Sunday, January 12, 2014

Skiing the Big Chill (AKA Polar Vortex) and loving it

"There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing."

According to the Internet, it may have been a Norwegian who coined this phrase. No matter. Norwegians, in my experience, are somewhat loony and would certainly embrace the experience of skiing at Jay Peak in the throes of the Vortex and the dismal northern dregs of winter storm "Hercules." Embracing our inner Norwegians, we dressed for the weather and embraced some classic Jay conditions during the first days of 2014.

Clear and frosty at the top of the Montrealer.
As usual, many members of the Jonny Jay Ski Club gathered at Jay Peak over the Christmas and New Year's holiday. The weather was all over the place, ultimately laying waste to the fine start to the season enjoyed by those lucky enough to ski before Christmas. Reports were contradictory: BBP was awesome, or BBP was awful; Valhalla was "not awful" - that sort of thing. I arrived at the end of the holidays, just in time for the deep freeze and some surprisingly fun skiing.

The marked path through the snowmaker's ice fog
Day one found Jonny Jay, yours truly and the two nephews enjoying some quality bonding time. JJ and I are actually great uncles to these lads but since it tweaks our vanity to admit it, we simply call them "the nephews." No pictures were taken due to technical difficulties but a good time was had by all. The surprise of the day was Timbuktu, which skied very nicely given the snow levels. But we won't talk of Kitzbuhel, which was definitely having an off day. The Kitz has its moments but that was not one of them. Oh well, if you want to know what conditions are really like, there is only one way to find out.

Snowmakers manage to fashion a mound of snow that resembles the classic profile of Jay Peak.
On day two, only my sister-in-law and I would ski, a very rare event. The fact that Friday, Jan. 3, was the coldest day so far made it even more special. My car registered -22 C in the parking lot, so it could only be colder on the hill. We had a great day, complaining about the temperatures but enjoying the snow, which was really nice. The day started off well with a first run down Goat to Buckaroo and a little fresh snow in that glade. We adopted a "two runs and take a break" schedule due to the extreme cold. After four runs, it was time for a long lunch at Howie's, the new eatery at the new Stateside Lodge. For a crew used to sitting in the old Stateside  "locker room," eating white bread sandwiches and "crisps," this was quite a shift. The service was cheerful, the chowder outstanding and my sandwich very tasty. All of which made heading out again into the deep freeze a little less daunting. Surprising the nay-sayers, we lasted until 3 pm, when both the sun and the mercury started to dip below the horizon.

Nice view from the lunch table!
 Jonny Jay joined us for somewhat warmer (or at least less cold) day three, a Saturday. Ushering in the balmier (only -15 C) was our old friend the wind, which, along with the extra people a weekend brings, scoured many exposed areas. With the Freezer being open, we ventured over to that side and even found some nice snow in Beaver Pond. You just had to ski where the snow was, a lesson learned the hard way at the top of the Northway. While I was enjoying a few inches of windblown ice crystals on the left edge, those sticking to the middle were rewarded with a surface worthy of the Ice Haus.

JJ inspects Can Am
 Besides the cold, the topic of the week (of course) was the new Stateside Lodge. Even with experienced guides, my first day using it was a bit confusing. By the second day, I had the lay of land sorted out, and a few mysteries solved (like, who was Howie, and what vintage is the bus?). There are pros and cons. I have to say, the 54 stairs up from the parking lot are a bit daunting. The inside stairs - very ski boot friendly. And the cubbies are nice. Though there could be a few more hooks. And the bar? What a concept! The jury is still out on the bowling alley effect between the ski racks and the two lifts, and, just like at Tramside,  people are already leaving their skis at the top of the pitch. Is it different? Absolutely. Is it better? In some ways. Did the architect make some mistakes? Let's have a beer at The Bullwheel and talk about it. I could go on but what's done is done, and when it all boils down, buildings are just places to park your stuff. We really just come for the skiing and the people, don't we?

No visit to Montgomery would be complete without paying respects to Don and Frosty.
And then there is the long drive home...