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Skiing down Mt. Washington

Well the students are not yet back from winter break but I just got back to Minnesota yesterday. I spent two weeks visiting family in New England. One of the highlights of my vacation was skiing down Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast. Mt. Washington has an elevation of 6,288 feet and is the world record holder for surface wind speed at 231 miles per hour on April 12th, 1934. On the day of my journey to the summit, wind speed was only a mild 60mph. Current conditions can be found here.


While people do hike Mt. Washington in the winter, I am not that crazy. A great point of pride of many New Englanders is the famous “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington? bumper sticker drivers are awarded after successfully navigating the 7.6 mile auto road all of the way to the summit. In a bit of irony, the massive Hummer H2 SUVs you see navigating the world’s worst terrains in their commercials are not allowed to travel on the road.


Such weather conditions warrant an extreme method of transportation. Thus, the SnowCoach. The SnowCoach is a large van that has been modified for all-wheel drive and outfitted with tank like caterpillars. The SnowCoach takes you four miles up the auto road to the 4,000 foot mark. Once at the top there are stellar views as you overlook the rest of the Presidential Range. However, the wind chill causes one to want to limit their time at this elevation. As I write this, the current wind chill at Mt. Washington is -40 degrees. Most people choose to ride the SnowCoach back down, but my family and I chose alternative methods of transportation. My parents snow shoed down, while my sister and I used cross-country skis. Snowboards and downhill skis are forbidden on the road, though some members of the staff manning the weather observatory at the summit are known to sometimes use plastic sleds.


I have no clue how old my skis are but a good indicator of their ancientness is that they come from the time when cross-country skis were made from wood. However, they served me well on the four-mile descent down the mountain.