfc/graphics/snowmaps/sd1_today.jpg. A few days ago, much of central New England was snow-covered, but, like a retreating glacier, the snow line has moved relentlessly north.

But there’s good news. As of yesterday, the map is showing a lot of snow in a number of places that just happen to have some terrific cross-country ski areas. Yes, Virginia, there is a white Christmas awaiting those willing to hop in the sleigh and find it.

Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

Where to XC Christmas week

I’ve contacted a number of cross-country ski centers throughout New England, New York and Quebec to see who is going to have snow for sure this weekend and through Christmas week, who is probably going to have some snow, and who has their fingers crossed. Trust me, it’s not a case of “naughty or nice.” All of these are great places to Nordic ski; some are just more fortunate than others.

Snowmaking is going to save the day at Waterville Valley Nordic Center (1-800-468-2553; waterville.com) in Waterville Valley; Grafton Ponds Recreation Center (1-800-843-1801; graftonponds.com) in Grafton, Vt.; Mountain Top Inn (800-445-2100; mountaintopinn.com) in Chittenden, Vt.; and possibly even at Weston Ski Track (781-891-6575; SkiBoston.com) just outside of Boston.

The higher elevations have been getting more snow and that has paid off in New Hampshire. Jackson Ski Touring Foundation (383-9355; jacksonxc.org) in Jackson is open on 27 kilometers of trails, while Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center (466-2333; greatglentrails.com) in Pinkham Notch plans to open tomorrow. Bear Notch Ski Touring Center (374-2277; bearnotchskitouring.com) in Bartlett opened on 10 inches of fresh snow this week. The Bretton Woods Nordic Center at the Mount Washington Resort (278-3322; mountwashingtonresort.com) in Bretton Woods is also skiing with trails open at the Nordic Center and at the Bretton Woods ski area.

All four of these areas will stay open through the holidays unless Mother Nature does some dirty deed. Check out xcskinh.com for the latest conditions.

Looking in Vermont, we find that Trapp Family Lodge (802-253-8511; trappfamily.com) has some natural snow and some man-made and has been open for a while. Even a few flurries will keep them going nicely. Nearby Stowe Cross Country Center (1-800-253-4754; stowe.com) is planning to open tomorrow. Craftsbury NordicCenter (802-586-7767; craftsbury.com) in Craftsbury also has both man-made and natural snow and is already open on 20 kilometers of trails. Ole’s Cross Country Ski Center (877-863-3001; olesxc.com) in Warren is sort-of open, but all they need is 2 or 3 more inches to really get going. Jay Peak has been getting snow and they have a new Nordic Center with 12 miles of trails that will be open this weekend. A quick resource for all cross-country conditions in Vermont is xcountryski-vermont.com.

Maine has really hit the snow jackpot recently. Carter’s X-C Centers (cartersxcski.com) in Oxford (207-539-4848) and Bethel (207-824-3880) should be open this weekend and through vacation week. The Bethel Inn Nordic Ski Center (207-824-2175; caribourecreation.com) in Bethel is open. Sugarloaf Outdoor Center (sugarloaf.com/OutdoorCenter) in Carrabasset Valley is reveling in 10-plus inches of new snow. Ditto for the Rangeley Lakes Trail Center (207-864-4309; xcskirangeley.com) at Saddleback in Rangeley. Even farther north in Maine, Nordic Heritage Sports Club (nordicheritagecenter.org) in Presque Isle is 100 percent open with their trail system groomed and tracked. For complete X-C conditions in Maine, check skimaine.com/conditions/nordic/

Finally, there’s Quebec. If I could be anywhere on this holiday week, it would be Monte Sainte Anne, just east of Quebec City, where they have received 37 inches of snow so far this season and have 191 kilometers of cross-country skiing open.

Another cabin option

After last week’s column printed, I received a note from John in Connecticut, who shared this information on another accessible winter cabin option:

“AMC’s small backwoods cabin, which is located on AMC lands just northwest of Bear Mountain and the northernmost section of the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut. The cabin sleeps six with tent platform for four more. You can drive in to within about a half mile from Mount Washington, Mass., in winter. The Salisbury, Conn., section of that same road is blocked off in winter. Or you can hike in from Route 41 via the Undermountain Trail to the AT and then to the Bear Mountain woods road, about three to four miles total. There are many trails in the area. We have plenty of wood cut and stacked close by and a very good woodstove! Check ct-amc.org/nwcamp for more information.”

(Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com.)

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