Trip Report: Mid-May Ski Laps on Tuckerman Ravine, NH

Spencer McLaughlin | BackcountryBackcountry | Conditions ReportConditions Report
Tuckerman Ravine from Hojo’s (Photo: Snowbrains)

Report from May 11, 2023

Long before there were ski lifts in New England, there was Tuckerman Ravine. There’s a reason people have been skiing here for over 100 years. It’s wind buffed, rocky, beautiful and steep, and probably the best terrain most people will ever ski in the northeast. It’s a place of community and shared love for sliding down snow. It’s where you go in the spring. It’s where you need to go, at least once. Despite all of this, up until last week, I had never been.

It took less than a mile of hiking for my shoulder blades to begin to ache. 40 pounds is a lot of weight to carry on your back up a mountain. By some miracle, we eventually reached the Hermit Lake Shelters (better known as HoJo’s) after a little over an hour and we chatted with some people hiking right into Hillman’s Highway. We considered heading in that direction for a longer run but figured we had to ski the Ravine itself, so we kept walking with our shoes on all the way up to the base of the bowl.

Tuckerman Ravine (Photo: Snowbrains)

People sometimes ask why I do things like this for skiing. People like their picturesque Vermont ski trip in January where they show up on Friday night and are greeted with white landscapes and hot chocolate. Yeah, I am hiking 3 hours into a bowl in New Hampshire with a 40-pound backpack in mid-May. No, (at least I think) I am not crazy. At the end of the day, this is the same thing I like to do in January, just the snow is a bit softer, the run is less crowded, and yes, I have to hike it, so I’m not setting any vertical records today.

The bootpack up Left Gully wasn’t too bad. Except for the top. The top was nasty. 45-degree slope, 45 mile per hour wind gusts. That’s not the best combination when you’ve got a pair of skis strapped to your back. Even worse when you’re taking them off and trying to put on the skis. But once that was behind us, we got to finally ski down after hours of hiking, and wow, the ski down was awesome. The aforementioned slope and wind made it difficult to capture photos; think Alta Chutes at Jackson, or Main Chute on the Palisades, but 3x longer, and don’t forget that you’re in New Hampshire, and it’s mid-May. The headwall at the top is listed as 55 degrees and I’d say it’s probably the steepest thing I have ever skied. The snow was nearly perfect spring snow, with no stickiness.

Near the bottom of Left Gully (Photo: Snowbrains)

Could you argue that on paper the experience is better at Killington during May? Yeah. It is closer to almost everyone, you can pound out laps super quickly, and you won’t test your body with 6+ miles of hiking. But should you ski Tucks? Yes. Why? Well, if nothing else, there’s nothing else like it in New England. If you’re an East Coaster, you need to go here. You actually need to see this place to believe it.

Left Gully from afar (Photo: Snowbrains)

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