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Cannon Mountain, 2012-2013 season


Mar 25, 2013
How to ski Cannon Mountain, day one

On a Thursday night in February I finalize my schedule. It’s been very busy the past few weeks so I’m glad that I only have three work appointments for Friday, all of them up north in the mountains. Tomorrow I will both work and ski.

My first two appointments are scheduled before 8 am. After the second appointment I drive south on Interstate 93 towards Franconia Notch. I remember the first time I came to New Hampshire in 1978 so may years ago; it was from the north and on this same interstate. I can see all of Cannon Mountain from the interstate; the state owned and operated ski area in Franconia Notch State Park which is surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest. The old, defunct ski area of Mittersill, now re-opened as part of Cannon Mountain, can be seen and it’s now a back country, lift served ski area. As I approach, the ski slopes loom large over Franconia Notch. The main ski trails at Cannon and the chutes and glades at old Mittersill look ready to shred. The view of Kinsman Range to the west, Franconia Range to the east and the winding interstate through Franconia Notch between the two mountain ranges is inspiring. Yesterday, a storm has left the entire notch and mountains covered in snow. The sun is partially out, it’s not very cold and there is little wind. The Mittersill lift is scheduled to make its season debut today. This is going to be very good.

I arrive at Cannon Mountain in time for first chair on the high speed Peabody Express. It leaves the main Peabody Slopes base area and goes two thirds of the way up the mountain. There’s about 10 inches of fresh snow from yesterday and about 30 inches in the past two weeks. I do two easy runs off the high speed quad to begin the day; conditions on the two trails are groomed, perfect corduroy. I then ski over to the other side of the mountain; the Front Five, also called Tram Side, conditions are fantastic. I ski soft bumps on By Pass and Paulie’s Extension over to the very wide and steep Avalanche which is groomed to perfection down the middle. I spend about an hour on this side of the mountain. Zoomer and Zoomer Lift Line are impeccable, soft bumps with powder on top. I ski the cat walk over to Echo Woods Glades. In the glades, my skis hardly touch any rocks, branches or other obstacles. I ski through the wide open glade, there’s plenty of powder between the spacious trees. All of the Front Five runs are covered with a light, fluffy powder and couldn’t be much better.

I skip the usual mid morning coffee break, there’s too much powder to ski, and I go to the Cannonball Express. This lift goes to the summit. I ski straight for Taft Slalom, one of the oldest ski trails in the country. I take a hard right onto Upper Ravine and back to the lift; conditions on the upper mountain are the best I’ve seen in a long time.
Cannonball trail itself is next, the wide, steep slope from the summit that goes straight down the fall line. I ski it to the right close to the lift line. There’s no ice, only groomed hard packed powder and my skis are easily carving it up. I go back up to the summit. It’s time for a non stop run from the summit to the base. From the top I begin on Taft Slalom, onto Upper Ravine, the quick left onto Short Fuse, then onto Lower Hardscrabble and finally Red Ball to the base. The top to bottom run is a little bit of everything; powder, tracked up powder, an icy section on Short Fuse, some soft bumps and some grooming. The snow at the top of Red Ball, an ungroomed, all natural snow trail, is a dream and at the bottom there’s a water bar to jump over. The top to bottom run is a good combination of every thing that skiing in the east has to offer.

From the main base area I take the Peabody Express Quad and then the Cannonball Quad back to the summit. I ski down to the bottom of Taft Slalom. From here there’s a 10 minute hike over to the very top of Mittersill. This is the classic hike to the back country ski area adjacent to Cannon Mountain. Today is the first day of the season that Mittersill is officially opened, even though skiers have been hiking over to it since December. The Mittersill double chair is operating for the first time this season. The top of the chair is a few hundred yards below the summit of Mittersill, so to access the very top skiers hike over from the bottom of Taft Slalom. Skiers have been doing this hike over from Cannon to Mitersill since the 1930’s. You can reach the bottom of Mittersill on skis from the top of the Tuckerbrook area down on the lower slopes of Cannon. However, every skier should do the hike over from Cannon to the very top of Mittersill at least once, especially if it’s the first time ever going over to the old ski area.

