Jay Peak - Still my favorite mountain.
(Full Disclaimer - I was given a ticket by Jay Peak because of my blog. It in no way affects my opinion of the mountain, I just really, really love this mountain.)
The last time I was at Jay Peak I was 17, I think. I went up with my dad for a couple days during spring break. That was 8 years ago. A lot has changed at Jay, primarily around the base of the mountain. A lot has changed with my skiing ability as well, as I am substantially better now than I was back then. What has not changed is the mountain. Jay Peak is just as good, if not better than I remember it being. I was worried my memories of the mountain would not stand up against the onslaught of mountains I have visited this season, but much to my delight, Jay Peak is still my favorite mountain.
Jay Peak - NH_OPERATOR age 17.
Jay Peak - NH_OPERATOR age 25.
I was lucky enough to actually have my buddy coming with me on this trip, which is nice, because skiing alone gets boring. It's also super nice to have someone who will make sure I don't die doing the very difficult terrain that Jay has. We pulled in, and once I figured out where to pick up my ticket from, I headed for the lodge. The main base of Jay is a little confusing. Both my friend and I, ended up wandering the large 'Tram Haus Lodge' looking for the cafeteria where we could leave our bags. We managed to walk right by the main cafeteria with out even noticing it. Once that confusion was over and we had geared up we headed straight for the Gondola. As with any gondola, 15-20 minute waits are normal, even with fairly short lines. Luckily, you can access almost the entire mountain from a high-speed quad that is adjacent to the gondola, but if you want to get to the really, really hard stuff, you have to take the gondola.
Waiting for the Gondola.
When we got to the top we were pleasantly surprised to find a fresh 3-4 inches of light, fluffy pow on top of a pretty good packed powder base. We meandered our way over to the Jet Triple chair, having a blast sending huge waves of snow everywhere. One of the things that I have never seen before that I absolutely love are the RFID embedded lift tickets. No longer to you have to have some dude with a price checker feeling you up trying to read the bar-code on your lift ticket. Simply put the card in one of your front pockets, and slide through the gates. Even when it does not read you quite right, all you really have to do is hip-check the reader and your through. I very much hope more mountains catch on to this idea, as it saves a ton of time. I imagine it saves the mountain loads of cash as well.
Once we got to the summit, with one warm up run done it was time to hit the mountain hard. We headed straight for 'Timbuktu'. The snow was phenomenal. This has apparently been one of Jays worst years for total snowfall, but you I certainly couldn't tell. I heard an occasional scrape here or there, but other than one day at Gunstock in 30+ inches of powder, this day was by far the most fun I have had in the glades in years. We jumped right back on the lift, had some lift beers and jumped right back down the 'Kitz Woods' trail to 'Hell's Woods for more excellent glade action.
That sign has some character.
As we made our way up the Bonaventure Quad, we spotted a hell of a fun looking trail called 'Deliverance' with a nice little drop off to hit. We navigated through the maze of warning signs and headed over the drop. It was a great time. I love places with in-bounds cliff drops.
I love drops.
After our run down the top half of 'Deliverance' we found ourselves with a great view of the park. With no intentions of doing hot laps in the park today (due to the extreme number of glades that I absolutley had to ski) we headed down to get some shots. This is their large park located on '720'. There is some confusion as to what they are called, as their online map, and printed trail maps give each park different names. It has some pretty big, very well formed booters, and a pile of sick looking rails, all of which were straight entry. I am a fan of that (mainly because I can't side enter to save my life).
I love this shot.
Once we were done checking out that park, it was time to take on the real hard stuff. We cruised over to the gondola, and headed up. The the 'Face-chutes' looked decent from the gondola, so we hiked around, braving the sheer ice to get to where we could clip in. The headwall under the gondola is definitely the steepest thing on the mountain.
I skied the headwall way back when I was 17, and I remember it being brutally hard. I was a little nervous on the walk in, and my friend was substantially more nervous, but once I got going, it seemed easier than I remembered. It is still fun as hell though. With one minor, and stupid fall on my part right at the top, we got down without incident. I only saw a handful of people hit it all day, and the trail leading out confirmed that. Even at 11:30 or 12 when we got there, there was still loads of un-touched snow on the cruise out. It was a blast.
At some point we entered what we THOUGHT was either the 'Everglade' or 'Staircase' glades, and saw that they crossed in the middle, so we kept to the center. Well, it turned out we were actually in the 'North Glade' and ended up cutting all the way down through the forest and popping out on the trail that skirts the edge of the mountain. I love the fact that we were able to do that without almost any issues. We were pretty much just following the tracks in the glade and it lead us on an extremely long adventure. The snow was nice and deep.
Once we got back on track, we headed back up the gondola one last time. The last trail up there I really remember from my previous visit was 'Valhalla'. At some point in the last 8 years or so Jay has removed all of their double-black diamond trail signs. I bought one of the Valhalla trail signs on my first visit, which has it rated as double black, but now, on all the signs and maps it is only a single black. It seems an odd move for a mountain to re-categorize their trails, especially when their is such a massive difference in difficulty within the black diamond rating. Anyway, it too is a hell of a glade, and skiing amongst the stunted trees is certainly a cool experience. We had planned on eating at the summit, but we were told that the entire summit lodge had run out of food when we went in around 1. That is one I had never heard before. Eventually we made our way down to Jays other park located on '180' (or whatever they have renamed it to, again, the maps differ). This was a very solid, and fairly creative progression park.
We finished out the day riding the Flyer Express Quad hitting the North side of the mountain. The 'Beaver Pond' and 'Andre's Paradise' Glades are excellent, combined with the 'Kokomo' Glade results in pretty much an endless glade run, that is taller than some of the smaller mountains I have been to.
We closed the lifts down at Jay, which is something I generally don't do. There are few mountains that can hold my attention from open to close (without riding park that is), and I would probably have to stay at Jay for 2 or 3 days before I really felt I had explored the entire mountain sufficiently. The possibilities are simply endless. Again, I was definitely impressed with their parks. Nothing too massive, but something is there for anyone of any skill level. One other thing I would like to mention, is that Jay Peak is the first mountain I have been to where the food is actually priced reasonably. Burgers are like 5 dollars as opposed to $9 everywhere else, and the deli/store near the parking lot made one of the best BLTs Ive ever had for $7.50. If you have never skied Jay Peak, and you are a lover of glades, you owe it to yourself to make the trip (way) north. I cannot wait till next year when I can return again.
GTNS status update! This week I will be skiing Mad River Glen (3/4), Bolton Valley (3/5) and Stowe (3/6) and doing some car camping. If anyone is going to be at any of those mountains on those days please let me know! I'd love to have someone to ride with!
Also if you missed my last post, check it out here - Black Mountain and Bretton Woods Redux
As always, keep on shredding!