Tuckerman Ravine means business. Every year, at least one person gets injured or killed negotiating this steep-ridged bowl on the eastern shoulder of Mt. Washington. It can be hard to process that information in on a beautiful August day, when so many of us ascend the 6,288 foot summit of Mt. Washington via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail that the route seems tame. But in September of 2013, a 25-year-old man slipped and fell 150 feet to his death in Tuckerman Ravine because he ventured off the trail to fill his water bottle.
Steep descents, dangerous crevasses, avalanche conditions, and strong winds all earn this bowl its reputation as a forbidding destination -- while the adrenalin rush of skiing down 45 to 55-degree pitches through up to 50 feet of snow makes it the consummate backcountry ski experience.
Skiing and Hiking Tuckerman Ravine
In the summer and early autumn, Tuckerman Ravine Trail is one of the most popular ways to reach the summit of Mt. Washington. The first 2.4 miles of the 4.1 mile ascent to the top is an easy ramble; we saw many families with young children along the way. And the ascent to the lip of the Ravine is easier than one might think, thanks to well-worn switchbacks. Beyond the Ravine, it's a tough scramble up the steep, stony cone of Mt. Washington, but the views from the summit over the entire Presidential Range are worth every step.
Skiing Tuckerman Ravine is another matter. Every year, the bowl collects snow blown off the summit of Mt. Washington, where winds of over 100 mph are not uncommon. So much snow and shelter from the sun means that the bowl can have good ski conditions long after the season has ended in other locations. In fact, due to the risk of avalanche at the lip of the Ravine, the backcountry season doesn't usually start for Tuckerman Ravine until April. Some years, we're able to ski the bowl into June.
Tuckerman Ravine, Bring Your Own
Skiers need to realize that there are no lifts and no facilities at Tuckerman Ravine. We'll be transporting skis, ski boots, poles, food, and other supplies along a trail that may be covered in deep snow to the headwall of the Ravine. Good hiking boots are essential for this hike in.
From there, it's a steep climb up the wall, followed by a descent at a constant pitch of at least 40 degrees. Intrepid skiers can hike beyond the lip of the Ravine to the snow fields near the summit, and it is possible to ski from the summit of Mt. Washington all the way down the Ravine to the Sherburne Ski Trail, which heads back to the trailhead.
It's not for the faint of heart, but during the height of the season, as many as 3000 backcountry skiers arrive at Tuckerman Ravine daily to experience the thrill of this experience.
Hikers and skiers access Tuckerman Ravine the same way, from Pinkham Notch Visitor's Center on New Hampshire's Route 16. The Mount Washington Avalanche Center posts the latest conditions at the Ravine each day.