Tuesday, May 1, 2018

First and last at Jay Peak

Full coverage, let's ski the Kitz.
A variety of circumstances prevented me from getting to Jay Peak this winter but, finally, in late April, the planets lined up for a road trip. After some frantic packing, I herded the canine into the Snowbaru and hit the road for Vermont to meet up with Jonny Jay.

JJ on the Derick. No snowmaking here.

 Once again, your faithful reporter found himself driving through the snowless flatlands of Ontario, Quebec and northern Vermont on the premise that there was actually snow at Jay Peak. In the end, there was lots of snow for late April, reasonable weather (mostly) and even a tailgate party. All things considered, the wait was worth it. Well, maybe not worth having bronchitis for the first half of the winter. But some fine skiing, surprising snow coverage, a complete lack of lineups, canine entertainment and catching up on brotherly matters all added up to make for a fine long weekend.

Lots of snow in the woods of Timbuktu

Friday offered the best weather but the slowest snow. We made the mistake of going for the normal spring skiing routine: show up late for the softer snow. We should have got there earlier for the firmer snow, oh well. Only the Jet and Taxi chairs were running that day, so a complete exploration of the Jet area proved quite worthwhile. After warming up on the Montealer, we found the Haynes to quite lovely, and were stoked to find full coverage and nice slow moguls on the natural snow of the Derick Hotshot. We even gambled on Lower Milk Run, a family favourite, and found it very skiable except for the sketchy last bit below the Sweetheart cut-off (what is that - Kangaroo?).

Nice cooking platform!

Rain was forecast Saturday but despite some threatening clouds, it never materialized. In fact the day was a nice mix of sun, wind, cooler temperatures (still above freezing) and interesting clouds. The snow was firmer and faster and with the opening of the Bonaventure Chair, more ski options opened up. We skied both Timbuktu and Expo Glades and my ski legs found the snow VERY heavy in there. Jump turns, anyone? Despite that, coverage was impressive for the time of year. Run of the day was probably Kitzbuehel, another natural snow favourite. Soft bumps, one rock sticking out at the top and nary a bare spot. Unbelievable. Lunchtime was a real treat, we enjoyed the generous tailgate hospitality of the Alpine Haven crew, grilled up some burgers, ate pickles, drank beer and actually socialized. In our world, this is a big deal, really.

Two lonely burgers. Things heated up quickly.

Sunday was a bit wet. Really wet, actually. As the ads from the 90s suggested, it was "a great day for Gore-Tex." Or a collectible Jay Peak plastic bag raincoat, take your pick. Despite the precipitation, the skiing was fast and reasonably firm and the hill was empty. How often do you and 25 friends get to have Jay Peak all to yourselves?

Foggy and wet on the Haynes.

I've left out a lot. For me, the Jay experience includes much more than skiing. There is shopping at Sylvester's, chatting with Don (missed that this time), complaining about Jay stuff, walking three deaf dogs, eating, drinking a bit too much, stoking the wood stove and much more. Despite of all the changes and strange goings-on of the last while, the fundamental ski experience at Jay Peak is really like that marketing slogan from a few years ago: Unchangeable.

The indubitably unchangeable Jonny Jay. The bag is collectable.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Firm but fresh at Jay Peak

Jonny Jay reports that the 3-5" of snow that fell on Friday was welcome news and provided a much needed cushion on top of a very crisp surface. Groomers were great in the morning and very fast as the day went on; the gladed trails were much improved, but you had to be on your game as conditions alternated between the untouched "freshie" and the very firm bumps underneath! Thigh-burning but fun. Lots of base still and the cold weather will hopefully ensure good skiing late into April or early May. See you there.

The tailgate weekend is April 28 if you needed an excuse to come to Vermont.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Heads Come Together at Jay Peak

Editor's note: Somewhere in my collection of memorabilia I have a button from the 70s, with a picture of all the Head skis of the day, arranged like a flower. Very psychedelic, no? The tagline reads: "Head Come Together." All these years later, it is happening for Jonny Jay. Here is his report, punctuated by an image of Jay taken yesterday. Don't go launching yourself off the lip of the Can Am anytime soon.

A little scrapey perhaps? Click image to enlarge.

Jonny Jay gets new skis...

After 50 years Jonny Jay finally gets new Heads! Check out the old ones with the Marker toe piece and long-thong heel binding -- a revolutionary step forward as the original heel piece just pivoted for twists; this one actually released in a forward fall! Some will remember that the long thong was wrapped around the boot ankle for added support before the days of plastic shells. Not fun wrapping them around your boots at minus 20!

Old boards are 205cm Head GS, circa 1968; New boards are a 171cm 2018 Head Kore-93 -- thanks to Algonquin Outfitters for making it happen.

The mountain is hanging in although last weekend was a little picky on runs like Can-Am, as seen in the photo. Really rocked Chalet Meadows with the new skis!

