TR: Over the Horizon
For some time, I’ve been vaguely aware of the existence of a swath of legendary tree skiing within easy striking distance of my home in Burlington, VT. This forest, thinned by nature’s hand, is often talked about in hushed tones by the crusty, bearded types, typically see leaving a resorts boundaries. The way those woods are discussed, with frequent glances over the shoulder to see who’s listening, has always implied quality skiing to me, but as an outsider, the conversation would always die as I moved in closer. I did manage to piece together that this rumored forest was home to the best-spaced, full-grown hardwoods in the state, and would hold snow longer than any other stash. Shangri-La.
The Valhalla Woods, as I’ve decided to name them, have always been frustratingly far over the horizon for me though. I knew they existed, but for the most part they were out of sight and out of mind. As with most expeditions into the unknown though, finding them required only a faith in ourselves and a willingness to commit to pressing on into the unknown in the hops of making the world a smaller place and putting another slice of paradise on the map.
So, two days ago, Greg Petrics and myself, having grown bored with familiar woods shots, decided to indulge in the spice of adventure. We closed our eyes, pinched our noses, and jumped into the deep end.
The next morning, we got to the trailhead early, put on our skins and started to push through the impenetrable wall of suckers, face whippers, and stunted spruce guarding the glade. After thirty minutes uphill struggle, the wall suddenly ended and we emerged on the other side. The air was crisper, the snow deeper, and the sun burned brighter.
We began to see that the impossible sounding rumors were, in fact, true.
All was right with the world.
Like all good things, even the Valhalla woods came to an end. After pushing as far down as we could, we became disoriented in low angle woods.
A nervous fear took hold, and we began to wonder if we had pushed too far. We set a bearing to the nearest known road, and after hours of struggle through the dense border woods we unceremoniously deposited by the side of the highway, far from where we began the days adventure.
Greg attempting a self rescue.
Exhilarated, but very scared by our harrowing escape, I vowed never to endure that struggle again.
Two nights filled with lusty dreams of untracked trees, and the sirens song of the Valhalla woods was once again calling me back into the unknown. This time however, I wouldn’t be going on an impulse, I’d go prepared and bring an more fearless companion, the thick skinned survivor of many expeditions into the wilds of Vermont, Allen Taylor.
Unafraid at first Allen soon found himself, Like Greg and I only days earlier, uncertain of his location and concerned about he prospects of return to civilization. He, a better man the Greg or I, mustered all his courage, put on a stiff upper lip, and bravely turned to meet his fate.
Allen’s courage was all it took, this time we were able to enter and exit The Valhalla Woods unscathed and aware of our location the entire time. The rest of the day was spent exploring and getting to know this little known glade.
Finding the Valhalla woods has been one of my proudest skiing experiences yet. Not only were we rewarded with great skiing, but we learned about ourselves and the benefits of committing to the unknown.
Read about the author: Sam