I'm Sam Bartlett, Tour Coordinator for the Catamount Trail Association's 2018 Northern Four Day Tour ("N4DT") from Friday January 26 to Monday January 29, Sections 28 through 31. This is the site for dispensing information about the tour, both for people who are considering the tour and want to learn more, and for signed-up participants. My Assistant Tour Coordinator is my wife Marie.
Go to the bottom of Catamount Trail Association's Northern Four Day Tour #1 page or here to REGISTER. You need to complete all the steps at the bottom of that page (including making a DONATION!) before you are a registered N4DT skier.
Then, go to the Your Skiing Ability page on this site and answer those questions, if needed.
Then, go to List Of Participants page on this site and make sure I have your days and your status correct. You have to be on the List of Participants to attend this tour.
This tour covers the four northern-most sections of the trail, Sections 28 through 31, from Craftsbury Common to the Canadian Border. Weather and other issues permitting, we will start with Section 28 on Friday, and work our way consecutively north, doing a new section each day.
This is a series of day trips, you stay somewhere nearby each night and drive to the trailhead.
Please follow the links on the left for more information, read everything if you are planning on joining us.
EMail: email@example.com, please start your subject line with "MDT" for "Multi-Day-Tour".
Phone: 413-624-0192 8am-8pm
Marie and I have not led a tour on these sections before, but we have skied them and they are beautiful (in the right conditions). Since I don't have many pictures from up there, I hope you won't mind if I use the pictures that I usually use for the southern tours that we have led for many years. Besides, if you've skied one border, you've skied 'em all...
Sam, Marie and Jeannie at VT/MA border 2004
Sam and Marie at VT/QC border 2009
11/01/2017 I've started to update this site, it may not be complete yet. Please let me know if you find some info that is out-of-date or absent. It was snowing today at Dutch Hilll in Readsboro!
11/30/2017 I've got the Participants page up and running, are you on it?
01/02/2018 Happy New Year! We now have twenty folks signed up for the tour, and I've added a bit of lodging info.
01/17/2018 Added more skiers! Let me know if you want to find others to share lodging, see the Lodging page. I've also added events to the Social Activities page.
01/17/2018 I added a Shuttles, Driving and Logistics page to consolidate information about driving and shuttles. I hope it clears up the usual confusion about how the car shuttles work!
01/18/2018 Section 28 conditions report: Some folks skied from Craftsbury to Lowell on the CT…. skied it on lightweight XC skis and said it was terrific… couple little dips on VAST trail where they hopped over water but great skiing.
01/19/2018 Added more details on the Schedule page.
01/19/2018 Jan says, re conditions at this point:"The field right after the Jay store is pretty bare but the snowmobile trail might be o.k. There is a firm base with a bit of powder on top right now which is ideal but the R word is in the forecast."
01/24/2018 Jan says:
I went up to Lowell today and talked with some of the locals. Apparently it rained hard all day yesterday which turned everything to slush. Fortunately they got 2-3 inches of snow on top of the slush so it looks like winter. It would be impossible to ski today as you would break through the powder into the slush. It was 14 degrees today and it is supposed to go down to zero tonight which should freeze up the slush. Actually the conditions could be quite good if the base freezes and the powder remains.
My guess is that you are good to go with a frozen crust and some powder on top at least for Friday. It is supposed to warm up on the weekend leading to "variable conditions" and possible rain on Monday. You will be high up on both Sat. and Sunday so you should have plenty of cover. On Monday the trail from Jay store to the border is definitely questionable.
Certainly not ideal conditions but it could be worse. I am not sure how much of the powder they got on the Craftsbury side of Lowell Mts. So I can't give you a reading on that.
End of Jan's report
Craftsbury is reporting a couple inches of new in the last two days and they are 99% open and groomed. They report the lake (which the CT skis across) to be slushy but that ought to freeze up as well. But if you decide that this doesn't sound like the best way to spend your time and you'd rather stay home, we understand. Just let me know if you decide to NOT join us, please.
I'll try to send out daily reports with a guess at the next day's conditions for those who aren't doing all four days.
