Skiers hold a snowplow on Prospect Farm Trails. Ron Chase photos

I didn’t learn to Nordic ski until I was in my 40s. Busy raising a family, there was insufficient time to learn a new sport until my sons grew older.

Thirty years later, I’m no more than a mediocre classic skier. I took a couple of skate skiing lessons in the early 2000s, but in the subsequent eight years, my wife and I traveled in warm climates during the winter. I never progressed beyond learning to stay upright (some of the time). Shortly after our winter travels ended, I had my first knee surgery and decided to limit myself to classic skiing. Still, I love Nordic skiing.

For many years, mountain hiking was my primary winter sport and Nordic skiing a secondary activity. Old age has raised its ugly head. Mountain hiking now puts more stress on my arthritic joints than any other outdoor activity. Thus, Nordic skiing has become my favorite winter sport. I’ve found the classic skiing kick and glide technique to be almost therapeutic for my hips and knees.

When biking and kayaking wind down in the fall and I’ve completed a few sometimes physically uncomfortable mountain hikes, I begin contemplating Nordic skiing. Normally, Rangeley Lakes Trails Center in Dallas Plantation and Jackson Ski Touring in Jackson, New Hampshire, are the first Nordic ski areas to open within striking distance from my home in Topsham for a day trip. Beginning in mid-November, I started monitoring their websites for positive news.

A classic skier glides along on Boggy Brook Trail.

An early December snowstorm resulted in both ski areas beginning the trail-grooming process. Eager to start the ski season, I called them to determine progress. Opening day for the Rangeley Trails was a week away. Fortunately, the high elevation Prospect Farm Trails at Jackson Ski Touring were ready. I mounted the cargo carrier on the roof rack, gathered skis, boots and poles, and was on my way to New Hampshire.

Jackson Ski Touring has over 100 kilometers of trails. During peak season, there are numerous skiing options. However, at the beginning and end of winter, the Prospect Farm Trails — 1,000 feet higher than the trails in Jackson — are often the best or only skiing available. That’s no sacrifice for me; I’m a huge fan of the Prospect Farm Trails.


After purchasing a pass at the lodge in Jackson, I drove about 5 miles up Carter Notch Road to the Prospect Farm Trailhead. A relatively small parking area is a concern, but I was in luck; two parking spots were still available.

The weather was cool, breezy and sunny when I began skiing in the winter wonderland on Wildcat River Trail. Snow clinging from trees in a mixed hardwood and conifer forest resembled a Christmas-card scene. A woman was finishing her ski as I departed. The friendly skier reassured me the trail conditions were excellent. The first segment of Wildcat River Trail is a great warmup as it begins with a downhill followed by a short climb to Boggy Brook Trail.

I had acquired my ski legs when turning right onto Boggy Brook Trail. Climbing gradually, I enjoyed exceptional views of the mountains in the east. Shortly after crossing Wildcat Brook, two skate skiers gracefully glided past. As I progressed, several returning skiers were met, all smiling.

Angling right, I began a gradual decline to a bridge. The aesthetic benefits of double-poling down a lengthy gradient are immeasurable; I feel young again.

Just beyond the bridge, I stopped to chat with Ken. I don’t know his last name, but he’s loquacious, an excellent skier and also an old man. We commiserated about old age and skied on.

After a steep climb to the highpoint, I lingered to enjoy the view. A kayaking friend, Steve Fortin, arrived shortly after. A youngster in his 60s, we extolled the virtues of skiing and discussed Social Security benefits.

The predominantly downhill ski back to Wildcat River Trail is exceptional. Following a short, steep ascent on Wildcat River Trail, I began a rollicking ski on the elevated rolling Quail Trail. Approaching the top, I enjoyed partial views of Mount Washington. The exhilarating ski back to the parking area is almost all downhill. On the drive home, I experienced the tired satisfaction that few other activities provide.

My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine,” narrates three exceptional Maine ski trips.

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is available at or in bookstores and through online retailers. His previous books are “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals — New England.” Visit his website at or he can be reached at

The Prospect Farm Wildcat River Trail resembled a Christmas card scene.

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