The weather was quite a contrast between yesterday and today – yesterday was relatively low visibility with constant snowfall, but today there was hardly a cloud in the sky. The basin area had definitely picked up more snow since I’d left yesterday, but it was most notable above the road elevation (~1,500’). Yesterday I found powder in the 8-12” range down in that elevation range, and we found something closer to a consistent 12” today. Up higher, I’d found 12-16” in the 2,500’ range, but my measurements show that the powder depth had increased to roughly 20” when we were there today. If one considers how dry that snow was, and whatever settling occurred, that was obviously another impressive shot of snow overnight.
Based on my adventures yesterday, I had no plans to bring E and the boys way up toward the east face of Big Jay; the terrain is really too steep for efficient skinning, and there’s so much great ski terrain in Big Jay Basin itself, that there was little point anyway. As I mentioned in yesterday’s report, during the approach, it was somewhere above 2,000’ when I found the first obvious split in the main skin track – I literally came to a “T” junction with a skin track to the left, and the other option to the right. It was interesting guiding the family around today though, as the situation with visible routes was quite different. There had been a lot more skier traffic, so there were skin tracks and descent tracks all over the place, and the obvious distinction of those skin track routes had been obliterated. There were so many ski tracks and descent tracks around that the most efficient one’s I’d taken yesterday got missed in a couple of places, but they were all generally leading to where we wanted to go.
“Yesterday I found powder in the 8-12” range down in that elevation range, and we found something closer to a consistent 12” today. Up higher, I’d found 12-16” in the 2,500’ range, but my measurements show that the powder depth had increased to roughly 20” when we were there today”
The skiing, as expected, was excellent. We topped out at an elevation of roughly 2,700’ in the basin, and worked our way generally back toward the parking area following the typical routes. There was plenty of powder, although since the area had seen additional skier traffic, we didn’t quite have the run of the place like I did yesterday, and we had to move around a bit more for fresh lines. I brought up the idea of just skiing straight down the basin to Route 242 and making the short walk back to the car on the road, because I saw some people that seemed to have taken that approach on my outing yesterday. E and the boys wanted to hit some of that open terrain that’s available near the bottom of the approach though, so we headed that way. Heading straight down out of the basin will be something I’ll have to try on a future trip, but it could be a nice way to avoid having to traverse to the right as much during the ascent and get a more direct fall line run.
Since the trip is an hour or so from home, we used it as an opportunity to get Dylan some of his required driving hours, and that was a win-win. There was still some snow to navigate on the roads so that he could work on dealing with slushy areas, but it was probably good that he wasn’t dealing with the heavy snowfall and low visibility that I had frequently encountered yesterday.
The skiing yesterday was capped off with some dinner, water park time, and then movie watching back in the room to make for a pretty full day. Some of us were up pretty late last night, so fortunately there was no pressing need to get up early this morning. E hadn’t been one of those up late, and she got to sleep in, so that combination was a good way to head into Mother’s Day. Aside from Ty roaming around a bit in the room, there was little activity this morning until a knock at the door signaled the arrival of the pastries and juice. We hung out in the room most of the morning until the Pump House Waterpark opened up, and then E and the boys headed off for one more water session while I took advantage of the quiet room to get some work done.
Once everyone was back from the water park, we checked out of the Tram Haus Lodge and headed over to Jay Peak’sStateside area for some skiing. The weather was a bit cooler today, and the air had definitely dried out as well. With a breeze at times it felt almost chilly, even though it was in the 60s F. Once we got over to Stateside, it took a little while to orient ourselves due to the massive changes that have taken place. The removal of the old Stateside Lodge and the addition of the new Stateside Hotel and Base Lodge as well as the Mountain Kids Adventure Center have transformed the area. We actually visited the new hotel during our Jay Peak trip in December to eat at Howie’s, but we came by shuttle and it was a dark, frigid, December night with snow and wind; there was no way we were seeing anything. We had to do a bit of walking up and around the hotel via the big staircase on the side, and found some skiers enjoying the deck area. Below that there’s a lot of landscaping in progress so there isn’t currently much in the way of convenient access to the slopes right above the lodge, but eventually we found our way over to the base of the Jet Triple Chair. It’s a couple-minute walk back and forth between the hotel and the base of the chair, but the pathway has crushed rock to mitigate potential issues with mud. We also found that there were a number of cars parked right at the base of the Jet Triple Chair; there appears to be a small parking lot there, and some folks had set up for tailgating festivities.