Early report: stable at speed, very good hold on the ice and chalk, very responsive, handled with ease the wee bit of soft snow and crud that I could find.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Pudd's first report of our 2017 - 2018 Jay Peak season

By Pudd:


Crazy how much snow is here
It is like late February
Christmas came early for nephew
Picture is in Andre’s

Can am
Buck woods
North glade
Lift line

Deep snow
Rated E.  (epic)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spring skiing with Jonny Jay

by Jonny Jay
Just here to report that the skiing was epic on Sunday, April 23. Rained all Saturday night but I awoke to sun and blue sky. Off early, on the mountain by 9. Bonnie was on delay because of ice on the cables, believe it or not, and since the tram was closed and flyer on hold, I skated off to the triple. Groomed Jet first run, and even then the snow was thick enough to give my legs a work out. A little different in the shade on the Haynes where it was still very firm. Tried the Derrick but it was too crisp. Headed over to Bonnie and down Green Mtn Boys into North Glade for a bit but the exit was not good so I bushwacked back to trail trail. Up Flyer to Ullrs to check out Beaver pond. Perfect timing as the snow was just softening, moguls were round because of all the rain (some debris of course) but it was great, then traversed over to Andre's. There were a few crevasses on Kokomo and a couple of mud hurdles but snow all the way down. Next run was the JFK (had seen people heading that way so thought maybe). Lots of grass on the way to JFK but there was no rope so it was open, despite the ten-foot path of snow on the left and the grass and mud on the rest of the trail. Once over the hump the lower half was big rounded moguls -- awesome but am glad no one else was there because I took several breathers -- to enjoy the view of course.

Then back up and over and called it a day -- a new man after that.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March strikes again at Jay Peak

Nine days after Stella, you could still find untracked snow in NVT.

If you were lucky enough to be in northern Vermont last weekend (or born in the right place), you'll know how great the skiing was. After four great and different days at Jay Peak, I can assure you that there is lots of snow left. After an easy but still 7.5 hour drive down on Thursday, I changed quickly and headed up the 242 for a familiar easy-access backcountry run. Mt. Trixie was in fine form and, surprisingly, only sported a few tracks from previous skiers. The weather was cold, windy and the sky clear blue. What a fine welcome back that run was.

There are no lifts on that hill, unfortunately.
On Friday, the day dawned grey, gloomy and much milder. Pudd and I headed to the mountain with fairly low expectations, always a good policy for skiers anywhere. Even though we started the day at Stateside, we still managed to get on the first tram, and after weaving through the crowd at the top, scored first run down the freshly groomed Vermonter. Big GS turns, no stopping until we hit the Montrealer - what a run! Our good fortune continued when the snow started coming down at 10 and continued all day. Aided by the persistent wind, runs kept getting refilled and we even found four or five inches of untracked fresh snow on the middle Goat on our last run before lunch. Unbelievable. Our only bad call was JFK, a long time favourite. Sadly, the icy death moguls were not that much fun, even with fresh snow in the troughs. In the spirit of the day, this was all forgotten after we ducked in to Lower Everglade at the bottom of the pitch.

Pudd blending in to Beaver Pond on Friday.
 On the way up the Flyer on Friday, huddling up in the fierce wind, Pudd summed up our collective ethos: "This is why I like Jay Peak; it's bitter." No matter what gets built at the bottom, the mountain stays the same - cold, snowy, windy and rewarding.

Team Line having some deep conversation.
On Saturday we were joined by Jonny Jay, and with just three skiers, created a collective one-mountain experience of over 125 seasons. Kind of mind-boggling when you think of it. Knowing a mountain so intimately allows for some creative run-making. There is no stopping to check the trail map, just a discussion that usually starts halfway up the chair. While you would think that having having three people with that amount of combined Jay Peak experience sitting on a chairlift would make for some snap decision-making, usually the conversation would go like this:
"OK, where are we going?"
"You decide."
"No, I decided last time."
"Faacckk, why me. Uh, OK, how about upper blah-blah to lower-blah-blah"
"Hmmm. That could be good be good. But what about such and such woods?"
And so on.

The Vikings were everywhere.
 But the end result is always creative, fun and always a bit different. The trail maps are in our heads, even if we don't always agree on the names (who knew that Chute One is called Purgatory on the map). We ski fast, with few stops, and roam the mountain, putting together combinations like (forgive me for divulging) Goat - GMB - Flash - Bushwhacker - Ullr's. Sounds crazy but when you link it all together on an uncrowded day, it gives you a really fun, long run with little bit of almost everything. But was it Full Goat? I'm not telling.

Upper Kitz on Sunday. Marvellous.
 Pudd had to leave on Saturday afternoon so he could catch a plane to Vegas. What a world. And too bad, because Sunday was a perfect early spring day: sunny, warm but not too warm, fast snow and fewer people, even with the Bonnie on indefinite closure. We found great snow remaining in the BP/Andre's area, and even enjoyed a fine late morning run in Timbuktu. After an early lunch and two more runs, we called it a day and both packed up to head home. And let me tell you, there is nothing like a long drive home after such a weekend. What, I have to get out of the car now?

Jonny Jay in Timbuktu, 12 days after Stella.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Post-Stella day two

by Jonny Jay

JJ reports that there were no somersaults today and he did manage to snap a few pics:

Blue day at Jay

Somewhere in Andre's Paradise

The pitch on Ullr's Dream looking very dreamy