Long have I anxiously awaited my first opportunity to ski Mittersill. I haveve always heeded the Backcountry warning of safety: never ski alone. And I almost always ski solo. So I waited. However; on this trip to Cannon, I knew before I even pulled into the parking lot that this was to be the day. During my first trip up the Cannonball Quad, I noted several people making the hike up Mittersill. I knew I could find someone to partner up with and stay safe. It was time to pop my proverbially Mittersill Cherry... I was to be a Mittersill Virgin no more!
From the summit of Cannon, I tracked down the quickly deteriorating but still excellent bump lines of Taft Slalom. Gathering up all the momentum I could, I flew as far up the col between Cannon and Mittersill as possible before slowing to a stop. I clicked out of my skis, slung my them over my shoulder, and began my maiden voyage up the snowy stairway to skiing heaven and snowy bliss.
It can never get any better than it was. As I clicked in, wild anticipation flooded my body as I gazed down the narrow opening in the trees before me. I had no idea what this trail would be like. I knew I wouldd reach the old double chairlift unloading station eventually, and after that I would need to stay right. But I silently chuckled knowing that this was to be the only trail I have ever, and maybe will ever ski, during which I had absolutely no clue where I was going or what to expect. Wild anticipation.
This is a unique experience as a skier. I hope I experience that feeling again someday; but Mittersill is unique in many regards. This first time unknown factor is unique because most Backcountry Trails you hike or skin up what you will ski down. Or at the least, you will have ascended the same face you plan to descend. Mittersill is back country in which you have partial lift service and only a short hike, both on the opposite mountain face of the trail you are about to ski. A first time skier simply has no clue... not even a rough idea about the terrain.
I stopped a few times during the ascent to snap off a few pictures and take in the amazing scene unfolding around me. I had never seen the Franconia and Kinsman Ridges from this perspective before. The Cannonballs loomed large giving me full understanding of why people regard that long up-and-down trudge with great respect. I had never hiked during the winter, with skis or without, so this was new... this was excellent. The short ten minute climb was much shorter than it looked from the summit of Cannon, although I was a tad winded. On the Summit of Mittersill, I took a breather as some other skiers kicked off down the narrow trail, while still others ventured up behind me.
I poled once. Twice. WOW. The snow was amazing. Soft and Natural. My skis moved of their own accord as if they had been set free from slavery. Back and forth they turned over the wonderful snow. I was no longer controlling my body or my skis. The terrain commanded them, and I was along for the ride of a lifetime. Steeper the trail became, the bumps slightly bigger but just as sweet. Then I spotted a bend in the trail. I turned to the right, following blindly; knowing not what lay around the bend. More bumps, more soft, delicious, sweet powder. I began to take back control of my skis, no longer simply letting them run. I made frickin love to that snow. Up and over the mounds of powder, in and out of the lines of bumps. Turning here, jumping there, blissful joy everywhere. I laughed... I smiled... I offered praise to the snow gods and sang them a song of short choruses. "WHOO!!!" "YEA!!!" and "HOLY CRAP THIS IS FRICKIN AWESOME!!!" I belted out my verbal praise and joy in perfect harmony.
Far too soon, I saw before me an opening that was host to the remains of an old Double Chairlift. I stopped and caught my breath, marveling at the silent beauty and serenity of the moment. If skiers were to place temples at sacred ski locations throughout New England, a small Buddha should forever sit upon that small clearing. I decided then that a monthly pilgrimage to that Mecca of this skiers soul would be offered during the snowy months. An invisible shrine enclosed my spirit and an overwhelmingly content feeling enveloped me. In the Taoist sense, Mittersill and I became one.
I was soon joined by my fellow pilgrims. They did not seem to view the clearing in the same reverent light that I did. They simply laughed, smiled, caught their breath, and continued on towards Barrons Run. I gladly followed.
After skiing through a short narrow trail with soft and delicate fluff, the awesome Barrons Run opened up before me. Sticks and small trees poked through the amazing, rolling trail. Soft and fluffy bumps dotted the run. My fellow Pilgrims looked for a line. I began to follow suit, but quickly threw caution to the wind and let gravity do its work. "AW YEA!" I skied straight through some bumps, over others, and around most. Turns flowed around some twigs and straight over other patches of flora. Everything was skiable with an excellent base from edge to edge of the trail. I stayed to skiers left and laughed my way through the pow. I turned around to see the other skiers playfully picking their ways through the goods.
I have never skied anything quite like Barrons Run. Inbounds thin cover trails will occasionally feature small trees and brush sticking up through the snow, waiting to be covered. On those runs, skiers speak of "thin cover" with disgust. But on Barrons Run, those sticks, trees, and other such obstacles seemed to belong there. I did not wish to see a trail that was nothing but white. I delighted in picking my through, around, and over the vegetation. It was completely natural, just the way it was suppose to be.
Halfway down Barrons Run, I found a line. The most perfect line in the world. Magic. It was a feeling that could never be replicated or duplicated. The stars, sun, and moon all aligned to give unto me the best possible snow, line, and vision possible. I laid to waste the best snow I have ever had the privilege and honor to ski upon. I began an awesome bump pattern with tight, nimble, and quick turns through snow that whisked and carried me along a path of snowy bliss. "HOLY CRAP" I exclaimed, as I skied like I have never skied before. My soul and spirit soared; elevated beyond physical comparison. My smile will never again be broader or brighter. And as I completed the line, I turned to gaze upon the magic that was just bestowed upon my undeserving existence.
I could do nothing but laugh with delight! It simply can not get any better than that. Speechless, I stood silent and nodded my respects to the best run I have ever had in my life.
I was nearing the end of Barrons Run, and the turn off back toward the Cannon Base area was fast approaching. A few more turns through blissful powder and it would be all over. I targeted a step pitch on skiers right and began my final descent. A few more glory turns and a howl to the spirit of inspired skiers. With a single turn to go before the pitch ends in a flat run out, I tripped up. Caught up in the moment, I lost my concentration. I thought I was about to go down. But instead I went airborne off a bump, and regained my balance mid-air. I came down softly on two skis in a patch full of fluff and got a face full of pow. My first ever Faceshot!!! "Wow," I humbly mumbled to myself as I cleared the snow off my surprised face. I had not even realized what had just happened until the guy waiting for his bud who witnessed the event exclaimed "Nice Faceshot!" I dusted myself off and laughed in complete and total merriment. Just before exiting Barrons Run through the short and narrow trail that dumps out at the Cannon base area, I looked back up the trail and in a final salute, gave my two pole click.
Perhaps it was the perfect snow, my elated mood, the trail itself, or some other weird combination of things. But for whatever reason, I skied far and beyond my normal abilities. I saw lines without seeing them, I made turns far quicker than normal, I retained perfect balance and posture regardless of the varying terrain and condition. The Skier Spirit simply allowed me passage through the greatest terrain around with perfect form. I continually and effortlessly cut turns I had no business making, and did so with amazing style and grace. I performed a marvelous, fluid dance on a soft dance floor of white. I wrote a poem through the snow. My flowing verse was a perfect rendition of skiing elation. Stanzas were penned perfectly through the snow with no flaws or need for correction. It was a volume of work far beyond any simile, hyperbole, or metaphor.
Simply put, it was the best and most enjoyable run of my life by far.