Posted: Jan 13, 2010 - 4:44 AM GMT
Edited: Jan 13, 2010 - 4:52 AM GMT
Finally managed to get out to Cannon this past Sunday for my first turns of the year. Yes, I'm lame (and, more to the point, busy).
Made record time, just over 2 hours from Somerville. The thermometer at the top of the tram read -8 F, a fine day to test out my new parka. Cannon had done reasonably well in the recent storms; everything was open except Tramline and Kinsman Glade (neither of which has been open any time I've been to Cannon since they were cut.) Warmed up on Cannon to Peabody base, and then decided it was time to check out Mittersill.
I've been skiing at Cannon since I was 7, but I think the number of times I've made the hike up the ridge can be counted on my fingers (and then there's the couple of times I actually skied at Mittersill when it was operating). Now that the area is officially part of Cannon and they're running a shuttle from the base on weekends, it was clearly time to do some exploration.
On the hike up, I noticed a well-trodden path heading off to the right; I know there's some unofficial woods shots in there, but I wasn't about to go exploring them alone. Then at the top, it looked like there was a trail heading left, but that turned out to be a dead end with a lot of yellow snow.
Taft Race Course seemed wider than I remembered, and bumpier (of course, it was seeing a lot more traffic). Went left at the top of the chair... wow, this was a lot steeper than I remembered from skiing Mittersill, or maybe that's because the trail was also really narrow and (obviously) ungroomed. Flailed my way down with some modicum of grace, and ended up on a crosscut that took me to what I think was the top of the longer of the old T-bars (on the Cannon trail map, right by the 'P' in "Planned double chairlift 2010-2011). Took a trail just to skier's right of the old lift line, and ended up in the really wide open slope above the base, which was not quite tracked out. Waited a minute at the shuttle pick-up, and a Cannon worker in a pickup truck came by and offered me a ride, which I took (wonder if the shuttle guy was late coming in, or something).
After a break for a cup of coffee in the old Peabody lodge (what they're now calling Notchview, apparently), it was back up the quad for more adventures. Skylight was nice (that trail was open so rarely when I was a kid that I don't quite have it burned into my neurons the way I do, say, Upper Cannon), and the upper pitch of Lower Hardscrabble was closed (what are they calling that now? Short Fuse? oh, please...), but the rest of it was in decent shape, if a little thin. In general, groomed trails had lovely carveable hardpack, and ungroomed ones had tracked-out powder with early-stage moguls and some grass poking through. Next run, it was time for Middle Hardscrabble; like Bubblecuffer at Sugarloaf, this is the trail I make sure to ski at least once whenever it's open, just to establish that I'm not completely old and decrepit. (It's always amused me that Middle and Lower Hardscrabble parallel each other.) MH was more bumped-up and thinner of cover; my bases weren't a bit happy about this run, but that's what P-tex is for.
I was just reading the thread about trails that have been ruined by later "improvements"; I would like to state for the record that the new connection from the bottom of Middle Hardsrabble to the top of Redball, eliminating the long uphill runout that was the signature feature of the trail, does not belong on this list. I've been wishing they'd do that for the better part of three decades.
A few more runs and it was time for lunch in the new Cannonball Pub, a fine and worthy addition to the Peabody base lodge. I was annoyed when they turned on the sound on the TVs, but once I realized it was a Patriots playoff game, I decided I couldn't blame them. (And I had my revenge in the form of the Patriots getting their asses kicked.)
It didn't warm up much over the course of the day, and it was a mite breezy at the top too. The tram was riding a little roughly between Tower 3 and the summit terminal due to rime ice on the track ropes. Between the wind and the thin cloud cover, I was glad I'd bundled up well; it was chilly even by Cannon standards.
Another run or two and I decided to hit Mittersill again. Missed the entrance to Taft Slalom coming off the tram, so I took the little cut from Upper Ravine, which, with the trees completely encased in a foot of rime, was like skiing through a snow cave. This time I went down a little to skier's right of the chair, and found my way into what might have been some unofficial cuts, that put me at the top of the old T-bar again. Ended up at an intersection on the lower mountain, where I met a couple guys who asked me if there was any untracked powder anywhere. I hadn't found any, but after heading down a crosscut to the right and back under the chair, I found a trail with only a few tracks. Because I'm a nice guy, I waited a minute so I could direct them in, but they had evidently headed in a different direction, so I had the eighteen inches of sweet fluff all to myself. Only thing that would have made it nicer would be if I actually knew how to ski in it, lifelong New England skier that I am.
One thing I always forget about backcountry skiing, even pseudo-backcountry like Mittersill, is that it takes you a lot longer to get down the mountain. And, Mittersill seems to be well sheltered from the wind, and combined with the workout I was getting, both times I did it I was pretty well overheated by the time I reached the bottom.
Did a couple more runs and called it a day around 3:30. On the way home, somewhere south of Plymouth, I ran into a traffic jam that turned out to have been caused by an accident. As we're crawling along at 5-10 mph, two guys jump out of a car in the other lane and start running along the left shoulder, throwing a football back and forth. Then a guy stood up out of the sunroof of the SUV ahead of me, and they exchanged passes with him.
Be interesting to see what Mittersill looks like once the new double goes in, theoretically for next year. They apparently are planning to keep it a natural-skiing experience, so I expect it'll be similar to how it is now, just with more skier traffic. The original plan was to put in a detachable quad going up to just below the top of Taft Race Course and widen a bunch of trails, but that got kiboshed by the terms of the land swap, which prohibited cutting outside the 1989 lift and trail footprint in order to protect endangered species habitat. This is, I suspect most people here will agree, a good thing.
Cannon had done reasonably well in the recent storms; everything was open except Tramline and Kinsman Glade (neither of which has been open any time I've been to Cannon since they were cut.) Warmed up on Cannon to Peabody base, and then decided it was time to check out Mittersill.
Kinsman was open two weekends ago when they got two feet of new snow. Definitely not open too often. I have skied Tramline three or four times... even when it is open, that trail is pretty darn rocky. Wish they would smooth out the worst of the rocks just a little bit so that it could be opened a little more frequently.
It will be interesting to see how the Mittersill experience changes. Having it on the map and making a big to do about it has certainly increased the amount of people hiking over. Perhaps that means fresh tracks on Cannon proper for longer in the morning.
I was relived that their "trail cutting" was very limited this past summer. However, it was mostly limited to places that needed it the least such as the race course (already well brushed) and traverses (why widen a traverse?). Many of the trails got some pruning but not much. Which I am just fine with. They hacked out the liftline where it had grown in (to disastrous results as they didn't clear out the line to make it skiable in less than 2-3 feet of base snow minimum). I just keep my fingers crossed that they don't "screw it up".
Nice TR, glad you had a good time! I like what you wrote about skiing in what felt like a snow cave. We were there the same day, I felt this especially on the Going Green Glade, pretty unique setting when you stopped and just looked at your surroundings, that and being dead quiet. Kicking myself that I did not bring my camera!
Screw My Car, My Body Climbed Mount Washington!