A Cannon Day: It is good for what ails you.
Fourteen hours ago, it seemed like this powder day was not to be. I got up, took out the dog, and sat down looking out the window, dead eyes. I felt absolutely wasted. I had not been feeling well for days and the cold hit hard Saturday and Sunday. I knew that a foot of fresh was awaiting, but my body said “no way”. I sat there for half an hour watching the minutes tick away. I had to make a go decision soon to make first chair. I chugged some water, tossed some medicine in my bag, and got moving. I might not be able to ski much but I sure as heck was going to try.
I can report that I have found the cure for the common cold and it is a powder day at Cannon. Once I got going, I felt better every run. As per my usual plan of attack at Cannon, I started on Zoomer and found about eight inches over scratch on the groomers. Untracked on top of groomer is my favorite powder condition (since I get to ski it so rarely) but powder on top of scratch is not so hot. Lower angle Rocket had the best snow of this variety. But the better and deeper action was in the trees as I found in Lakeview and Echo.
Today was the busiest that I have ever seen Cannon. The crowded trifecta happened including a foot of new snow, excessive storm hype all week (including over forecasting expected totals), and a holiday vacation week. Additionally, the storm ended and the roads were cleared well before sunrise making an easy drive for metro area powder hounds to Cannon. The untracked went faster than I have ever seen it go at Cannon. According to someone I talked with on a chairlift, Cannon, Loon, and Bretton Woods were all turning cars away due to no remaining parking spaces.
Cannon showed off its snowmaking improvements during opening weekend. The new system has clearly allowed Cannon to shore up a critical shortcoming of the ski area. Cannon has always struggled to open terrain and connect its two lodges and summit building during the early season. When natural snow and consistent cold temperatures are sparse, the mountain can struggle to open up major routes before the New Year, let alone the important Christmas vacation week.
In recent years, Cannon has historically opened the Peabody Quad with one mid mountain route route along the narrow trails Middle Cannon and Gremlin. This created a super WROD and surface conditions that deteriorated rapidly. Despite the blue square ratings of Middle Cannon to Gremlin, solid intermediate level skiing was clearly not available during a typical opening weekend at Cannon.
This year, Cannon went with a different strategy spreading out open terrain for ALL ability levels between three lifts including the Brookside beginner lift. True beginner terrain on opening day at Cannon? Perhaps a first as long as I have been skiing there. And even some terrain park features. But Cannon’s grooming was not up to par compared to the new snowmaking system which meant that intermediates still would not be happy with the offerings. On the other hand, those of us that appreciate ungroomed conditions were delighted.
There has been an awakening…
…have you felt it?
The man made snow…
…and the powder.
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.