Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Much to report...

The Jay Cloud in action

Let's start with a quote from Monday's snow report, probably not much different from the weekend's (no mention of wind, though):
Expect primarily machine groomed and packed powder conditions today with the odd spot of hardscrabble and/or windblown in those unprotected areas you love so much. Base depths are running to 4' in spots, 2' in others.
What is it with the hardscrabble?

Is this hardscrabble or simply a rock?

After a pleasant evening at the JJ secret hideout, BT and I arrived in Monkey Centre on Friday. Feeling under the weather, BT decided to rest up at the JJ clubhouse, pending the arrival of JJ and the Devon Cusser (more on that later) later in the day. So, off I went to Jay, camera in pocket, in search of the elusive hardscrabble. Arriving just in time for the half-day ticket, I learned that the tram had been closed all day and the Freezer had just shut down due to wind and frostbite danger. Hope there was nobody on it! And no kidding, the wind, even at the Stateside Chalet, was howling.

What to do? Bundle up and go skiing!
While gearing up indoors, I did my best to use up an entire picnic table by myself and almost pulled it off. Other skiers in the locker room were claiming that is was "really cold." I later realized that you should never trust the weather reporting of people from Long Island or Connecticut. Ask someone from Vermont, Quebec or Ontario (except for Toronto). In my humble opinion, it was only "pretty cold." The raging wind amped things up a bit but it all seemed quite normal to me. As for the snow, it was generally quite good. True packed powder on probably 80% of the skiable terrain. It was the other 20% that made things exciting. Just when I was getting in the groove, out of nowhere, sheets of glare would appear on some windblown trail section. Also out of nowhere, hardscrabble would appear, grinding one's skis to a complete halt. This is never good for freeheelers. Where was that five feet of snow? Conditions had definitely improved since Christmas but Powder Paradise is definitely somewhere else. The hitchhiker I picked up on the 242 reported that the woods up there were "OK." Hmmmm. Only "OK" does not justify missing several lift-assisted runs while waiting for a random ride back to Stateside.

Hardscrabble ahead on the River Kwai

On Saturday the weather deteriorated but the skiing improved. For one thing, the company was better. The JJSC was well represented by JJ, the newly named Devon Cusser, Blue Toes (now feeling better) and SBR, your humble reporter. After the traditional oatmeal breakfast, we struggled off to the hill for a 10 am start. Despite the wild wind and cold we had a fun day (except for our excursion on the Goat).

Why don't those women want to lift their legs for the picture?

Some highlights:

- fine company
- fast snow and good conditions, mostly.
- JJ's powerslide on the upper Can Am (aka Supertrail). I went right and had a great run!
- Seeing snowshoers on the Goat. That was surreal. They were hiking up the middle of the trail, under the Freezer, apparrently oblivious to the fact that skiers and snowboarders were approaching at a high rate of speed and in very little control. Hello!

Things to rant about over a bottle of Barefoot:

1) People who eat bought lunches in the Locker Room. It's bad enough wangling a table among the other picnickers. The poutine-eaters should stay upstairs.

2) People who save tables in the locker room. For an hour.

2) What's the number crisis facing the ski industry? GLOBAL WARMING. Who's leaving the Jay Peak Audi gas guzzler running for 20 minutes while he checks out gate receipts Stateside? BILL STENGER. Get a grip Bill, turn the car off.

3) The Goat. Here's how the Devon Cusser got her name. JJ, a little bored of the Northway, says "let's do something different." I say, "let's ski the Goat." BT and JJ agree, knowing it will be unpleasant but a change of pace. DC says, "I hate the &%$#*@>*%$# Goat." Well, we skied it anyway and she was right. It was truy a run to be hated that day. And closed, probably, due to dangerous conditions. It's just a little bit sketchy when the Icefields start halfway down the rock cut section and don't end until just before the River Kwai.

4) Tourists that interrupt your peaceful checkout at Sylvester's by yelling at the clerk, "do you have a bathroom?"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

If you can't go skiing...

You might as well read about it.

If you haven't seen it yet, look for a new (and pricey at $14.95) ski mag called The Ski Journal. It is a classy and well done publication, printed on heavy paper, with a wide range of editorial (from new school to the Spademan binding in issue # 1) and has very few ads. They claim that it is a "reader supported" publication. Good luck to them!

Maybe I should change the name...

With all this talk of hardscrabble, I'm considering changing the name of this blog to The Hardscrabble Times, or something like that.

SBR and BT are headed for Jay tomorrow, with a quick visit to the secret headquarters of the Jonny Jay Ski Club. Nestled on the side of a side road in deepest rural Canada, this stone and wood fortress sees few visitors, but those that find it are well rewarded with wine, Scotch and random pet fur.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Crowded Week-End at Jay

What a crazy week-end at Jay Peak. Never in my life have I been there with it being so crowded. The official Jay website was emphasizing the fact that they picked up 5 feet of snow. I'm not too sure where all that snow went because when I was standing on the top of River Quai looking down on one of the best pitches Jay's got to offer. My eyes were shocked when they came to realize that there was nothing more than 6 inches of windswept snow over a "hardscrabble" span of rocks, stumps and ice. I did find some snow in Timbuktu and a few runs OB (First Tracks through Red Beret). The 5 feet of powder was not an inaccurate measurement, as I shoveled through 4 feet of snow to make it to the door of the Jonny Jay Clubhouse. I think that the only accurate measurement that can be said about the whole week-end would have to be the 150 foot singles line running up the U.N.

Goat Icefields were in decent shape with still a pretty good slide and to all of you who stayed home this week-end fearing the JPSP Avalanche Warning, lets just say that the only thing on the Ridge is frozen "hardscrabble"

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Today at Jay

Today's weather at Jay was followed by this comment on that other Jay report:
"Powder with some packed powder. We wouldn't rule out the odd windblown, hardscrabbled piece of trail either, though, so ski and ride with good care."