At Mittersill, there is no snow making, no grooming and the trails have no names, except for one. It closed as its own ski area in the 70’s, so the trees have closed in on the old trails, lift lines and power lines making narrow chutes and glades. There’s a village at the base, with a hotel and chalets inspired by the Austrian Tyrolean village of Mittersill. The entire area is unlike any other ski area in the region.

After the 10 minute hike over to Mittersill, I ski the narrow trail from the very top to where the double chair lift ends. From there I ski the only named trail, Baron’s, top to bottom. Since the 1930’s skiers have been enjoying this ski route; Taft Slalom, the hike over to the top of Mittersill and skiing down Baron’s to where the small village now stands. It’s part of New England skiing history.

I spend two hours skiing the old lines, chutes and glades. The snow to the skier’s left of the lift is especially good. The lines are tight, the snow is soft and light, this is a true back country skiing experience that is lift serviced. As the bottom of Mittersill is approached, the trails open up, become wider and wider and easier to ski. There’s plenty of powder, over a foot in places, both tracked up and untracked. It’s all natural snow, conditions couldn’t be much better.

I take a total of four runs at the old ski area, including one under the lift line. It does take a toll on my legs; skiing back country terrain is hard. I ski back over to Cannon on a connecting trail near the bottom of Mittersill that goes over to the Tuckerbrook Area, a beginner, family area. I take a quick run down the short, easy slope which had been groomed to perfection, the snow is silky smooth. The short lift ride to the top of Tuckerbrook gives quick access back to the Peabody Base Lodge.

After a quick lunch break at the base lodge, skiing is too good to linger, I head back out. I take a couple more easy runs off of the Peabody Express and then head back to the summit. Except for Cannonball, which shoots steep and straight down the fall line, the trails from the summit are old style. They twist and turn, winding their way down the mountain. They were cut like this long ago before there was snowmaking as a way to preserve the snow cover. After runs down Upper Cannon and Skylight, also from the summit, it’s time for another top to bottom run. This run will be on the old World Cup downhill course to the Front Five base where the Cannon Mountain tram station is located.

In 1967, the inaugural year of World Cup ski racing, the first stop in North America was Cannon Mountain. As he did at the 1964 Grenoble Olympics, Frenchman Jean Claude Killy won all three races held at Cannon. The downhill from the summit began on Tramway, onto Bypass to Paulie’s Extension and then the big left footer onto Avalanche. This is the old World Cup downhill course. I won’t reach any downhill speeds, today is a powder day and I search for the deepest snow. Once I reach Paulie’s Extension and Avalanche, to the skier’s right I find again that soft and powdery snow on small but wide open and spacious moguls all the way to the bottom. At the bottom of Avalanche I ski to the left to the Zoomer lift which services the Front Five.

I take some runs off the Zoomer lift and then ski back over to the main slopes. I do some more laps on the high speed quad and another top to bottom on Taft Slalom-Short Fuse Hardscrabble-Red Ball. I reluctantly leave by 3 pm; I still have that third work appointment to get to in Ashland.

I arrive home; Valerie has prepared a potato soup with chunks of ham and celery in it. I have beer and the soup in front of the fire place. It was a great day of skiing, tomorrow should be even better.

How to Ski Cannon Mountain, day two

I leave early the next morning, this time approaching the mountain from the south. As I near my destination, I can see Franconia Notch on the horizon to the north with even better views of the Kinsman and Franconia Ranges than yesterday. The interstate stretches out in front of me, twisting its way higher and higher up to Franconia Notch. The interstate turns to two lanes once it approaches the notch, which required a special act of Congress. The notch is too narrow and scenic for a four lane interstate. Cannon Cliff and the Old Man of the Mountain site are passed in the notch. On the left, where the old stone face once stood, the massive cliff rises high above the interstate and the frozen expanse of Profile Lake. After the cliff and the lake are passed, the slopes of the Front Five, Echo Lake, the tram and its station come into view. I arrive at the Cannon Mountain Tramway for the 8:15 first tram car to the summit. Today is Saturday, I don’t have to work and I will ski from first chair to last chair, or in this case, first tram to last chair; open to close. There’s an inch or two of fresh snow on the mountain since yesterday. Conditions look even better today.

