Jay Peak , VT 12MAY2012

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in May on the Haynes Trail at Jay Peak Resort in Vermont
May turns today on the Haynes trail at Jay Peak Resort

The boys and I had visited Jay Peak exactly one month ago today to take advantage of the 2+ feet of upslope snow that a cutoff low pressure system had dropped on the Northern Greens. It was great to catch up on all that had happened at the resort over the past couple of seasons, and since that visit I’ve been checking in on the Jay Peak website to keep up on the latest news. I’d looked into lodging deals for that trip with the boys last month and hadn’t found quite what I was looking for at that point, but over the past couple of weeks they’ve been promoting a Mother’s Day brunch/lodging/water park package that looked quite attractive. Prices started at $159 for brunch and lodging for two, and options were available to add on additional people and water park access.

I mentioned the idea to E earlier this week, and she thought it was a possibility, but we let it simmer for a while as we thought about what we might do with my parents over the weekend. The boys caught wind of the Jay Peak idea, and they were of course gung ho about the whole thing, since it included visiting the Pump House Waterpark. Finally, after finding out yesterday that my mom was heading with my sister to New York for the weekend, we decided to go ahead and book a room at the resort. Since it was technically Mother’s Day on Sunday, we made sure that it was what E wanted to do, and she was excited about the idea. I called up Jay Peak, spoke with a representative, and they set us up with a nice room in the Tram Haus. The package included the Mother’s Day brunch at Alice’s Table, two days worth of access to the Pump House Waterpark, Ice Haus Arena access, and apparently a collection of other goodies that we saw listed on the website. Another very cool part of the trip was that there was still snow for skiing. Earlier in the week the resort had posted a photo of all the snow left at the Stateside area with the caption “May snow for the motivated”. The snow looked good and I was motivated to get some turns, and I suspected that I could get E and the boys motivated as well.

After taking care of some yard work and other stuff at the house in the morning, we headed off to the resort around mid afternoon today. Temperatures were around 70 F, and skies were partly clear with some clouds building in ahead of precipitation that’s expected overnight. As we crested the top of Route 242, which is somewhere above 2,200’ in elevation, the effect of the altitude was very obvious as the temperature dropped well down into the 60s F. We checked in at the Tram Haus and found our room there to be quite impressive; various locally crafted materials were used in the construction, and the craftsmanship seems first rate. Our room was a suite-style setup, with a full kitchen and a good size living area that contained a pull-out bed for the boys. Our balcony looked out right over the slopes, and we could even see the snowy slopes over at the Stateside Area.

An image of Ty looking out from the balcony of our room in the Tram Haus Lodge at Jay Peak Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty takes in the view of the resort and the snow at the Stateside area from our balcony at the Tram Haus Lodge.

After getting settled in the room for a bit, we hopped back in the car and drove over to Stateside to make some turns. A quick look revealed that the Haynes/Mont L’Entrepide route seemed to have the most continuous snow, so we made use of the access road to the Jet Triple Chair, which allowed us to drive right up to the base of the runs. It was nice dry grass there at the bottom of Mont L’Entrepide, and made for a great place to prepare the gear and get suited up. There was a brisk breeze at times, and being Jay Peak, the weather was doing its own thing, so we even had a few spits of rain among the mixed clouds and sun. We were thankful for the breeze when it was there, because black flies were already starting to appear. They didn’t seem to be biting much yet, but they were still annoying when the breeze didn’t keep them away.

An image of a May wildflower on the Mont L'Entrepide trail at Jay Peak Ski Resort in Vermont
We saw beautiful wildflowers appearing on Jay Peak’s slopes.

We hiked for the first couple pitches of the ascent with our skis on our packs, and E and I took care of carrying the boys skis so that they could enjoy the ascent. We saw a couple of other guys making the ascent as well, and climbing on the skier’s right seemed to be the most practical route. Small patches of snow started to appear almost immediately as we headed upward, and then after passing a one relatively large area of snow, we were able to put on our skins for the rest of the ascent. The snow was generally decent corn, although there were some areas where it was icier – we tried to avoid those areas on the ascent because they didn’t offer the skins very good grip. One didn’t really need an established skin track for the ascent, but we generally followed what was set up by other skiers. The continuous snow reached to just about the top of the trail, and for the last third of the ascent, E was really blazing the path and set up some a skin track with nice switchbacks.

