"I have a buddy that calls the 'Dacks the bastard stepchild of the Northeast, Adirondack Rock and River guide Jesse Williams tells me as we rip off our climbing skins at the top of an anonymous slide in New York's High Peaks region. "The skiing community around here is like a big dysfunctional family.
OK, maybe the community is dysfunctional, but the terrain is anything but. On this day, the eight of us gathered for a guided backcountry clinic led by Williams are eyeing a totally untracked 1,000-vertical-foot elevator shaft lined with birch, spruce, and bedrock. The only "bastard is going to be the one who drops in first.
We've come from all over the East to join the third annual Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival, hosted by the Keene Valley's local backcountry shop, the Mountaineer, and featuring instruc-tion, guided tours, slide shows, and a Saturday-night buffet.
The Backcountry Fest is a low-key affair always held on the first weekend in March—a spin-off of the long-running Adirondack International Mountainfest, an ice-climbing/mountaineering gathering that still convenes each January. "People at the Mountainfest were always talking about skiing, explains Williams, who organizes the BC Fest with Vinny McClelland, manager of the Mountaineer. When the New York—based insulation manufacturer PrimaLoft stepped up to sponsor the event, voilà ! The 'Dacks had a new party.
The festival has grown over the years but retained its grassroots feel. On this day, however, I'm not seeing much in the way of grass or roots, just powder. So I lean on my poles, give a little push, and let gravity take over. Call me what you will.
IF YOU GO
Registration is required and there's room for only about 30 participants each day. Proceeds go to the Adirondack Ski Touring Council and the New York Ski Education Foundation's Nordic Program. ($125—$200 for one- and two-day clinics; mountaineer.com; 518-576-2281)