Tag Archives: Winter Adventure
Dead Horse Valley is not only the most popular place to go sledding on Nantucket, it is one of the only places. This makes it a highlight of the winter months with both visitors and locals alike, on those rare occasions when Nantucket gets real snow. Teens and kids especially love it, as the sledding area starts out nice and gentle, but then gradually becomes more steep, making for a smooth, fast ride to safety at the bottom. It's almost like riding a roller coaster. Anytime there is snow on Nantucket, you can be sure that there will be plenty of people of all ages at Dead Horse Valley. The kids and teenagers will be enjoying sledding, while their parents watch happily from the sidelines. It's winter family fun at its best! (Don't miss an older video of sledding at Dead Horse Valley at the bottom!)
Great Fun If There Is Snow
Dead Horse Valley is located on public property on Nantucket. The whole area is approximately 400 feet long and has a 50 degree slope. The terrain is smooth in some places, and bumpy in others. While it's not an officially designated sledding place, it is the only real place to sled on the island. It doesn't get to be used nearly often enough. This is because most winter weather on Nantucket is mixed with rain or sleet, or only a light dusting of snow forms. When there is any real snow on the ground on Nantucket, though, Dead Horse Valley is the place to go. There isn't any parking nearby, but Nantucket is a small island. It won't be hard to get to from wherever you park.
If you're visiting the island for the first time, Dead Horse Valley is easy to find. Nantucket is only 17 miles long, so it's hard to get lost. Just get a map and find Mill Street. Mill Street will take you up a small hill. At the top of the hill, turn left at Mill Hill Lane. This street eventually becomes an unmarked country road. Look at the house numbers. When you spot #11, which is on the right side of the road, you will see four white markers in the distance, about 20 yards past house #11. This is Dead Horse Valley, and the start of your sledding adventure.
Origins of the Name
Dead Horse Valley is rumored to have been the places where dead horses were buried on Nantucket back in colonial times. However, there is no solid proof to this rumor. What is known about the place is that it's been active as a place of business since at least 1746, when the first known windmill was built near there. This is mentioned in several books on the history of the island, and its veracity can be seen today in the names of the streets leading to the valley (such as Mill Street and Mill Hill Lane). Today, however, Dead Horse Valley is a place for nothing but fun. People walk their dogs there in the summer, but in the winter, when it snows, this gorgeous public land on Nantucket is all about sledding.
For what not to do when sledding...
"Do One Thing Everyday That Scares You"
What is the next big thing you are doing that scares you?
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.
It's winter. It's cold. If you still want to sail what do you do? Just like fisherman who drill a hole in the ice and sit for hours for the love of it, dedicated sailing leads those who still want to sail in winter to one thing:
According to an older article from Red Bull, "Sailors race without a seat belt, protective panel, or brakes. Not that they care much"
“You never know with this sport,” says Ron Sherry, a five-time world ice sailing champ and genial Detroit native who journeyed over for another shot at the title. “There are many things that can stop it from working. Too much wind, too little wind, too much snow, too much ice, not enough ice… but when it’s right, there’s nothing like it. It’s absolutely the most fun you can have with your clothes on.”
Want to know about the history? Check Wikipedia. Want to know about the psychology of it all? Stick around because these "blade runners" are one crazy bunch. One reason they do it? Adrenaline. (view more photos on our Ice Sailing Pinterest Board)
“When you’re flying almost silently over the ice, all alone, you feel a deep sense of happiness,” explains Austrian Niklas Müller-Hartburg. “And it’s a battle: a battle with yourself, with nature, with your opponents. And it’s not that cold. Adrenaline makes sure of that.”
There is a certain something about going speeds up to 80 mph on single-seater boats only 12 feet long. Wanna take a ride? You won't be joined by a crowd, nor will there be prizes, still interested?
“No spectators, no sponsors, and no prize money in our sport,” says Müller-Hartburg. “And that’s just fine. This is a sport for freaks, for idealists. Not for showoffs.”
If you are there is typically a few hanging about any long stretch of lake that freezes over nicely in the winter.
The Fastest Wind-Propelled Sport
A bold claim from a veteran ice boater from NJ Neis Lybeck who enjoys ice boating along the Navesink river. The narrowness of the river certainly adds a lot of interest to the sport.
Recent years it has been harder to consistently get the ice boat out. The overall warmer trends certainly pay a toll and, "In terms of ice boating conditions, Vermont, upstate New York, and a lot of the places out west are better venues." Does this deter them at all? No way.
Expensive Sport Just for the Young? Think Again
Think this is an expensive sport just for the young? That's because you haven't met Leonard Lang. He is 88 years old and owns an ice boat he made for $10. It is certainly adventurous to be cross country skiing at 88 but ice sailing takes it to a whole new level.
He gets a huge smile on his face when he tells the story of how he got this boat. Many moons ago, his wife gave him a $10 dollar budget to make the ice boat. That may not seem like a lot today, and it did not seem like a lot back then either, he laughs.
So if you are missing sailing during the winter take another look at ice sailing. This is one way to catch serious wind even when the snow is flying and the thermometer is going the wrong direction.