Ski Across Oregon — In Search of Backyard Adventure

FasterSkierApril 3, 2008

Wouldn’t it be neat if you could ski across your state? That’s assuming it snows in your state. If it does, what about a winter travel corridor that patches together existing ski and snow mobile trails, unplowed roads, power line cuts, private property, lakes, and farmers’ fields to allow continuous travel on ski all the way from one end to the other?

Add a few good places to stay along the route so that camping is not required, and you have the ingredients for a multi day hut-to-hut style backyard adventure that is well within the abilities of many skiers. All you need is a map and a day pack. And good weather. Do part of it, or do the whole thing. Maybe you link up several states in a row, like a Pacific Crest Trail for skiers.

How many states could support a “ski thru” trail like this? Depending on the snow year, more than you would think. 10? 15? Aside from snow, the main challenge is finding the way. “Across” could mean any orientation — east to west, or north to south. Go diagonal for extra distance. Wherever the obvious line points (dictated by topography and existing trails), that’s where you go. Maybe you can’t go all the way across a state, but a significant section is doable.

There is something about multi day, human-powered surface travel. You learn about a place. You meet people who live there. You develop a rhythm and a story. Whether by bike, foot, ski, kayak, sailboat or roller skates, moving across the landscape under your own power has been the source of many classic travel tales through the ages. It still works. And skiing, one of the most efficient modes of transport ever known, is a great way to go.

Where are good places for a ski thru? Vermont’s Catamount Trail [Link] may be the only existing border to border ski trail in the US today, and 2008 is the first year it has been around. The CT shows that volunteer groups can work together to secure the necessary permissions (200 private landowners involved) to piece together a continuous winter route. It also shows that people want such a trail. The entire CT is not open year round.

Snowy, woodsy New England is an obvious place for a ski thru trail (Come on New Hampshire and Maine! Are you gonna stand for that?!), but with enough snow and open space, the whole northern tier of the US is a possible playing field. Ski across Minnesota? Iowa? North Dakota? New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio? In a big snow year, you never know. All the mountain states are candidates, but they also have — well — mountains in the way. I’m really talking about cross-country ski trails, not mountainous back country traverses. The ideal terrain is relatively flat, possibly groomed, close to trailheads, and doable on light nordic skis — skate skis on the perfect day.

After reading an article about the CT last fall, I wondered whether a similar trail could exist in Vermont’s sister state: Oregon. If you can do it in the Green Mountains, why not in the Cascades? Oregon has the mother of all snow machines and hundreds of miles of moderate, high elevation terrain along the east side of the Cascades. If any state should have a ski thru trail, it’s Oregon.

I got out the road atlas. You could follow the Pacific Crest Trail, but that would mean waiting for spring conditions or breaking trail through ludicrous amounts of mid winter snow. I wanted to go fast with minimal gear and route-finding concerns, so a back country trip seemed out of the question. I looked for someone who had done it before but turned up nothing. Then in January I heard there is a groomed snow mobile trail system that crosses about 2/3 of the state on a north-south axis.


Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply