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Going Where The Weather Suits My Snow: Yankee Springs

January 16, 2012

Three of us went to Yankee Springs yesterday, Sunday, for *5 hours* of nonstop ski challenge, fun and scenery. Perfect packed powder conditions. ...It was *so nice* to feel real winter underfoot. It was cold (25F) and sunny all day. Blue skies and face tans.

That's the great thing about low-overhead events like the Potto Raid, or skiing "just plain trails" in general. It's easy to pull up stakes and go where there's snow.

Yankee Springs is a 5,000-acre park of glacial features, including a vast "kettle" and a big overlook hill. The North Country Trail cuts through it.

We had many "ya-hoooo!" moments. But one really stood out. We were blasting hard up in the northern "F" to "K" loop with nice climbs and rollers when we started dropping through a cedar forest of technical twists, turns and rooty drops. The bankshots all worked great. Suddenly at the very bottom we saw a couple gate-posts and some skiers pull up. We had high speed and blasted the gate right in front of the guy's ski tips. Johnny RadNord led the way with a monster tele-turn. I was on his heels with a downhill-style parallel and Speedy Ben completed the deal. There was no time for chatting and the exit speeds were still high, but I heard the lady say, "Honey, I think that's how it's supposed to be done." We were laughing. I thought how lucky for them. I've never been on a nordic trail and had 3 dudes come bombing down out of the trees and keep the good flow going around such a turn. I'd give a lot to see more skills out there!

We skied basically all the trails in that system, including most of the mtbike trail. Quite a few people were out, but that area and that snow could easily support hundreds of skiers.

No slam on racing, but races with high overheads LOCK skiers into locations that may well be less than ideal. Chasing the snow doesn't even have to involve any more driving overall, as it'll be closer for some folks than others.

I also have to note that Trail Skiing, or Adventure Skiing, typically involves much more beautiful and scenic terrain and greater and more diverse ski challenge.

It's low impact and sustainable. I would think that these would be HUGE values nowadays. They're big values among young and old alike, I thought.

We saw an encouraging sight: two teenage boys were out flailing around with no gloves, covered in snow, looking slightly impact-concussed as they charged around. We saw them twice. The first time they were just brushing off after a big downhill. There's hope!

FREE SKIING out in glorious nature has to have some appeal.

I don't need to remind anyone, but I will, that back in the day there would've been hundreds of young people skiing in such a wonderful first big snowfall. ...The dozens of different downhills and overlook vistas are naturally alluring to anyone with an unboxed brain.

We saw a couple families out there, multi-generation, some couples, some other ethnicities, some friendly dogs.

Some ridges, some vistas. A lake with two islands.

Alpenglow. And sunset lighting a distant treeline across a lake into orange for 10 minutes then it was gone.

We missed the Blue Hour, as we were back on the road by then, but we ran into some guys headed out with headlamps as we were finishing up.

We mostly fueled-up with pizza (deluxe Hawaiian, from my neighborhood shop). I tell ya, any power-goo or carbo-bars would've let us down.

The north ski loop, "F" to "K" near McDonald Lake, was the best, but it was all really nice.

Around the Long Lake area we encountered a rustic resort complex with a half dozen little cabins and several larger main buildings. It would be something to have a Winter Fest there sometime. (Or any other time of year, too.) It looks like there are gas-hookups on the exteriors -- I wonder if propane jugs could be easily fitted to them. A couple had chimneys. Checking into rental details, the 5-person cabins are $40/nite. The "Mansion House" lodge has 20 beds, $130/nite. Whole facility is $665/day for up to 120 people. Whoa, $6 a head, scalable, for a wonderfully wild-yet-classy camp! Here's a great link to rental info for the facility: www.longlakeoutdoorcenter.com. It's a private, non-tax-supported facility within YS.

Sad that a google including "YS" won't hit it. Wonder if there's some related policy tweak. Also, none of the paper and signpost maps show these WORLDCLASS FACILITIES. I think there's maybe another private concession resort there, too. Really, it looks like there's some typically insane gov't cutback feedback-loop going on around there. The "A" trail leading to the Long Lake resort is marked "closed." I suspect some kind of breech in relations. Skiers aren't supposed to find out that there's a wonderful resort next door. Liability, privacy?

It seems like there also used to be a "Chief Noonday Outdoor Center" with lodge and cabins but I don't get any google hits on it now, other than mentions that lead nowhere. The DNR announces ONE "new" cabin on that property. I'm guessing a close-up of a large resort with one cabin open.

There's no grooming. (Pigeon Creek west of GR has grooming.)

It looks like they have 6" consolidated snow. We heard 12" fell.

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