Spring on the summit of Jay Peak

What an amazing day.

Day 29 and I’m sunburnt, happy, and completely content. I fully intended to tap out at 30 – to hit that magical round number. (This is my first year counting days. Something I picked up from the ever-inspiring Female Ski Bum.)

But, if this is the day I end on, then so be it.

View from Jay Peak
You should definitely view this full-sized.

I conned/bribed/begged a friend to come with me to Jay Peak. He’d never been, so it was a extra joy to introduce him to one of my favorite mountains (and the tram – he’d never been on one before!).

It was 63º at the base when we arrived. Then, we skied snow at the sweet spot between the consistency of corn and mashed potatoes. Wide open trails, hardly a crowd… we didn’t even mind that there were really only a few ways from top to base. At the summit, we could see straight to Mt Washington.

Ride life.
Sunny with a chance of Craig.

Lunch was the Jay Peak meal of champions: two salads, a plate of hot poutine (my favorite food group. I’m mad for poutine.) and a 24oz can of Molson.

A few more runs, and we were both cooked. Back at the car, the thermometer read 73º.

I can think of no better way to end the 2012-2013 ski season than this: sunburnt and happy sipping on a fresh, cold Switchback.

Because I Said So: A Jay Peak Ski Area Review

Retro Jay Peak ski pins
I’m really embarrassed by the Mickey Mouse pin. The button’s legit, though. It’s vintage.

This is the first of what will be a series of ski area reviews. Since I live and ride in Vermont, I’ll start close to home.

I really don’t understand why so few of my fellow Burlington residents head north to Jay Peak. Apparently “it’s too far away.”

Too far away? Seriously? An hour and a half is never too far for good schuss. Besides: 50% of Jay’s skiers and riders come from Canada. It takes two hours to drive from Montreal to Jay – so stop your complaining, eat your Big Mac, and get off the couch, America.

I will happily swear up and down this state that Jay Peak is the closest an east coaster will get to western skiing without buying a plane ticket. The vertical’s impressive (over 2,000 vertical feet), as is the natural playground that is the snowfield summit. But what will really give you western déjà vu is in the trees. Jay’s glades are wide open and ever green with plenty of room to roam. Hit it on a powder day and you’re cruising through face shots so easy you (might) feel guilty.

Jay’s terrain is challenging with steep pitches and a little high altitude rock-hopping coming off the tram. Timbuktu is one of the most satisfying marked glades in the east, with plenty of features to find if you’re looking to get air. (I distinctly remember my eldest brother teaching me huck there. And by teaching, I mean he pointed at a rock and said “ski off that as fast as you can.” Surprisingly, I survived.)

If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to experience the Jay Cloud first hand. There’s a peculiar microclimate that exists solely around the summit of the mountain. It could be sunny and warm everywhere else in a four hour radius, but dumping on Jay. Granted, this phenomenon isn’t unique to Jay. Mountains like to hold to passing precipitation. But it’s really fun to talk about.

On the downside, Jay Peak is cold. Like, really cold. As in – no matter what you’re wearing it’s not enough cold. But, to quote their wonderfully witty marketing campaign, nobody grew up soft on rugged terrain. Builds character.

Raise 'em Jay
Oh, you’re cold? That’s too bad.

Pretty perfect sounding, eh?

The funny thing about Jay is that as much as I love it, it’s really… just another mountain. The trails are great, the glades are great, the unmarked glades are great. (While I’ve been skiing this mountain my entire life, I don’t claim local knowledge. I’ve never had the “backstage tour” as it where, so I can’t speak to what I haven’t found entirely by accident.) But there’s something almost… boring about all this perfection.

Two years ago, I hit Jay during the late-season blizzard of my dreams. My ski buddy and I hit powder run after powder run, braving the cold and wind for some of the best turns we got all season. And yet… I was a little relieved to get back into the claustrophobically tight trees of Mt. Mansfield. The glades are so roomy compared to the Peak’s southern neighbors that you’re rarely stuck without anywhere to go but down a tiny, squirrelly chute. You don’t have to drop the feature in Kitz Woods. There are plenty of ways around.

I can count the times on one hand that I stood uphill from a Jay feature and gone “oh shit.” Where’s the challenge in that? It’s not really skiing if I haven’t said Oh Shit five times in as many runs.

To sum up: Jay Peak is a must-hit that is a little like that one guy (or girl) you dated who was so unbearably awesome you couldn’t believe they knew your name, let alone kissed you on a regular basis. You ended up breaking up with him (or her) for that other guy (or girl) with the weird twitch and questionable hygiene habits because, man, they really made you feel special, you know?

What do you think? Was this review helpful, or am I really lying through my teeth? Keep me honest and let me know in the comments.