Steep trail

Steepest Ski Trail in New Hampshire - Kinsman Glade, Cannon

Located off the tram at Cannon are two trails that are capable of making the preponderance of skiers and riders proclaim, “Damn, you would need to be absolutely Kray-Kray to attempt that nonsense!”.  The trails are DJ’s Tramline and Kinsman Glade. Many may go so far as to say the trails are as evil and twisted as the infamous twins, Reggie and Ronnie Kray, who were the origin for the slang term that uses the brothers surname.  While DJ’s Tramline is one of the most famous trails in Eastern North America and is often touted as the hardest run in the East, Kinsman Glade is no slouch and some may argue it is even harder than DJ’s. The glade is located to the left of DJ’s Tramline when looking up the mountain and shares many of the same steep pitches.  In fact, DJ’s sustained pitch is 32.28 degrees and Kinsman checks in at an incredible 35.22, making it the fifth steepest trail in Eastern North America and the steepest trail in New Hampshire. This pitch coupled with the spruces, firs, hemlocks, pines, ashes, elms, maples, oaks and a plethora of other trees native to New Hampshire that are interspersed over the 3471 feet of the trail is what really amps up the level of difficulty.   While DJ’s is known to have massive boulders on the trail, Kinsman is not as rocky. But, that is like saying Pam Anderson has small boobs when comparing them to Dolly Parton. Kinsman still has the ability to rip a core shot in through the base of your skis that will leave you viewing You Tube videos on how to apply p-tex. In fact, unlike its 2nd cousin, Paradise at Mad River Glen, Kinsman is rarely open because of the amount of snow cover, greater than two feet, needed to make the trail skiable. 

Kinsman starts off mellow for the first 700 feet, but after that the trail drops and maintains 30 degrees plus the next 2000 feet.  Kinsman lulls you into thinking you’ve got everything in control because the first 700 of the trail is nothing more than a blue square that rambles along at a less than impressive 14 degrees.  It is around the 700 feet mark that Kinsman becomes like the carnival ride, the Rotor. The floor drops out from underneath you, however like the carnival ride you won’t stick to the wall, in this ride, gravity takes over and there are no escape routes at this time, because the trees are too thick.  Plus, even if you did manage to traverse through the woods, your exit would be DJs Tramline! It maintains the pitch until about 2400 feet into the trail where it mellows to approximately at 22-degree pitch until the end.

The incredible thing about the trail is that it was first envisioned in 1946 when an individual by the name of Steve Bradley wrote a letter to the ski trail architect Sel Hannah, suggesting a “slalom glade” with trees forty to fifty feet apart by the tram.  However, his vision wasn’t recognized until 2002 when Kinsman officially appeared as a trail. To think of skiing Kinsman on wood slabs with a cable binding and lace up leather boots seems near suicidal, you really have to give it to the old timers and what they thought and many times were capable of doing on their equipment.


Steepest Trail in West Virginia, Lower Shay’s Revenge, Snowshoe

Snowshoe Mountain (The Shew), is located in Snowshoe, West Virginia and is part of the Allegheny Mountains.  Despite the name of the resort, the ski area is located on Cheat Mountain. Cheat Mountain is the second highest mountain in the state of West Virginia which tops out at 4,848 feet, only 15 feet smaller than Spruce Mountain.  The resort, which is the largest winter resort in the mid-Atlantic, has 256 skiable acres and 14 lifts, including 3 high speed quads servicing Snowshoe's 57 trails.  The resort receives between 125-135 inches of snow per year, however the area is known to supplement Mother Nature with a robust snowmaking system. 

Snowshoe owned by Alterra Mountain Company.  

Lower Shay’s Revenge in all of its bumped up glory - Photo provided by Showshoe Mountain.

Lower Shay’s Revenge in all of its bumped up glory - Photo provided by Showshoe Mountain.

Lower Shay’s Revenge

On the backside of Snowshoe Mountain is an area named the Western Territory which is home to two ski trails.  On the left side of the of the Western Express high-speed quad, as you look at the mountain is the black diamond trail, Cupp Run which was designed by 1968 three-time Olympic gold medal winner, Jean-Claude Killy.  On the other side of the lift is a trail that was cut in 1998 called Shay’s Revenge. Shay’s Revenge is divided into two sections, Shay’s Revenge and Lower Shay’s Revenge that result in a combined 1500-foot vertical drop.  The upper half of Shay’s is a run of the mill, generic black diamond that your average skier can skid and slide down and the advanced skier can strap on the rocket boosters and melt the bases of their skis. For the less confident skiers, there is a bailout option to Cupp Run to avoid Lower Shay’s Revenge.  Lower Shay’s is a double black diamond, although when it was opened in 1998 it was a black diamond and subsequently upgraded to a double black. Lower Shay’s is often marketed as the longest, steepest mogul field south of the Mason-Dixon line. The trail measures 3554 feet long and easily the longest double black diamond south of the Mason-Dixon.  However, it is not the steepest, that title goes to Whoopdeedoo at Sugar Mountain, NC which checks in with a sustained pitch of 31.21, compared to Lower Shay’s sustained pitch of 26.47. However, Whoopdeedoo is frequently groomed and is much shorter than Lower Shay’s. Snowshoe blows a lot of snow on this steep section and it is generally open with big bumps for a major portion of the ski season. 

