The Jewels of New England
OF NEW ENGLAND
by Thom Perkins
New England has the densest population of cross-country-ski areas in the U.S. Each area holds its own charms. When selecting a place to ski, many times, the promotion of larger areas attract ones' attention. Areas with many kilometres of trails, a large rental shop and instructional staff are great to visit. However, there are areas that are not large that provide skiers an equally wonderful and sometimes superior experience. Let's look at why one should visit the smaller areas for a great ski and offer a few recommendations of what's out there.
First there's the pace. At a smaller area, the pace is usually slower – sometimes the equivalent of island time. Savour the relaxation – you're out there to kick back and enjoy.
Next, there's the snow. Areas that groom exclusively with large-class machines with power-tillers rapidly transform the snow into a hard powder and, after several days, into hardpack, which needs to be groomed daily to maintain any semblance of “powder.” This is due to the frictional heat generated by the rotating tiller teeth at the back of the machines. The heat that is generated bonds snow crystals together in a process known as “sintering.” Tillers rapidly turn fluffy powder snow into snow that has the consistency of very dense wind-drifted snow. This is good in a way. Tilled snow rapidly develops “body.” It will not collapse under the pressure of either a skating motion or a Classical “kick.” It also provides a resistant surface for pole plants and a predictable surface for downhill techniques. Unfortunately, however, after several passes and a few days with a tiller, the snow will lose its powdery consistency and become more like porcelain. You will need to use the wax temperature recommendation for “transition snow” on your wax tin if the snow has been groomed with a power-tiller. This is true even with a recent powder snowfall.
Smaller areas that groom with snowmobile-size technology don't heat the snow up as rapidly, and the snow will stay powdery much longer. Good small-area grooming staff (frequently the owner of the area) spend much time out on the trails and pay a lot of attention to the quality of their grooming. After a big dump of snow, you might want to wait a couple of days to give the snow some time to bond a bit so you won't collapse the snowpack under the weight of your kick. When the trails have a good base and a new light snowfall – say one to three inches on top – the small machines will provide some of the most delightful skiing you can imagine. Further, small machines follow a better line for the track and platform, yielding a wonderful experience out in the forest.
Now let's take a look at some areas that you might want to explore. As in the sport-fishing world, there are secret spots that are never discussed and those hold some of the best fish. Wherever you live, you should explore for yourself and find your own secret spot. Here are some of my “secret” New England spots.