The options for skiing today at Stateside were The Jet and Haynes/Mont L’Entrepide as the steeper routes back down to the base of the Jet Triple Chair, and then another route down Montrealer and Angel’s Wiggle that would bring you right back to near the base of the Stateside Hotel. Snow on the steeper runs was decent, a little thick in spots and a little scratchy in others, but classic, soft spring snow overall. Dylan really fired up some wild skiing for the camera on one of our runs, and was having a blast catching air along the edge of The Jet. It was fun watching from the chair as everyone skied The Jet, and at first we didn’t see any Telemark skiers, but then we started to spot them and some of them were really rippin’ it up. E and I got in a great workout navigating the steep bumps with Telemark turns, and E was happy to get a chance to work on her turns on steeper terrain – she’s often frustrated if we head into steep trees when she’s on her Tele gear, and it’s just too much at once to really get in much practice, but today’s snow and pitch was nice, and she commented on having some great sections where the turns flowed. I found one of the most challenging spots was at the very top of The Jet, where the trail is a bit narrower because it’s constrained by the ropes closing off the top of the lift line so skier’s don’t collide with the chair. There are a couple of huge bump lines, but if you want to ski those while deviating from the obvious troughs, it’s tricky.
We finished a final run back down Montrealer and Angel’s Wiggle, which were a bit sloppier and softer when it came to the snow, so my legs were definitely cooked by the time we reached the bottom. I burned them as hard as I could holding Tele turns until that last stretch to the lodge. We poked around the Stateside Hotel for a bit until we found a drop box for our room keys/ski passes, and then headed out.
We stopped down in the Village of Jay for some food, and although it was mid afternoon, we were happy to find that the Jay Village Inn & Restaurant was serving all day. It’s great to have places like inns that are serving food all day, because even in Stowe we’ve had trouble finding mid afternoon options for dining. For those days when you finish up skiing in the mid afternoon, or don’t want to try waiting around until 5:00 P.M. to stop in for a bite, inns with restaurants seem to be just the ticket. The Whip at the Green Mountain Inn has come to the rescue for us a number of times in that regard. It was our first time at the Jay Village Inn & Restaurant, and it’s got a nice homey feel being a combination inn/restaurant. There’s a huge couch and table in one of the main dining rooms, and the boys were quickly sucked in and passing out while we were waiting for our order. We knew they weren’t likely to be awake in the car too long on the ride home. The food was great and the portions were huge, which is pretty much the general theme you’ll see if check out the reviews for the restaurant on tripadvisor®. I had the unique “Atlantic Sea Dog”, which turned out to be a piece of cod that was about a foot long, and shaped sort of like a hot dog, on a huge bun. I didn’t quite get the name before it came out, but it was all too obvious once I saw it!
After this weekend, it’s just Killington running their lifts for skiers in Vermont, and it will be interesting to see how long they’ll keep going. In an event, there’s still a lot of snow out there for earning turns.
The season before last was our most recent trip to Jay Peak for Mother’s Day weekend, and over the past few weeks it’s been looking like this season might offer a chance for a similar trip. Although April didn’t deliver much in the way of new snowfall, the cold temperatures in March and fairly average April temperatures kept the snowpack around. Jay Peak even decided to keep their lifts running for Mother’s Day, which was not the case back during the 2012 trip, when we hiked for turns.
The lodging packages can be great this time of year at Jay Peak, and a few weeks back at the end of April, I got an email about their deals in May, which included a $229 Ski + Splash + Stay option for the entire family. Since that’s not too much more than it would cost the four of us to just go lift-served skiing for the day, it’s a great deal when you realize that along with the skiing you get lodging, two days of water park access… and two days of skiing. Unlike our last Mother’s Day package, this year’s doesn’t include the Mother’s Day brunch, but it does include fresh pastries and OJ delivered to your room daily.
“We basically had the whole trail to ourselves though, with just a couple other skiers out in the area…”
I watched the forecast to make sure that the weekend wasn’t going to be a washout, and by midweek it was looking good and we called in a reservation. The boys have fun skiing of course, but when it comes to Jay Peak, it’s really all about the Pump House Waterpark. We let them know that if they wanted to head up to Jay Peak and hit the water park, they’d have to agree to at least put in some practice on their Telemark gear. With the ebb and flow of this season, they just haven’t gotten in many Telemark days, and we wanted to get them a bit more time to work on their turns before the season came to a close.
The boys were definitely on board with that idea of some Telemark time, so in the afternoon we loaded up the gear, stopped off for some groceries, and headed up to Jay Peak. It was surprisingly warm today, with temperatures in the 70s F at the house and even a bit of humidity due to some rain that had come through. The clouds were pulling out by the afternoon though, and the sun kept the temperatures right up there in the 70s F even as we approached the mountain. We checked in at the Tram Haus Lodge with the help of some friendly lodging staff, who brought us, our bags, and our ski clothes right up to the room so that we could gear up for some afternoon turns while the lifts were still running. We had a different style of room this time than our previous trip back in 2012 – on that trip we had a 1-bedroom, which has a separate bedroom from the main area, and a full kitchen. This time we had a studio sweet, which has a smaller kitchenette area and it consists of only one room. There’s typically a higher cost for those rooms, but if you want a bedroom with privacy or the larger kitchen, it’s the way to go. In either case, both rooms we’ve been in have that same level of quality craftsmanship, with a Vermont theme in the décor. We actually only had a short time to check out the room when we first got there though, because we quickly got our ski gear on and were out the door to catch some afternoon turns.
