Monday, October 14, 2013

A field trip to Stateside

Why most people go to Vermont in the fall.

The Jonny Jay Ski Club had a little off-season get-together last week, with the goal of celebrating a significant birthday for one of our members. That part of the trip is altogether another story. What is relevant to this blog is that we all knew that a pilgrimage "up to the mountain" had to take place, to see what was going on in Construction Junction.

We go to Jay for other reasons but, of course, try to maintain a low profile.
I rode with Pudd and his brother J, who hadn't been to Jay in a while. After getting over our shock at the smooth ride up the freshly paved 242 from Montgomery, we came around the corner and saw the The Hill. Needless to say for this crew, there were a few f-bombs of amazement at our first view of the construction going on at the new Stateside Lodge. Since the Stateside lot is still closed to the public, we parked at the new Mountain Kids Learning Center. The windows we could peer into revealed evidence of an active day-care operation. That was one end of the building. The other - who knows?

We found this in the parking lot of the Mtn Kids Learning Center. Very odd.
The star of the show, of course, was the new Stateside Lodge and Hotel. It is huge. And kind of barn-like, to be honest. And it has fake sugar-shack vents on the roof. Which is of course, appropriate in Vermont, as there are lots of barns and sugar shacks. But for whatever reason, it made me think of a monastery. Sorry, architects, but you have designed a very practical, not ugly, but decidedly monastical structure for the base of this hill. I am sure we will get used to it, though I am am not looking forward to figuring out the new plan of attack. What door do I go in? What table do I stash my stuff under? Are there hooks for my jacket? Will there be cubbies? And wait, what, there are three flights of stairs between the parking lot and where I put on my skis? Sheesh, where is the effing elevator? We are not getting any younger.

The new lodge pretty much dominates the the Stateside landscape.
The biggest discussion started when we hiked uphill of the new lodge, to the base of the previously new Taxi Chair. We imagined ourselves cruising down Queen's Highway, heading to the Bonaventure Chair (now painted green, no longer The Red Chair), or perhaps, with a little more speed, the Jet. The available terrain between the lodge and the lifts is vastly reduced from the old layout, and the downhill skier will be faced with uphill hikers to the Taxi Chair, sidehill sliders to the Bonnie, and downhill traffic from the runs above. On a slow day, probably no big deal. On a busy day, well, we all concluded that there is a cluster-f-bomb waiting to happen.  We shall see.

Surely, some snow will even this out. But it does look a little tight.
If you have read this blog with any regularity, you may have noticed that our little group is a bit reluctant to accept change. When it suits our tastes, we embrace it. When we have it forced upon us, we scope it out, we adapt and we seek out the best in the new situation. There are a lot of Jay skiers like us, and most of them hang out at Stateside. The old Stateside Lodge was the last holdout of The Past at Jay Peak. Now that it is gone, and a new space has been introduced, we have to adapt. Lockers have been booked and passes purchased. Fueled by stoke and history, the spirit of Stateside skiers will prevail and, after some growing pains, find its place in the new layout. Because really, a lodge is just a place to put your boots on, and the real reason we go to Jay is up on the hill.

There is hope, let's just trust that it is not discounted like a t-shirt.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Looking forward into the grey area.

"Leaving the City" - by John Rowe
When Newport-based artist John Rowe sat at a traffic light in his adopted Vermont town and imagined the image above, I wonder if he considered what effect it would have on skiers like me. Maybe, maybe not. Artists, of course, make art for a wide range of reasons, and are probably pleased when their work creates unexpected reactions from viewers. Perhaps it is my love of post-apocalyptic themes, exemplified by movies such as Blade Runner, Mad Max and Waterworld, but when I saw John's painting, two things popped into my brain: 1) I had to get a copy (which I did), and, 2) is this the Jay Peak of the future?

Yes, what will Jay Peak become in the grey area of the future? A maze of traffic lights on the 242, elevated parking, synthetic snow in a warmed world, waterparks everywhere and golfer-filled condos aplenty? Probably. With any luck, they'll throw in some mountain biking, because you could do that year-round when the snow stops falling.

Hopefully, that particular future is beyond my lifetime. The immediate future is easier to grasp and still snow-filled. Despite a lingering love for the old Stateside Lodge, our crew has pretty much accepted the fact that the new edition will be an improvement. We like the Taxi Chair and the Sky Haus Deli. Jonny Jay and I had lunch at The Foundry last spring and agreed that it wasn't so bad after all (and quite affordable, compared to regular cafeteria prices). A few of us have even dipped their toes into into the Lazy River and come out alive.

