I’ve been skiing up the ridge of Nottingham Mountain for decades, following the gradual rise of Tarleton Road to a sharp turn where the old road hairpins up a steep pitch. At the top of the pitch, the road turns back to the north and follows the ridgeline out to the clearing of Neville Peak, where you can see the White Mountains on clear days, including the distant, often white tip of Mt. Washington. Thirty years ago we skied up Nottingham on our old wooden Bonas, with 3 pin bindings holding the boot in front of our toe to the skis. Control was minimal, but we never attempted the steep ski unless there was ample powder to fall into. Which meant deep snow to climb up through. Lots of work, lots of fun.
In the years since my equipment has improved, greatly improving the control possible while skiing. But the greatest control has come in better understanding what I can realistically do. Today, David and I set off to ski up Tarleton Road with our snowshoes in our backpacks. At the steep pitch, we’d leave our skis and snowshoe up to the summit of Neville Peak. We’d still have the glorious run down Tarleton in ski tracks through luscious powder to enjoy, without thrashing up and down a nearly impossible, twisting pitch. The ski down Tarleton Road, below the steep section, has always been a joy, enough of a drop to provide a fast run, sweeping around corners, dropping through hard woods and hemlocks, and finishing up with a long straight hill down to a bridge over a brook.
When we got to the beginning of the trail up Tarleton Road, a young man was just leaving. I asked him where he’d been. “I went up to Neville Peak,” he said.
“Up the steep ridge?”
“Yes, it was great. But I needed my skins to climb up,” he said, and then talked about how wonderful the ski down was. I wasn’t the least bit tempted. I don’t have skins and I don’t need to be able to do everything I could 30 years ago. Much of it, but not all.
When we got to the beginning of the steep rise and changed into snowshoes, I felt as if I was floating. With the weight of the snowshoes out of my pack, and only the snowshoes on my feet to navigate through the powder, climbing the last of the ridge felt almost effortless. As we got to the top, the sun came out and drew sharp shadows on the snow. On Neville Peak, we could see snow clouds coming our way. We had a snack and started down, flakes floating around us like tiny pieces of our day settling deep to be remembered in the work week ahead.