By Kathy Bennett
I’m an early riser. There are many benefits to this, not the least of which is beating the crowds to skiing on vacation weeks. This Saturday was no exception. My dear husband and I arrived at the rustic lodge of Bear Notch Ski Touring Center at 9am. Blink and you’ll miss it on your way back from Attitash on Route 302, this Center is run by the Garland brothers and is about as authentic a north country experience as you can get.
John Garland greeted us and gave us the lowdown on conditions. “Last week I was cursing the snow there was so much of it. This week it’s inventory,” he chuckled. His groomers had gone out that morning to even out the surface, despite some of the “r” word and warm temps.
There was indeed plenty of snow in inventory on the trails. We skied out on their riverside area to see what the rising water levels were doing on the Saco River. There were no ice dams or flooding but the water was running high beside these lovely wooded trails. The trails were tracked for us classic Nordic skiers although trails were also skate groomed. These trails along the Saco River are as beautiful as other more crowded trails at better known local areas.
If you are weary of crowded alpine slopes, truly you should consider trying Nordic for weekends that are predicted to be busy. We literally had the trails to ourselves for the 90 minutes we glided through the woods.
We only saw civilization when we returned to the lodge post-ski for John’s favorite homemade soup, White Chicken Chili. “You might want to grab some early because it will go fast; I’m going to make a dent in it myself,” Garland shared. Alas, we arrived to early for the fresh bread which comes out of the breadmaker at noon on weekends.
Bear Notch is known for their grooming and on the day of our visit, they boasted more groomed trails than a larger area a little further north. In fact the day after our visit, they had 40 groomed km while others didn’t groom at all. It’s a good reminder to always check out the trail report before deciding where to ski.
Best of all, trail passes are only $18, meaning a family of 4 can ski and still have money for lunch (that chili was only $4 a cup!).