Thom Perkins was leading a group of skiers through open glades on the back side of [R501R, Wildcat Mountain] recently.

Everyone was smiling, as more than a fresh foot of the fluffiest snow imaginable lay over even deeper cover that had been building up in the woods since late fall.

Perkins is executive director of the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, a nonprofit organization that exists to develop high quality trails around Jackson Village for x-c and snowshoeing, and to promote a healthy lifestyle centered on physical activity.

JSTF maintains a network of 154 kilometers of ski trails, 90K groomed and 64K ungroomed backcountry trails in and around Jackson, N.H.

The Wildcat Valley Trail is among them, and is widely viewed as one of the great backcountry ski experiences in New England.

This day, Perkins was joined by seven other skiers, including Olympian John Morton.

Morton has moved from Olympic competition as athlete and coach to found a company that designs cross-country trails. His goal: to create trails that are interesting and fun to ski, as opposed to forest service roads that climb steadily for 3 miles and then descend a similar distance.

Among his most recent projects was design of The Wave, a world-class racing trail suitable for all levels of competition, and deemed suitable for international Nordic races by the sport's governing body.

Back to the trail.

The outing started with a chairlift ride to the summit of Wildcat Ski Area, and then a plunge down a steep entry to the Wildcat Valley Trail itself, which wound 12K downhill toward the center of Jackson. The trip could have gone longer, but the group chose to be picked up a couple miles up the road from the Eagle Mountain House, and be driven back to the Ski Touring Center in style.

Even so, it was a rigorous outing that required planning, proper gear, and suitable clothing. Extra gloves and hat, extra layers of warm things, water, and snacks.