There are perfect ski trails for guys like me. Guys whose orthopod has used phrases such as “Only cruise the blues” based on that inevitable blending of age and knees.
Now, Dr. Thornhill did not say runs had to be boring, and to insouciant youth, blue skiing equates with boring. I agree that straight, wide white carpets with predictably pitched fall lines get pretty old in a hurry. They neither challenge the body nor fire the soul.
But in my 60-plus years skiing, I have found a number of delightful blue square runs, and a recent visit to Wildcat confirmed that. I’m not sure whether my fondness for Wildcat was that it was my introduction to skiing with a high school ski trip, or whether it’s the immense grandeur of the place, nestled in the embrace of Mount Washington, giving skiers a view of the scooped glacial cirques of Tuckerman and Huntington ravines descending from that iconic summit, the “crown of New England.”
At least once a visit to Wildcat, I stop to concentrate on Tuckerman and imagine Toni Matt’s breathless (and somewhat errant) descent of the headwall and ravine in the 1939 Inferno race. And I guess I’m looking for the ghosts of Walter Praeger, Joe Dodge., Harold Hillman and other founding fathers of our sport who made the steeps of Washington their playground.
But enough daydreaming — we’re here to ski. Off the Wildcat Express Quad, we stop to adjust at the top of Lynx trail that mirrors Wildcat trail on the opposite boundary. The first few hundred yards is a flattish road along a cliff on the left — good for a few warmup turns before you have enough speed for the first thrilling left-hander into a drop that builds speed, wide enough for nice GS turns — if you choose to make turns.
After another flat transition, the trail goes into a moderately steep right turn, and now you are flying through the bare hardwood and pine forest with a quick left and right, then dropping into a really sweet face. About two more turns and if you’re skiing fast, there is one righty that borders on dangerous. The track narrows and the angle falls away as you have to crank on your left foot into a tight right turn. Miss it and you’re off a 7-foot drop into the woods.
The next turns give you a full view of Washington’s ravines before another steeper face, then a runout to the lift. If you’ve skied at a fairly brisk pace, the 2.75-mile run takes around 4½ minutes without stops. Your tucking teenager will do it in 3½. For a little less pace, try the meandering green trail on the far right-hand boundary — Polecat to Tomcat — a 3-mile amble through the woods with typical Wildcat scenery. It’s opposite number, the Wildcat trail to the far right, is undoubtedly the run that gave Wildcat its early reputation for rough stuff. It deserves its black diamond designation.