There’s actually skiing available at both the Stateside and Tramside areas, although the areas of skiing aren’t currently connected, so you have to pick one or the other. With the late hour, we decided to ski Tramside, since we wouldn’t have to travel anywhere. Also, the skiing there was on the Interstate trail, which is just about perfect for the boys to work on their Telemark turns. We grabbed our ski gear from the car, booted up, and headed right to the Metro Quad in front of the Tram Haus Lodge. The biggest thing that struck me was how easy it was to walk in my boots; with Telemark boots at temperatures around 70 F, it felt like I was almost walking around in street shoes.
Once on the snow, the boys jumped right into their Telemark turns as if they hadn’t missed a beat, and that’s what we were hoping to see. For Dylan, identifying his strong and weak sides was more obvious, but Ty was really putting down some consistent turns in both directions. The snow was mostly decent corn, but there were a few sticky spots, and a few spots where coverage is getting narrow. We basically had the whole trail to ourselves though, with just a couple other skiers out in the area, and it was especially familiar since it was where we’d had some of our favorite turns when we visited over the holidays.
When the Metro Quad shut down, we headed back to the room and everyone relaxed for a bit. After I got some work done, Ty, E, and Dylan were still reading or playing on their tablets, so I decided to head back out for a quick ski tour before dinner. I switched back into my ski clothes, got my skins and skis from the car, and headed for a quick skin up Interstate. The sun was still an hour or two away from setting, and the snow remained quite soft. It was kind of a treat to just walk out the door and have the snow there at this time of year.
After dinner, the boys were calling for some water park time, and we had some good rides in the river and on the slides before finishing off with a sit in the indoor hot tub. It wasn’t overly busy, but there was a steady stream of people at the slides, so I suspect there are plenty of visitors to pay the bills. The attendant who was running the green and blue slides tonight was a lot of fun; he was constantly proctoring races between the two slides. I raced Ty and Dylan with me on the green slide and them and on the blue slide, and they won. The blue slide must be shorter. There was also a prom going on this evening for Richford over in the tram base lodge, and along with a hockey tournament that’s taking place, there have been a lot of people out an about around the resort grounds today. We’ll see how everything goes for Mother’s Day tomorrow, but hopefully we can check out the Stateside area and make some turns over there.
We’ve been up at Jay Peak with family leading up to Christmas, and today we got out on the slopes for a few turns. The weather hasn’t been great for the ski conditions, since we just had an extended storm with plenty of mixed precipitation. The storm did bring some snow with it, but also plenty of other precipitation that ultimately led to a hardening up of the slopes. There really wasn’t much to inspire one to get out on the hill today, especially with colder temperatures on the way, but it was snowing when we arrived last night, and that piqued my interest at least a little.
When it finally came time to decide if we wanted to ski today, the boys were game. And since our RFID cards that serve as our room keys and provide access to other areas of the resort, also serve as RFID ski tickets, there wasn’t much of a downside to hitting the slopes. Today was also a chance for the boys to ride the tram, which was already closed for the season the last time the boys and I came to Jay Peak for lift-served turns. Temperatures were starting the day in the mid teens, which wasn’t too bad, but they were expected to drop throughout the day, so we decided that we’d best served by going for our turns in the morning before it got colder.
We started out at the moving carpet, where Luke and Lilly were having their first ski experience ever. We helped Marc and Jill get them going with some tips, and then once they started getting the hang of things, Marc joined up with E and the boys and me for a run on the Tram. The boys finally got their tram ride, and were impressed with how high and fast it traveled. From the summit we headed down Northway to Ullr’s Dream, and conditions were simply heinous up top. The snow was hard and icy, and I’m glad I’d sharpened our skis, but I’m not sure how much good it did. That’s sort of par for the course anyway with the way the wind blows up there, but the recent storm certainly didn’t help in that regard. We didn’t find much to inspire us to really take another run until we got down onto Kokomo along the lower elevations of Ullr’s Dream. Down there, an inch or two of powder has settled in, and combined with the modest pitches, we were starting to encounter some soft turns
The end of that run inspired us to make a second, and this time we used the Metro Quad, which is low, out of the wind, and down in the warmer elevations. We were hoping to head over toward Deer Run, but when we found the terrain on that side of the lift roped off because of snowmaking, we moved toward the Interstate side of the lift. That turned out to be just what we were looking for. Since the vast majority of the people on the trial were there for the terrain features, they were totally ignoring the large area of untracked snow off to the skier’s left. We found an inch or two of fresh powder over a smooth base, and turns were quite inspirational. It was the sort of discovery that definitely injects some excitement into the day. It was so much fun, I felt that we had to do it again. Of course with the rest of the family hungry and eager to get to the water park, I was by myself on that next run, but it was just as sweet.
