A PEEK AT JAY PEAK
By Paul Maraschiello
I had never been to Jay Peak. My roommates had told me about their trips up north to this ski area in the north of Vermont, not far from the Canadian border. They get more natural snow at Jay than any other ski area in New England. Lake effect snow gave Jay Peak 34 powder days last year and I was hungry to ski a little powder.
It was a beautiful Spring day as I drove north to Jay Peak. I chuckled when I found that I was so far north that my car radio only picked up French stations. After I left the interstate, I followed Rt. 105 from St. Albans and finally arrived at Jay. I checked into the hotel and was asleep in no time.
That morning, I woke up eager to ski on the deepest base reported in the East. It was a beautiful, sunny day. As soon as I walked out the door, I noticed that the temperature had fallen. The day before, it had been really warm, around 60 degrees. The temperature this morning was around 15 degrees. My years at Killington had taught me many things. Among them was the fact that when the temperature falls that much, plan on skiing on a really FIRM surface. I knew the snow was going to be bullet-proof.
I never let a little thing like ice deter me. So, I dropped my Vökl Snowrangers off at the shop for a quick tune and headed into the restaurant for a little breakfast. After a leisurely breakfast consisting of coffee and a muffin, I went back to my room, put on my ski boots and checked out of the hotel.
I picked up my freshly sharpened and waxed skis and jumped on the Green Mountain Flyer and rode this detachable quad chairlift to the top. It was too bad that the Aerial Tramway was not open. It is the only lift that goes all the way to the top of the mountain. I got off the chair and headed down the mountain. I took the Northway to Angles Wiggle and picked up Lift Line. I skied the entire way nonstop. My skis were holding on the ice (God Bless you, Snowrangers) and I thought to myself, "Why stop." Putting my skis up on edge on this frozen crud seemed like a very foolish idea. I was skiing a little faster than I usually ski but my skis were holding.
When I got to the bottom, I rode the Bonaventure chair to the top and took another run. This time, I kept on Northway until it hit Kitzbuehel and I wound up at the "Jet" triple chair. Again, it was a nonstop run.
When I reached the bottom, I saw that they had groomed Jet. There were more that a few people skiing this expert trail under the lift and I knew that this had to be the best skiing on the mountain that day. I made a couple of runs directly under the chair, linking short-swing turns and looking good. I was able to take an aggressive line right down the fall-line and this time, when I skied nonstop, top-to-bottom it was because I WANTED to, not because I HAD to. Where they had groomed the snow, it was a lot easier to feel confidant on your skis and my Snowrangers really make me feel confidant.
Snowrangers, How I Love Thee
I had purchased my Vökl Snowrangers a couple of seasons ago, specifically for Spring skiing. They are wide powder skis that ride on TOP of the Spring slush and make Spring skiing a lot easier. In addition, they are a very stiff ski that holds well on the ice and acts like a short Downhill racing ski at high speed. They are very stable and were the perfect skis for the conditions. The excellent tune Matt at the ski shop put on my skis was an important factor in my enjoyment of the mountain that day. "Tune them to turn them," I always say. It is critical to have sharp skis when it's icy.
I headed in for lunch and was surprised at how uncrowded the cafeteria with it's beautiful fireplace was. The choices for lunch were pretty good. I opted for a chicken caesar salad and some juice and I was back on the hill in no time flat.
I took another run over to Jet and skied it a few more times, with detours to Haynes, which was ALMOST groomed. Again, it didn't seem to make any sense to stop, so I skied Haynes nonstop. I was now comfortable skiing the trails at Jay and I was beginning to learn my way around.
When I first looked up at Jay Peak, I was a little disappointed. The mountain looked small and not all that challenging. When I road up the chair, all that changed. The first thing I noticed was all the treed skiing there was at Jay. I looked in envy at all the nicely spaced trees in the Glades and wished that it was one of their legendary powder days. The next thing I notices was all the chutes coming down from the very top of the face of the mountain. They were incredibly steep, short runs in between the scrub pines that would tax the ability of all but the best skiers and there were a heck of a lot of trails you could not see from in front of the Base Lodge.
I skied all the trails that were open that day and found that it was easier to ski the expert trails than it was to ski the flat novice and connector trails. On a steep trail, you can run the fall-line making linked turns (or linked checks) and the pitch of the slope is an advantage. On flat terrain all you can do is steer your skis. You can get in a lot of trouble being up on your edges on ice, so the best way to ski it is by making a series of rapid turns and not get too much on edge and not stay on edge too long. I spent much of the day skiing a little above my comfort zone and skied a little faster that I usually ski but all-in-all, I had a fun time.
After a hard day on the slopes and trails, I enjoyed a hot chocolate in the sunshine on the porch of the Base Lodge. It was fun to hear all the people speaking French. Jay Peak has a really international flavor and it is a really interesting mountain. Jay has a personality all of its own. It fools you into thinking that it's a "easy" mountain when it has a lot of really challenging slopes. It looks small when it really has miles and miles of skiable terrain. I'll be heading back to Jay Peak as soon as I can. This time, I'll make sure that I pick a day when they have received a big snowfall, so I can sample the powder they are famous for.
I might have skied Jay on one of the worst ski days they have had all year and I still had a GOOD time. The only complaint I have about Jay Peak is that it is so far away. Of course, you Canadian skiers will say that it's so NEAR and really a lot warmer that the ski areas in Canada. I guess it all in your perspective.