Reviving a classic

Last modified: Sunday, December 05, 2010
David Goodman lived the ski bum dream in the 1980s, spending a winter driving around New England searching for backcountry ski treasures and getting paid for it.

The telemark turning adventurer spent his days trekking into the region's magical wintry places from the steeps of Mount Washington's Tuckerman Ravine to the far reaches of Maine's Baxter State Park and others in pursuit of the region's best ski tours. The result was a book published in 1989 called Classic Backcountry Skiing that turned him into the backcountry's pied piper.

More than 20 years later, the Waterbury Center, Vt., author (backcountryskiing.info) has released another version of his cult classic, Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast (Appalachian Mountain Club Books), combining his love of New England ski history with new and familiar routes.

Goodman is 50 now, married, and the father of two children, but his backcountry passion continues. Goodman had hoped to research his latest free-heeling tome in the course of a winter, but found much had changed. The project took him three years, often skiing during school vacations with his teenaged daughter and her friends.

Though he published a two-volume set of backcountry books in 1999 (New Hampshire and Maine) and 2001 (Vermont and New York), he found a different landscape. Trails were lost to development. Others were rerouted. Some had been renamed. But he also found new adventures, expanding the tours to 50 from more than 30 in the original book.

"One of the things I have enjoyed over the years was writing the history of these trails," he said. "That is something we have here in the Northeast. Nowhere else in the country can boast of such a rich ski history."

Goodman not only details the ski routes but provides background on trails like Tuckerbrook on Cannon and Teardrop and Bruce trails down Mount Mansfield. He delves into the workings of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which cut many classic trails in the 1930s and 1940s, while also interviewing the architects of "new" routes like the nearly 8-mile long Root Beer Ridge Trail outside Londonderry, Vt., cut around 1982.

Goodman has discovered new routes while eliminating several original ones that no longer passed his muster. Cut from the 1989 book are forays on skis into a couple of White Mountain haunts like Nancy and Norcross Ponds in Crawford Notch, and Carter Dome accessed from Pinkham Notch. The Skyline Trail, a trek in Woodstock, Vt., was lost to development.

In their places, Goodman found other outings to write about like King Ravine on Mount Adams. Of course, famed Tuckerman Ravine is included, but Goodman also includes skiing on Mount Washington's west side in Burt and Ammonoosuc Ravines.

"King Ravine is one of those places that is lightly visited and spectacular," he said. "Then there's the whole west side of Mount Washington that has been getting a lot of buzz lately."

He also shows some love to Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, including a 4-mile ski tour of Mount Hor with its Lake Willoughby views and a ski to a fire tower atop Bald Mountain, about 10 miles from West Burke.

"I've found the Northeast Kingdom long a place that doesn't get a lot of ink," he said. "It is a beautiful place."

Maine's backcountry offerings are growing, and Goodman points skiers to both the Appalachian Mountain Club's 100-Mile Wilderness lodge-to-lodge trails and the Maine Huts and Trails system with plans to connect some 180 miles of trail in western Maine between Sugarloaf and Sunday River.

"Both are different experiences and worth putting on the bucket list," he said.

Goodman feels at home pointing thrill seekers to chutes and gullies and benign tourers to rolling hills.

"I try to throw a wide net so people can enjoy the backcountry at whatever level," he says. "I'm just as happy pointing someone to the steeps of Mount Washington as I am to a great winter day or just rolling and sliding into a wilderness area on ungroomed snow."

Lift service is certainly available to skiers, but Goodman believes in a backcountry skiing resurgence as better equipment, better maps and guide books, and ski area homogenization are getting people into the wilderness.

"I think a lot of people have grown bored with the industrial ski scene," he said. "For me, there's nothing like the wilderness on skis."

(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com.)