Accessing the mountain from the Tramway is a totally different experience compared to the main base area at the Peabody Slopes. The tram site has been in operation for 75 years. It’s rarely crowded and almost all of the skiers getting ready are long time locals, dedicated Cannon skiers getting ready for the 8:15 first tram. There’s no shortage of laughter and some wise cracks amongst the locals waiting to load the tram. The 70 passenger tram takes about 7 minutes to reach the summit. Today is overcast, visibility isn’t very good. The summit is shrouded in clouds and fog and it’s snowing. The snow is like a fine mist, almost invisible and it’s pasty which is good. It’s really sticking to everything and putting a finishing touch in the glades, covering up any remaining rocks or branches with a final layer of snow.

From the summit I ski a top to bottom run down the old downhill course. The soft bumps on the right side of Paulie’s Extension and Avalanche are even better than yesterday. From Tram Side I take the Zoomer chair and do a couple runs on the Front Five before heading over to the Peabody Base Area and the high speed quad. I ski a couple easy runs off the quad and then ski over to Mittersill. I don’t do the hike over today; instead I ski over to Mittersill from the top of the Tuckerbrook family area.

I take two runs at the old ski area, both to the skier’s left of the lift. I hardly see a single person the entire time I’m there. It’s quiet, virtually silent with no wind; the misty snow continues to fall. On the first run I ski towards the lift. Near the bottom, next to the lift line, there’s a 6 foot wide chute straight down the fall line. It looks like it may have been a power line. It’s about 100 yards long and there’s a nice layer of the sticky snow on top of it. I make tight turns down this chute all the way back to the lift. The second run is further to the skier’s left, there are hardly any other ski tracks as I near the bottom. I keep going to the left. I end up on the access road for Mitersill, below and away from the lift. It takes a good five minutes to walk back up to the lift. My legs are feeling it. There’s a shuttle bus waiting at the bottom of the lift. I take the shuttle, a two minute ride back to the lift at Tuckerbrook and ski back over to the main slopes. I take the Peabody Express and then ski over to the Tram Station.

I take a lunch break at the old station. Valerie usually prepares a nice lunch for me to enjoy. There’s a loft next to the entrance to the cafeteria and gift shop. The loft has a nice view of the tram line. It’s usually a quiet spot and has a few tables, but today all the tables are in use. I take a seat at another table next to the cafeteria entrance. I notice the cafeteria and its high vaulted ceiling, the pine wood tongue and groove ceiling panels, the pine wood wall panels and the wood ceiling beams. I admire the carpentry of the 75 year old station. My only complaint is that the wood burning fireplace that was built with field stones from the surrounding area is no longer in use. In its place is a small wood stove, with no fire burning in it. The windows at the south end of the cafeteria go from floor to ceiling. I notice for the first time a deck outside these windows. I take a chair out to the deck and have my lunch, the snow is falling quietly all around. After lunch I take the tram to the summit and do a top to bottom, another Taft Slalom-Upper Ravine-Short Fuse-Lower Hardscrabble-Red Ball. The water bar at the bottom of Red Ball that I had to jump over yesterday is completely filled in with snow.

It’s getting late in the day and I do some easy runs off the Eagle Cliff Triple. I ski Time Zone, a green run off to the side of the main slopes. At two pm there’s still corduroy on the right side, barely visible under the fresh snow that has been falling. The groomed packed snow is silky smooth, just too perfect to resist. I ski it twice, both times I am the only one on the trail. The snow continues to fall; it is starting to come down soft and fluffy compared to the morning. The big flakes are completely covering up the remaining corduroy on the lonely trail. It’s leaving a layer of fresh, pure white snow. To the right of Time Zone is Snowmaker’s Glade and it is looking too good to pass up. The snow is virtually untouched, virgin powder and an easy glade to ski. The powder is over my boot tops. To the right of the glade is the first slope of the Front Five, Gary’s, a race hill. There are speakers up and down the race hill next to the wooded glade that separates the Front Five from the main Peabody Slopes. Racing is over for the day. I ski over to the edge of the glade and hear music from the speakers, an old favorite, Uncle John’s Band. It’s still snowing, even harder now, and the snow silently falls into the glade. There is not another person in sight; it’s quiet, calm and peaceful. The trees in the glade are large and healthy of various hardwood species. I gaze across the notch to Eagle Cliff and up the steep side of Mount Lafayette; the massive west wall of the Franconia Range. The mountain rises high into the sky, its 5,000 foot summit shrouded in the snow and clouds. I hear the song lyrics from Uncle John’s Band, “oh, oh, and I want to know, where does the time go”, I think and ponder myself; just where does the time go? I pole back into the glade, my skis silently glide across the snow and I disappear into the woods.

