The following appeared in the 2021 Jan/Feb issue of Adirondac Magazine
The upcoming new edition of ADK’s guidebook to the High Peaks contains numerous trails that offer mostly easy to moderate ski trips away from the “high” High Peaks. Here, author/editor Tony Goodwin suggests five of his favorites.
1 – Boreas Ponds
South of the High Peaks, this nearly 14-mile round trip from the winter parking area may be a challenge for some, but even skiers with “low intermediate” skiing skills can negotiate the hills on this wide road. The reward is a sweeping view of Mt. Marcy and the upper Great Range. The start is on Blue Ridge Road (County Route 84) approximately 7.0 miles west of Exit 29 on I-87, the Adirondack Northway. The parking lot is usually plowed, but roadside parking is possible, if not ideal.
From the parking lot, a steady gradual to moderate climb ends at a crest at 2.0 miles. Then the road is gently rolling past the “inner gate” at 3.5 miles until one gets a preview of the views from a pond through trees on the right. Soon after, one crosses the dam at the outlet to LaBiere Flow, and reaches the summer parking area at Four Corners at 5.8 miles. It’s now nearly flat to the dam at the outlet of Boreas Ponds at 6.8 miles. There is a lean-to up and to the left just before the dam. Ice conditions permitting, a ski up the ponds offers an even more expansive view.
2 – Sheep Meadow and Grass Pond
In the guidebook’s new Northwestern Section, this mostly easy ski tour follows a smooth, wide woods road to either an old meadow with two lean-tos or an attractive pond, also with a lean-to. The start is at a parking area a short distance off State Route 30, 3.8 miles north of Paul Smiths. The fork to Grass Pond goes right after 0.5 miles, climbs a short hill, and remains flat to the pond at 1.9 miles.
Continuing left at the fork, there is a 0.2-mile climb, then it is flat to a left turn down to Hays Brook. After a bridge across the brook, 50 yards of steep climbing are followed by gentle rolls to the lean-tos. Situated in a “mini-snow belt,” these smooth roads are often the first destinations that are skiable. However, the access road and parking area are not consistently plowed. This often requires parking on Route 30 after the snow has built up.
3 – Cheney Mountain
Alright, this one isn’t a ski, but it’s a great one to include on the list. This short snowshoe hike in the eastern portion of the guidebook’s territory goes up a small, steep mountain between Port Henry and Mineville. Various ledges offer views of both Lake Champlain and some of the High Peaks, with additional views through the bare trees.
The trail starts on Pelfershire Road (County Route 54), 1.5 miles east of Fisher Hill Road in Mineville, or 1.6 miles west of State Route 9N/22 north of Port Henry. The trailhead is at the top of a hill marked with a CATS (Champlain Area Trail System) sign. The trail starts across a capped landfill before climbing, sometimes steeply, to a junction in a col (trail left leads 100 yards to a good view to the north). Continuing up, the best views are found just beyond the summit, 0.9 miles from the trailhead.
4 – Deer Pond Loop
West of the High Peaks, near Tupper Lake, the full 7.3-mile loop covers a variety of interesting terrain and reaches an attractive large pond, but another option is a nearly 9-mile round-trip ski on Old Wawbeek Road, a smooth and virtually flat road. This is a useful option when there is sparse snow or for those who like to ski, but don’t like hills.
There are two possible starts. For the full loop, use the Deer Pond trailhead, 0.8 miles west of the junction of State Routes 3 and 30 east of Tupper Lake. For the long, flat ski, use the Bull Point trailhead on Route 30, 1.5 miles north of that junction.
The full loop is easier to ski counterclockwise. From the Deer Pond trailhead, go right on Old Wawbeek Road to a junction with the road that starts at Bull Point. Turning left, the trail crosses a marshy area before making a steady climb to a height of land before a short descent to Deer Pond at 3.2 miles. Then, a short climb away from the pond, followed by series of descents to Old Wawbeek Road at 4.8 miles, leads to a flat return to the trailhead.
5 – DeBar Mountain Game Area
This remote area in the far north of the region offers some easy skiing through a variety of forest habitats. The 8-mile Beaver Valley loop as described below is probably the best way to explore this area, but one can also ski the mostly flat old road through to Meacham Lake in 10.2 miles. There is some snowmobile use of the through route, but the loop portion is rarely snowmobiled.
The start is on County Route 26 at a bridge over Hatch Brook, 2.9 miles north of the trailhead for Loon Lake Mountain or 9.0 miles southeast of State Route 30 in Duane. An unplowed road leads 1.5 miles to a grown-in clearing, swings left, and comes to the summer parking area at 1.7 miles.
At this parking area, there is a junction with two roads. Left is the return via Beaver Valley. The right road leads down past a gate, followed by gently rolling terrain to a junction at 4.0 miles. Here, the road straight ahead leads to Meacham Lake at just over 10.0 miles from the start. The road left is the Beaver Valley Trail, which offers a bit of hilly terrain as it loops back to the summer parking area at 6.3 miles.