It’s snowing again tonight as I write this, so as is par for the course for the Northern Greens, they seem to be starting to nickel and dime their way back to nicer conditions. I don’t think we’ll really have time to ski tomorrow with the Christmas Holiday, but I bet our tracks will be covered up again for tomorrow, and there should be fresh turns out there waiting for someone. I’ll update this report with more info on the whole trip as time goes on, but indeed there’s just way more to do here than time often permits. I will say one thing that really impressed and surprised me though, is that with the addition of the new Stateside Hotel, there are now 17 eateries of various sorts up here at the resort. We tried out three new food options on this trip that we hadn’t before, so I’ll talk about those when I add a bit more to this trip report.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. It was almost as good as the kind of services you can find more about online!
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!
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. They asked me some things about league of legends boosting, which I didn’t really understand, but they seemed to know a lot about and it made them happy when I helped them. 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. Coupons are a great way to still experience a variety of activities without having to spend a fortune so we were very appreciative of the coupon book. To this day, we still use coupons and even troll sites like Raise looking for the best discount and promo codes. Who doesn’t love a saving, right?! The book we were handed was full of discounts, and I mean FULL! 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.
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.
E has been at a teacher’s conference in Boston for the past couple of days, and with the boys on spring break, I’ve been mostly out of the office to watch them. With the recent snow we’ve had, today was an obvious day for us to get out for some skiing, but based on my experience with the snow quality on Mt. Mansfield on Tuesday, skinning for turns wasn’t going to cut it with the boys. Depending on elevation, the dense Sierra Cement-style snow had been quite challenging to ski, and in order to get to the best snow, one really has to make the long trek above the 2,500′ – 3,000′ elevation range. That’s a big ascent to ask of the boys, only to deliver challenging snow conditions that would probably frustrate them anyway, so lift-served skiing with the potential for some groomed runs seemed to be the way to go. Killington and Jay Peak were running lifts today, and since both were reporting about a foot and a half of new snow, deciding between them was a toss-up in that regard. I decided on Jay Peak, being a touch closer and hopefully a touch colder; I was also hoping to check out all the expansion that has gone on at the resort since my last visit.
Even with all the snow that the mountains have received over the past few days, there’s literally no snow in the lower valleys, and it wasn’t until fairly high elevations along Route 118 south of Montgomery that we saw any snow along the road during our trip to Jay Peak. What we saw were just a couple of old north-facing snowbanks along the side of the road, but snow cover did build steadily once we got up high enough up on Route 242, and it carried through right to the base of the resort. We parked on the tram side, and the changes in the area’s development were obvious. The last time I’d visited Jay Peak was during the Mother’s Day snowstorm in 2010, and while the Tram Haus Lodge was there and we got to eat at Alice’s Table, the new Hotel Jay and the massive Pump House Indoor Water Park were not. I could see that the new Hotel Jay was quite a step up in size from the old one, and while I couldn’t see any sign of the water park that everyone has been talking about, I figured we’d have some time for exploring the area after we gotten in some skiing.
The weather in the late morning was a mixture of clouds and blue sky, and we were presented with some impressive views of the snowy slopes. I’m not sure what the slopes had looked like before the storm, but they were totally covered today. I’d told the boys about the tram, and let them know that while it was closed for the season for skiing, they’d at least get to have a look at it. The tram was in action though, apparently running in association with some maintenance, and the boys just had to watch it dock at the Tramside Base Lodge. We booted up inside the lodge, and there was literally nobody there but employees. We could see that there were about a dozen ski bags hung in various spots along the walls, but it was obvious that we weren’t going to see too many others out on the slopes. It’s easy to see how dicey the prospects for making a profit must be on these midweek days in April, but we were thankful that the mountain was open and they were definitely getting our business. Tickets were reasonable at $45 for me and $25 apiece for the boys, and from what I’d heard, they had about two thirds of their terrain open. The resort now employs an RFID ticket system like we’re used to using at Stowe. In fact, when we bought our tickets, the associate recommended removing our StoweRFID passes just in case they interfered with the signal on our Jay Peak tickets.
