words:: Ben Osborne photos: MWAC
When you type into google “Tuckerman’s Ravine”, the first link you will get is to the Mountain Washington Avalanche Center—not what you would expect from a mountain on the east coast. But to any skier or rider looking for some steep terrain, that might actually be a good sign.
Located in the historic White Mountains of New Hampshire, the ravine is found just below the summit of Mount Washington, which stands as the highest mountain in the east at 6,228 feet, (1,916m). Known for it’s erratic and violent weather, the mountain long held the highest recorded windspeed at 231 miles per hour (372 km/h), and still holds the highest windspeed recorded not associated with a tornado or tropical cyclone. Not bad for a 6,000 footer in the Northeast.
The ravine itself has many different runs with adjacent gullies, with the most iconic being the headwall, which easily gets over 55 degrees steep in some places. Pair the terrain with a snowpack that can reach up to 55 feet, Tuckerman’s has been called the birthplace of extreme skiing in North America for good reason. As early as the 1930’s, pioneers were skiing over the headwall. Just a few years after that, local skiers proposed a summit to base race called the American Inferno, modelled after European races. Along with the inferno, Harvard-Dartmouth Slalom races and Olympic tryouts were held in the ravine in the 30’s, cementing it’s place in history.
Today, freeriders and spectators flock to the ravine as early as March to get their fix of big mountain skiing without having to hop on a plane. On a good year, skiing and riding can last all the way into May.
The area is most easily accessed by Route 16 in Pinkham Notch, just a few hours drive from Boston. From there, you will need to hike 2.4 miles (3.9 km) to the lower section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. The trail is maintained in the winter and spring by a snowcat. At the end of the trail, the world is your oyster—but you will need to use backcountry travel skills to access the lines you choose to ski and ride.
The dangers of Tuckerman’s Ravine are very real. With steep terrain and a huge amount of snowfall in the area, knowledge of avalanche safety is absolutely necessary when travelling. Along with avalanche hazard, late into the spring crevasse like features have been known to form on the headwall, and icefall can be a huge danger in the area. Many, many people have lost their lives in the area due to poor decision making and inclement weather. Educate yourself on the dangers at https://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/.