See you there! (Or not...)
And remember to RSVP to Marie about the dinners, firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive Summary: This trip was nearly cancelled due to lack of cover, but we skied all four days, had fun, shed very little blood, kept our skis on most of the time and didn't lose anyone.
01/26/2018 Sec 28 Craftsbury Outdoor Center to Lowell Town Hall Our first day started, as they often do, with a car shuttle (thanks Jan!). After a round of introductions and some pointers on keeping things safe and fun ("don't faceplant into this crust"), sixteen of us headed out from Craftsbury Outdoor Center on thin 'firm' cover with a dusting on top. We managed to get off the trail immediately but quickly recovered, only to lose it and regain it again. We skied across Little Hosmer Pond and encountered more minor navigational issues getting onto Wylie Hill Road. Unfortunately a pickup truck had driven up and down this closed section of road while the snow was wet, so there were major frozen ruts on this steep descent. We crossed Rt 14 and headed across the corn fields, around the stubble showing through the 2" of cover. We noticed that there don't seem to be any alpacas at the farm any more, but no one asked for their money back. Another trail-finding issue split us up a bit just before the sawmill. Then began the long but pretty climb on the Bailey Hazen Road along the Rogers Branch stream, to our sugar house lunch spot. Then more long and pretty climbing with some open wet spots, road walks, nice views and fields. On the lower fields the wind had blown off much of the dusting, making for some very noisy skiing. The fields near the top had a solid base with enough new snow on top for a quick detour for some tele-turns, the only really good turns of the four day trip. We crossed over Lowell Pass and left the (barely used) snowmobile trail for some 'fun' downhill woods skiing. About half the folks took the black diamond "Dave's Drop" option, the rest took the blue bypass. Survival skiing was the appropriate technique for this section. In the lower fields we tried some turns but the unreliable crust made it tricky. We met Jan who was clearing and rolling his trails and stopped at this house for hot drinks and snacks. At this point the sun was getting low, the energy was getting low and the miles were getting long. We had done about ten miles and had nearly three to go, so some folks opted to stop at this point. Eight of us crunched along through the woods, took the bypass around black diamond "Dean's Drop". The snow was crusty enough here that when Mr. Faceplant did his (unintentional but inevitable) thing, he came up rather bloody. After picking our way through a new logging operation that obliterated a short section of trail we ended at the Lowell Town Hall, just at dusk. Then most of us congregated at one of our lodgings for a nice evening of good food and friends.
01/27/2018 Sec 29 Lowell Town Hall to Hazen's Notch Today was a day of choices for our sixteen skiers. One couple chose to ski southbound from the east side of Hazen's Notch to the Town Hall (they are NB end-to-enders, now working their way southbound). The rest of us could choose six, nine or twelve mile tours depending on where we wanted to turn around. Most skiers headed north (without a car shuttle!) while a few skiers and Jan shuttled cars to the east side of Hazen's Notch. The drivers then got a ride back with Jan and chased the early skiers northward. We caught them fairly soon, struggling up a steep canyon with drifts and ice. We crossed some fields with more grass than snow and climbed slowly through beautiful woods. Here we met the SB couple. An icy road walk (I think more folks slipped in parking lots and roads than on the trail this tour) and snow bank ski got us back to the spotted cars and lunch. Then we continued on into Hazen's Notch on a snowmobile trail. Here some folks celebrated and turned around, for a total of nine miles under their belts. The rest of the group skied over the notch to the west end, and then climbed (or hiked (bad wax)) up and descended back (skating and tucking) to our cars, adding three skiing miles and saving a lot of shuttle miles. This was a very fast section, especially going down the west side. A gathering and dinner at Jan's followed.
