En route to Sunday River for top to bottom turns on Locke, I received a message (thanks, Tim!) alerting me that Wildcat was opening on Sunday free of charge. I had checked their web page the night before but the notice wasn’t posted until nearly midnight. Top to bottom on Wildcat was definitely a better (and considerably closer) option than Sunday River. So in Gorham, I turned down Route 16 and made a donation at the Kitty for a free lift ticket.
Our Northern New Hampshire ski safari continued today at Wildcat Mountain. Before booting up, we made a stop at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and partook in a scrumptious breakfast buffet. All the classics were skied including top to bottom runs down Wildcat, Lynx, and a nonstop Polecat. Conditions were a respectable packed powder with the rare pocket of left over powder.
The highlight of my day was finally skiing Wildcat’s sidecountry which had somehow eluded me for years. The trees reminded me of Cannon’s tight and steep longer lines, I was in my element. Though after four previous days of skiing, my legs did not allow me to do the shot justice. Despite my lack luster turns, I found the descent exhilarating. I definitely need to make some time for more exploration.
Wildcat is an interesting mountain to juxtapose against my home mountain, Cannon. Both mountains are rich in history and date back to the original New England CCC race trails. While both mountains have expanded the original trail widths and added new trails, Wildcat’s trails retain far more curves than all but a few of Cannon’s trails. I enjoyed cruising around those classic bends again.
After skiing on closing weekend at Sugarbush the day before and missing out on the foot of fresh that Wildcat received, I headed over to Pinkham notch to partake in closing weekend at Wildcat. The storm was not supposed to move so quickly and I had expected Sunday to be the better day at Wildcat. Much to my chagrin, no new snow fell over night and all the powder from the day before had been completely tracked out.
Upper Wildcat yielded pleasant natural packed snow with occasional bumps. Regardless of missing the powder, it was nice to ski on true packed powder instead of frozen, wet, or corn snow. I ducked into some trees which were fun and had very nice packed snow. No left over powder to be seen. Mid-mountain started to see the effects of warmer temperatures and frozen manked snow on Middle Catapult. By lower mountain, the frozen mank was complete and groomers were better than natural snow. Visibility was non-existent and the groomed snow on Bobcat was teeth rattling.
A reported three to four feet of white gold was dumped on Wildcat’s slopes during the last full week of October. With countless skiers and riders hiking to the summit for epic October powder descents, Wildcat decided on Wednesday, in the midst of a power outage, to give the weekend a shot. A dedicated and hard working management team began working the telephones from their homes to assemble a crew for bare bones weekend operations four weeks in advanced of the scheduled opening day. Wildcat pulled it out and was the first ski area in the east and the third in the nation to open for skiing and riding on Friday October 28, 2005.
Previously scheduled meetings at work had me tied to my desk while hundreds of East Coast skiers made first lift serviced tracks at Wildcat on Friday. Reports of epic bottomless powder at higher elevations began circulating the net Friday evening. I knew I would get mine on Saturday and I anxiously got my gear ready only to experience any skier’s worst nightmare that morning. After packing the car, I flicked the switch and the engine would not turn. Spending the better part of Saturday morning obtaining and installing a new battery, I knew I missed out on two of the best days of the season, in October no less!
Nothing could keep me from the slopes of Wildcat the following day and I anxiously sped away from home early Sunday morning. Too anxiously perhaps as my dedication to the first chair had me approaching the lift an hour early. Adjusting clocks for Daylight Savings Time is usually an activity reserved for the off season; though an essential activity for timely arrival at ski areas during early October openings. I was not alone in my excitement and forgetfulness as over 50 additional skiers soon formed a lift line awaiting the rope to drop at the Tomcat Triple. Ski patrol mercifully gave the nod 15 minutes early at a quarter of nine and loading commenced.
After earning turns across the Notch on the John Sherburne Ski Trail via skinning up the Tuckerman Ravine Trial, I ventured across Route 16 to Wildcat Ski Area to capitalize on the $20.00 Sunday Afternoon Cruise ticket. Despite knowing the snow would be disappointing compared to the excellent natural snow conditions of the Sherburne, I believed it would be worth the money for several additional two thousand vertical foot runs from the summit. Boy, was I wrong!
The sound of the day that afternoon at Wildcat was “Scraaaaaaaaape!” Despite the 2-3″ of fresh snow that fell the evening before (the Snow Report on Wildcat’s web page claimed an unbelievably over hyped lie of 4-7″), nearly all of Wildcat’s trails were unmercifully scraped down by my first descent around 1 P.M. Even the sides of the trails had little to nothing to offer where normally loose snow and powder piles are to be found. If my legs had not been so tired from skinning for two hours earlier that morning, I may have found it more bearable. But scraped hard pack was hardly what I was looking to end my day on.