How do we deal with this? How do we go from bitching about development to quietly acquiescing and actually enjoying the results?  We go skiing. We find the chutes, the shots and the not-so-secret stashes, and sometimes, we just cruise the groomers. We take the long view. We appreciate that local businesses like Firsttrax, Sylvester's Market and all the others will thrive with a more year-round attraction. We look back to the Jay Peak of old, the slow double chairs, the Jet T-Bar, the 20 minute lift lines and wonder: was that better? Not really. Though I have to admit, I do cherish the memory of skiing certain untracked runs in "the woods" before they became "glades" and were given names. We will never get that back but it will always be with us. As Utah Phillips said, "Now the past didn't go anywhere, did it? It's right here, right now." As summer wanes and fall creeps in, I have to admit, that right here, right now, I am really looking forward to another winter of skiing at Jay. That is my past and that is my future.

And as for development? All we can hope for is that the powers that be at JPR don't lose sight of the "long memory," a concept that is another gem from Utah Phillips: "...the long memory is the most radical idea in this country. It is the loss of that long memory which deprives our people of that connective flow of thoughts and events that clarifies our vision, not of where we're going, but where we want to go." - U. Utah Phillips

Where do you want to go, Jay Peak?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Final Day??

By Jonny Jay
The classic spring view of the Jet
Although Jay is doing its best to keep things running it looks like Mother Nature may give winter the last blow this week with announced high temps. One Jay source did say they wanted to keep going until mid-May if they could but . . . check on Thursday. 
Good conditions in Beaver Pond!
Skiing was great on the weekend if you timed it right. Triple chair side in the morning and then the big mountain late morning on. Upper Ullrs and Beaver Pond were perfect on Saturday at noon
but they closed it on Sunday because there was a bit of a walk over a few spots on the runout and I guess you could catch an edge in the various small fissures along Kokomo but hey -- it's spring! Jet, Haynes, CanAm, Expo Glade and even the Goat were all in good shape but the bottom runouts could melt away pretty soon.

A great season overall.

Nice snow on Tramside
Excellent coverage on the Vermonter!
RIP, Bonventure Chair
RIP, Stateside Lodge
Jonny Jay says adieu, for now

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Stateside Farewell

By Jonny Jay

Were we skiing on these when it was built?
It was a glorious day for the Stateside Lodge sendoff on April 6, also known as the Chalet Shakedown. Albeit a bit chilly, the combination of tailgate barbecues and plenty of anti-freeze kept everything (and everybody) fluid. With demolition only days away, the old lodge put up a valiant effort to defend her weaknesses, and promote her strengths, while diehards searched for souvenirs and newbies wondered what the attraction was to this ski lodge with the inverted "V" roofline and the infamous bathrooms.

The party in the parking lot was in full gear by noon and the Jay Peak management is to be credited with letting it all go full tilt, in Stateside style, while also sponsoring a late afternoon band to wrap things up.

The highlight of the souvenir seekers was revealed when I walked into the seasonal locker room on Sunday morning only to find that the men’s room door – yes that big steel blue one – had gone missing! “Hey honey, look what I got from the lodge!”

I first entered the doors at Stateside in the late 60s, and there are many fine memories of a skier’s mountain with all the basics at hand. Now we are a multi-generational family of stateside groupies, shunning the more sophisticated Tramside cousin. After Monday a new era begins . . . let’s try and stay positive people, even though it looks like the new eating area will be facing the parking lot! Maybe the orientation will allow for a view of the tram, or the mountain, and all will be good again.

And by the way, the skiing is still great with almost anything skiable/rideable, and that’s what we really go for -- see you there.


Tailgating in full swing

There is no shortage of snow at Jay Peak

The essence of Stateside

It was an all ages event...

The spirit of Jay is orange!

Do you think he was skiing the next day?

Who let the dogs out?

Bruce got things going and kept the grill grilling
Some EB5 construction workers on a day off?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spring skiing has sprung at Jay Peak

The DC, Sklinda and Jonny Jay ready for some warm temperatures and soft snow.
I am pleased to report that the spring skiing season is "on" at Jay Peak. Over this weekend we went from fully bundled up to tentative lighter layers. Jonny Jay shed his trademark down vest and by Saturday, some other brave souls even left their balaclavas in the locker.

To be honest, I didn't take many pictures. The snow coverage was excellent, the sun was shining and the March break crowds seemed to be dispersed all over the place. Thank God for the Waterpark and the Aerial Tramway!