We kicked things off with a ride on the Flyer Express Quad, which whisked us right up toward the peak. We did see some skiers down below us on Exhibition, and the snow looked fantastic. Coverage was deep and soft thanks to the storm, so the only concern was whether or not the snow was sticky; unfortunately it’s not easy to tell that from just watching a skier make turns, since you can’t see the subtle corrections being made by their muscles as they adjust their balance, but the folks we saw sure seemed to be enjoying themselves as they silently cut arcs into the groomed snow. The air temperature was definitely cooler when we reached the summit of the Flyer, and we found that the snow itself was actually pretty cold and wintry. It was very dense like one would expect, and in untracked areas you only sunk into the snow an inch or two, so it certainly wasn’t mush. It was the kind of snow you’d want to see at a ski resort club, to be honest. In fact, the mountain had a sign up about how the off piste snow was going to be difficult for the first part of the day until the temperatures warmed up a bit, since areas that had seen skier traffic were going to have relatively stiff, uneven snow surfaces.
On our first decent we set off alongside the lift on Northway, and the snow was indeed in good shape – it was somewhere between winter and spring in consistency, but stickiness wasn’t an issue. We worked our way back toward the lift line of the quad on Upper Goat Run, which was our first taste of something steeper. The snow was holding up well in consistency, even as we descended in elevation. As we merged back toward the lift line, Dylan seemed hesitant for us to drop into the steepest terrain because ski patrol had placed some poles at the top of the “slow skiing area”, but it was just serving as the warning about speed control, and there were no coverage issues. You could just sink your edges in and let the skis ride. We’d soon reached the top pitch of Upper Exhibition, something we’d seen from the lift that was steep, groomed, and looked like it was a lot of fun for the skiers that were on it. We opted to save it for after a little more warming up, and instead veered to the right down Upper Goat Run and over toward Lower River Quai. Lower River Quai is actually a bit steep, and while there, we met a family that was picking their way down it. The snow was starting to get a little tricky at that elevation, and by the time we hit the Interstate trail below, the snow had indeed taken on that stickiness that made it a challenge. I was excited about the conditions though, our sampling of the terrain suggested that we’d only have to deal with sticky snow in the low elevation runout trails, and if that was the case then we were in for some great runs.
The boys had been quite intrigued by the resort’s covered magic carpet lift, and since it was running, they just had to check it out. It feels a bit like one of those informational rides at a theme park, or maybe like the Light Tunnel in the McNamara Terminal of the Detroit Metro Airport, without the lights. Stowe has a small cover that they place over their magic carpet at night to keep off the snow; it’s only a couple feet high and the boys got a kick out of imagining what it would be like to ride with that in place. Having a full cover probably means less hassle dealing with snowfall during storms. We immediately headed to the Flyer again, and took a similar descent route with the change to Upper Exhibition this time. Exhibition delivered some nice steep turns, and was above the elevation of the sticky snow issues, but of course the flats of Harmony Lane were a slow return to the base.
With all the new snow, the mountain did indeed have quite a bit of its terrain open, so I definitely wanted to get the boys out for some farther-reaching explorations over toward the Stateside area. From the top of the Flyer we followed the usual Northway Route, and on the way noticed a skier come down from one of the untracked trails above us. He was skiing some of the dense powder up there, and although he only sunk into the snow a few inches, it looked pretty fun. We’d been playing around in the powder off to the sides of the trails a bit, but with it still being somewhat dense and stiff, you really wanted some reasonably large untracked areas to have the best experience. We were eventually lured off Northway to our right, into some terrain in the Catwalk area that hadn’t been groomed; the snow was decent, so we just sort of kept going. We found ourselves above some steep tree lines there, and I was leery of the snow conditions, but Ty really wanted to jump in… so we did. The lines were generally tracked, and we were low enough in elevation that the compaction of the snow was probably for the best, as the untracked snow was getting wet and difficult to ski. Ty and Dylan ripped up the lines though, and we found ourselves continuing on non-groomed terrain all the way to Stateside. There seemed to be just enough snow to cover the natural terrain down to the base with a couple of careful water bar navigations. That last part was a lot of fun, as I knew our general location, but had no clue of exact where we were until we popped out at the base of the Jet Triple Chair. I’ve got a reasonably good knowledge of Jay Peak, and there was definitely enough semi-obscure terrain open to keep us exploring.
The weather had continued to be a mix of clouds and sun through midday, and all around us we’d continually see these huge billowing cumulus clouds that made if feel like spring or summer. At times, we’d be able to watch snow crash out of these clouds atop various surrounding peaks. This was going on all over the place, but we had some gorgeous views of it from the summit of the Jet Triple Chair, and of course being Jay Peak, we knew that it was only a matter of time before we were going to get blasted with snow. The Jet trail itself looked really enticing, so we hit that up, and indeed the carving was fantastic. We watched a really accomplished Telemark skier crank some amazing turns down The Jet, and he seemed to be doing lap after lap. He really liked the boys’ alpine skiing though, and made a comment to me about them. If they can get their Telemark turns to be half as graceful as that guy, they’ll be well on their way to some great Telemark skiing. They had a lot of fun with the turns on The Jet, but probably just as much fun with the snowballs they were carrying and tossing at each other. Because the snow was so good, I wasn’t sure that we wanted to pull away after just one run on The Jet, but I knew the boys were soon going to request a mid afternoon snack, so we started to work our way back toward the tram side. We found ourselves in the same Catwalk trees that we’d hit on the way over, so we skied those again. After a few more pitches, the rest of the trip back was rather flat and sticky though, so I’d often help Dylan along with some pushes to keep him up at Ty’s pace.