01/28/2018 Sec 30 Hazen's Notch to Jay Pass Seventeen of us met at Jay Pass and with Jan's help we were able to start this tour without leaving any cars to pick up at the end of the day. The southbound couple left a bailout car for us about one mile south of Jay Pass. The rest of us drove to the west end of Hazen's Notch and left our two cars for the SB couple to bring back for us. After some confusion about the whereabouts of one skier's skis and poles we headed north on crust and dust. The thinly frozen stream crossings required courage and speed ("faster, faster!") to shoot across. The trail then followed washed out, barely covered logging road gulches which required all our climbing and route selection skills, including the use of skins in many cases. Luckily in the winter there is no harm in leaving the trail to make your own path around tricky sections, in some places there were half a dozen separate tracks. We still managed to look around and notice the beech trees with bear claw marks and 'bear nests' up high where they pull in the branches to get the nuts. Plenty of animal tracks of all sorts, turkey, raccoon, grouse, feline, canine, fisher(?), porcupine, moose, mouse, squirrel. We met the southbound couple at the height of land, and they told us the downhill skiing, even with skins for speed control, had been challenging. Due to the trail conditions (crust, open water, thin cover) the group got spread out and had to regroup several times. Luckily it was a 'warm' day, with some actual corn snow spring skiing for those who skied back down to check on the "caboose". The descent to the log landing wasn't much faster for the group, but a few did have fun playing in the woods while waiting. Here three skiers opted to go to the bailout car, and the rest of us started up the final ascent to Jay Pass. Although usually skied in the other direction to take advantage of the descent, under these conditions it was much better to be climbing than descending. Most of us met at Jan's again for another dinner.
01/29/2018 Sec 31 Jay Pass to Jay Village (We skipped the northern half, to the border, since no one wanted to ski on one inch of crushed ice cubes and frosty grass.) Wisdom and poor conditions whittled our group down to eleven today. When we convened at the Jay Store, the big decision was, climb uphill or ski downhill for six miles in crunchy snow. Of course there are ups and downs in either direction, but northbound skiers lose about 1500 feet of elevation. Four skiers opted for downhill and drove to Jay Pass. After spotting two cars at Lucier Road for bailouts, the uphill skiers returned to the store, strapped on their skins and started climbing. The "downhill" skiers started with a traversing ascent from Jay Pass which was packed hard and icy. Up higher, we could see where other skiers had had fun in the glades on better days, before the rain. Then the downhill skiers started their descent, using nearly everything in their survival skiing bag of tricks, except skins or hiking. The long snowplows gave new meaning to the Vermont-inspired meme "Feel the Bern". Even the Telemarkarian, who believes that snowplowing and sideslipping are sinful succumbed to the dark side. We negotiated numerous open streams and wet spots, and met the uphill group about at the mid-point, which gives you an idea of how slow the descent was. Near the bottom I was almost looking forward to finishing, and then found myself grinning as we entered a beautiful birch glade. We made a few final tele-turns down to the Jay Village Store, got hot drinks and drove back up to Jay Pass, picking up one bailout car along the way, just as the uphill skiers were finishing. After a round of good-byes, three of us then hiked most of the way up Jay Peak on the Long Trail, before the long drive home.
You can see more pictures, and upload your own (let me know if you do) at this Google Photos Album.
Conclusion: It isn't all about the skiing on CTA trips, and that was obvious on this tour. As on many CT trips, sometimes on this trip it was better to look around and enjoy being outdoors and not pay too much attention to what was under your skis. This was a really great group of folks, maybe these should be called "Multi-Day TEAM Tours". Everyone worked together and looked out for each other, making the leaders' jobs much easier. The people who decided not to ski probably made the right decisions for themselves, but I think everyone who did ski had a good time. Thanks to Jan for helping with shuttles, for trail-side refreshments, trail maintenance, bridges, advice and two great social gatherings with dinner. Thanks to the CTA office staff for their support of the tour and the trail. Thanks to all the trail maintainers and landowners and members who make this trail possible. Thanks to Marie, Lee, Karen and Debbie for the included photos. And thanks especially to everyone who came out and skied and made the best of what we were given. There is still plenty of 'winter' left, get out there and do your snow dances!