There’s just enough time left to make it to the summit for one last top to bottom run before the lifts close. I ski the old World Cup downhill again. I take my time, stopping often to look around at the mountains above me, the notch and the lake below me and all the snow that’s been piling up. There’s hardly anyone left on the mountain and I have skied first tram to last chair, open to close.

Upon my return home, Valerie has prepared her famous thin crust pizza. I build a fire; have a Jack Daniels for après-ski, beer and pizza for dinner.

How to Ski Cannon Mountain, day three

The next day is Sunday and I ski all over the mountain, taking it a little easier than the past two days. Conditions just keep getting better and better as snow continues to fall. I search for powder on the edges of the trails. I ski into some glades, explore some places that I’ve never skied. At mid day a fog envelops the mountain and people are complaining about visibility. I stay close to the trees or in the trees and have no problem. The snow is too good to complain about visibility. I do several top to bottom runs; I can’t get enough of Taft Slalom-Upper Ravine-Short Fuse-Lower Hardscrabble-Red Bull. It could be called the run of the weekend. I ski it three times in a row, it keeps getting better each time.

I take a break at the Cannonball Pub inside the Peabody Base Lodge. I decide a beer is very appropriate. There are two bartenders who also work at a brewery in North Woodstock south of Franconia Notch. They have been pouring me beers for two decades. I enjoy a Cannonball Ale, brewed locally at the North Woodstock Brewery where they work. The taste is very satisfying, the craft beer was indeed very appropriate. After my break, I go to the summit and ski the old World Cup downhill back to the Tram Station.

After three days of skiing, my old man knees are feeling it, age, wear and tear have taken a toll. I quit early today, a little before 2 pm. I have my lunch on the deck outside the tram station’s cafeteria and rest my tired knees. There aren’t any tables on the deck. I have been bringing a chair out from the cafeteria. I will send an e-mail to the general manager and request that a picnic table be placed on the quiet deck.

Next to the tram station is the New England Ski Museum. One of the original red and white tram cars is now the entrance. I’ve been there before and have spent over a half hour admiring the displays. Today I do a quick walk through of the museum before I drive home. Every skier should visit this museum at least once.

At home, I build a fire. Valerie has prepared filet mignon with a butter-garlic-herb spread, baked potato and salad for Sunday dinner. She has also surprised me with a small take home keg of Heineken beer and a mug with their logo on it. I enjoy steak and Heineken drafts for dinner.

How to Ski Cannon Mountain, day four, five and six

The following Friday it is the first of March. I am able to ski Friday, Saturday and Sunday again. The mountain continued to pick up at least some snow almost everyday while I was away, more than a foot during the week. It remained cold, especially at night. The mountain skis even better, the snow piling up deep and creating perfect mid winter conditions. I ski all over the mountain, both Cannon and Mittersill, I can’t get enough. My skis are carving the mountain up like my knife carved up the filet mignon Valerie had prepared. This is turning out to be a great ski season.

Early Sunday morning the roads are slick, it’s still lightly snowing. There’s an accident on the interstate and it takes longer to get to the tram station. I arrive just in time for first tram to the summit; I was the very last person to load. The ski report from last night reported that Upper Hardscrabble was going to be groomed. They never groom this run, it’s always bumped up. There’s 3 to 4 inches of a fine, light powder at the summit. After exiting the tram, I was the third person to ski down Taft Slalom. The first two stayed to the right, I stayed to the left and had untracked powder all the way. The first two skiers took the sharp right onto Upper Ravine. I continue onto Upper Hardscrabble and was the first to ski the powder on top of the groomed trail. It’s almost effortless to make the turns down this all natural snow trail with 3 to 4 inches of light powder on it. I take the cat walk back over to the Cannonball Express and ski Upper Hardscrabble again, this time making the third set of tracks. I ski all over the mountain, searching out powder on the all natural trails and in the glades, soft snow and moguls on the other slopes. I leave around 1:30; my knees are done for the day.

