Sunday, March 20, 2011

Seeing Jay Peak through new eyes

Despite the twin-tip mid-fat skis, baggy pants, newschool poles and internet-based apres-ski activity, I am an old-school skier at heart. Or maybe just a little stuck in my ways. The experience of skiing at Jay Peak with five people I had never met, and living the "condo lifestyle" for the first time, gave me a unique opportunity to see a very familiar place from a variety of new perspectives. You might even say it bounced me out of very pleasant rut.

Ski in condo - no kidding!
Boot up to ski out is very handy...

Like Steve the day-tripper, I had never stayed in a "ski-in ski-out" type of accommodation before the NSBS. Not at Jay Peak, not anywhere else.  Skiing anywhere else has either been day-tripping or sleeping on someone's couch (or floor). When visiting Jay, Blue Toes and I are very fortunate to have access to two very nice ski houses in the Jay area, owned by family members. Before those houses were bought, there were rentals, and before that (which was before Blue Toes), we were all in day trip range from Montreal. Whether staying within driving distance or driving up for the day, one still ends up being lodge-based at the hill.  On top of that, our family has some routines. We start the day with oatmeal and coffee. Unless the skiing is sketchy or everyone is a little hungover (say, on New Year's Day), we usually roll into Stateside Lodge before 9 am. Those that miss that meet-up know that "hot chocolate break" is at 10ish, over at Tramside. Then lunch at 12ish, back at Stateside. After that you are on your own, just make sure you have a ride back to the house. It works, because everybody follows the drill.

Another summit based on communication
This condo thing got me all messed up. I had to think about food and booze before arriving, rather going shopping after skiing was done. I had to check-in, get keys, be certain that other people got their keys and tickets, not lose the keys, so much to think about, aaahh!!! I wasn't even sure who I was rooming with, let alone it was someone I'd never met. We organized a meeting at Stateside by e-mail. Everybody made it. We sent an e-mail with directions to MadPat from the chairlift using an iPhone. It worked. After skiing was done, we settled in to the comfy Jay Peak Village Condos. And settled is the right word. Once you realize that the car is parked, the lift is a short walk and ski away, and there really is no reason to go anywhere, much stress is relieved. Yeah, OK, I'll have another beer. I could get used to this...

Then we went skiing. Skiing with a group of people you only met in person that morning doesn't really fit with my "slow to adopt change" philosophy on life. On one of our first runs, trying to be a good host, I stopped in the usual spot and waited for everybody. Hey, wait a minute, everybody is skiing by me! But, but, we always stop here. Why aren't you stopping here? Oh well, off we go... Then it started snowing heavily and powder madness took over. MUST SKI IN THE TREES was the mantra. Later I learned that some people actually viewed "groomers" as a necessary evil to get to the various glade runs on a mountain. But wait, this is a cool run, not simply a "groomer." And it is covered in a lot of new snow. There are no trees in the way. On day one, Steve and I sure got that, and had the "Run of the Day" on Upper Exhibition. Oh yeah, did I mention that? We have to play "Run of the Day" at the end of the day...

Willis meets the bloggers.
Eventually, I chilled out. The chairlift discussions about where to ski next took on a familiar tone. The collective knowledge of three experienced Jay Peak skiers and the turbo-charged enthusiasm of the others had us skiing all over the place. Like I said in an earlier post, rope to rope, and a little beyond. A flow developed and everybody went with it. Despite skiing at Jay Peak on a semi-regular basis since I was twelve, I skied places I had never skied before. I took people to places they hadn't been before, or back to places they hadn't been in a long time. We skied runs like the Quai and the Green Beret, that, while well marked on the trail map, could never be considered "groomers." Beyond that, we ate at the Tram Haus Lodge with our ski boots on. We blogged like uber-geeks in the restaurant on the first evening. The jovial and accommodating Willis Whitaker of DEW Construction gave us a hard hat tour of the Waterpark construction site. By the end of the day on Friday, I was exhausted.

SBR's big sister shreds Haynes
It is good to be jolted from the routine every now and then. Seeing Jay Peak through the eyes of five different people has given me a fresh perspective on a long-time friend. I have found a few new creases in the armor, and a few new quirks in the personality of Jay. After the other bloggers left, I stayed an extra day and skied with my sister and her husband, who had appeared out of the blue on Friday. Saturday was one of those days you could feel a little smug and say "you should have been here yesterday." The weather was damp and it eventually started raining. Line-ups were long due to school break crowds and wind delays on the Bonnie and Tram. Who cared? Not me. After a couple of great runs on the Derrick and the Haynes, we had the usual bag lunch in the usual place and then Sklinda and Dogski called it a day. I carried on for while, and after a great chat on the Flyer with some guy from Philly, I skated off for a solo run down the Can Am. From the top of the pitch, I could not see another person. The Bonaventure chair was silent and unmoving. The rain-wetted ice glowed blue in the grey light. I knew that if I fell, it would be a while before anybody found me. After all the preparation for the blogger event, and the intensity of the previous three days, I suddenly felt like the last skier on earth. There was no choice but to ski down.

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