Here is the N4DT#1 by the numbers:
4 days of skiing,
79 skier-days registered,
60 actual skier-days skied,
19 skiers skiing at least one day,
37.4 miles of Catamount Trail skied,
542 skier-miles skied,
17, most skiers on any day,
11, fewest skiers on any day,
25, age of youngest skier,
75, age of oldest skier,
11 women skiers,
8 men skiers,
$650 dollars raised, at least (more is always welcome), for CTA,
28 degrees, top temperature on the coldest day,
34 degrees, top temperature on the warmest day,
11 degrees, temperature at coldest start,
3 days of key-swaps,
0" of new snow overall,
1 father-mother-daughter skiing together,
4 couples skiing together,
11 skiers who skied at least part of all four days,
5 skiers new to MultiDay Tours,
11 skiers who were already End-to-Enders,
8 skiers who skied every part of all four days,
3 group potlucks at nearby homes,
5 trail chiefs who helped keep these sections of trail clear and available,
360 emails to or from the tour coordinators,
1 host who opened his home for skiers,
2 boot failures,
2 bailout cars used.
2 days of rain forecast,
0 days of actual skiing in the rain,
0 days cancelled for bad skiing,
0 days cancelled for bad weather,
0 lost skiers,
0 skiers who went away mad,
0 skiers who missed a day due to communications mix-ups,
0 skiers left at a trail head,
0 car problems or accidents,
These things were all uncountable, as they should be: smiles, laughs, thank yous, tele-turns, brownies, etc., calories burned, help offered, beautiful vistas, tracks in the snow, interesting trail conversations.
Here is a little back-country skiing wisdom from the famous back-country cross-country skier Nelson Mandela:
“The greatest glory in skiing lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”*
And one final bit of entertainment, written over several tours:
The Old Back Country Skier's Lament
(with apologies to Janis Joplin)
'Sung' to the tune of Mercedez Benz
I'd like to sing a song of great social and political import. Oh Lord won't you get me to the trailhead on time? We meet at 8:30, or maybe it's 9, To keep them all waiting that would be a crime, Oh Lord won't you get me to the trailhead on time? Oh Lord won't you find me a little more base? I'm walking the downhills and losing my grace, I keep hitting rocks and I fell on my face, Oh Lord won't you find me a little more base? Oh Lord won't you send me a little more fluff? This scritching and scratching is sure getting tough, I think 18 inches would be just enough, Oh Lord won't you send me a little more fluff? Oh Lord won't you buy me a new pair of legs? My friends have all finished, they're back tapping kegs, They'll drink all the good stuff and leave me the dregs, Oh Lord won't you buy me a new pair of legs? Oh Lord won't you teach me that telemark turn? That's one of those skills that I still need to learn, I get in a few but it makes my thighs burn, Oh Lord won't you teach me that telemark turn? Oh Lord won't you buy me a new set of lungs? I'm climbing these switchbacks, I'm no longer young, These trails are like ladders that's lost half their rungs, Oh Lord won't you buy me a new set of lungs? Oh Lord won't you buy me titanium knees? These old ones are hurting, there're swollen like trees, So cut me and sew me, get me back on my skis, Oh Lord won't you buy me titanium knees? Oh Lord won't you buy me some stickier wax? Or maybe a groomer that's leaving fresh tracks? The sun's going down and I've finished my snacks, Oh Lord won't you buy me some stickier wax? Oh Lord won't you lose me about 15 pounds? I think they're from donuts and dinners in towns, They hurt on the up hills but help on the downs, Oh Lord won't you lose me about 15 pounds? Oh Lord won't you buy me some edges of steel? These trails are so icy I'm losing my zeal, I'll give you my first born I'll make any deal, Oh Lord won't you buy me some edges of steel? Oh Lord won't you find me a nice skier chick? These women are married, they don't want my love, So make her a cutie and send her real quick, Oh Lord won't you find me a nice skier chick? Oh Lord won't you let me just stay here and ski? We're having a good time or maybe it's just me, I don't want to go home and watch the TV, Oh Lord won't you let me just stay here and ski? That's it, heh, heh, heh.
I need to clarify that this is just a song, not an autobiography. I already have skis with edges of steel, a passable tele-turn, and a nice skier chick.
* Alright, as far as I know, the late Nelson Mandela did not ever ski, and I changed 'living' to 'skiing', but otherwise it works.