Winters in the Northeast are supposed to be cold, harsh, and, to some degree, miserable. In spite of that, I have always loved winter, and the outdoorsy part of me delights in the fact that bitter weather keeps other people at home and allows me to have popular ski areas, climbs, and other outdoor attractions all to myself. So far, however, this winter has been different, as sub-zero temperatures and arctic winds have managed to dim even my enthusiasm for both the outdoors and my favorite wintertime activities.
Looking to break the cycle and to start the new year off by doing something active and outdoors—sorry, treadmill and climbing gym—I headed to Mount Tecumseh on New Year’s day with Doug, my wife, and the intention of skinning to the summit of a 4,000-footer and skiing down the adjacent Waterville Valley Resort.
The day did not disappoint, as it offered a taste of everything there is to love and hate about winter in the Northeast. For example, while moving up the Mount Tecumseh Trail, it was almost comfortable; or at least nice enough that I forgot about the negative temperatures displayed by the car’s thermometer in the parking lot. Mount Tecumseh’s summit was sunny and offered great views of Mount Washington; it was also so bitterly cold that there was no desire to hang out and enjoy the sun or the view.
Arriving at the top of Waterville Valley, the sun once again made an appearance, this time bringing slightly more bearable temperatures with it and making transitioning from going up to down somewhat pleasant…well, not totally miserable, anyway. From the top, there was cause for excitement, as the resort was seemingly empty. Although not a pow day, the wide-open groomers were good enough for us.
Skiing the empty trails revealed that the summit lift wasn’t running. In fact, neither was the high-speed quad that serves the resort’s higher trails. The snow, which is often skied off by this time of day, was fantastic. Taking a break at a trail junction, I marveled at the joys of going out when no one else is willing. That’s when I looked up to see people sitting on the lift. A lift that wasn’t moving.
I have no idea how long those people were stuck on the lift, but it was long enough that I hope they liked their lift mate, and I’m sure it felt far too long considering how cold it was. But that’s winter in the Northeast: sometimes it works out and you have an all-time day, and other times it’s harsh, cold, and miserable. I’m just glad I started my new year on the right side of the spectrum.
Words and photos by Tim Peck