At home, in front of the fire, I enjoy Heineken drafts in my mug again for après ski. Valerie has prepared veggie sandwiches: grilled egg plant, zucchini, onions, mozzarella cheese and olive oil on grilled baguettes.

How to Ski Cannon Mountain, day seven and eight

The next weekend has arrived, it’s now March ninth. I drive north again to the mountain on Saturday morning. The tram station is busier than I’ve ever seen it. A couple of days ago there was a big snow storm across Southern New England. It left up to two feet of snow in some places which really brings out the masses from the huge population centers south of the state. I was the last person to load the tram again.

It’s a lot different today; the mountain received 5 feet of snow in February and almost two feet of snow so far in March. The sun is out, not a cloud in the sky; no wind and temps into the 40’s are forecasted. The mountain is 100 percent open. The snow is in its first transitional phase of changing from a pure winter condition to one of spring. My goal today is to ski Kinsman Glade and DJ’s Tram Line.

Upon reaching the summit I gaze to the north and to the west. I can see into Canada and Vermont. I see Jay Peak, Mount Mansfield and the ski slopes of Stowe and Sugarbush and the tip of Mad River Glen. I ski Vista Way from the summit and for the first time in weeks I have views to the east of the Franconia Range. The entire ridge is basking in the sunlight. I stop and look across the top ridge of Cannon Mountain; the stunted trees are covered with all the recent snow. Mounts Lafayette, Lincoln, Little Haystack and Liberty comprise the Franconia Range. The knife edge ridge is in full view rising over a thousand feet higher than Cannon and the craggy peaks are covered in a layer of snow and ice. The only regret is that they block the view of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range behind them to the east.

I ski all over the mountain, mostly easier runs to save my legs for later. Ski patrol drops the ropes to Kinsman Glade and DJ’s tram line around 10 am. I ski the glade first. It’s all the way to the skier’s right of the mountain; it begins about 500 vertical feet below the summit. The huge glade drops about 1600 vertical feet to the tram base and is one of the longest glades in the east. It begins in the boreal forest of pines, firs and spruces. The green boughs of the conifers have thick layers of snow on them. The glade is consistently steep and has several options to ski. The further right you go, the harder and steeper it gets, including cliffs and waterfalls. I stay mostly on the main part of the glade. In places the Kinsman Ridge hiking trail crosses the glade, there are blue hiking blazes painted on the trees. I notice four hikers on snowshoes coming up the trail and we carefully yield to one another and have a quick hello. About half way down there’s an opening in the trees where I see far below Echo Lake at the bottom of the mountain. I see just how steep the glade drops into the valley. It looks like I could jump off the mountain and into the lake. Towards the bottom of the glade the boreal forest transitions into a hardwood forest. The glade opens up even wider with more lines to choose from. I ski towards the right into the hardwood forest of the lower mountain. The oak, maple, ash, beech and birch trees are healthy, spaced apart just right for skiing. It’s one of the nicest glades in the east and the snow is perfect, packed in some places, tracked up in other places and my skis are gliding through the snow, almost by themselves.

I take a break at the tram station deck to rest my legs before the assault of DJ’s Tram Line. When I first started to ski Cannon Mountain, DJ’s Tram Line was not a run. It was after the trees were cut down underneath the tram line that it became one. The trees were growing too tall and had to be cut down in order to evacuate the tram in an emergency. The tram line is steep, more than rocky; it has huge boulders all over from top to bottom. It takes a lot of snow in order to open it for skiing. There aren’t very many lines to ski, in some places only one or two precise, definite lines between the huge rocks. The top part is relatively easy until the first steep pitch is reached. From here it’s a straight shot to the bottom. There are three steep pitches with a slight respite between them. I would not want to fall on any of the steep pitches. The snow is good, I do hit some rocks, but the snow is soft from the warm day making it a lot easier to make my turns. In some places I have to do complete jump turns. Jumping up into the air and rotating my skis 180 degrees. In other places I am able to link several turns together and make my way down the steep slope. Towards the bottom the slope begins to flatten out, becoming easier to ski. Everyone riding on the tram watches any skier that is coming down the tram line. No one wants to make a mistake and fall into the rocks, especially with everyone watching from the Tram.

