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Author updates backcountry ski book

December 22, 2010
By MIKE LYNCH, News Outdoors Writer
The Appalachian Mountain Club has released an updated version of what was once dubbed by Backcountry Magazine as “the Eastern Backcountry bible.”

“Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast” by David Goodman is a 352-page guidebook that has detailed information on 50 classic ski trips in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and New York. It was released in October.

The book is the third edition and represents the most comprehensive version to date. The original, published in 1988, consisted of 33 ski tours in the traditional New England states, but did not include the Adirondacks or New York.

The second edition, released about a decade later, was broken up into two volumes. In 1999, one was published for Maine and New Hampshire, followed two years later by a guidebook for Vermont and New York. This most recent version combines those two volumes. For readers, this is a big plus since they can get all the information they need in one book without the duplicate introductory sections.

The book is geared toward moderate to expert skiers. It provides information on terrain that ranges from gentle hills and backcountry meadows to steep slopes prone to avalanches.

Each chapter on a ski tour starts off with pertinent information, such as the the trip length, elevation change, recommended maps, level of difficulty and directions. That information is followed by a detailed chapter that takes readers on a tour through the history of the route, giving them a feel for the terrain and trip highlights. A map accompanies each chapter.

Not including the introduction, the Adirondack section contains five chapters: Jackrabbit Trail, Johns Brook Valley and Camp Peggy O’Brien, Wright Peak Ski Trail, Avalanche Pass and Colden and Mount Marcy.

Goodman is a big fan of Mount Marcy, devoting seven pages to the mountain and crediting the tour with having some of “the best trail skiing in North America.”

“The main attractions on Mount Marcy are the sweeping summit views, and the 7.2-mile turn-packed descent,” Goodman writes. “This is Eastern trail skiing at its finest. You follow the serpentine Van Hoevenberg Trail as it snakes, jobs, drops, and rolls down the mountain. The trail has a personality and a sense of humor, constantly surprising you around each bend. Ski Mount Marcy once and you will be addicted to the thrill.”

One change in the Adirondack section from the last book is in the Johns Brook Valley section. Some glade skiing on Big Slide Mountain has been replaced by a trip on Bennie’s Brook Slide on Lower Wolfjaw Mountain.

Adirondack inspiration

Although the Adirondacks weren’t added to the book until the second edition, Goodman has ties to this region dating back before that. In the late 1980s, Goodman was an Outward Bound instructor and a freelance journalist. He had just published a story for Cross Country Skier Magazine about the northeastern renaissance in cross country skiing when an Appalachian Mountain Club representative called the magazine looking for someone to write a backcountry skiing guidebook. A magazine editor recommended Goodman.

It turns out the story that appeared in Cross Country Skier Magazine had ties to the Adirondacks.

“That was actually inspired by a friend from the Adirondacks, Todd Eastman,” Goodman told the Enterprise in a phone interview. “He turned me on to the whole history, that nothing that we were doing was new. This was all stuff that Jackrabbit Johannsen and others had pioneered, skiing Mount Marcy and Avalanche Pass and those kinds of places.”

Goodman had met Eastman while both were instructors for Outward Bound, which then had a base at the Barkeater Lodge in Keene. Goodman worked as an Outward Bound instructor on and off from 1984 to the early 1990s, spending some of that time in the Adirondacks, but also some in Maine and New Hampshire. He also spent a significant amount of time in Boston working as a writer.

Two decades of change

After getting that call from the Appalachian Mountain Club representative in 1987, Goodman spent the next winter exploring backcountry ski trails.

“I proceeded to live out of my Dodge Dart and go back and forth across Route 2 in Northern New England from Maine to Vermont skiing everything I could,” Goodman said. “I was, at the time, an instructor for Outward Bound, so I had all these marginally-employed friends who would join me for some very crazy adventures. I joke that I suffer so you don’t have to because part of what you do through trial and error is you find a lot of things that aren’t very good to ski so they don’t get in the book. But that’s also how you find all the places that are good to ski.”

Since the first book, there have been a number of changes in both Goodman’s life and the backcountry skiing world. One of the biggest changes for Goodman, who now lives in Waterbury Center, Vt., is that he now has a wife and two children. As a result, this book took him three years to research and write instead of the one year the original took. The trails have also changed.

“I have found that absolutely everything changes,” Goodman said. “Bridges are removed, trails are re-routed and renamed. Nothing stays the same. You just have to go out and ski everything again, and I did that for this book.”

Goodman has also firmly established his career as a writer. “Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast” is his eighth book. His resume includes three New York Times bestsellers he has co-authored in the past decade with his sister Amy Goodman, who is the host of the news radio show Democracy Now!. The most recent one, “Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times,” was published in 2008.

But this ski book is much lighter than those, though it is as professionally done. The first edition inspired a generation of skiers to hit the lesser known backcountry slopes, and this one continues that tradition.

“The book has meant a lot to me, but (also) to a very large community of skiers. Many of whom don’t otherwise know where to go or that there is backcountry skiing. So that’s something that I’m pleased, or proud about — giving the people the keys to a wonderful world of winter adventures,” Goodman said. “I know that’s kept people busy for a long time.”

Article Photos

Author David Goodman
(Photo provided by Appalachian Mountain Club)



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