An image of Ty making a Telemark turn on the Haynes Trail at Jay Peak Resort in Vermont in mid May
Ty getting in some Telemark turns on Haynes today

We enjoyed some relaxing time at the top of the ascent on Haynes as we soaked in the views of the resort and the wilds of the Northeast Kingdom. The sun was in and out of the clouds, but the temperatures were perfect, and with the wind picking up as we ascended, any black fly issues disappeared for the most part. The Haynes Trail is actually quite steep, so we were excited to see if the boys were going to go for some Telemark turns, or simply stick with alpine turns. They actually mixed it up, with Ty making Tele turns throughout much of the descent regardless of pitch, and Dylan throwing them in where he felt comfortable as the pitch decreased a bit. There was some really nice snow near the top of Haynes on the skier’s left – some fun, steep corn snow that let you push hard into the turns. We did our best to avoid the dirty, icy areas, and we still had to hit some, but they were manageable. We were able to make our way to the end of the last big patch of snow crossing just one notable gap, and then we strapped our skis back onto our packs and had about a five-minute descent to the car. It was definitely fun to get in some May turns today, because even though May skiing is pretty standard most seasons, the combination of low snowfall and incredibly warm weather this March depleted the snowpack much quicker than usual.

An view of the Tram Haus Lodge, Tramside Base Lodge, Hotel Jay, and Pump House Waterpark viewed from the top of the Stateside area at Jay Peak Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the Tramside Base Area from the Stateside Summit

The boys were actually in very good spirits for today’s ski session, because they knew that a trip to the water park was coming right on its heels. We made it back to our room at the Tram Haus, got suited up for swimming, and headed out quickly to the water park because it was actually getting late. One very cool thing we discovered today is that although the Pump House Waterpark is in the Hotel Jay, even if you are in the Tram Haus Lodge, you don’t have to go outside to get to the water park. It turns out that the Tram Haus and the Tramside Base Lodge are connected to the Hotel Jay and water park by an underground tunnel; you never even have to go outside because the buildings are essentially all part of one huge complex. I had initially inquired about getting a room at the Hotel Jay since we knew the water park was going to be big with the boys, but it was great to find out that staying at the Tram Haus works out just as well. I’m sure this is a huge benefit to people in the winter; imagine being wet from the water park and having to head out into the elements at a place like Jay Peak. It’s actually quite a labyrinthine trip to get through the whole complex from the Tram Haus to the Pump House, but it’s fun and you get to see a lot of what the resort has to offer. You go right past Mountain Dick’s Pizza, so you can stop in if you want to get a bite to eat, and we saw that the Hotel Jay even has a big family/game room for people to use. In addition, right next to the water park there is a huge arcade. Overall it’s quite a mesmerizing place to be a kid, and the boys were really bouncing off the walls due to the dizzying array of things to do.

As for the Pump House Waterpark, it was the first time visiting for me, but E and the boys had been before so they were my tour guides. They started things off with a couple of laps in the Big River, which is the lazy-river style stream of water that encircles the area of the water park. It’s actually got a decent current, and you can ride tubes or just swim around and go with the flow. I was next introduced to the four main water slides. I joined Dylan on the “blue” water slide, where you ride on one of the inflatable tubes just like in the Big River. It’s been years since I’ve been to a water park, but man, these slides are fast! The last time I’d been on a water slide before these ones was when we were at a party back home and someone had rented one from their local water slide hire shop, it was great fun but nowhere near as big as these ones. In one section you go into complete darkness and as the slide dips and turns, it really throws you around. I was yelling up a storm on the blue slide once the darkness hit – you really have no idea which way the slide is going to go next, so you’re just on the edge of your seat. The “green” water slide has a similar setup, and Dylan and I started on our knees on our double tube – we had a pretty bad tumble in the dark section of the slide and ended up falling off our tube! It was pretty crazy, and if you’re looking for something tame, these slides are certainly not it. I was next introduced to the “orange” slide, which kicks it up a notch – you don’t ride a tube, and there are some serious g-forces if you let yourself pick up speed in that one. To finish off, I tried the “red” slide, which is called “La Chute”; it has an off-axis loop in it. Whoa, that one really is in a league of its own. You take an extra staircase that gets you up into a little room sticking out of the top of the water park structure – that’s already a message right there. You start off standing in what is essentially a clear, vertical coffin that gets closed around you, then the floor drops out from beneath your feet and you are just about free falling – that is until you start to get into the loop and you are crushed to the outer wall of the slide. It is a huge, harrowing rush of a ride. One very cool thing about our visit to the Pump House this evening was that since we were near the end of the day, we just walked right onto all the slides and there were no lines. We also visited a bunch of other attractions in the water park – one that I really liked was the bouldering wall that is perched right above the water, so that when you release, you just splash down. I want to get back to work on that one tomorrow. We finished off in the huge “Hot Springs” hot tub, which has a number of little coves that act like little secluded hot tubs of their own. I’d heard quite a bit about the Pump House from E and the boys and other folks that have gone, but I still wasn’t quite sure what my own experience would be like. Now that I’ve been, I’ve got to say that almost anyone will find something there that they’ll enjoy. I’d like to try the surfing wave tomorrow; there always seems to be at least a bit of a line there even when it’s slow, but it looks like it would be a lot of fun.

