The below average temperatures of November benefited Cannon tremendously. Terrain is opening at a significantly faster rate than last year. Today’s offerings included two fully unique routes from the Peabody Quad along with Gary’s and Rocket from the Zoomer Chair.
That doesn’t sound like much but some of these routes and trails are seriously wide (especially Gary’s and Rocket) and take a substantial amount of fire power to get them open. There is even a decent sized terrain park near the lodge. Last year, the Zoomer chair had not even opened yet whereas this year it is on its second week.
Snow making is in place on Middle Cannon, Middle/Lower Ravine, the Links, the Huckerbrook area, and the Zoomer base area (presumably in preparation for blowing Zoomer and Avalanche). I don’t recall ever seeing as many guns blowing at the same time at Cannon.
Despite arriving well after first chair, surfaces were edgeable hard pack and generally fun to ski. This excepts a few constricted high traffic areas that sported excessively scrapped down snow. Loose snow was plentiful along the edges of Gary’s and Rocket. Packed powder it was not. But it wasn’t bad skiing either.
How could it possibly be better than this past Sunday? Even Jay was supposed to get rain before the minimal backside snowfall. Thanksgiving morning, I went to Jay with low expectations. Half a foot of dust on crust was still more fun than not going at all. The Thanksgiving Dinner plan was a quiet meal at home, a late dinner for two. So why not see what Jay had to offer?
My fitness level was suspect during the uphill, I required frequent stops and had shortness of breath. The wind was blowing like crazy, the snow was falling horizontally, and the base area temperature was only ten degrees. It should not have been a hard fought skin to the top of the Jet, but it was. While changing over, I noticed that my feet were extremely cold, especially my left foot which was losing sensation.
I returned to the trail that did me so well on Sunday. And I dropped into something beyond words. It was deep. It was really deep. Deeper than Sunday. Deeper than anything I’ve skied in at least two years. Knee deep minimum with even deeper drifts. Thigh deep. Balls deep. Explosions of snow. Gobble. Gobble.
My feet can feel the silky powder through my boots and skis. My toes can feel it. I’ve got happy feet. The powder is so soft and smooth. I surf through it, I dance through it.
I snake a hard turn to the left and bank back to the right where the trail’s pitch tips downward. The dance transitions into a trampoline descent down deep, bottomless pillows. Clouds of white confetti burst up and over my head. Was it a face shot? Is this a white room? Where am I?
I want to stop and remove the mental fog of disbelief and bewilderment. I want to be mindfully aware, to fully absorb the sensations. But I can’t stop. I won’t stop. An irresistible force keeps pulling me down into the white deep. I think I felt snow at my knee caps but I can’t be sure, nothing seems real any more.
How is this even possible? Jay only reported 6-8″. Blasting through another knee deep pillowy drift, I wonder where the bottom is? But I realize that is just another useless thought, clutter in my brain that doesn’t matter. I banish that thought and all the others, losing myself, descending into an abyss of white. I’m ten again, on a playground and swinging, swinging, releasing at the apex and then I’m flying. What a feeling.
I knew it had to end eventually. Since Smuggs is my home mountain for the 2013-2014 season, I knew that I’d finally get to see the mountain in its entirety, warts and all. Which isn’t to say that my expectations were high for opening day featuring 1.5 routes off Sterling. But my expectations were decidedly higher than “some of the worst frozen man made that I have ever skied”.
Early season skiing on man made snow: the White Ribbon of Death. But today at Jay, man made saved the day. I was pulling for an overnight freeze followed by slow warming resulting in late morning corn snow. Instead, I found temperatures well above freezing and rotting natural snow by the time I arrived at Jay. During my skin up Derick, I suspected that the man made was going to ski better than the natural and my suspicion proved accurate.