Keith wanted to ski. Conditions in Tuckerman Ravine sounded like they were going to be bulletproof and it was going to be stupidly cold. Keith showed interest in going somewhere outside of the Conway/Randolph bubble that he lives in. So we went on an adventure to Arrow Slide on North Hancock.
I’ve hiked the Hancocks in the winter but I’ve never done any skiing out there. I never remember seeing Arrow Slide on either of those hikes even though it makes a huge gash on the side of mountain. I only realized it existed after flying around on Google Earth daydreaming about new ski lines.
The approach is a mellow, ever-so-slightly-uphill for 3.5ish miles through a delightful winter wonderland. The only real issue we encountered was that there was too much snow. This left us skinning up through tree branches that would otherwise be well overhead. It’s one of the few times I’ve felt like I was bushwacking while on a trail.
But the approach went by quickly and we followed other ski tracks through the dense woods into the lower part of Arrow Slide. As soon as we popped out of the trees the wind picked up ferociously in the venturi tunnel that the slide created. Keith and I got our ski crampons fitted and moved up the slide as best we could. There was a thin, breakable ice crust interspersed with just plain old ice and hard snow. Conditions weren’t looking great.
But as we continued up the snow got softer and the wind died down. The sun even seemed to be shining brighter. Things were looking up. Then it turned to ice again. Luckily it just took traversing to the other side of the slide to continue up on softer snow.
We made nice turns on the way down. The upper stretch of the slide had plenty of rocks and ice bulges to avoid and it funneled into a wide open bowl feature before petering out into a 20 foot wide shoot all the way back down the hiking trail. Keith hooted and hollered like a kid in a candy shop the whole way down. If we hadn’t just scraped all of the good snow out of the slide we would have done another lap.
Keith and I explored a small drainage filled with pow briefly before it choked up with debris and then we made our way out. We could have ripped skins and flew out of there but maneuvering on the tight hiking trail would have been difficult; stopping would have been impossible. So we kept the skins on and we were able to essentially nordic ski our way out on the ever-so-slightly-dowhill trail. There were plenty of exciting downhill sections to keep things interesting. The trek out took less than an hour.
Arrow slide was cool. Getting in a couple of laps would have made the approach seem totally reasonable but the conditions just weren’t there. The slide itself didn’t have that much snow in it, probably because it’s south facing, making a spring or even late winter trip likely infeasible. But it was a fun day out in the mountains and a great ski adventure.