Many guests spent their day in the Tram line. This is at least a five-tram wait.
I do wish that I had a record of some of the mayhem that took place on the Can-Am. This trail was like a siren of the deeps, luring unsuspecting skiers with promises of sun-baked goodness. Underneath a thin veil of angel dust lurked the glacial results of Jay's hardworking snowmakers. JJ and I skied it both Friday and Saturday. On Friday's run, I used the high-speed sideslip to navigate between snow islands. Saturday, a more conservative approach was employed: I found the sugar piled up on skier's right, and, channeling my inner Sylvain Saudan, hop-turned down the steep part. Honestly, it was quite fun but I did feel sorry for the poor folks we witnessed belly-sliding the pitch, and was relieved that they were unhurt. Another part of March break break madness - lots of folks going where they shouldn't be.

Like the mullet hairstyle of times gone by, Stateside is all business in the front...
In other news, the lucky folks with lockers at Stateside Lodge received a memo from on high: clear your locker out by April 2, demolition day is April 8. Like the demolition of Hotel Jay, this will mark the end of an era. Despite the smelly washrooms, many long-time Jay skiers have a soft spot for the shingle clad relic of the 60s and I, for one, will be a little sad to see it go. But not that sad. Can someone save me a shingle?

And all party in the back. RIP, Stateside Lodge!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Nephews: An Unexpected Journey

...By Throckmorton

“This epic and historic trip needs to be documented on the blog.” 

Throckmorton is stoked and steezy at the wheel.
It may have sounded hilarious at the time but SBR could not have stated it more accurately than he did. For the first time ever, Grandpa Grindbar and Throckmorton took off for a trip to Jay without our parents. While it cannot be understated that their presence was sorely missed, it is was remedied by the excitement of the brothers heading out on their own. 

After an eight-hour car ride, with actual co-operation and perfect directions taken, we arrived at the Cliff House. There’s a number of reasons why this is one of the best feelings ever: 1) finally getting to stretch out intense cramping; and, 2) knowledge that tomorrow you will be skiing one of the best mountains in the east, after being away for what felt to me like an eternity. Reason number three is the most under-rated and that is the overwhelming feeling of family that we all feel when we come into the house for the first time. It hit me especially hard on this trip and I felt needed to be said.
Grandpa Grindbar enjoys a pre-Valhalla hot chocolate.
But, enough of the mushy stuff; let's get down to the important part. Day one could be described as full tilt, morning to afternoon, of Uncle Pudd and Great Uncle Jonny Jay trying to run their nephews into the ground, about which I’m going to suck up my pride and say: they did. It was definitely not a day of skiing defined as getting your legs back under you, but I couldn’t have asked for it any other way. 

It is important to note that the four of us, without intending to, took our first trip into the Sky Haus Deli, formerly known as Elevation 4000. It is MORE important to note that not only Pudd but also Jonny Jay, who does not greet change with a smile at the best of times, had nothing but positive and supportive compliments of what they have done up there. 

I also fell victim to the best fall of the week on the Upper Quai but such is life on the Quai. On the second day, I felt the Lords get back under me as Grandpa Grindbar, Jonny Jay and I braved the Jay winds that brought on another first, as the JPSP closed the Triple and not the Red, standard Jay Peak inverted logic. As the week went on, the skiing - especially the trees - just kept getting better, with more snow every night. By the final day, Grandpa Grindbar and I were privileged to have one of those runs you’ll remember forever in the Orchard. It was the run where your line is perfect, fresh white stuff the whole way and, of course, at the bottom, a crowd of people who stop and watch you stomp the line they wish they found.
The two of us skied harder than we ever have for those four days and did it with the stupidest smiles possible the entire time. We also achieved an official family first, with proof, that we scored the first perfectly co-ordinated hot chocolate break at the top of the mountain, followed by a run down Valhalla with no one else in sight. 

As always, leaving the hill for the final time is hard, knowing you have to return to the real world the next day; but, this trip, it was done with a proud sense of accomplishment from both of us. Really, the best way to sum it all up would be, as I sit here writing this, I just cannot wait to go back.

The Orchard awaits. Is this really Christmas week?

Editor's note: like it or not. Throckmorton and Grandpa Grindbar have been "Raised Jay." Every fledgling needs to get out from under the wing and this trip was their opportunity to do just that.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The wind.The wind...

The wind informed everything we did at Jay Peak this week. The way we dressed, where we skied, what lifts we rode and, maybe, even what we had for lunch. The wind was constant but it shifted around, pushing us here and there on the mountain. Boy, can you let the skis run when the wind is trying to push you back uphill.

Fortunately, the temperatures were moderate and it was quite bearable to ride a chairlift.

Conditions ranged from this (much better than it looks):
The River Quai in fine form. And really quite skiable.

To this nice surprise:
Four days after the last big snow, Jonny Jay finds some fresh tracks in a popular glade run on Tramside.
And this, even on Thursday, the last day before the thaw:
The wind kept putting the snow back after the skiers disturbed it. This was easy to find.
 There will be more to tell once I have caught up on my sleep.