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.
The Freezer made its season debut today which also means today was the first day of lift service for the upper mountain on the tramside. Quite a crowd gathered at the Freezer for its opening. Eight inches of dense snow fell on top of a semi-crusty base. The snow from the previous storms had consolidated due to some moderating temperatures followed by another deep freeze. The result was a very nice powder day but not quite the epic opening that many skiers had expected.
Things got tracked out extremely fast since all the powder hounds were lapping the Freezer. I took that bait as well hitting JFK for a frenzied opening run followed by three runs through off map woods. But even the off map woods were being hammered. So I decided to go explore leftovers on Stateside via the Jet.
This was a smart move as the Jet had no line and no powder hounds. The Jet was open the day before when the snow started falling, so it should not have had the full 48 hour bounty of untracked snow. But sure enough, I made use of my knowledge of the mountain to find some startlingly good pockets of untouched snow. When everyone else zigs, you zag.
Despite Jay having ample snow to open 100% of its terrain, only the Jet spun today due to a variety of lift related issues. The tram had a cable issue and was undergoing repairs which took the Bonnie out of commission due to the overhanging cable. Adding insult to injury, the Freezer was awaiting an inspection before making its debut. Many people complained but they were looking a gift horse in the mouth. Today was not a day to complain that the lifts were down but rather to rejoice that only the Jet was spinning.
Early season powder days at Jay when only the Jet Triple is running are often some of my best days at Jay. Today was no exception. Take the lift, hike, boot deep, and repeat.
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.