The Hays Brook Truck Trail
Our "go-to" spot to ski nearby the Lodge is the Hays Brook truck trail. It is only about 10 miles north on route 30 and, significantly, it tends to have the best conditions around. It is popular, meaning you may see 10 other people skiing, so most of the time the trail is broken. Obviously, that depends on when it snowed last and if it is the weekend or a weekday. It seems that often there is an inch or two of new light powder overnight so if you get there before anyone else, the skiing is a magical combination of virgin snow and the ease of a tracked trail. Heaven! There are 2 options here - a trail to Grass Pond (3.8-mile round trip) and one to the "Sheep Meadow" (7.8 miles RT). The latter is definitely the more interesting route. Mostly these trails are novice to intermediate with a few short intermediate pitches to make things interesting.
Directions & Getting to the Trail
To get there drive north on route 30 from the Lodge. 3.8 miles north of Paul Smiths College there is a large DEC sign on the right marking the access road. You can usually drive into the parking lot a couple of tenths of a mile in. Ski down the continuation of the road a minute or two to the gate and register up the small hill to the left.
From the gate, following the truck trail north, you cross the Osgood River in 1/2 mile. This is the outlet of Osgood Pond and flows into Meacham Lake to the north. Just beyond, the trail to Grass Pond forks right. It climbs a moderate hill and then, mostly on the level, leads to the lean-to above the pond. You can poke around the small pond on some short roads but it is not particularly noteworthy.
If you are going to the Sheep Meadow, just past the fork to Grass there is a choice. The marked route veers left following what is more of a trail whereas the wider road continues straight. The former has more ups and downs, is narrower, definitely not novice but certainly not difficult, shorter by 3/10th mile, much more interesting, and meets the other route at a "T" intersection. The latter is wider, easier, climbs a long hill and then is essentially flat to a junction (1.2 miles from the gate) where you turn left and eventually descend slightly to meet the other trail coming in from the left. Essentially the first option is the interesting hypotenuse and the second the 2 boring legs of a triangle. Let's see - can you guess which one I choose? My wife likes the other. I still love her.
After the two options join up the trail descends in a couple of tenths of a mile to a crossing of Hays Brook, climbs a short steeper pitch and is then mostly level to the 2 lean-tos and horse barn 2.1 miles from the brook. (When you return, if you bomb down the hill to Hays Brook, make sure you don't miss the bridge. The water, I can assure you, will be cold.) The trail does not actually go through the Sheep Meadow.
But it is just a few feet away at one point. Before you get to the lean-tos, just before a long very gradual climb, look to the right through a few evergreens to the beginning of a clearing about 20 feet off the trail. This is the start of a series of interconnected but separate clearings that eventually will bring you to the back of the lean-tos. But it's also easy to fumble around and not find the lean-tos so if there aren't tracks to follow or if you're not willing to backtrack following your own tracks just look around the unusual open expanse and then get back on the marked trail. Alternatively, you can poke around the same group of meadows behind the lean-tos.
Once when we were sitting in the lean-to enjoying our lunch a couple skied up and we struck up a conversation. I asked where else they liked to ski around the area since I'm always looking for new recommendations. The man said I should really read a particular magazine that has lots of articles about day trips. Turns out he was Dick Beamish, the founder of the Adirondack Explorer which I already subscribed to and would highly recommend. It is an excellent publication. We all enjoyed the conversation. I didn't ask which legs of the triangle they chose but they seemed to be happily married so I presume they worked it out one way or the other.