I’d hoped to introduce the boys to some poutine in the lodge, but the cafeteria had already closed; apparently they were only keeping it open for the immediate lunchtime period on weekdays. Fortunately we’d brought a collection of our own food, and it was enough to hold us until dinner. It was still quite quiet in the lodge, but a few skiers were around, those that had apparently skied the morning and were calling it a day.
When we headed back out onto the slopes, we gave Dylan the choice of lift and descent route, and he decided on the Metro Quad. Both Ty and I told him that it only serviced the bottom flat area of the mountain (which had the stickiest snow) but he was keen on giving it a try, and it would mean we’d ridden every open lift on the mountain. The partly sunny conditions of the morning had been gradually giving way to a few more clouds, and this was actually cooling the air down enough to let the stickier snow tighten up a bit. It was a subtle change, but definitely there, and much appreciated when we were in the lower elevations.
Clouds continued to build as we made another lap on Exhibition and enjoyed the good snow, and meanwhile, the skies began to darken around us with the promise of snowfall. During the day we’d already encountered various snow showers on the mountain; we’d seen rounds of regular snow, graupel, and even these pyramidal-shaped (or miniature Hershey’s kisses as Dylan described them) flakes falling from the sky. Our next ride on the Flyer was when things really started to get exciting though. On our previous ascent we’ seen heavy precipitation in the peaks just off to our north like Jay Peak West, Middle Jay and North Jay Peak. Those peaks had soon disappeared in a maelstrom of white, and that snow clearly seemed to be building in our direction. A few minutes later it moved in on us, and it meant business. The snowfall was so intense that at a couple of points we could see a wall of flakes in front of us, and we had only a few moments to batten down the hatches (i.e. hoods and parka collars) before the lift carried us right into it. We got hit with some very heavy snowfall comprised of huge, wet snowflakes . The gargantuan flakes were at times falling so intensely that they rapidly accumulated on our goggles to the point that we could barely see, and we had to keep wiping them off almost continuously during the height of the squall; I’d say we picked up about a half inch of snow in just 10-15 minutes in that episode. The clouds and precipitation associated with that blast of snow even gave an additional shot of cooling to the air. The huge flakes also put down a fresh, stippled coating of snow on everything that was very picturesque. That whole squall cycle was a fun experience, and the same thing appeared to be going on throughout the high peaks of the Northern Greens, because Powderfreak sent in a very cool report to the American Weather Forum entitled “Photos of the passing of a convective snow squall“, in which he documented the whole progression of one of these convective snowstorms today from Stowe. He photographed the scene on Mt. Mansfield from blue skies with white, billowy cumulous clouds, to dark clouds building in, to getting hit hard with massive snowflakes, just like us. The report was very nicely done with the usual quality pictures that Powderfreak produces, and folks on the weather board seemed to enjoy it a lot.
The boys started picking areas of the mountain that they wanted to explore, and one area that we’d not yet visited was the slot between Exhibition and Northway. We eventually found ourselves approaching to top of Upper Can Am, and I was definitely concerned about what we’d find down there. I was expecting deep snow that hadn’t seen any grooming, and indeed that’s just what we found. Dylan definitely had some trepidation about dropping in, but Ty was so eager that his enthusiasm won out. There had been some skier traffic since the storm, so we found 16″ of partially tracked, dense snow. Ty was flying down like a madman, but Dylan was struggling, and started to get upset because he seemed to be falling every time he made a few turns. We gave him some reassurance, and I let him know that I was battling the slope on Telemark gear, so he could definitely do it on alpine gear. As before, the fact that there had been some skier traffic was good, because the bottomless cement was the most difficult part to ski, and the partially compacted areas were better. Dylan eventually got himself into a better rhythm, and soon I found that both boys has already descended through the steepest terrain and were waiting for me. As difficult as the turns were on my Teles, the challenge was worth it. We had all this steep terrain to ourselves that had just seen a major resurfacing with 2+ inches of liquid equivalent. Coverage wasn’t an issue, and if you got your groove going you could just let the turns fall away. There was definitely a part of me that wanted to have my alpine fat skis to really crank things up, but it was a heck of a lot of fun convincing the Teles to do their job.
