Will Travel for Snow

We’re in the midst of a three-day slush storm right now. When all is said and done, our corner of the state is unlikely to have any measurable snow. Of course I’ve had my new cross country skis ready to go just since the snow went away in late January. Since then, I’ve been jonesing for some local skiing. Anything. I’m not asking for the same gorgeous conditions that allowed 3-hour outings in December and January, just enough to stretch my legs.

A week ago, I even carried my skis to Manhattan for an hour’s worth of sliding around Central Park (and two hours of walking, carrying them!).

As a New England native, I know the weather is the least reliable part of life, so I’m willing to travel for snow cover.

In the past, I did so by guessing — choosing a state park according to where the last snowstorm was supposed to hit. Who knew this could be done more scientifically by searching the NOAA database for snowcover data? Check this out: http://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/nsa/

It’s not the easiest site to use (I don’t think it was designed with cross country skiers in mind), but if you play with the maps a bit you can figure out if there’s snow, and how much, within a driveable distance. I’d like to triangulate the info with friends in a particular area, but I’m holding those investigatory calls for serious ski days, and not just because I doubt everything I read (for instance the map says Lake Massabesic in NH, where there are decent trails, had only 2 inches of snowcover last weekend, which I found unlikely due to the overall amount NH has received this winter).

a crazy hiker hangs off a snowy cliff at Lake Massabesic, NH

On Valentine’s Day, I got roses and a gourmet dinner. (Yes, this has something to do with skiing!) What I really wanted after a full week without skiing was to slide through the woods on my skis. So I guesstimated that the last storm had hit southern and central Rhode Island, leaving my neighborhood bare. I Googled parks south of Providence and came up with the Big River Management Area, which showed up on mountain biking sites.

Big River is located about 20 minutes south of Providence, off Rt. 3. It’s a minimally-maintained network of trails along a pond, in the woods, and a long, straight fire road that we didn’t get to the end of. Had I scouted it on NOAA, we might not have gone, because there was barely enough snow to ski on. Still, the cold air had frozen the surface of the melting snow, making it a fast and fun outing. And off the main fire road there were piney woods with deeper snow that were peaceful and still. It’s definitely a place I’ll return to with my bike for additional exploration.

The current storm will likely blast one of my favorite parks, Leominster State Forest. Yes, it’s more than an hour from my home, but that puts it in a completely different climate. Last time I was there (for a gorgeous 3-hour ski) the fire roads were blanketed in white, beckoning for me to stay longer and explore them all. Maybe I’ll get there before the week is out.

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