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Skiing the Cog

There’s a prominent three-mile strip of land that runs from the base to the summit of Mt Washington (6288′), like a bad scar. This 99-foot wide strip of land is owned by the Cog Railway and there you will find the tracks on which their trains run. The tracks are a handy reference feature useful for navigation on some days. Not only do the tracks form a physical handrail, the clearing itself is of use. And not just for navigation. People will hike on this decimated strip that resembles a construction road, as well as alpine ski it in the winter using telemark or alpine touring gear. It’s popular for the latter simply due to its lack of surprises. Bear in mind, it is backcountry so we mean “lack of surprises” fairly loosely. The strip is not groomed and a typical descent will include some if not all of the variability alpine backcountry is known for: deep snow, soft snow, hard snow, thin cover, ice, crusty conditions, sastrugi snow, wind slab, krummholz, wood debris, metal debris, rocks, and whatever that hard stuff is between the rocks. That said, massively long falls and avalanches are less likely here. Like we wrote… lack of surprises!

The Cog strip was a good touring choice on a recent trip for one skier led by Redline Guide Phoebe Seltzer. The team “skinned” up the mountain using climbing skins and reached the summit (it just happened to be Phoebe’s 43rd time… nice) because why not. Skiing summit to base is often doable and a lot of fun. One just has to be mindful of the weather, the unseen hazards (they do exist), the typical ground conditions, and of course the base parking, access, and logistics. There’s a story in that last part, but we’ll spare you the drama. Instead we’ll skip right to the photos Phoebe grabbed on their touring epic on a surprisingly gorgeous day. They really lucked out.

Great job to guide and guest alike. Seriously nice weather — an epic! Thanks for adventuring with Redline Guiding!

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