The traverse back to the tram base was still somewhat slow and sticky, so any cooling of the air hadn’t helped out down that low. The boys amused themselves with another ride on the magic carpet, and then we thought about finishing out the day. The snow up top was so good that we couldn’t pull away without at least one more run, even though the boys were getting anxious for some après ski food (which they knew was going to be pizza). I convinced them that we needed to do at least one more run, and said that we’d check out something new.
I wasn’t sure exactly what that something new was going to be, but we got ourselves to the big intersection below Upper Goat Run and had to make a choice. The top of Green Mountain Boys was in view, and it was only then that I realized just how good it looked. It had been groomed, and then it had seen some traffic, but it looked smooth, soft, and fast. I had the boys read the trail sign at the top of the stack… “Green… Mountain… Boys”, Ty said at a reading pace. The boys were excited to try it out, and I got a picture of them pointing to the sign with their poles. The different generations of intermediate trail signs left Dylan intrigued by the fact that Green Mountain Boys seemed to be not a blue square trail, but a purple square trail. He started to discuss what that might mean before I eventually suggested that it was likely just a different shade of blue from a different batch of signs. The boys didn’t want to wait around long though; they wanted to get at it, and quickly dropped in. Within moments they both moved into big, fast, swooping arcs down the trail, because they immediately felt how perfect the surface conditions were, and they knew that their edges were going to hold whatever g-forces were thrown at them. It was deep snow that had been freshly groomed and softened to perfection for carving, and matched with the fairly steep terrain, it was just beautiful. Dylan was especially invigorated by how fast he could go – when he’d make his big, fast arcs, he said it was his “gliding” technique. The end result was that they flew down the trail in a state at high speed, somewhere shy of reckless abandon, and I had my work cut out for me keeping up. Indeed they skied it like you’d expect from a couple of Green Mountain Boys, and I suspect Ethan and Ira Allen would have agreed.
I hadn’t held out much hope for interest another run, since the boys had already had pizza on their minds before the last one, but something about the experience that Green Mountain Boys had offered them lit a fire under their ski enthusiasm. When I said that we had time for another, and that we could do Green Mountain Boys again, they jumped at the opportunity. If the skiing can pull Dylan back to the slopes and away from potential pizza, you know it’s got to be good. The descent was just like the previous run, and whether it was the extra round of cooling from our earlier snow squall, or just the correct timing of the day, something had left the trail in a state that really impressed the boys. Had the lifts still been running, I think I could have kept them going, and at that stage of the day that’s not easy to do. To say that they finished the day on the highest of notes would still be an understatement.
The boys’ transcendent vibe continued as we headed into the lodge and changed out of our gear. The lodge was essentially deserted at that point, so they had the run of the place. Once they’d taken off their ski boots, they played hide and seek upstairs and downstairs in the various nooks and crannies of the Tramside Base Lodge, while I packed up the rest of the gear. We dropped everything off at the car and then went to check out Mountain Dick’s Pizza on the ground level of the new Hotel Jay. It’s got one of those modern, part wood, part metallic decors, along with some funky accessories like coat racks made of wooden spoons, and it seats about 30 to 40 people. I ordered a pie for each of us (to ensure that there would be plenty of leftovers of course, since Mom was out of town) and the boys picked out some funky looking drinks from the cooler. The pizza is good; I wouldn’t put it up quite at the level of Jimmz Pizza in Waterbury Center, but we all liked it and everyone ate their fill.
While we’d waited for our pizza to come out, I searched around and discovered that Mountain Dick’s is connected right to the interior of the hotel; eventually I realized that some of the people we’d seen picking up pizza had called from their hotel rooms. When we’d finished up our meal and boxed up our extra slices, we decided to head right through the hotel so that the boys could show me the water park. We wound our way through some halls, headed up an elevator, and came out at an elevated area at the water park entrance, overlooking all the features. It was even bigger than what I’d surmised based on all the pictures I’d seen, and the boys gave me a quick visual tour from the overlook, and they were quickly spotted by their schoolmate Connor, who was there with his family. We all got to chat a bit and catch up on the day as we headed back to our cars. While E and the boys have already been to the Pump House, it’s definitely on my list to join them next time as I’m sure we’ll have a blast.
I’ve got to say it was really nice being back at Jay Peak, having not been to the mountain for a couple of seasons. With so many great ski areas like Bolton Valley, Stowe, Smuggler’s Notch, Sugarbush, and Mad River Glen notably closer to our location in Waterbury, we don’t frequent Jay Peak all that much right now. Along with the slightly longer distance though, there are also some aspects of Jay Peak that knock it down on my list: the cold, the wind, some of the long flat areas on the Tram Side, and the way the glades and trees can get tracked out (and indeed even bumped up) so quickly (relative to what I’ve experienced at places like Bolton Valley and Sugarbush where lines can sit untracked for days after a storm). Jay Peak has always touted its glades, so of course people go there for that type of skiing and those areas get a lot of traffic. I love Jay Peak’s snowfall of course, but after scrutinizing and documenting the snowfall patterns in Northern Vermont’s mountains very carefully over the past several seasons since we’ve been back from Montana, I’ve noticed how marginal the difference is between the snowfall at Jay Peak and that at Mt. Mansfield. I think the weather patterns over the past few seasons have exacerbated that, as they really haven’t favored Jay Peak as much as they have traditionally, but I’ve paid more attention to just how much snow Mt. Mansfield gets, and it’s impressive.
