Tunnel Brook

David skis across the ponds along the Tunnel Brook trail.
David skis across the ponds along the Tunnel Brook trail.

One of the classic ski tours on Mount Moosilauke is the Tunnel Brook trail, which climbs over a low north-south valley along the west flanks of Mount Moosilauke.  It follows Tunnel Brook upslope for several miles, continuing straight as the brook heads left up into the steep-walled Tunnel Brook Ravine.  (Last summer I completed that classic bushwhack route to the summit, discovering an incredible slide created by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011; see trip report.)  Today I had the good fortune to ski this route under a sunny sky and with fantastic ski conditions.

Although the AMC guidebook describes this as a 4.4-mile trail, Irene’s fury washed out a large section of Tunnel Brook road, and the winter snowplows stop far short of even that section. The southern end of the trail is also not plowed, so the total end-to-end distance is about 8 miles, with a circuitous route required to spot cars at either end. That’s alright; the roads make for great skiing, now with a three- or four-foot base.

Last weekend John and I attempted this trip, on a beautiful if cold and breezy day, not too long after the huge snowstorm of March 12-13. We made it about two miles up the trail before turning around, due to some challenges with the skis.

Today I headed in again with a friend, Mark, on what turned out to be outstanding conditions. A week of alternating warm & cold weather had consolidated the snowpack to provide a firm base, and as we drove to the site a heavy snow squall dropped 2″ of fresh powder onto the trail.  What a treat!  We rarely sank into the snow, but always had a good grip on the fresh powdery surface.  The sun came out as we climbed Tunnel Brook road and entered Tunnel Brook trail.

Following the old tracks of an earlier skier, we stepped across the deep crevices made by the tiny streams that flow into Tunnel Brook. Soon we came upon the first in a series of several ponds, with great views to the slides of Mount Clough to the west and Mount Moosilauke to the east. Glorious sunshine gleamed off the south peak of Moosilauke and the pure white snowy surface of the ponds. Amazing!

Mark skis across Mud Pond while a cloud pauses above Moosilauke's south peak.
Mark skis across Mud Pond while a cloud pauses above Moosilauke’s south peak.

Once we reached the height of land, just past Mud Pond, the snow changed dramatically.  The underlying crust and supportive base became more powdery, and as we descended into sunny south-facing slopes the snow became sticky. Despite the downhill slope we sometimes found ourselves walking with snow stuck to the bottom of our skis. Ah, well, no problem, it’s a sunny day, great snow, great skiing, great route! [See photos]

Here’s a tip: when you reach the tiny reservoir on Slide Brook, abandon the Tunnel Brook trail and cross the top of the reservoir to ski down the access road. If you have parked your car in the parking lot of the ‘Glencliff Home’ you’ll avoid the roadwalk; otherwise, walk downhill to the parking area at the Glencliff trail.  This shortcut saves some distance on the trail and avoids the uphill road walk at the end of the route.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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