Ovitt, a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Ranger for more than 20 years (he recently retired), recognized the potential these trails had for backcountry skiers. In the 1990s, while developing DEC’s Unit Management Plan for the area, Ovitt incorporated plans to restore the historic 1930s ski trails, and finally in 2004 Ovitt and a group of inspired volunteers – the Siamese Pond Trail Improvement Society – started building.
Starting with the old Halfway Brook trail, which runs from Barton Mines Road, past Garnet Hill and on to Thirteenth Lake, Ovitt and his crew did more than just clear brush. “The trail was originally used by miners traveling between the Hooper Mine and Barton Mines,” Ovitt explains, “so it wasn’t originally laid out with skiing in mind.” So they kept the best parts of the original route and re-routed other sections to make the trail suitable for backcountry skiers. “A great example is between Balm of Gilead and Harvey Mountains. We moved the trail from the north side of the pass – where the slope faces south – to the opposite side. Now the snow stays dry and powdery.”
Ovitt calls Raymond Brook one of the best tours in the East for advanced skiers with backcountry gear and a telemark turn in their quiver of skills. The new section of trail switchbacks down a steep, north-facing drainage that holds some of the best snow in the area. Run-outs and glades allow skiers to take best advantage of the terrain. Ovitt enthuses “Where else in the East can you get almost 1400 vertical feet of downhill in three and a half miles, with just 70 feet of climbing? It’s just a hoot with decent snow and good skills”
But the trail system isn’t just for expert skiers. Beginning backcountry skiers can start at the Ski Bowl and ski the Raymond Brook trail all the way up to the old Ski Patrol sled shed. Turning around and retracing your tracks, it’s a beautiful but gentle glide all the way back.
During the UMP planning process in the ‘90s, Ovitt recognized the importance of having trails located where people could use them. “When you looked at a map of the area back then, there were no trails between Thirteenth Lake and North Creek. Now there’s a loop around Thirteenth Lake, the Botheration loop, plus Raymond Brook that connects all the way back to the Ski Bowl in North Creek and the multiple trails that go out from there. Having trails where people want them and can use them – that’s been the key for building support in the community.”
Although Ovitt considers the trail network to be just about complete, there’s still a section or two he hopes to add. “What we’ve got here is true, high quality backcountry skiing. With the right gear, you can kick-and-glide, get a few turns and kick-and-glide some more through great scenery for miles and miles.”
Skiers should make sure they’re prepared with extra socks, gloves and warm clothing. Metal-edged backcountry skis are appropriate for these tours. Parties should carry a first aid kit and basic repair kit. A headlamp is essential, as are map & compass and the knowledge to use them correctly.
Maps of the Thirteenth Lake to North Creek Trail System are available at The Gear Source, located on Ordway Lane in North Creek. The Gear Source stocks a full line of backcountry ski gear, has rental equipment available, and is a great source for current backcountry conditions and local information. Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, is another resource. Garnet Hill occasionally offers guided Gore to Thirteenth Lake backcountry tours, partly traversing some of the restored 1930s ski routes.
Two recent trip reports:
- Off On Adventure, Botheration Pond, Dec. 28, 2012
- Off On Adventure, Raymond Brook Ski Trail, Jan. 1, 2013
Map and photos courtesy of Steve Ovitt and WildernessPropertyManagement.com. Additional photos courtesy of Mike Arthur and OffOnAdventure.com.