Shays’ is arguably the toughest run in West Virginia and as some of the locals down in the hollow would say, “Meema, I’d done gotton on Shay’s and the mogul’s just kep’a comin’ and boy it liketa scared me to death.”

Looking down Lower Shays from the top.  Photo provided by Snowshoe Mountain

Looking down Lower Shays from the top. Photo provided by Snowshoe Mountain

Steepest Trail in Pennsylvania - Extrovert, Blue Knob

Extrovert is located at Blue Knob Blue Knob Ski Resort is located in Claysburg, Pa – about two hours east of Pittsburgh, the area is considered an upside-down mountain.  The lodge, parking, ticket windows are all located at the top of the mountain. When the conditions are right, Blue Knob is a strong contender for the best ski area, not only Pennsylvania, but the entire Mid-Atlantic region and while that may not mean much to folks who regularly ski in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Quebec, it should be noted that Blue Knob has some challenging terrain that can be enjoyed by even the best skiers.  Blue Knob is the highest skiable mountain (3,146 feet) in Pennsylvania with a vertical drop topping out at 1072 feet.

The mountain has not always operated as a ski area, quite the opposite, from 1952-1961 the Air Defense Command operated Claysburg Air Force Station at the mountain where members of the 772nd Radar Squadron worked.  The base began operations with the role to guide interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the unit's radar scopes.  However, in 1961, due to budget constraints, the station was shuttered and the radar operations were shifted to Gibbsboro AFS in Pedricktown, NJ, subsequently that site was then shut down in 1992. Due to the height of the mountain, the prevailing idea was to transform the land and buildings from an Air Force Base to a ski area, thus providing a much-needed boost to the local economy that just lost a major employer when the base was relocated.  In 1962, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation created the Blue Knob Ski Area using both leased State Park land and adjoining private land. Trails, including Extrovert, were cut, lifts were installed and skiing began. The former Air Force station buildings were converted to support the ski area which were located at the top of the mountain, because it was a radar site, which is how Blue Knob became and upside down mountain. As noted earlier, Blue Knob is the best skiing in Pennsylvania, due to the relatively high elevation and north-facing slopes.  The downside to this geography is Blue Knob can be frigid and windy. The cold and windy environment combined with the lack of a robust snowmaking system is a perfect mixture for icy conditions, but who cares…Blue Knob has a bowl. While it doesn’t rival the back bowls of Vail, the Stembogan Bowl it is legitimate bowl, completely void of trees. Blue Knob is a skier’s mountain, you will not find a plush “Stein Erikson” type lodge or high speed quad lifts, but if you are looking for some challenging skiing, when you are in or near the 814, then point your vehicle toward Blue Knob.

Blue Knob Extrovert Double Black Diamond.jpg

Extrovert is actually divided into two trails, Upper and Lower, both are rated as double black diamonds.  The trail is steep, narrow, ungroomed and generally contains blue ice moguls, so hard you would need a jackhammer to get rid of them. To compound the situation, sharp edges generally don’t help you in icy mogul fields since carving turns isn’t required. Upper Extrovert turns into Lower Extrovert when the trail intersects with Lower Route 66 and Lower High Hopes which happen to be the three hardest trails on the mountain.  Where these trails merge creates the perfect storm of tight, irregular and titanic moguls that will sink any skier that decides to sit back. Extrovert is a legit double black diamond even by Vermont standards, the trail is the steepest in Pennsylvania (although Avalanche at Denton may have been steeper when Denton was open) and has a sustained pitch (sustained defined as 300 ft.) of 30.98 degrees making it the only trail in Pennsylvania to top out above 30 degrees.  To put that in perspective, there are only 23 trails in Eastern North America with a greater sustained pitch and that list reads like an East Coast Hall of Fame list with trails such as Dynamite (Tremblant), Face Chutes (Jay Peak), Upper Lift Line (Smugglers Notch), DJ’s Tramline (Cannon), and when you combine the pitch with the minimalist width of the trail, which is a scant 69 feet, it becomes evident that this is a difficult trail. However, the Mid-Atlantic thaw and freeze weather patterns compound the difficulty creating ice clods doubling as moguls. When skiing the trail you will need all of your extroversion characteristics to be concerned with the physical environment, even though Extrovert is in Pennsylvania don’t write it off as a “hack” trail, it isn’t!  In fact, the trail is regularly mentioned in conversations as one of the hardest trails in the east.

Extrovert on a rare packed powder day.  Photo by  Jim Kenney

Extrovert on a rare packed powder day. Photo by Jim Kenney

To learn more about Blue Knob visit their website at: https://blueknob.com/