The so-called writer concludes with a jovial "Hope to see you." I hope not.

Blue Toes (aka JC)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Back from the West

Just Returned from the west. It was the best skiing I have ever done. Very steep and very deep. I think I represented the east pretty well. It took me a while to realize that there was not going to be ice or a snow gun around every corner. It had not snowed in two weeks but we got fresh tracks every run. The westerners were whinning about no new snow in two weeks but that seems to be the way they roll.

Jay is reporting 60 inches of snow today......... alas I have to stay in southern Ontario this weekend. Please save some turns for me!!!!!!


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Epic storm headed for Jay Peak

Here's the forecast from Dr. Weather:


And the Jay area forecast:

Orleans-Essex-Caledonia- including the cities of...Newport...Island Pond...St. Johnsbury

310 AM EST Tue Feb 13 2007

...Heavy snow WARNING in effect from 1 AM Wednesday to 7 AM EST Thursday...


Mostly sunny. Highs 10 to 15 above. Northwest winds around 5 mph.


Partly cloudy until midnight...Then cloudy with snow likely after midnight. Snow accumulation a dusting to 2 inches by daybreak. Cold with Early lows 2 below to 7 below zero...Rising to 3 above late. Northwest winds around 5 mph...Becoming northeast after midnight. Chance of snow 70 percent.


Snow...Heavy at times. Additional snow accumulation of 8 to 12 inches. Highs around 17. Northeast winds around 5 mph...Increasing to 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon. Chance of snow near 100 percent.

.Wednesday night...

Snow heavy at times until midnight...Then snow likely after midnight. Areas of blowing snow. Total snow accumulation 1 to 2 feet. Lows around 7 above. Northwest winds 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. Chance of snow 80 percent.


Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of snow showers. Highs around 11. West winds 15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.

.Thursday night and Friday

Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of snow showers. Brisk. Lows 5 below to 10 below zero. Highs around 15. Wind chill values as low as 30 below.

.Friday night...

Partly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of snow showers. Cold with lows around zero.

SBR and Blue Toes are headed there next week, we think. Save some snow for us!

Monday, February 12, 2007

The "Jay Cloud" visits Muskoka

The RHSSCC got pounded yesterday. How much snow was there? So much snow that I buried the car on our own road! When I drove home after work, our road had not been plowed (why do we pay property tax?) and neither Jenny or our neighbour had been out all day, so I got fresh tracks by car for the last 500 metres or so. There was so much snow billowing over the hood of the car that I had to stop halfway up the last hill (couldn't see!) and let the wipers clear the windshield. Then I couldn't get going again, so had to turn around, go back to the last driveway and take a run at it, following my own path (even the amazing Subaru AWD couldn't overcome the combination of low clearance, steepish hill, slippery base and fresh snow). This time I made it to the top of the hill before having to stop and clear off, even with the wipers going full tilt. The new snow on the road was up to the top of my Sorels - at least 10". Very light and fluffy too. Spent 20 minutes clearing snow out of the engine compartment - the space between the grille and radiator was filled with snow.

The scene of the crime, in warmer times
Our driveway is on the left, at the top of the hill in the background. I got fresh tracks from the black mailbox on the right all the way to the end of the road.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Cleaning up

I told him to clean up the debris on the trails!
At least he picks up his own dirty socks.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Cat skiing vs. dog skiing

While Pudd is out west spending his hard-earned cash to get some motor-assisted runs, some of us are earning our turns among the hardscrabble rocks and trees of the Canadian Shield (there's that word again!). I think of it as training for Jay Peak. Plus it's fun and free. For those not in the know, the RHSSCC (Ravenscliffe Highlands Ski, Snowshoe & Country Club, located at SBR and Blue Toes' woodland hacienda, affectionately named Hundwalden) is home to some of the finest tree skiing in the wilds of the small hills in which we live. Back in the fall, Telemark Dave and SBR spent a full day discretely pruning some of the grabbiest trees on the West Ridge but have had to wait three months for enough snow to makes the runs skiable. Yesterday was the day.

While TD was off yoyo skiing with his kids, SBR took a break from flooring installation and went for a backcountry expedition. Utah the wonder dog was in snow over his head. No green plastic tele boots and twin-tip Sick Birds here! We are riding metal-edged 175 cm touring skis with old leather tele boots. After warming up with a ridiculous bushwhack, I skied both glades we cut back in the fall. I was a little cautious due to being alone and not wearing my knee brace. Skied "Right Glade" first, which is more open. All was well, found a nice mellow line, remembered the virtues of rear foot steering in Telemark technique, then suddenly, snag! My rear foot (left one with the bad knee, too) caught a discarded evergreen from the pruning brigade. Fortunately I was going slow and no injuries ensued. It did take a lot of cursing and a complete sideways (downhill) somersault to extricate myself. NOTE TO SELF: remove all pruning debris, no matter how much snow you anticipate. Made it down with no further incident then, after some deliberation and rest, booted it back up and skied "Left Glade" in a state of hyper-awareness. The deep snow helped me keep the speed down and the result was very fun, smooth, slow-motion skiing (for Jay skiers this little pitch is as steep as North Glade but much tighter). This line takes you all the way down to the pond, a total of about 10 turns; woohoo!

After such a good run, I decided that I should quit while I was ahead, so I skied across the pond, got mired in slush and had to spend 10 minutes scraping ice off the bottom of my skis (thank Ullr for metal edges). The remaining ice helped with grip though, as I skied right up the bush road back to the clubhouse with nary a herringbone!

Utah the wonder dog "wade training" for powder skiing