Tuckerman Ravine: New Hampshire High

Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington. Matt Gormley approaches the bowl. Photo: Joel Muzzey
Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington. Matt Gormley approaches the bowl. Photo: Joel Muzzey

Mount Washington in New Hampshire’s White Mountains is one  seriously burly mountain.  The weather is nuts; record-breaking winds, wild, instantaneous changes in precipitation and visibility, giant avalanches, falling ice in Spring and all of this at a humble elevation of just over 6000-feet. On the southeast face of Washington is the legendary Tuckerman Ravine. When ski racing was in it’s infancy in the U.S., back in the 1930s, Harvard and Dartmouth college races and even Olympic tryouts were held in the ravine. The glacial cirque collects blowing snow from the summit of Washington all winter and holds it all through the Spring. The hefty snowpack and long season made it a well-known attraction for the hardy skiers of the time. There are spots in the bowl as steep as 55-degrees, making it the steepest shreddable terrain in the east. Even by modern standards, the fact that young Austrian skier Toni Matt straight-lined the face in the third race of the legendary American Infernos (top-to-bottom races held in the ’30s) and survived is incredible. Can you imagine hitting speeds of 85 miles per hour? And then consider he was on wooden skis with bear trap bindings and leather boots!

Today, the ravine is still attracting college kids and more adventurous riders and skiers from around New England, who seek the late-season snow in the warmer months of March, April, and May. On sunny, mild Spring days, Tuck’s is unquestionably the best spot to be to stretch that season to the max. Sure the crowds get pretty big, but considering several hours of hiking are required for even just one run, it attracts a generally ‘core crowd. By the time spring has sprung, the melt-water coming off the headwall creates very dangerous conditions: car-size chunks of falling ice which tumble down into the bowl toward hikers and spectators who hang out on the Lunch Rocks and the lower portions of the bowl. There is a ton of terrain to ride yet local knowledge and extreme caution are the only way to keep it safe at Tuckerman’s. Before you even think about taking the roadtrip up to Mount Washington, check these sites first: tuckerman.org and mountwashington.org