The above is really just nitpicking for the sake of comparison though, because Jay Peak is a fantastic resort that offers some excellent terrain and amazing powder – there are numerous resorts even out in the Western U.S. that would probably love to receive the amount of snowfall that Jay Peak gets. And, the whole Jay Peak experience seems to be getting better with the developments going on around the resort, at least based on what we saw on this trip. While the host of resort enhancements that have been added at Jay Peak over the past few seasons may be a turn off to some hard core skiers, they are definitely a plus in my book; not from just the family perspective, but a personal perspective as well. The developments are things that if anything will lure us up there more. One aspect is simply knowing that the resort will be active year-round, and that whenever we go we can anticipate that some dining options will be available. In the days leading up to our trip, I knew about the upcoming spring snowstorm and was very close to getting a package of a room along with ski and water park tickets. I didn’t quite find the level of discount I was looking for this time, especially since the pricing per person wasn’t as efficient without Mom along, but it was absolutely a factor luring us toward the resort. They had a really good ski and stay package going at the Tram Haus Lodge a couple of seasons back, and I’m sure that there will be some similar April deals out there in the future, since it can be a slow time of year for skiing. We’re certainly excited to check out all the new terrain when the resort expands into the West Bowl area with lift service; the feel of the mountain is really going to be different when that happens, and I’m eager to see what it’s like. Perhaps it will spread out the visitors and keep the glades and trees from getting tracked out so quickly. The sidecountry, backcountry, and in-bounds opportunities that would be provided by the new trails and lifts look really impressive. Now that the boys are older and day-ticket style skiing is becoming more practical, Jay Peak will certainly be high on our list for visits, especially if they keep staying open longer than other resorts in the state.
With the unknown element of mixed precipitation, we decided to head for Jay Peak on Saturday. Along with Bennett, we even pulled Mr. Mango Madness out for his first day of the season. In anticipation of bad roads, we loaded ourselves into Bennett’s big rig and headed north. Burlington had accumulated about 4 inches at this point, and although it was temporarily coming down only lightly, it picked up as we headed toward Jay Peak.
We were proud of ourselves for arriving on time (not easy), and took a run on the double before the tram opened. We headed down Green Mountain Boys (I think) and found about 4-6″ blown around by the wind; best on the sides. The powder was not super light, but not bad (and it was still snowing’ like crazy). By the time we got down, the tram was ready and we hopped aboard. We headed out on Vermonter, finding about 12″ of chowder, a tough ski, especially with the humidity and our goggles going crazy from the moist tram ride. I think I heard the term “skiing by Braille”, or some such out of somebody in the group. On a personal note, of course my goggles fogged up right in the middle, but if I turned my head sideways, I could look out the edge and see, really messed with the balance, but oh what fun.
After another run on the tram, we headed over to the triple, and headed for Timbuktu (one of our favorites). We hung to the right to catch fresh snow, but found plenty of ice storm damage in that area, and with the snow that had fallen so far, only very short lines were available, and even then it wasn’t a secure feeling with the fallen trees around. As we headed back left, we found that clearing had been much better, but this area was already getting pretty tracked.
We boarded the quad and found our best run of the day by far. North Glade must have just recently been opened because there were few tracks, and 8+ inches of powder; we left there wanting more (and trying to figure out where we were and how we got there.) We finished off the day with a couple of tram rides (amazingly, you could always get right on the tram with no line) and hit some areas that may not have been officially open, but didn’t exactly have ropes either. Oh well, there were three of us, and sometimes ignorance is bliss; in the form of untracked snow.
One of the highlight’s of the day was Mango simply exploding on a very flat section of Deer Run. It looked like a snow snake just jumped out and bit him; and the look of “what the…!” as he went down into a crumbled heap of man and equipment, was priceless. During one of our traverses that I was leading, I got ridiculed for my choice of line, something about “What rabbit made this!” as Bennett found himself stuck between a tree and a hard place.
During one of our tram rides, the ticket checker said that it was raining just about everywhere south of Jay. I was initially skeptical, then happy that we were at Jay Peak of course, then worried about what would happen at places like Sugarbush. Stay tuned for our Sunday installment in which the truth will be revealed!