Sunday Morning, I awoke just prior to my 5:30 A.M. alarm. For some reason, getting up on a Ski Day is always so much easier than getting up any other day. Only problem with getting up this morning was that I forgot to set my clock forward an hour! Yep, that damn Spring Ahead thing caught me off guard and as a result I was an hour late getting the wheels rolling. No biggie… for my last day of the 2001-2002 season, I was taking it easy and savoring every moment.
I had the wheels rolling around 7 A.M. (which would have been 6 A.M. if I had left on time!) and made the base lodge promptly at 9 A.M., half an hour after the first lift turned. Approaching the Front Face of Cannon, I was greeted by what would normally be a disturbing site… but instead made me giddy with anticipation! The Front Face was beyond thin cover. From the Franconia Notch Parkway, twenty foot long patches of dirt were visible. For some odd reason, I was really looking forward to skiing these rapidly deteriorating trails.
Originally, I had planned to pay my final respects to the 2001-2002 Ski Season at Cannon Mountain in the Franconia Notch. I was leaving open the possibility of visiting Burke in mid-April considering they recently received some of the best snow of the year. However, Friday night I learned that Burke would close that weekend despite having all of their trails open with ample coverage to last well into April.
My dilemma began. Cannon is my favorite mountain in New England and the front face trails beckoned for me to ski them one last time this year. Both ski areas were having Pond Skimming events on Saturday; however, I could only choose one. I went to bed Friday night with thoughts of Cannon in my mind.
Saturday morning, I got a late start on purpose due to rain and poor weather. I packed up and had the wheels rolling from my home in Haverhill, MA at 6:30 PM. The entire drive up I-93 was miserable with rain (rather heavy at times) and low visibility. While driving through Concord, NH, I phoned both mountains for their trial reports. Cannon reported fewer trails open than expected with a quad on hold, while Burke promised sunny skies with all trails open! The decision had been made, but that didn’t make driving by Cannon any easier. A look at the Front Face trails at Cannon confirmed my decision to be correct. The Front Face looked to be in awful condition with thin cover, dirt, rocks, and low base depths showing prominently in many spots on all of the Front Face trails. Amazingly, after passing by Cannon and driving out of the Notch, the skies cleared! The further North I drove, the more sun and fewer clouds I saw!
Original plans called for Skiing Wildcat on Thursday instead of Friday (Ladies Day, Yeah Baby!); one day after a significant snow fall blanketed northern locations of New Hampshire. However; due to high winds and the threat of lift holds, I opted to wait one day and venture up to The Cat on Friday instead. This was a wise decision as the Quad was on a Wind Hold on Thursday, and conditions were very poor. What I should have done, was skied Cannon or Bretton Woods Thursday where reports have been confirmed of up to a foot of powder in places on Thursday.
For the trip up, I awoke at or around 5AM and had the wheels turning at 5:30AM just before the first hint of sun light. Traveling up I-95 into NH, I could hardly contain my devilish grin as I passed people commuting to work while I was commuting to a day of skiing! The drive was uneventful and I arrived at Wildcat just after 8:00 A.M. Lifts opened at 9:00 A.M., so I relaxed and enjoyed a snack while awaiting vertical delight.
I was aboard the third chair of the Wildcat Express Quad. For the morning, a single cloud incessantly hovered over Mount Washington, as if Big George had some evil thoughts and was in a crappy mood. But the Mount Washington Valley would not allow it to take command as else where was sunny and blue skies. The first Quad up was a cold one though and windy too boot.
Jay Peak is one of those New England mountains that has a dedicated and rabid following. They preach to any who will listen about how much snow and powder Jay receives and how great the glades are. If you are looking for big powder in the East and lots of Glades, then Jay Peak is definitely worth the trip! If glades and powder are not your thing, then Jay Peak doesn’t offer enough to justify the drive.
For this trip, I did not yet ski well in powder or glades. Skiers that love powder and glades must have been unhappy on the Monday I journeyed to distant Jay Peak. Jay Peak was groomed everywhere it seemed. Only a couple of choice bump trails were left alone by the groomers, much to my disappointment.
In the morning, I skied lookers right side of the mountain via the Tram and High Speed Quad. The snow was extremely fast, and the groomed snow had occasional thin cover/scrapped sections. Most trails on the right side drop into an extremely flat run out. A great place to practice a tuck for five minutes. Marked on the trail map as a blue square (perhaps because of the occasional patch of trees in the middle of the trail), this run out wore me out rather quickly. The entire bottom half of the mountain is very flat, which unfortunately makes for long flat run outs.
On my way to Jay Peak, I stopped by a ski area on I-89 that was no longer in operation. Whaleback stopped operations after it’s 2000-2001 ski season; however, the area was sold and reopened for the 2005-2006 Ski Season. The ski area is currently marketing itself towards the freestyle and park crowd.
I had never skied Whaleback; but looking at the mountain, I sure wish I had had the opportunity! Whaleback does have rather limited vertical, but they make excellent use of what little they do have! From the base area, a number of interesting runs are visible; including a couple of decently pitched and fairly narrow trails (including a sweet looking glade trail). The trails seem to have a decent pitch and are cut into natural fall lines. Although probably not the most challenging terrain, given the right conditions I am sure Whaleback offers tons of fun.
As far as their facilities, they are all in tact and surviving a winter of inactivity just fine. The blue double chairlift still looked to be in fine condition and none of the trails have grown in. In a matter of fact, several of the trails featured ski and snowmobile tracks! Had I some company, I would have gladly earned some turns myself!