I take another break on the tram station deck. Finish my lunch and decide what to do next. It’s only 1:30, my old aching knees hurt. I decide to go home and save my legs for tomorrow, as I will have a challenge to attempt. Besides, Valerie is preparing chicken pot pie for dinner and I still have some Heineken draft beer left.

I return to the mountain the next day. It was cold last night; the temps in the mountains were in the teens. This left the snow surface cold, crisp and fast. I change to a longer pair of skis, faster and built for speed. Today I will attempt the Cannon Tram challenge.

It’s another perfect day, very cold at first, but it warms up a lot and there’s not a cloud in the sky. My legs have gotten quite a work out over the last three weeks so I will ski differently today. The snow surface is perfect for high speed runs; it will be easier on my old legs and knees not to make so many turns. I ski from the Peabody Base area today and I ski a couple of easy runs off the high speed quad. I look over at the parking lot next to the beginner slopes at the Tuckerbrook area. You can park your car right next to the slope and ski away. People are setting up chairs and tables and grilles for a slope side, tail gate cook out. It’s a perfect day for it. I then go to the summit and do a non stop, high speed, top to bottom run on the old downhill course. Conditions are perfect for going fast, my skis easily carving into the hard packed snow on the old race course.

The Peabody Lodge is packed so when I take a mid morning break I go to the adjacent Notchview Lodge. It is one of the original lodges. Inside the lodge I notice the nice carpentry and that it’s similar to that of the Tram Station. The lodge has an old fireplace too with a chimney constructed of local fieldstones. Sadly, it has been converted to a gas insert. It just isn’t the same without a real fire. I have a coffee and look out the window and can see all the way to the summit, it rises into the cloudless blue sky. The wide slope of Cannonball falls away steeply from the summit. After my coffee, it is time for the challenge.

A long time ago, a Cannon employee told me about the Tram Challenge. I had yet to ever attempt it. It takes several minutes to load the tram. The challenge is to take the tram up, get off, run down the stairs, put on your skis, ski all the way down to the bottom and get on the waiting tram before it’s fully loaded and leaves the station. This means skiing fast, very fast. There are two tram cars, one red and one yellow. They are nicknamed ketchup and mustard. Ketchup is on the right and mustard is on the left. I take ketchup up, making sure I was right next to the exit door. As soon as the doors open I run out, down the stairs, outside to the top of the Tramway Trail. The fastest way to ski back down to the tram station is the old World Cup downhill course. I ski fast, in a tuck, down Tramway and onto Bypass. There are several people on Bypass so I have to slow down. Once I get around them I continue skiing fast onto Paulie’s Extension. There are some more people on Pualie’s so I have to slow down again. I make the big left foot turn onto Avalanche. This is the part of the course; Paulie’s Extension onto Avalanche that is steep and fast with a double fall line. It falls away steeply towards the bottom and slants to the left; it’s the hardest section of the old downhill course. This is where Killy most certainly won the 1967 World Cup downhill and where others lost. It’s a huge turn to the right, almost a 180 degree direction change with the slope falling away to the left before the final long schuss to the bottom. I make the big turn and am heading fast onto Avalanche, but there are people on the slope and I have to slow down a third time. I get to the tram station and I look up at the tram, it is very slowly starting to pull out of the station. I missed loading it by about 10 seconds and have failed the tram challenge. I will have to attempt the challenge on another day. It is more crowded today than usual because of the perfect weather and all the snow that’s fallen. I had to slow down three times for skiers in front of me. The old down hill course is usually not as crowded. I have skied it top to bottom a hundred times over the years, sometimes seeing only one or two people on it, sometimes no one at all. I will have to ski it during the week when the mountain is empty, I will tuck Tramway and Bypass all the way to the top of Paulie’s Extension, make the big turn onto Avalanche and tuck to the bottom, I’m pretty sure that I can successfully complete the Cannon Tram Challenge on another day.

