Despite receiving more snow than other northeast ski areas, Jay had no right to be skiing well during MLK Weekend. I kept my expectations low and was genuinely impressed with what I found on and off piste. Low expectations might be the single most important aspect of my season this year. At this rate, I might even remember 2015-2016 fondly despite likely having one of my lowest ski day totals in a dozen years. That said, I would dearly like to have my first powder day of the season sooner rather than later.
The first seven words spoken in The Force Awakens are equally fitting for this weekend. After suffering through three horrific months, the season has been redeemed. This weekend may not have included the perfect dump that we all want. But it was far better than we could have hoped for and it was awesome when evaluated on its own merits. It was not perfect but still just what we needed: it got us excited and happy to be skiing again. The metaphor is strong with this report.
Cannon skied much better than expected today. The mountain was open top to bottom with occasional route options. Temperatures stayed cool up high and only warmed up later in the day down low. Conditions were extremely variable depending on elevation and angle of the sun. For an expert skier trying to get into shape during the early season, it was a delightful variety of conditions. But for intermediate skiers and below, it was Cannon at its most unforgiving.
Upper Cannon was open with man made ungroomed including minor whales and bumps. Upper Cannon is normally a travesty of brutal grooming. The trail gets scraped down because most people don’t know how to ski a winding trail (hint: you go against the curves, not with them — skiing the insides of the curves rather than the outsides). Skiing an ungroomed and bumped Upper Cannon was an absolute dream. So much so that I could not have cared less about the bumps being frozen and lacking rhythm.
The Links were a ridiculous thin coverage mess and best avoided excepting for Upper Cannon access. Middle Cannon had variable loose granular mounds and hard pack with varying degrees of softening (or not softening) depending on angle of the sun. Upper Gremlin was consistently fun despite its inconsistent conditions. I’d much rather the alternating and variable loose granular and hard pack of Upper Gremlin to Lower Gremlin’s piles of mush and mash.
Considering the warm temperatures and lack of natural snow, I was impressed with what Cannon had to offer. Conditions and coverage were both better than expected. I was thrilled that Cannon FINALLY has taken advantage of their upper mountain lift and blew open an upper mountain trail earlier than usual.
Cannon has failed to get the upper mountain open by Christmas some years. But they finally got their act together and went for top to bottom as soon as possible. And it is about damn time. There is no reason why Cannon shouldn’t go for broke on the upper mountain before Thanksgiving. But for now, I am definitely happy to see this first step in the right direction by having Upper Cannon open despite the difficult weather.
The Barker Quad attempted to debut today at Sunday River. But the lift was plagued with mechanical issues and closed after only two hours of stop-and-go operation. After an extended stoppage with guests on the lift, operations pulled the plug. I was able to ski Ecstasy twice before Barker went off line and it was the run of the day. Conditions on Ecstasy were soft fresh man made amongst ungroomed mounds. Not normally my favorite conditions but it skied very well.
The Locke Mountain Triple provided service for the remainder of the day. The lift provided access to T2 and Upper Sunday Punch filtering down to Sunday Punch below the mid-station. Upper Punch was delightful and Punch below the mid-station was firm hard pack. But the Locke Triple offered top to bottom without anyone downloading, so I was a happy skier regardless of conditions.