The trail affectionately known to locals as "Poor Man's Downhill" got its name because it can be used as a single-direction downhill trail without the need of any downhill specific equipment or the purchase of a trail fee. The trail is an absolute hoot whether you're on skis in the summer or two-wheels in the winter. Some crazy mountain bikers even use the two-wheeled option in the winter.
The truth is, the trail between the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway and Rt. 86 was originally built as a snowmobile trail. It winds its way from just a stone's throw away from the Whiteface Veteran's Memorial Highway's Toll Booth down to Rt 86 more than 1,000 vertical feet below. Considering the significant vertical drop over the length of the trail the terrain is fairly moderate making it a suitable journey for a variety of ability levels. I visited the the trail on December 30th, during particularly lean snow conditions, to find the upper portion of the trail surprisingly ski-able. The start of the trail, at its higher elevation, will have snow when many other locations do not.
The trail begins a half-mile downhill towards the town of Wilmington from the Whiteface Veteran's Memorial Highway Toll Booth. If you are looking for the trail you will see a sign directing snowmobiles and cyclists on your right if you are facing towards Wilmington. You know you're in the right spot because you will immediately see two unmistakable wooden bridges that were clearly created with snowmobile traffic in mind. The first part of the trail has the most moderate terrain. The mile of trail down to Marble Mountain Rd. includes several bridges over wet areas, and rolling terrain.
When you hit Marble Mountain Rd. you'll want to look to the right to see the continuation of the trail. It is clearly marked as the trail takes a southerly direction. It gets a bit steeper here before more rolling terrain and the junction with the Marble Mountain Hiking Trail. Those staying on the "Poor Man's Downhill" Trail will want follow the orange blazes to the Left as the trail heads back to the East.
It is here that the trail takes its most direct route towards Rt. 86 and experiences the steepest pitches. While none of the pitches are overly steep, under the right conditions it is possible for some serious speed to be collected. The trail here is almost laser straight and with good snow, skiers can simply stand on their skis and enjoy the ride. You may notice the intersection of the Esther/Whiteface Mountain Hiking Trail as you cross over it. You will notice one last bridge before the trail begins to once again assume a rolling character. From here the trail is flat with a few small uphill sections just to make sure you get your workout in for the day. You know you've reached the end when you see Rt. 86 and "Up A Creek Restaurant."
For the quickest "Poor Man's Downhill" experience possible ski with a friend and leave a car at "Up A Creek" before heading up to the start. When you reach the bottom just drive up to pick up the other car and you're all set. For those wanting to incorporate the long climb, start your journey at "Up A Creek" so that you do the climb first and cruise downhill all the way back to your car. Ideal equipment for "Poor Man's Downhill" would be cross country skis with metal edges. Under perfect snow conditions lighter cross country racing equipment would also work, and under particularly challenging conditions heavier back country equipment would be a good choice. "Poor Man's Downhill" is a truly unique cross-country skiing experience and should not be missed on any trip to Wilmington.