Cannon. My favorite mountain. Yet, I have been such a stranger lately. Only five visits during the past two years? It could only mean that my discount strategies have expired. Even today, I refused to pay full price and opted for the half day ticket. Cannon is always good enough for me (even at its worst). But never good enough to pay full price.
Cannon is home. Seems like it always has been and always will be. Yet I’ve skied Jay more times. I have had season passes at Jay but never at Cannon. But Cannon is home and Jay isn’t. Jay has been quite good to me over the years. But it will never be in my blood. Jay is the smart play for reliable trees and powder but… well, there is always a but. Jay is to my mind as Cannon is to my heart.
Before skiing, I stopped by the repair shop for my once per year ski tune. For some reason, I thought I might need it today. It wasn’t my skis that needed the tune up but rather my head. My first turns were a sloppy skidding mess despite the tune and generally soft snow. I wasn’t forward enough, not enough angulation, my stance was too narrow. My mind wasn’t “in it”. I wasn’t going for it like it was yet another epic powder day *yawn*.
But after a few runs, I found some aggression. My hands clenched around my pole grips a bit tighter as I applied forward pressure to my boot tongues and laid an edge that stuck, propelling me forward into the next turn. Not effortless, not like I’ve become used to. But requiring mindfulness and attention, requiring effort and rewarding that effort appropriately. Cannon said “you’ve become soft, push a bit harder”. So I did. And it felt great.
Every ski season* has an ending and a beginning with purgatory in between. And much like the mountains, our seasons have peaks and valleys, highs and lows. Those who want for consistency and regularity in their lives need not apply. Skiing is an activity better suited to those who enjoy extremes, people who can not only accept but revel in and embrace the worst of conditions**.
Beginnings are powerful. More than just a do over or a redo, beginnings suggest that something even better is coming. We sweep away the hardships of the past and get on with things. And even following a season of many epic days, skiers are still ever hopeful that this season might be the big one.
Dad once commented on my tendency towards extremes. He saw the potential danger rather than the beauty in extremes. But for me, even in the depths of despair, I would suddenly cackle with delight at how wonderful if felt to be alive, to be able to feel, even if to feel terrible. It was still joyous in a way. Amor fati was a way of life for me long before I read Nietzsche.
While a new ski season began for me this weekend, I continue on in purgatory: long having sought a new beginning that remains elusive. There are no highs nor lows, just a constant grind. One might think that burn out would make someone negative. But rather, burn out leaves you hollow and uninspired. The ski season may have begun but I still seek a new beginning.
*Ski season here is connoted as a localized season rather than an individual’s personal season.
**Not a reflection or implication of the skiing at Sunday River, far from it.
I am always reflective on the last day of the ski season. Seasons begin and end and begin again in one big blur. Some ski days are epic, others not so much. One day becomes the next until all of a sudden you’ve stopped appreciating the magic that can be found whenever you are on the snow.
But I always appreciate the last day of every season. I always remind myself not to take it for granted, after doing just that for every other day during the season. It is hard to be reflective when you are engaged in the madness, desperate for that next powder day.
The madness subsides and things slow down a bit by May. My health prohibited me from hiking to Tuckerman Ravine for end of season turns in June or July. But it doesn’t matter where or when the last day of the season happens, the feelings are still always the same.
After weeks of waiting for the perfect spring corn weekend, I realized it may not happen before the season ends. Warm t-shirt weather and perfect spring corn bumps are more rare than a powder day during any given season. But that doesn’t mean that the skiing won’t be fabulous without the warmth, sun, and perfect corn. The late season was passing me by while I awaited perfection when I realized the perfect turn can still be found in less than ideal circumstances.
Those perfect turns were found hammering down Preston’s Pitch, the steep finale to Superstar. I kept finding that perfect line and letting the skis go full speed, bashing the bumps for direction and speed control, more the former than the latter. I kept saying one more run but then I’d find myself turning right back onto the lift rather than turning left towards the lodge. Back up again, trying to find that same line that felt so good during the last run. And failing to find it until that last pitch… and there I was again hitting the same bumps even faster than the last time.
The coverage on Superstar is amazing for mid-May thanks to two weeks of cold and cloudy weather with temperatures well below seasonal norms. The snow was nearly edge to edge and absolutely top to bottom with several sections of Superstar featuring base depths as deep as the chairs moving uphill. Significant amounts of snow were stockpiled at the top and bottom of the run. Memorial Day is almost certainly going to happen. June is a possibility with a little help from the weather.