We’ve said it before, but…weather forecasters sometimes don’t get it right.
In this case, the forecast said warm Thursday, a bunch of rain Friday, and then the overnight temps were going to drop into the mid-teens. In other words, a recipe for cement slopes on Saturday morning. We wanted to get out, but decided to wait until midday, when things had warmed up a bit, HOPING that they’d soften enough to be fun.
Well, Thursday WAS warm, but the promised rain never materialized on Friday. And when we woke up Saturday morning, big fluffy flakes of snow were coming down, and a quick check of the temperature said it was close to freezing. Time to mobilize the troops and get going!
Skiing Cranmore Mountain
Our destination for the day was Cranmore Mountain in North Conway, NH, a perfect place to go for spring skiing. The combination of a mainly southwest orientation so the corn snow will warm and soften quickly, relatively gentle slopes to keep it all from sliding downhill in the first hour, and excellent grooming SHOULD make for a relatively long day of skiing. That’s always the concern in spring; will it be too hard, or soften so fast in the warm spring sun that you’re in slush by 10:00?
Well…thanks to the forecasters, we didn’t even ARRIVE until 10. But, the day was holding in the upper 30s, a good sign; conditions shouldn’t change TOO fast. On the other hand, we just had to pick a day when a huge weekend race was scheduled. The parking lot was packed, and people were flying down the slopes. Could mean a skied-off mountain. Only one way to find out!
Cranmore’s lodge is somewhat of an oddity in that most of the skiers get ready on the third floor (if you’re brownbagging lunch, they make it very clear that you MUST go up there). Even with the packed parking lot, though, it wasn’t excessively crowded; we quickly found a spot to spread out and boot up. With little time wasted, we were out the door and onto our skis.
We’d brought Dan and his friend Will; two 13-year-olds are better than one (for us and them), and Cranmore’s a great place to send them off on their own, with limited lift bases for them to disappear to. And, with a single summit, they can get to the top from anywhere and head back to the lodge; no multiple trips needed. After a couple of runs with them to make sure they were comfortable with the mountain and the conditions, we headed off on our own to try some of the steeper, windier trails at mountain left. Skiing Cranmore Mountain sometimes gets poo-poohed by “serious skiers.” But we found narrow trails (particularly Bandit, which tucks and turns through the woods like a snake) that twisted around the mountain, giving enough fun and constantly varying views. Boredom was not a factor, particularly as the conditions were constantly changing. This was typical spring skiing. Unlike midwinter, when conditions typically go from soft to hard, these went from near boilerplate when we first got there to deep, heavy corn snow, great for working on your balance (put all your weight on one ski, and prepare to faceplant when you hit a foot-and-a-half deep pile of the stuff). Since I’d decided to work on my Telemark for the day, it was definitely testing my coordination in about every way; for Susan, it was an introduction to not carving (great training for powder skiing, by the way, as the balancing act is virtually the same).
By lunchtime, we were definitely ready for a break; amazingly enough, the boys were exactly where there were supposed to be, at the right time! Cafeteria lines were short, lunch eaten quickly, and we were back out on the slopes. It was clear that the conditions were softening for us, and for the racers as well. Unlike in the morning when their lines were hard and scratchy, racers were suddenly facing deep gouges; one mistake on their lines, and the “snap” of their skis would literally throw them off the course. Since nobody even came close to getting hurt, it was fun to watch. A racer who nailed the line FLEW on the deeply banked turns, while ones who missed it looked like they were on a trampoline, catapulting over onto the morning’s course. Suddenly, I didn’t feel quite so bad about my pathetic Tele efforts!
Alas, the sun finally did its work, and by 2:30 the bumps were turning to slush. With legs tired from lots of morning runs, we decided that discretion was the better part of valor and got off the mountain before we could make one of those slow-speed falls that tend to do more damage than high-speed cartwheels. But, we’d had more than 4 hours of great skiing, short lift lines, stunning views, and all without any bundling up or being uncomfortably cold; taking photos from the lift usually means cold hands, but not today. The weather forecasters may have gotten it all wrong, but we all agreed–Cranmore had been all right!