Doug and Mickey applying skins

One of my favorite aspects of being an avid outdoors person is getting outside and doing stuff with friends.  While getting outside and skiing, biking, climbing, etc.  with friends is always a good time, it can be very rewarding if you can introduce them to a new sport, place, or way of thinking about or utilizing a place.  For example, over the past few months I have taken my friend Matt climbing outside, watched Nate fall in love with telemark skiing, and watched Mickey Spades make his first backcountry runs.  Being able to share these experiences with my friends is one of the most gratifying aspects of being an outdoor athlete.

Mickey Spades’ ‘Ski Pose’
The problem is that there are some things you want to keep secret.  Whether it is a secret crag, boulder, or ski run it is nice to know that you can beat the crowds by heading to your own little secret stash.  It seems that in New England our natural resources are fairly slim, leading to overcrowding in many of the popular places to hike, climb, and ski, making pursuing your passion in somewhat privacy difficult to achieve.  In Central Massachusetts, the resources are even slimmer and the population denser than in many other parts of New England.  We limited places to rock climb, ice climb, and backcountry ski; the quantity of these places gets even slimmer if you start emphasizing quality and congestion.  The Auburn Ice Canyon is a great example of this because the quality of the climbing in the Canyon is very good, however I would not be caught dead there on a weekend day due to the congestion.

Me enjoying a great day

This congestion has brought about a New England tradition of keeping tight lipped about where to find the good spots.  It is difficult as an outsider to find these secret spots because people are reluctant to share them.  You will hardly ever hear about them in books or on the internet, and when people talk about them they will often use code.  For example, ‘The Stash.’  These efforts are not made to deprive people of a place or experience, rather they are made to hold on to the secret just a little longer.

Doug in a chute

The thing about secret stash’s is that they will not remain secrets forever.  It is inevitable that as you show people the stash and let them in on your little secret they will tell and bring others to your secret spot.  You can not blame people for doing this. It’s a good thing that people want to share their sports and spots with others.  Just know that as you are watching the development of one place, you should begin your search for another if solitude is what you seek.

 Some newbies to the ‘Stash’ booting up

I have been watching this happen at the ‘Stash’ this year.  For the past few seasons I have been logging twenty days a season there regularly, and more often than not my group was the only group there.  If we did run into someone else, it was probably someone we knew and they were probably one of a group of ten people we regularly saw there.  This season, however, I have seen a lot of new faces at the ‘Stash’ and am beginning to think its glory days are behind it.  Doug, Mickey Spades, and myself went to the ‘Stash’ this past Monday and ran into three other parties there that day.  This was my third consecutive trip to the ‘Stash’ where I ran into a new person.  While the ‘Stash’ is far from being overrun, you can feel the subtle change in atmosphere.  For a time the ‘Stash’ was ours and now it is starting to feel like everybody’s.

Mickey Spades ‘skiing’ the road

While I believe it is great that people are getting outside and enjoying what the ‘Stash’ has to offer, deep down I am hopeful that they will not uncover the great lines there.  Perhaps they will not find the runs steep enough or long enough.  Maybe they won’t want to put the effort into hiking the mountain and go back to riding the lifts, or perhaps they will not be satiated by only getting to ski/ride a few runs over the course of a day.  Sometimes I am hopeful that the person’s skis will find a covered rock or branch, damaging their skis enough that it sends them back to the groomers.  While I realize that these hopes are not in the spirit of sharing the outdoor experience, I am just trying to hang on to the ‘Stash’ for one more season.  I am not ready for the secret to be shared, but as people are discovering the ‘Stash’ I have begun my search for the next secret spot.  

Doug on the entrance to the chute