Early in the winter of 1996-97, impatient for the back-country snow to get deep, my friend Caleb and I set out to hike up the Wildcat Ridge Trail, across Pinkham Notch from the Presidentials, so we could ski down the manufactured snow of Wildcat Ski Area. For a lift-served area, Wildcat is pretty cool. It's not wicked developed, and it offers great views of the dramatic ridge on the opposite side of the notch.
Wildcat Ridge Trail is my favorite kind of trail. It doesn't waste your time slogging around on the approach. You go straight to the base of the ridge and then straight up the end of it. We wore our double boots and had the whole kit of winter mountaineering paraphernalia in case we needed it. In our packs we carried our Telemark boots. On a second trip I might just hike up in the ski boots, but this was our first survey of the route. It was nice to have the closer-fitting, stiff-soled boot for the steep or exposed bits.
It was sort of an anticlimax to pop out at the top of a ski lift after such a great rugged approach. Groomed snow seemed downright boring. But at least we got out for the day and we got to slide down, not slog.
We ran into a Tele clinic up there. I think it was Dick Hall's NATO (North American Telemark Organization). They're a fun bunch. A guy who looked a lot like Dick himself gave an approving grin when he saw us come trudging out of the woods all sugared with white from pushing our way through the snow-laden spruces.
We made our one run down and found a connecting trail that let us ski right back to Pinkham. Can't beat that for convenience.