2 - 3
FATMAP difficulty grade
The AMC Cardigan Lodge is basecamp for Mount Cardigan.
It has beds for rent and food and there are plenty of campsites very close to it as well.
The parking lot for the lodge is the starting point of every ski adventure on Cardigan when you approach from this side (it is possible to approach from the west as well).
The Alexandria ski trail is the heart and home of this area.
With many lines accessible from here, the Alexandria marks the most well known.
It comes straight from the AMC High Cabin - a hut you can rent out and use which sits just a few hundred meters of vert from the summit and can act as home for an amazing week or weekend with your friends and family.
Don’t be fooled however, while the High Cabin is easily accessible and not too far of a skin, it sits in the dead quiet of the New Hampshire wilderness and you’ll feel like you are hundreds of miles from anyone else.
The route starts from the AMC parking lot and meanders on relatively flat ground for about 1-1.3 km.
There are quite a few signs and junctions along this area but just keep on course for Grand Junction or the Holt Trail.
As you approach the larger bridge to cross the river, you will start to instantly see the terrain change.
From here, snow is usually scraped off and there are quite a few roots and rocks exposed.
A few steep pitches and icy New England conditions can make cold days and morning extra tricky if your skinning technique is off here.
Once you have traversed the river, you will arrive at Grand Junction.
You will be able to tell by all the signs around you.
This is where quite a few trails meet and bifurcate including the trails we will be using for uphill and downhill travel.
Follow signs for the Clark-Holt cutoff trail (also known as the Cathedral Forest Trail by some).
This trail is the easiest way up to the High Cabin and the Alexandria.
Grand Junction also marks the points of increased gradient in your climbing.
There is nothing too steep or technical here but depending on conditions, some of the switchbacks can become tricky with ice, roots, and rocks.
Eventually, you will connect with the Clark trail and this is a pretty good indication that you are about there.
Another 10-15 minutes of skinning will find you at the cross of the Alexandria and ready for your transition. The route makes its transition just below the High Cabin where the Clark Trail turns into the Alexandria.
The Clark Trail runs into the Alexandria perpendicularly and be sure to keep your eyes are ears peeled here for people skiing down from above.
The Alexandria trail is pretty tight up above here and it makes uphill-downhill interactions tricky.
BE SURE TO BE OFF THE TRAIL WHEN TRANSITIONING! From here, rip your skins and get ready to ski! The Alexandria is only about 3 meters wide here but will open up to a much more breathable 10-15 meters pretty quickly so don’t be too worried about what you see right here.
From here, enjoy the ski all the way down to Grand Junction! When you arrive back at Grand Junction, the next part of the descent can be a bit tricky for those not good at small, quick turns.
An alternative to this would be to skin up the Kimball Ski Trail which will bring you back down to the parking lot as well.
Once over the bridge though, it is smooth sailing.
Try and keep as much speed as you can from here as there is a small uphill section that may catch you off guard and have you shuffling up it.
Continue the same way out as you came in all the way to parking lot and rejoice in skiing this Northeastern classic.