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 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.
Walking towards the crowded finish line area, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride. Which is a weird thing to feel when you have no skin in the game. Killington is not my home mountain; this was not my race. But it felt like my home and the crowd felt like my family. Even before I saw the crowd and the first racer, I knew this was a momentous day for every northeast skier.
The World Cup seemed destined to never return to the northeast. Bigger western resorts with more consistent snow conditions have hosted the World Cup for as long as I have been a serious skier. After a twenty-five year absence from the region, it was not an event I ever expected to see in my lifetime. Let alone in November.
But Killington brought it back to the northeast. And what a show Killington put on. Aside from some really long waits for bus rides to the lower parking lots, the event ran as flawless as possible. Major props to Killington and everyone involved for bringing the World Cup back to the northeast. We can only hope that Killington has incredible financial returns to pay off their risky investment and pushes to repeat as host.
Gazing out over the crowd, I noticed so many kids sporting race team jackets. Who knows how many future World Cup champions this race just inspired. We’ll find out a dozen or more years from now, and hopefully we’ll be cheering on another local hero to a win yet again sooner rather than later. Be it Shiffrin again or the next great racer this event may have inspired.