You can call me a sissy, a wuss or any other name you can think of, but I when woke up this morning I simply did not want to go outside. The thermometer at my house read -12F, the wind was howling, and I chose to throw another log on the fire rather than head right out the door for a ski. Let's face it, this kind of weather doesn't happen all that often, but it does happen. After a few more cups of coffee than I'd like to admit I felt antsy enough (or jittery) enough to motivate myself for a ski. Because of the extreme cold, myself and my furry friend Judah sought a rather short ski as to limit our exposure to the elements. Still riding a strong caffeinated buzz and sufficiently warmed by the red hot wood-stove we headed out to the Flume Trails, and it was absolutely perfect.
If you pass the Hungry Trout Restaurant you know you are in the vicinity of the Flume Trails Trailhead. It can be found right across the river, and makes a great stop for a beer after your ski. From the center of Wilmington head West on Rt. 86. The Trailhead will be on your right just before you cross the Ausable River. There is a freshly paved and well maintained parking area with a kiosk, holding lots of valuable information for first time visitors.
Typically, the Flume Trail System is not known for its ability to hold snow like other Whiteface Region favorites such as Poor Man's Downhill. However, on this particular day in a less than optimal snow year there was just enough snow to have a good time on the trails. Unless there is an abundance of snow skiers will want to stick to the lower elevation trails. Names like Corridor Trail, Delta Trail, and Cedar Trail will offer meandering terrain with little elevation gain. Higher elevation trails like the ridge trail are easily scraped of snow due to their steeper terrain, and are typically only ski-able during periods of abundant snow. The new connector trail constructed in August of 2013 has a fantastic grade for skiing, and is home to a spectacular new bridge.
Unfortunately the intense periods of freeze followed by equally intense periods of moisture have rendered the River Trail not to be skied. Barring tremendous snowfall this section will likely remain unskiable for the remainder of the season. Due to the proximity of the trail to the river, ice jams have been pushed up onto the trail and negotiating them requires the removal of skis. While the area is quite beautiful, it is downright dangerous without some kind of traction device such as yak trax in order to ensure safe passage.
On this particular day myself and my furry pal started out on the corridor trail, did a quick out and back on the connector trail and hit both the Cedar and delta trails. I would guess that our ski was roughly 3 miles, and took us a little less than an hour. The terrain was mostly flat, and had good coverage despite less than average snowfall. It was absolutely ideal for a short, extreme cold weather outing. It is important to note that the trails here are very well marked, with an arrow pointing the direction back to the trailhead at each intersection. First time visitors can feel comfortable going to the flume without intimate knowledge of the trail network.