Beginning this April, the US Forest Service will be offering skiers rides up to Tuckerman Ravine and the Sherburne Ski Trail on the Tuckerman Taxi, a snowcat with an extended and heated customer cabin capable to carrying 12 passengers per trip. The new taxi service will run hourly and cost $75/person, leaving from the Pinkham Lodge garage and running to HoJo’s at the base of Tuckerman Ravine.
Today, skiers wishing to access the bowl of Tuckerman Ravine or the Sherburne Ski Trail must make an arduous 2.4 mile climb up 1845′ of elevation to access the snowfields at the base of Tuckerman Ravine and the start of the Sherburne backcountry ski trail. Climbing to the top of Tuckerman Ravine requires skinning up another 1.2 miles miles and 1505′ of elevation gain. That’s a total of 3.6 miles and 3350′ of elevation gain from the Pinkham Lodge Parking Lot to Tuckerman Junction at the top of the Tuckerman Ravine Headwall, although the actual distance is usually longer since hazardous avalanche conditions make direct ascents of the headwall too dangerous.
“Snowcat trips up Mt Washington aren’t new,” says USDA administrator, Patrick Loveless. “The Mt Washington Observatory runs day and overnight trips to the summit of Mt Washington and the Mt Washington Auto Road has a snow coach, a van outfitted with tractor treads instead of wheels, that offer tours up the auto road in winter.”
All profits from the Tuckerman Taxi service will be donated to fund the Mt Washington Avalanche Forecasting Service, which is the only American avalanche center east of the Rockies and has the oldest forecasting program in the country. The Trump Administration’s proposed budget would slash USDA funding and threatens to close the Mt Washington Avalanche Forecasting Service, which would jeopardize winter recreational safety in Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines, and have disastrous financial consequences for the New Hampshire economy.
The Tuckerman Taxi service will begin operation on April 1, 2017 and run until the snowpack on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, the snowcat’s route, melts and makes snowcat operations impossible. “Budget considerations won’t affect the Forest Service’s commitment to Leave No Trace,” says Loveless, “and we’ll only operate the Tuckerman Taxi when there is sufficient snowpack on the trails to prevent any lasting evidence of operations.”