An image of the four main water slides in the Pump House Indoor Waterpark at Jay Peak Ski Resort in Vermont
The main water slides at the Pump House Indoor Waterpark

We stayed at the Pump House right up through the 9:00 P.M. closing, and then headed back to the room and cooked up a late dinner of pasta, bread, salad, and other stuff that we’d brought from home. The kitchen in our unit has plenty of space and naturally everything you need for cooking and cleaning is available. The boys say they already can’t wait to come again, so we’ll be watching for more lodging packages. The water park really makes the trip quite unique, and it’s certainly an incentive to stay over and make it a multi-day event. It’s also nice to be able to acknowledge Jay Peak’s efforts to make the resort a place that has got so much to offer that people will really want to come here, even if they aren’t skiing. Being able to come up and have a good time, while supporting the economy in a part of the state that could really use the boost is a win-win as far as we’re concerned. We came up two years ago for the Mother’s Day brunch at Alice’s Table for a day trip, but with all the additions to the resort since then, an overnight stay was a really good fit this time. I’m sure the incentive to take similar trips will only increase as the resort’s developments continue – I can’t wait to see what the West Bowl ski terrain expansion will be like if the resort is able to continue with their plans. On a practical note, I was able to hop right on to the free wireless here at the Tram Haus and upload this report with ease. The signal was strong, and upload and download speeds were both in the 20 Mb/sec, so uploading pictures for the trip report was a snap.

Sunday update: As forecast, the sky was gray this morning. There wasn’t any notable precipitation when we first awoke, but from our room we could see umbratilous clouds pushing their way down from Jay Peak to hide the upper mountain slopes. Brunch down at Alice’s Table was excellent, just as we’d experienced on our last Mother’s Day trip, and it felt like there were even more options available this time. While at brunch, the rains finally came, and that quickly evoked memories of the snowstorm that was taking place the last time we’d been eating there – we were even sitting at the same table!

An image of tram and chairlift towers under descending clouds from the tram base area at Jay Peak Ski Resort in Vermont
Gray skies and descending clouds on Sunday morning

Our brunch was right at the start of the morning, so when we were done we had time to head back to the room and relax for a while. The boys were of course chomping at the bit to get back to the water park, but they were at least able to amuse themselves watching some TV and playing their video games. Most importantly, Mom got to spend at least some of the morning relaxing in her big king bed in the master bedroom, and the boys generally let her do that. When we finally checked out, I was still curious about all those additional perks that we’d heard about on the website. The associate at the front desk eventually realized that they were part of a coupon book, and she passed a copy along to us. Indeed it’s chock full of some great Jay Peak deals, such as a family tram ride, an additional ticket for the water park, a $10 gift certificate that was good anywhere at the resort, tokens for the arcade, equipment rental at the Ice Haus Arena, etc.

An image of Dylan, Erica, and Ty having lunch at The Warming Shelter snack bar next to the water park at Jay Peak Ski Resort in Vermont
Lunch at The Warming Hut snack bar

After checking out, we moved on to the water park for another session, and as we headed from the car through windy sheet drizzle, it only reinforced the fact that an indoor water park is absolutely the way to go when it comes to Jay Peak. You get the winter access of course, but at any time of year, you never quite know what the mountain is going to deliver for weather. There were a few more people at the water park today compared to last night, but the slides were essentially “walk on” again, with occasionally two or three people in front of you at the slide entry. I didn’t get a chance to try the surfing, but it looks like one of the coupons we received provides a lesson with one of the instructors, so that may be useful. I’d managed to eat well at brunch (not surprisingly), but E and the boys can’t quite pull that off, so they had some lunch at “The Warming Shelter” snack bar attached to the water park. By that point, Ty and I were done swimming, so we hung out in there while E and Dylan went back out for several more laps in the Big River. Ty and I were able to watch them from our seats as they’d float by, and we had a good time chatting and relaxing in the snack bar. It’s quite a disparity of environments when you are behind the glass there. Out in the water park it’s warm, humid and loud, but in the snack bar it was the exact opposite.

