Skiing Mt. Colden’s Trap Dike
Ben Peters smiles and removes his harness after a successful ski descent of Mt. Colden’s Trap Dike.
The six mile return journey to the car will go quickly today.
REWIND now many years. In some cheap motel in Lake Placid, NY during a week of ski races at Whiteface Mountain, the rain pounds on the window panes. We’re eagerly waiting for cold air to move in later that night, freeze the racing piste into a bulletproof track, and allow the competition to resume. To pass the time our coach is telling us about the history of the region. I listen as he recounts to me that the high peaks to the south of Lake Placid have some excellent skiing; perhaps some of the best in the world. At the time I knew how to ski between red and blue flags pretty quickly, but I was clueless when it came to The Mountains. Nonetheless my coach’s myths of the Adirondacks piqued my interest. Steep open faces a thousand vertical feet or more. Gullies wending their way through dense forests from the roof of New York down to the valley below. Among all these natural features though is one weakness which perhaps trumps them all. Nestled somewhere in the range–my coach is not sure where–is a deep crack in the mountain no more than a 100 feet wide. The result of a vein of soft rock eroding faster than the strong rock around it, the crack plunges several thousand feet from one of New York’s highest peaks, straight down to a beautiful lake. It can be skied, but only in the most perfect conditions. The name of this crack? The Trap Dike.
As the famous question goes: “What’s in a name?” Well in this case, the name can induce many sleepless nights dreaming of skiing a sharp crack in a hunk of rock that rarely gets the requisite snow. The name is the genesis of many hot summer afternoons poking around the internet looking for clues about how a ski descent might work, and when the conditions might be right. The name would like no better than to have the word “ski” appended to it (modulo some article).
FAST FORWARD now to 6 months ago, when Kristin and I went to take a look, and see what was involved in this Trap Dike. Gulp.
When we got to the summit of Mount Colden after our ascent of the Trap Dike on that July day, we both knew that it could be skied. It wouldn’t be easy, and we knew the snow conditions would need to be just right, but with the information we had gathered, we knew we could do this with skis on our feet.
FAST FORWARD to now. In LCC, the FIS Rocky Mountain office has logged an inspiring descent of the Heart of Darkness. The snow is piling up here on the east. Warm weather approaches from the west. With a warmup winter carnival in the books, we were ready.
Read about the author: Greg