Monday, February 20, 2012

On the various aspects of lemonade, and, oh yes, there is snow at Jay Peak.

SBR mixes up some lemonade on Green Beret. Photo by The Snowway.
Dedicated East Coast skiers seem to be divided into two camps this season. One on side, there are those who insist on being depressed and constantly complain about the lack of snow and/or how crappy the skiing is. These people have been handed lemons and don't know what to do with them. On the other side, there are the people who make lemonade. These people go skiing anyway, practice their hard snow skills, eke out the odd "powder day" and make the best of it. Or, if they can't go skiing, they find out how much fun it can be riding a mountain bike in the winter, or take up surfing. Or even telemarking. The lemonade crowd has decided that one inch is the new foot and some have even offered tips on how skiers can maximize their stoke in a thin winter.

The well stocked wood box:
don't leave your wife at home without it!

I like to think that I live in the lemonade camp, although it has been tough to stay positive. Various life events prevented me from getting to Jay until last week. Having bought some fancy new fat skis, new boots and even a mid-week Jay pass, I had been reading the various weather reports religiously, surreptitiously plotting a road trip and building up a stockpile of Good Husband Points. Let me tell you, it takes a lot of GHPs to abandon your sweetie on Valentine's Day to go on a ski trip.

Driving across upstate New York and Vermont, I was quite amazed at the lack of snow. I had heard reports but figured that by now these areas must have something. Back home in the Hinterlands it has not been the greatest winter but we at least have knee deep crusty snow in the yard. A few local powder adventures have been possible, between rain events.

Jay Peak view from VT 105. The Jay Cloud is attached to the summit.
I began to get a bit worried when I pulled in to the Jonny Jay Clubhouse, only a short drive from the mountain, and observed green grass in the yard, along with a bit of snow. Lemonade in mind, I quickly changed and headed up the 242. As I gained elevation, I could see a little fresh snow, then a little more. Then enough snow that the snowplow had put its blade down. Then the snowplow. Take a sip of lemonade. Once the mountain came into view, all I could see was full coverage.

The first of several nice stashes that presented themselves.
Wednesday was a day for exploring, getting my Jay legs back and figuring out where the snow was. That brings up the other thing people have been talking about this winter: aspects. In this case,  (according to our friends at Wikipedia) "aspect generally refers to the horizontal direction to which a mountain slope faces." At Jay Peak, thinking about aspects and wind direction is a big part of figuring out where that 1" will turn into 1'. And since I was skiing by myself, I had time to think. In the process, I visited many old favorites that first day, including "all natural" runs like the Kitz, Green Beret, JFK and the River Quai.  All were in excellent shape, despite somewhat sketchy entrances on the latter two. Even Powerline was pretty fun, as long as you avoided the rocks. My first few forays into some low-angle glades were quite rewarding and the outlook seemed good for the next two days.

Northway, 2 PM, 2/15/12. Where is everybody?

And good it was. Thursday morning, a new 2" had landed in the parking lot. Abandoning all plans of making a plan, I just skied where it seemed to make sense. One of the best decisions of the day was taking my first run down Can Am, groomed early the night before and coated overnight with 2" of cream cheese frosting. Even though I got third tracks, there are not many times you can ski with complete abandon down that run and emerge with a huge grin on your face. And the day was just beginning.

I followed a rabbit track...
And found a rabbit hole. Down I went.
It was another busy day.
Oh darn, the sun is shining and I seem to have this snow all to myself.
Having arranged to ski with Steve from The Snowway on Friday, and feeling the need to save some energy, I took an extended afternoon break over on Tramside. This gave me a chance to check out the new Hotel Jay and even take a peek into the waterpark, surprisingly busy on such a beautiful ski day. Pro-tip: don't visit the waterpark wearing ski clothes, it is kept at jungle-like levels of temperature and humidity. After my tour, I got a Chai Latte at Aroma, sat outside and contemplated the contrasts of the emerging new face of Jay Peak. The Latte was delicious and enjoying one on a sun-drenched stone terrace with a nice view of the mountain is rather pleasant. This part of the new Jay is quite likeable. We'll just have to wait and see about the rest.

You can never have too much Bacon; Sir Francis that is.
Friday didn't start well but quickly got better. I woke to the sound of drip, drip, drip off the Clubhouse roof. This was not a good sign. Lemonade, lemonade, I repeated to myself. I went to hill to meet Steve, once again greeted by new snow in the parking lot. The JPR snow report was claiming one inch but for once I would argue that they were under-reporting. There was at least 1.75" in the parking lot and several more in the right aspects. Did I mention the weather had changed? The wind had returned and Thursday's rare combination of sun, no wind and mild temperatures was not to be repeated. Steve and I made second chair, and when the posse on the first went left, we went right and I had a near repeat of the Can Am experience from the day before. The difference was that there was a little more frosting and I was the first down the run that day. Woo Hoooooooooooo!

Steve jumps right in to his first Green Beret run of the season.
We skied all over the place, repeating several of the runs I had done over the two days before and a few new ones. Again, plans were abandoned as unusual, and very nice, conditions presented themselves. Who knew, for example, that after scoring lovely boot-top snow on the edge of the River Quai, that we would find only a few tracks down the lower Goat? Like the Can Am, it had been groomed and then covered with new snow. With the sheltered aspect of the Goat, we agreed that there were four or five inches there. We opened it up and cruised over the velvet surface. And for those of you still scoffing at fat skis, the 108 mm SFBs made that 4" feel almost bottomless. What a fantastic few days!

Steve cruising the easier lower section of the Green Beret.
So, all you complainers, get out there and ski. Make some lemonade. Support your favourite mountain, big or small. You never know, that inch might just multiply.


  1. As I always say... "when life gives you lemons... eat em' raw!!"

    Great skiing with you, SBR!

  2. That looks fantastic to me. I bet River wasn't thinking about the waterpark when he was airborne in that shot. Can't wait for a chance to ski with you boys, and raise a tall glass of ... lemonade?