Over the years, I have questioned what exactly makes me love Cannon above all other ski areas. Today, the mountain presented us with all the reasons to dislike Cannon: cold temperatures, high winds, extensive hard pack, ice patches on natural trails, (very) thin coverage, and only 4-8″ in the past 72 hours compared to two to three feet (plus) in Northern Vermont.
These are the very reasons I love the mountain so much. Nothing is easy at Cannon, you get what you are given and you have to do something with it. You get out of the mountain what you put into it. The challenges and short comings make you a better skier, and they remind you when you’ve gotten a little too soft.
The NSBS found Cannon in its natural wild state. And try as I might to show off the best of the mountain, I continually failed throughout the morning. What I had envisioned as an epic romp continually failed to deliver. But after lunch, I embraced Cannon’s nature and went with it. The day continued to get better with every run. Right up until the final run down the classic Middle Hardscrabble.
Having skied it earlier, Matt announced “here is the first difficult section” as I dropped into the steep transition from Upper to Middle Hard. Skirting the icy section for the favorable left side, I found a great line and nailed every turn. Effortless turns down a challenging line are a treasured experience all too shortly lived.
Entering Middle Hard, I switched to the right side and hugged the trees around the first and second bends, aggressively pounding out each hard fought turn right down through the final pitch. My ski partners obliged me in truly embracing the grizzled historic nature of the mountain by finishing out Hardscrabble the Hard Way, climbing the classic exit route instead of the far easier recent Cut Thru.
The beauty and essence of Cannon isn’t finding the perfect line in the perfect conditions. It is finding something that you overcome, a challenge that makes you better by shredding a perfect line where one might not seem to exist. You experience a creative vision of the possible and make it your reality. Cannon is a mirror yet the reflection is what you make of it.