29 January 2010

The Moulton Cross Country Ski Trails

Cross country skiing is a real terroir recreational feast. Historically, at least, trails tended to fit the local culture and terrain. I've enjoyed skiing a few different places from Maine to Montana, and I love the sense of place that comes with differences in terrain, viewscape, trees & other vegetation, and even trail width & turn radius.

At heart I am a total provincial: the closer to home, the better. The narrow, twisting trails of The Moulton (just 5 miles north of my home in Walkerville) are the finest classic trails I know. Whether a gentle warm up loop like In Vein (double entendre when spoken) that begs to be skated on a "first tracks"in fresh snow morning:

Or a trail like Big Nipper that drops precipitously away from the gentle grade of the Orphan Girl. Very precipitously--it's easy to miss the little  "Widow Maker" sign that marks the entrance:

The finest I save for last: the Yankee Boy. It begins with a steep climb to test your wax and lungs. And there are two more steep climbs to come, along with some delightful downhills where the radius tightens as you speed into the turn at the bottom:

Each narrow trail and each winding turn reflect the character of the place, as well as the character of Paul Sawyer, the Vermont emigre who (along with local Olympic-caliber skier John-Mike Downey) established these trails. For the final flourish on this morning's taste of terroir, here is a tiny, elegant ice crystal that grew as the sun warmed a bit of snow, raising moisture that quickly froze in the 0 deg F air:

The Moulton: Montana's finest classic cross country ski trails.


secret agent woman said...

That last photo is amazing.

tsduff said...


Such a feathery miracle of a crystal - wow! You have views of paradise where you live...

Janie said...

This sounds like a great place to ski! I love the ski trail names, and your description of the taste of terroir.
Beautiful photos, too.

~Sheepheads said...

Hi ER,

This was a great post as it points out the joy of first tracks in the woods on one's local trails.

What could be better? I'll have to check out the Big Nipper Trail. ~Cheers