I take my lunch break on the tram station deck again. I soak up the sun rays; it’s bright, warm and quiet on the deck. They don’t sell beer at the tram station. I think that I may have to bring my own when I return because it will soon be spring skiing season. A cold beer on the deck at lunch and after skiing in the spring will be very good.

After lunch I spend over an hour on the front five, finding Paulie’s Follies perfect. The snow next to the trees on skier’s right is in the shade. The snow has a perfect consistency; my skis sink into the snow an inch or two as they easily glide over the softening snow. Small moguls are starting to form; I ski over them, around them and through them, as if they weren’t even there. I ski it at least five times.

Before leaving for the day I ski Zoomalance, a cat walk that goes over to the top of Avalanche and then onto Banshee Cut Thru. I continue all the way over to the little trail named Jasper’s Hideaway, an all natural snow trail near the tram station. It got its name from a stray, but friendly cat, now deceased, that lived at the Tram Station for years. There’s a picture of the cat inside the station. I stand at the top of the short but wide open slope and look down to the right into Banshee Glade which leads steeply to the tram station. I look behind me up the steep side of the mountain that rises towards the summit and I notice an out of bounds, unnamed wooded glade. Someday I will have to ski it. Echo Lake stretches out below me. On the far side of the lake I can see part of the 20 mile bike path that runs through the Notch. In the winter it’s a snowmobile trail and must be one of the best in the state. A single snowmobile makes it way south into the Notch. At the far end of the lake the state beach is covered in snow. At the near end the lake empties into the headwaters of the Pemigewasatt River where it begins its long journey south to the Merrimack and the Atlantic. The Pemi Hiking Trail runs along the river bank passing the Old Man of the Mountain site, Cannon Cliff, Profile Lake, The Basin, Lafayette Place and The Flume. In the winter the Pemi Trail is a great snowshoeing trek. Echo Lake is frozen solid and the Front Five rises above it covered in snow from edge to edge. The north side of Eagle Cliff is visible; it stands guard over the entrance to the notch. All of this is a remarkable sight for travelers; I can see their cars on the interstate just above the lake. They whisk by the great mountain, the cliff and the lake. The notch ends here and there is a vast opening with a view of the smaller mountains, high plateaus and forested valleys to the north. This is where the interstate transitions, turning back into four lanes. For those going north, it leads to the Great North Woods of New Hampshire and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The two southbound lanes turn to one lane and enters the wild notch. I push off hard and jump into the air a few inches, land and ski skate a couple of steps for speed. The snow on the cat’s namesake is silky, soft and smooth. I make big wide turns all the way to the bottom, take a sharp left and tuck the flat all the way back to the Zoomer Triple. From the top of the Zoomer Triple I ski back to the Peabody Base area and then head for home.

It was another incredible skiing weekend; I’m getting a tan from all the sun. I arrive home and have a Jack Daniels for après ski in front of the fire. Valerie has prepared fish tacos for dinner; they go perfect with cold beer.

How to ski Cannon Mountain, day nine

There’s an old saying up in the mountains, “ski now-work later”. Today is March 28 and I leave for a midweek day trip. As I leave my driveway, where the snow has melted away, I notice several crocuses have bloomed in the rock garden next to the road. Spring has approached southern New Hampshire. To the north, however, winter is holding on, spring has not yet arrived. Just south of the I93 exit for Lincoln, there’s a huge overhead electric sign that displays warnings and messages to drivers. It flashes in big block letters, “slow down” and “snow on road”. I like the fact that there’s snow on the road ahead. It can mean only one thing, fresh snow at Cannon Mountain.

Upon arriving at the mountain there’s a good two inches of snow on the picnic tables in front of the Peabody Base Lodge. It looks a little wet. I’m in line 10 minutes before the lifts open, hoping they will open the lifts a little early, which they do. The sky is overcast, valley fog is thick and it’s snowing. The entire mountain is open except for DJ’s Tram Line and a few glades. My first run is down Middle Cannon to Lower Cannon to the base, visibility is difficult. The snow though is incredible. I thought that it was going to feel wet and sticky, it’s not. The snow is surprisingly light and it skis easy as can be. The snow has fallen evenly over the entire mountain, indicating that there was no wind the previous night. There are no drifts or windswept areas on any of the trails. Most of the mountain was groomed, there’s a light layer of the fresh snow over the corduroy. My skis carve into the snow with ease, this is true ego snow. Today I am going to shred this mountain, carve to it pieces with my skis; I am totally pumped.

