Tuckerman Ravine closed after weekend crowding

  • The Tuckerman Ravine headwall. 

Special to The Conway Daily Sun
Published: 3/31/2020 11:12:26 AM

In any other year, overflowing parking lots in Pinkham Notch, would have been the norm in early spring. After all, when the lifts close, skiers and riders flock to Tuckerman Ravine, one of the most popular backcountry ski destinations in the East. However, this is not a typical year.

Ski areas throughout the country are closed, and skiers and riders are flocking earlier and in greater numbers to the well-loved backcountry terrain in Tuckerman Ravine.

With stay-at-home orders from Gov. Chris Sununu in response to the coronavirus pandemic, members of the U.S. Forest Service’s Mount Washington Avalanche Center were distressed over the weekend to see the number of cars overflowing in the parking areas in Pinkham Notch – the trail head for accessing Tuckerman Ravine.

Thus, in an effort to address the inevitable crowds flowing into the popular Tuckerman Ravine area, the Cutler River Drainage Area – including the section extending from Lunch Rocks to the top of the Headwall, where it meets the Alpine Garden Trail – has been closed. The closure includes skiing and riding the Lip and Sluice too. The closure will continue until meltout. Essentially, this eliminates access to skiing and riding in the popular Tuckerman Ravine for the season.

According to an article on Snowbrains.com, 400 people came to Tuckerman Ravine on Saturday and 50% were from out-of-state.

“Cars filled the parking lot at Pinkham Notch, lined the highway for several hundred yards with folks congregating in the lot, on the deck and driving together,” stated a member of the Mount Washington Avalanche Center in the story.

The same representative said: “Our medical adviser visited us to offer advice on our current state of affairs. ... Among other observations, he commented that odds were strong that asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 were among these visitors.”

During the weekly Mount Washington Avalanche Center outreach podcast, it was clear from the number of voices in the background that a steady stream of backcountry skiers were making their way into Tuckerman Ravine. Discussions during this recording offered insight that measures had to be taken to curtail access to the popular skiing area in order to enforce social distancing according to not only experienced backcountry skiers, like Andrew Drummond of Ski The Whites, but also doctors in the vicinity speaking to representatives of the Mount Washington Avalanche Center.

Friends of Tuckerman Ravine earlier this month canceled its planned 20th anniversary Tuckerman Inferno Pentathlon that was slated for April 11 out of similar concerns.

“As the coronavirus pandemic evolves, stricter stay-in-place orders have progressed,” said Janice Crawford, executive director of the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve gone from a hike in the woods being okay for travelers, to encouraging visitors to find close-to-home recreation. Mount Washington Valley businesses are open on a very limited basis, with reduced resources for visitors,” she said. “However, once it’s safe again to travel to Mount Washington Valley, we will welcome travelers from around the world to come enjoy the fabulous outdoor recreation offerings we have here,” added Crawford.

(Marti Mayne is the public relations director for the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce. These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.)

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