Backcountry Skiing with GBA

Looking ahead to the 2019/20 season

By Jake Risch

Granite Backcountry Alliance (GBA), wants to expand your winter playground.

The GBA quarry dogs will be back at it this fall, expanding their existing glade projects and bringing new ones online. They received permission to expand the Maple Villa glade onto Pine Knoll this season, adding another ~600 vertical feet of skiing to the zone.

In its first season, the Maple Villa glade has proven to be a valuable addition to the Mt. Washington Valley’s outdoor offerings. This new backcountry ski zone—the site of a historic Civilian Conservation Corps’ (CCC) cut ski trail—was resurrected by the Granite Backcountry Alliance quarry dogs in the fall of 2018. Working with the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust, Town of Bartlett, and the U.S. Forest Service, GBA expanded the historic ski trail on Bartlett Mountain into a 1,700-vertical-foot gladed backcountry ski run.

The new zone is popular with locals and visitors alike. Its proximity to town provides locals a quick before or after work playground. Visitors are offered a reliable, north-facing backcountry ski area with great maps and a well-marked skin track. The glade is a go-to location for the local guide services, leading backcountry ski tours, and teaching intro to backcountry skiing courses. Maple Villa provides a safer option for ski and snowboard touring when the avalanche danger is elevated in the alpine zones. Over the 2018/19 season, traffic on the Gulf of Slides and Sherburne Ski Trails was noticeably lower, thanks in large part, to the Maple Villa glade and other GBA projects opening.

Last winter, on most weekends and many weekdays, the trailhead parking lot was full—with license plates from around the Northeast and beyond.

Even with a full lot, the design of the glade network and the route of the skin tracks dispersed traffic such that parties rarely crossed paths. The glade never felt crowded. Because of this popularity, Maple Villa is not the place to search for fresh tracks days after the storm.

The area offers great bump runs tree skiing with unique terrain features that make for fun runs all winter long. Because of the traffic, it is a great option for a tour when the dreaded crust sets in, locking up your secret powder stash. If I have a full day or most of an afternoon, I like to head up to the main skin track bearing left onto the east skin track to the top of the eastern glade zone. From the top, I’ll ski laps on the upper steepest lines—“Intervale Dream,” “East Branch,” and “B & M”—transitioning each time on the bench where the skin track crosses the ski lines. When I am ready to head down, I’ll either ski the rolling wide-open run out of these eastern lines until they rejoin the old logging road, or cut hard right off the top of “No. 3” line and ski the moderate grade knife-edged “Spine” back to the logging road approach. If I have time at the end of the day, I’ll take a quick jaunt up the Maple Villa trail proper and ski PBR or the Maple Villa Ski Trail proper back down and out the approach to the parking lot.

For a quick in and out dawn patrol or after work, run skin into the top of the east lines and head down “No. 3” with its winding complex terrain with plenty of rocks and other natural terrain features to pop off of.

The GBA quarry dogs will be back at it this fall, expanding their existing glade projects and bringing new ones online. They received permission to expand the Maple Villa glade onto Pine Knoll this season, adding another ~600 vertical feet of skiing to the zone. They will also be traveling around New England with the backcountry film fest.

Current Projects

Current Projects are a work in progress and frequent changes and updates are anticipated. Please visit the GBA website for updates and sign up for GBA’s newsletters for the most up-to-date information.

Jackson | Doublehead Ski Trail
Doublehead Ski Trail Jackson, NH

Project Type: Relocation
Status: Completed
Level: Federal
Location: Jackson, NH
Glade Chief: GBA (Trail Adopter)
Partners: Wmnf
Gba Volunteer Hours Invested: 500

GBA, together with the WMNF, implemented the relocation of the bottom half-mile of the ski trail.  The purpose of the relocation is to connect the new trail with a new parking lot, which will be constructed in 2018. GBA also performed enhancements to the backcountry cabin located at the top of the trail.

Latest Information

Bartlett Mountain / Maple Villa Glade

 The original Maple Villa Ski Trail ran over 2,000 vertical feet and 2.5 miles in length. The trail was attractive for a variety of abilities, as the bottom third is fairly mellow, the middle pitch intermediate and from the summit there is excellent sustained steeps.

Project Type: Glade
Status: Preliminary Approval
Level: Federal, State, Municipal, Private
Location: East Branch Road, Intervale, NH
Glade Chief: Rick Jenkinson
Ability Level: Entry, Intermediate, Adv
Vertical: 2,000 +/-

The original Maple Villa Ski Trail ran over 2,000 vertical feet and 2.5 miles in length. The trail was attractive for a variety of abilities, as the bottom third is fairly mellow, the middle pitch intermediate and from the summit there is excellent sustained steeps.

Latest Information

Randolph Community Forest
GBA Randolf ski project

Project Type: Glade
Status: Completed
Level: Municipal
Location: Randolph, NH
Ability Level: Advanced, Intermediate
Aspect: Southeast | East
Vertical Drop: 600 feet
GBA Volunteer Hours Invested: 750

The Crescent Ridge Glade, in the 10,000-acre Randolph Community Forest, is approximately 75 total acres, designed to appeal to all abilities, and provides stunning views of the northern Presidential Range of the White Mountains.

Latest Information

Sherburne + Gulf of Slides Trail
GBA projects Sherburne Trail

Project Type: Glade
Status: Approved
Level: Federal
Location: Pinkham Notch, NH
Glade Chief: FOTR (trail adopter)
Ability Level: Entry, Intermediate, Adv
Vertical: 2,000 +/-

GBA partnered with trail adopter, Friends of Tuckerman Ravine, over the 2017 summer to perform overdue work on arguably two of the most popular backcountry ski trails in the Whites. Over 100 volunteers trimmed back the edges of the Sherburne Trail, making for improved trail width and better powder retention.

Latest Information

GREAT GLEN NORTH | Bill Hill Glade

Great Glen North Bill Hill

Project Type: Glade
Status: Approved
Level: Private
Location: Gorham, NH
Glade Chief: Jason Hunter
Ability Level: Entry Intermediate
Vertical Drop: 600 feet
GBA Volunteer Hours Invested: 350

Owned by Gorham Land Company (Great Glen Trails and the Auto Road), GBA is excited to introduce this north-facing glade in 2018. Also home to mountain biking trails developed by Coos Cycling Club, making this a signature, multi-use zone.

Latest Information

South Baldface | slippery brook
GBA projects Baldface

Project Type: Glade
Status: Under WMNF Review
Level: Federal/WMNF)
Location: Chatham, NH
Glade Chief: Steve Dupuis
Ability Level: Advanced, Intermediate
Vertical Drop: 2,000 +/-
Gba Volunteer Hours Invested: 350

South Baldface has long been an area of desire by skiers due to the skiable options on South Baldface summit, Baldface knob, and the glades beneath. Will be a multi-use zone incorporating all abilities. Currently under WMNF review with dev. anticipated date of 2018 if approved.

• 1,700 vertical feet

• Highest glades top out 400 vertical short of summit as WMNF investigation of lynx habitat continues

• 10 runs total = 12,000 +/- total vertical feet of skiing

Catch this article in the Fall 2019 printed edition of Mt Washington Valley Vibe available at any of these locations around the region