Skiing the lower mountain is so good I never even go to the summit which is totally and completely shrouded in fog and clouds. By mid day visibility improves a lot on the lower mountain. The ski area is hosting over 100 ski instructors from all over the east. They are completing an advanced Professional Ski Instructors certification. They are everywhere, on the groomers, in the tracked up powder, in the moguls and on the lifts. It is obvious they are serious skiers, long time instructors; they are making perfect turns down all the slopes. I emulate them at times, trying to finish my turns as they do and staying in complete and total control; but most of the time I shred the mountain. My skiing style, approach and effort have been enhanced by all the instructors, even though it might be a little different from their approach. I want to look good in case any of them are watching. I feel like I am totally in the ski zone. I like making big, wide open, high speed turns in the tracked up powder or bashing through the moguls on Zoomer Lift Line or catching some air under the lift or making tight turns in the powder at the edges of the trails next to the trees. Maybe I turn some ski instructor heads as I go screaming down the mountain.

I ski about 15 runs off the Peabody Quad, about 15 runs off the Zoomer triple and a couple runs off the Eagle Cliff triple. Almost all of the runs are skied without stopping. I take one short break for the lunch that Valerie had prepared. Reluctantly I have to leave at 2:15 for a work appointment. I wanted to stay until last chair. It’s almost a shame I don’t heed to that old saying up here in the mountains, “ski now-work later”. I do not call to cancel the appointment.

When I arrive home, Valerie has waiting for me Arancini, Italian rice balls stuffed with ground meat, cheese and peas. She put her homemade tomato sauce over them. She surprised me with Molson Golden Ale, a beer that I had not had in over a decade.

How to Ski Cannon Mountain, day ten

Two days later on Saturday, March 30 I arrive at the Peabody Base Lodge. It’s another beautiful sunny day, cold at first but it soon warms up. The snow at the bottom of the mountain turns to pure spring conditions. The snow at the top of the mountain remains at mid winter conditions, and skiing is incredible. Most of my runs are on the summit trails; conditions on the summit glades and Upper Hardscrabble are amazing. My last run at 1pm is on Vista Way and I am sorry that I didn’t ski it earlier as it was so good, I would have skied it several times.

I arrive home; Valerie has been prepping for Easter Sunday dinner as a large number of our family will be arriving the next day. I had asked her out to dinner, to the Cotton Club in Manchester. On this night, she does not prepare a dinner for me; she is treated to a nice night out. It was excellent and after dinner we take a walk along the Merrimack River. I look down at the river, the swift current moving rapidly south towards Massachusetts and the ocean. I think to myself and imagine all the feet of snow up on Cannon Mountain and in the Notch that has begun to melt. That melted snow pack will soon be making its way down through the Notch and the rapids and over all the falls; past this very spot on its way to the sea. After our walk we attend a candlelight Easter Vigil with incredible music.

You don’t have to travel far or spend a lot of money for a great adventure, or even stay overnight; sometimes the adventure is right out your door. For me, the great adventure was just driving to the mountain. I skied Cannon Mountain two more weekends until they closed on April 14, 2013. It stayed very cold. The mountain received over 100 inches of snow in both February and March. On April 1st the mountain received about 6 inches of snow and about two more inches on April 2nd. On April 1st it was minus two degrees atop Mount Washington nearly breaking the record of minus five for that day. On April 6th, it was 4 degrees atop Cannon Mountain with pure mid winter conditions. The mountain could have stayed open for weeks longer, the snow was that deep. I’m sure that more than one local hiked the mountain to ski it after they closed the lifts. Some are calling it one of the best ski seasons in Cannon history, if such a thing is possible? In mid to late April spring finally arrived in the mountains to the north. We are already thinking about our summer hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing and camping trips to the great Notch.


New member
Mar 20, 2013
Can someone do bullet points for this? My attention span isn't long enough.... ;)

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Jan 11, 2012
Thank you for writing this. I ski Cannon regularly and found myself imagining myself making the turns throughout the entire report.