Winter Trail Reports- Translated

The Sami people, who live in the northern reaches of Scandinavia and Russia, have over 180 words to describe snow and ice.

That may seem a bit overboard, but if you heard the linguistic gymnastics performed by the reservations team at Maine Huts & Trails to describe trail conditions, you’d soon realize that 180 is about right. With over 80 miles of trail spanning from Carrabassett Valley to the Forks in western Maine, there can be a wide variety of conditions to report, often changing by the hour. We do our best to get the most accurate information possible out to you, our trail users. Sometimes, that means using a lot of different terms to describe the snow on the trails, to make sure you have the best possible experience getting to the huts.

Updated daily, our Winter Trail Report is meant to prepare you for Nordic skiing, fat biking, snowshoeing, or hiking to the huts. Here’s a quick guide to trail condition terms you can expect to see on our website, or hear on the phone:

Frozen Granular: Not to be confused with ‘icy’. Conditions are created by freeze/thaw cycles or grooming, and the result is a forgiving surface made up of tiny snow chunks. Frozen granular is pretty typical in New England, and is great for skiing and fat biking. It does make for fast skiing, so beginners should use caution on descents. Hiking is recommended over snowshoeing.

Packed Powder: Not too fluffy, not too hard. When the most recent snowfall has settled into the base naturally or by groomers or other trail users, and temperatures have been stable, we get packed powder. It’s perfect for skiing, good for fat biking and snowshoeing. Hiking is not recommended.

Fresh Powder: When we’ve gotten fresh, light snow and temperatures have stayed cold, you get powder. This is perfect for skiing and snowshoeing. Fat biking and hiking may be good if accumulation is less than 2-3 inches and the base is firm.

Corn: Typical of spring conditions in New England, corn snow is the result of overnight freezing temps that warm up on sunny days, resulting in large, loose granules. It’s great for skiing- very forgiving and not too fast. Snowshoeing is usually decent. Fat biking is good if the base is very firm. 

Boilerplate: When a section of trail is ungroomed after rain and cold, the result is boilerplate, i.e., ice. It’s possible to hike with micro-spikes or YakTraks, and okay for experienced fat bikers with studded tires. Skiing and snowshoeing are not recommended.

Machine Groomed/Corduroy: Freshly groomed and tracked trail that looks like corduroy; perfect for skiing and fat biking. Snowshoeing is fine, but hiking is not recommended as it will damage the surface for other users.

Machine Groomed/Tracked: When the terrain allows, (which it almost always does) we set a track for classic Nordic skiing using a machine called a 'Ginzu'. See the photo on the left. If you're not on classic Nordic skis, be sure to stay off the track to keep it in good shape for other trail users. 

Hard Packed: When the most recent snowfall has settled into the base and it's firm from wind or grooming. Conditions are perfect for fat biking. Nordic skiing is fast and fun, but beginners should be cautious, especially on steep descents. Hiking is decent.

Variable: A little of everything. Sometimes significant temperature changes occur throughout the day, and the trail surface will vary widely, even over a short distance. Variable conditions are usually fine for skiing and snowshoeing, but beginners should be cautious. Fat bikers and hikers should try to stay on firm sections of trail.

Spring Conditions: Just like variable conditions, but with more signs of spring! There may be bare spots, especially in open areas or near water. Shaded sections of trail can be icy, and snow in sunny sections can be heavy and wet.

At Maine Huts & Trails, we don’t believe in bad weather. When you have the right gear and a good attitude, every day is a new opportunity for adventure. Be safe, be smart, and have fun out there!