Before leaving, we stopped in at the Elevation 1851’ Family Arcade, used our coupon tokens for some skee ball, and the boys played a round on one of the video games where you ride on motorcycles. We also checked out the surf shop to see if they carried any Jay Peak surf shirts; a lot of folks (including Ty and Dylan) use those type of shirts at the water park, and they help to keep you a bit warmer if you’re going to be in the water all day. I’ve got one that I use for kayaking, which also keeps away that board rash from long days of boogie boarding, and E has been wanting one for a while. The surf shop is fairly big, with lots of Jay Peak merchandise, but we had no luck on Jay Peak-specific surf shirt. That would be kind of a neat item though, a surf shirt from a ski area. As we headed home, the sky gradually brightened and eventually gave way to partly cloudy conditions, and a check of the rain gauge at the house revealed that we hadn’t even received any precipitation while we’d been gone. In the winter that precipitation pattern probably would have meant some snow for Jay Peak, while even just an hour south at the house we would have totally missed out on it – just some off season work by the famous Jay cloud.

Stowe, VT 25MAR2012

An image of Dylan in a Telemark turn on the Sunrise trail area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan hits the spring snow today at Stowe for his third day in a row working on Telemark turns.

Yesterday, Bolton Valley finished up its lift-served season, and we were able to get out and make good use of the soft spring snow as the boys worked on their Telemark turns.  Weather conditions were fairly similar today, with temperatures around 40 F or so at the mountain elevations, so we were anticipating the chance for more spring snow on the slopes as we headed off to Stowe.  On the way to the resort I was surprised to see a couple of pockets of natural snow all the way down at the elevation of the Matterhorn around 1,000’, but in general one had to head up above 2,500-3,000’ to really get into substantial natural snow.  The snow at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is down to just 26 inches after being at over 80 inches near the beginning of the Month – and this is at a time when the snowpack on Mt. Mansfield should still be increasing.  Based on the forecast, it looks like the melting will cease for a while, and there could even be some increases with additional snowfall, so this may mark the end of the most precipitous melting.  The rapid jump in snowpack in February combined with the quick drop in March makes for quite a dramatic plot of the Mt. Mansfield snow depth.

A plot of the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake for the 2011-2012 winter season as of March 25, 2012
The plot of snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield stake this season as of today - the past month has seen a dramatic rise and fall in mountain snowpack.

With the gray skies today, we weren’t surprised to see that parking lots were minimally occupied.  For a change of pace from the rest of the season, we decided to park on the Mt. Mansfield side of the resort, and we were able to get a convenient spot right in front of the Mansfield Base Lodge.  It was fun stopping in there and checking out the scene, since we’ve been over at the Spruce Camp Base Lodge all season.  Stowe has currently got the most available terrain in the state thanks to their snowfall and snowmaking, and when I checked on the trail report on their website, I saw that there would be plenty of low/moderate angle terrain that would suit the boys as they worked on their Telemark turns.

A photo of a painting on the wall in Stowe's Octagon building, showing a Telemark skier in powder
This painting iin the Octagon caugt our eye, especially with the theme of the day.

Much of the mountain was shrouded in fog, but the snow was nice and soft right from when we arrived around midday.  The route that we used was Ridge View to Sunrise to Tyro to Crossover to Dalton/Liftline, and it was a perfect mix of pitches for the boys.  Both Ty and Dylan had obvious “vanilla” (in this case turning to the right) and “chocolate” (turning to the left) sides today, so we worked on catching that chocolate side up to the vanilla.  We noted that on their bad side, the boys would often have their weight a bit too far back, so we were able to pass that along to them and they were able to use it to consciously work on fixing those turns.  With this being their third day in a row on their Telemark skis though, their improved comfort level and increased skills were very apparent, and they were having a lot of fun with their turns.  E commented on how they were quite disciplined and rarely ever needed to resort to alpine turns, and she was especially impressed when she’d find herself in tight quarters throwing in an alpine turn and find that the boys were still dropping the knee.  The boys were certainly feeling those long Stowe runs in their legs, so we took a break up in the Octagon before it closed; it was mellow scene with just a few people around.

An image of four snowboarders walking up for another run in the terrain park at Stowe - March 25, 2012
Four riders prepare for another round of jumps as they climb their way back up in Stowe's lower terrain park today.

On one of our runs we stopped and watched what appeared to be an impromptu session taking place in the lower terrain park near the Mountain Triple Chair.  They had a tent set up with an announcer on a loudspeaker and music, and he was calling out the tricks that the athletes were throwing down.  It seemed like they were having a lot of fun making good use of the soft spring snow.  The weather is really supposed to cool off for the next couple of days, with a chance for a little snow tonight and mountain temperatures in the single digits tomorrow night.  I think we got lucky with the soft snow surfaces this weekend, but there definitely won’t be softening with high temperatures only in the 20s F tomorrow.  The snowpack is certainly going to be preserved this week though, and perhaps we could even see some increases depending on how much snow falls, so that will help keep the ski season going as we head into spring.