Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Skiing Mount Marcy circa 1986
When I first took up cross-country skiing nearly 30 years ago, in the early 1980s, it was on wooden skis (Edsbyns) that I bought new at Morsan’s Sporting Goods (now Campmor) in Paramus, New Jersey. Around that same time I became an avid hiker and an aspiring 46er. The natural intersection of those interests led me to try my skills – such as they were - on ski tours like Avalanche Pass, the Whiteface Toll Road and Mount Marcy.
These photos were taken on my first trip up Marcy, on March 17, 1986. The other skiers are my brother Dave and his friend Scott, who were then juniors in high school and members of the Glens Falls High School cross-country ski team. Metal-edged cross-country skis were just becoming available around that time, but we skied with the gear that we owned: Dave and Scott on their racing skis, me on my wooden Edsbyns.
Marcy apparently took its toll, because on my next ski outing a week or two later, one of the skis snapped. I replaced the Edsbyns with a pair of Fischer touring skis, and then two or three years later added a pair of metal-edged Karhu Kodiaks to my quiver. The Kodiaks were much better suited to the High Peaks, but ski tours like Marcy still involved a significant amount of crashing and tree grabbing: survival skiing. Eventually I learned to make some rudimentary telemark turns, and I took to the lift-served slopes at Gore and Whiteface to refine my telemark skills. I’m still working on it.
Backcountry ski gear has evolved dramatically over the past 25 years, but the route up Marcy is essentially unchanged and the ski tour is still considered an Adirondack classic. Skiers start at either Adirondack Loj or South Meadows and follow the Van Hoevenberg trail past Marcy Dam and Indian Falls. The most challenging sections are the one-mile stretch of steep skiing below Indian Falls and the “corkscrew” above Indian Falls, but the main challenge is in the overall length of the tour: 16 miles round-trip with 3500’ of vertical. Conditions in the final half mile below Marcy’s summit can be highly variable, often brutally windy and icy. In most years a snow bowl forms below the summit, offering excellent above-treeline skiing with dramatic views of Haystack and other peaks of the Great Range.
Tony Goodwin’s "Classic Adirondack Ski Tours," published by the Adirondack Mountain Club, contains route descriptions for 50 of the best ski tours in the Adirondacks, including Marcy. In ’86 we used Goodwin’s earlier guidebook, "Northern Adirondack Ski Tours." Other good resources include: