Friday, December 23, 2011

Someone is making lemonade at Jay Peak

The RJPSR is much relieved to see that the highly developed sense of irony and optimism has returned to the Other Jay Peak Snow Report. This just in:

Friday, December 23rd @ 6:30 am

Picture this:  You're suspended, in a chair, hanging off the western side of the northern most member of the green mountains while a howling wind shears right through your thermals, dropping your body temperature at a rough 60 degrees per minute.  Sounds incredible, right?  Well you're in for a treat because today marks the season premier of our one and only Green Mountain Flyer, spinning for the first time this fine Friday morning.  It'll haul you uphill to three fresh runs (Northway, Upper Goat, and Lower River Quai) which are all sporting about an inch of fresh powder and it hasn't stopped falling yet.   

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Jay Peak opens this weekend

Thanks to snowmaking and a little help from Mother Nature, fans of sliding down the White Ribbon of Death will be able to ski off the Jet Chair starting this Friday. Personally, I'm content to wait for a little more terrain to open before making the long drive to Vermont but it's reassuring to know that our favourite mountain is waking up.

So, if you, like me,  are not going skiing this weekend, here are a few Jay-themed places to schuss over to on the Internet. For followers of the Jay development saga, there is a good article on the process and philosphy over at Teton Gravity Research:
Waves of Change - Jay Peak's $50 Million Expansion

The description of Jay area nightlife is priceless and I thought it was pretty clever of them to use the retro font from old Jay brochures in the lead image:

And if you haven't had enough of being Raised Jay, have a look at JPR's new microsite, Yes, that's right, a micro-site. For those of you who haven't spent time in windowless rooms listening to marketing people blither on about such things, a microsite is "... an Internet Web design term referring to an individual or a small cluster (around 1 to 7) of pages which are meant to function as a discreet entity within an existing Website or to complement an offline activity...  The main distinction of a microsite versus its parent site is its purpose and specific cohesiveness as compared to the microsite's broader overall parent website." Got it? For more on microsites, and their inherent dangers, read the rest of the Wikipedia entry here.

If there is a 'specific cohesiveness' to, it is the honest feel-good vibe typical of Jay Peak's marketing material. There are some charming stories, nice photos and my favourite part, The Vault, allows you to browse through many years of quirky ads and slogans. And if I win the contest, you can be guaranteed a monthly blog about the experience.

Winter is coming!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

More questions and answers with Steve Wright

The AlpineZone forum runs an annual "ski area challenge," in which readers are invited to post questions for ski area managers and, theoretically, the resort people answer. In typical non-typical fashion, Steve Wright of Jay Peak answered the challenge by simply jumping into the discussion. Click here to read the summary of the Q & A, wherein some interesting ideas are thrown around but nothing too earth-shattering is revealed.  Except that the Jonny Jay Ski Club is ready any time to take Steve up on the Sky Haus apartment offer...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A new addition to the Jay Peak quiver

It was a bit like Christmas in October today. Giddy as a five-year old looking at all the presents under the tree, I opened the plain brown ski box that arrived on the Purolator truck. And lo and behold, look what was inside:

Yessirree, a shiny new pair of Line Sir Francis Bacons.

And check out the base!

That will surely inspire my inner Rasta...

And yes, these skis have rocker, pretty much the same at tip and tail:

Though I didn't just buy these skis for the groovy graphics, they certainly factored in the decision-making process. Despite my love for the Line Prophets, last season I tested some skis with tip rocker and became convinced that this was the way to go. When I read about the new Prophet 98, with "early rise tip," I sold the P 100s and geared up to buy them. Then I started reading about the new Bacons. I would suggest that these may be the ideal ski for ideal conditions at Jay Peak. And what about the rest of time, when conditions are, shall we say, less than ideal? Well, they will probably work just fine, and I do have other skis. What the heck, I'm 54 years old and might as get some skis that will help keep skiing fun and let me worry less about pranging my knee again. And as the Line slogan reminds us, Skiing Is Fun.

Some links for the curious:

Wondering what all the fuss is about on rocker?

Two reviews thought got me thinking hard about the SFB:

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vermont needs your help

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last week, you will have heard about Hurricane Irene, later downgraded to Tropical Storm Irene. Whatever you want to call it, a lot of wind and a huge amount of rain moved slowly up the U.S. eastern seaboard, made landfall in North Carolina and worked its way up through the New England states and southern Quebec. A lot of news coverage was devoted to the storm's effect on New York City, which was less than predicted, but not enough coverage has been given to the catastrophic flood damage that occurred in some areas of North Carolina, New Jersey, New York and our favourite state, Vermont. For a good summary of the storm and disaster areas, read the BBC news story found here: 

If you can't imagine the level of disaster I'm talking about, check out this photo gallery on the website of the Burlington Free Press: click here.

Southern and central Vermont has been particularly hard hit. Jay Peak and the surrounding area was in the storm's path but, from reports I have heard, seems to have been spared major damage. I've been a bit obsessed with the story lately and have been looking at news reports and pictures every day. It is mind boggling and heart breaking. Wherever you live, imagine it flooded with several feet of fast moving water filled with debris. Imagine your car, possessions, even your house, wrecked and perhaps even swept away. Imagine the downtown of your small town flooded, water right up the the window ledges of every storefront. Some lives have been lost and others changed forever. Imagine how much work and money it is going to take to get things back to some form of normal.

There is never a good time for a natural disaster but this couldn't have happened to Vermont and New York at a worse time. For many of the hard-hit areas, tourism is a huge part of the local economy. This weekend is the last big holiday of the summer season, the last chance to snag the those tourist dollars before slipping into the quiet times of autumn. What would the tourist find this weekend? Closed hiking trails, blocked roads, scenic lookouts that are less than scenic, quaint towns looking like war zones, charming covered bridges missing in action, uprooted trees everywhere, restaurants and bars shuttered up and, quite honestly, not much reason to stick around. Not to mention that many of the potential tourists are probably dealing with hurricane-related cleanup of their own, so won't be leaving home anyway.

Hot on the heels of Labor Day is Leaf-Looking Season. The fall colors are a huge tourist draw in Vermont and other areas in the east, including where I live. Will the scenic drives be open in three weeks? Will the charming B&Bs be ready to receive guests? Will the Alchemist Pub be open to slake the thirst of leaf-peepers? I don't know but I hope so. If they aren't, go for a drive anyway. Shop locally, sleep where you can and contribute to the local economy without being a drag on it. Fall is a key driver in the tourism economies of these areas and the tourists need to come. This year, the tourists need to be sympathetic, flexible and open minded. In my experience, these are not common traits in a lot of tourists but you never know. For a local's perspective, and an impassioned plea to support Vermont by coming for a visit, check out Steve Wright's excellent blog post on the Jay Peak site: The Business of Being Vermont

The obvious question ends up being: How can I help? The easiest and most effective way to help is to contribute money. Whether you like the name or not, if you are a skier, you are a tourist, and you contribute to the the tourism economy. If you can afford to ski, you can afford to help. I challenge anyone reading this blog to donate the cost of one day of skiing to disaster relief. Here are some ways to donate (I got this info from the Governor of Vermont's blog:

Vermont Disaster Relief Fund
If you would like to help Vermonters impacted by the devastation of Irene, please make a donation to the statewide Vermont Disaster Relief Fund by dropping off a check made out to the fund at any local United Way office.  The Vermont Disaster Relief Fund was created by the United Ways of Vermont in cooperation with the executive board of the Vermont Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (Vermont VOAD) and Vermont Emergency Management (VEM) to be used specifically for long term recovery.  The United Ways of Vermont is the fiscal agent for the fund.  Expenditures from the fund will be used 100% for the unmet long term needs of survivors from the Irene disaster, and decisions will be made by Long Term Recovery Committees recognized by VOAD and Vermont Emergency Management.
For more information on the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund, or to donate online, go to

American Red Cross – Vermont and New Hampshire Valley Chapter
Phone: 802-660-9130
The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization, led by volunteers, that provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. Contributions will support people affected by disasters across Vermont and the New Hampshire Upper Valley. The American Red Cross provides shelter, food, and other basic human needs following a disaster.
If you want to help folks in New York State, check out the links on The Saratoga Skier or Harvey Road.

This image from the Burlington Free Press pretty much sums it up for me. Resilient and creative  Vermonter herds pigs with his classic Perception Dancer kayak:

Update, 9/1/11:a couple of new web sites.
Helping Vermonters Help Vermonters
A grassroots site providing links and updates of local initiatives: "The goal of the website is to be an informational resource for volunteers ready to help, listing the who, what, when, where and how of everything related to this natural disaster."

VT Irene Flood Relief Fund 
Helping small business after the flood. Founded by Montpelier resident Todd Bailey, the fund is committed to distributing 100% of donations to Vermont businesses in need.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trail work update for Jay Peak

I may have to put JPTracker on the RJPSR payroll. The guy has a knack for finding things out. Here is a recent post from the AlpineZone Jay Peak development thread:

Jay has submitted their ACT 250 permit application for trail improvements for this summer. They include:

1) Andre's Paradise - The exit trail at the bottom is going to be double in length giving easier access to more terrain. No changes to the entrance or actual glade as promised.

2) Alligator Alley / Goat intersection - Will be regraded

3) Taxi - Some of the breakovers into the woods will be cleaned up.

4) Haynes - Part of the upper trail will be widened.

Details can be seen

The permit is also for the relocation of the power line. It will be going up Lift Line and Can Am.
 It is worth looking at the map linked above. It show detailed contours of the hill and indicates the various work areas.

As I commented on AZ, #s 2 and 3 seem like no-brainers. Personally, I don't see any reason why the Haynes Glacier needs to be any wider than it is (I have been since informed that it will enable the Haynes to meet FIS requirements). The AP exit extension is interesting - could have negative repercussions if it tempts more people to go "Beyond Beyond" and they still miss the exit trail.

 AP and Goat work areas. Too bad they put the info box over the most interesting contour lines.

Meanwhile, it is a balmy 30 degrees C at SBR HQ. That's degrees 86 F to you non-Metric readers. Hot, hot, hot either way and way hotter in many other places, including Vermont.

Here's a little shot to help you cool cool off.  March 2011, taken somewhere in Andre's Paradise. Matt surveys the snowy scene:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Is Jay Peak becoming McSkiing?

Got your attention, didn't I?

So, what is the answer? Personally, I don't think so, although I'm sure some Jay Peak regulars will disagree. I'm not sure who coined the term "McSkiing" but it is well described in The Death of McSkiing, by former Powder magazine editor Matt Hansen. In short, McSkiing is the situation a resort finds itself in when real estate, amenities, fashion and money take centre stage, and the skiing experience slides into the background.

What is going on at Jay Peak is small change compared to the developments Hansen describes at mega-resorts like Vail, Steamboat and Vermont's own Stowe. These struggling developments, and rescued projects like the Yellowstone Club, only serve to underline the one thing Jay Peak is still keeping at the top of the agenda: the skier.

Editor's note: I wrote this a while ago, just found it again. I'm not sure why I didn't post it earlier but now seems like a good time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Steve Wright interview on Harvey Road

Just when you had breathed a sigh of relief that I had stopped blabbing about the Northeast Ski Blogger Summit, here is one more installment. JamesDeluxe spent time chatting with Jay Peak marketing guy Steve Wright before, during and after the NSBS. The end result is full of interesting insights into why things are the way they are at Jay, and where things are going. Click the link for the full story:

Steve W listens as Snoway Steve asks a tough question. MadPat and Matt look on.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How Jay Peak ended the season

Correct me if I'm wrong but late spring skiing in Vermont is really for the locals. Commuter skiers like me are highly unlikely to get in car and drive seven hours to ski on one lift and two runs. All the more reason to give Jay lots of credit for keeping the Jet Triple running right up until there was no point in skiing anymore, and then some.

This Tweet from today, dug up by my more tech-savvy sources over at Harvey Road, pretty much sums it up:

And more so, kudos to the "one guy" for getting out there and skiing by himself in the pouring rain on the last day of lift-served skiing in New England for the 2010/2011 ski season.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A unique perspective on Jay Peak

I know, I know, you are not supposed to create web content that drives people away from your site. In this case, my loyal readers, it is worth it. Over on Harvey Road, a web site allegedly dedicated to ski news from New York State, some trip reports have emerged focusing on none other than Jay Peak, Vermont. And these aren't just your average "hey, I went to Jay last weekend" kind of trip reports. No, these reports are by Laszlo Vatjay, owner of Plattekill Mountain, nestled in the western Catskills of New York. Do you remember when Powder Magazine had a feature called "Little areas that rock?" I don't recall if Plattekill made it to Powder mag but from what I hear, it should have. Like Jay, Plattekill has steep, challenging terrain, lots of snow, a friendly vibe and a dedicated posse of core skiers. Unlike Jay, it is off the radar for many eastern skiers. So when the ski area owner decides to take a ski holiday with his family, where does he go? To Jay Peak, of course!

Here are links to Laszlo's insightful, funny and entertaining reports of his family's stay at Jay the week before Easter:

Episode One, in which Laszlo arrives, and gets the lay of the land:

Episode Two, in which Laszlo experiences a "Welcome to Jay Peak" kind of day, retreats to the Ice Haus and comments on the development situation. All from his cell phone:

Episode Three, in which Laszlo has better weather, enjoys the great snow, meets some friends and reflects on the Jay Peak experience:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A weekend of classic spring skiing at Jay Peak

Sometimes it is hard to believe you are going skiing.
Sometimes you just hit the nail on the on head.

A little air underneath the Aerial Tramway.
Pudd and SBR left their respective hideouts in the Hinterland and headed towards Vermont last Thursday, each thinking that things were looking very promising. The stars had definitely lined up: lots of snow in general; fresh snow earlier in the week; a stellar weather forecast of sunshine and warm (but not too warm) temperatures and the fact that most people have given up on skiing and were staying at home doing yard work. For us, and the rest of the lucky souls at Jay last weekend, yard work could wait.

What is it about spring skiing? For easterners, at least, I think it is the combination of being released from the death grip of winter with the fact that we can still ski. Conditions are very forgiving. Mellow, even. Everyone is relaxed, you can drink a beer on the deck afterwards, the people watching is highly entertaining and for some reason, many skiers feel compelled to wear funny hats, shorts and even t-shirts on a day that really requires a jacket and helmet. People that ski once a year come out of the woodwork with ancient equipment. Tailgate parties develop at the base of the lift and elsewhere. Lawn chairs appear in the parking lot. Everyone is having a great day. Half the people on the hill are probably impaired, one way or another (except for Sunday morning, when half the people on the hill are probably hung over). Very often, skiers will put up with pretty marginal conditions to enjoy this sacred rite. Not this time. Jay Peak delivered, with full coverage, no closed trails and amazing conditions. We skied places you don't often get to ski in early April: Green Beret; Valhalla; Powerline; Northwest Passage; Andre's Paradise and and more. On Friday, conditions were even a bit "wintry" and we found patches of powder in the woods.
Pudd enjoys fresh tracks, in the woods, in April.
Perhaps the weekend can be best summed up by a random encounter we had on the Tram on Sunday. Knowing that we both had to leave by noon, Pudd and I arrived at the hill early and were ticking off our favourite runs to store in the ski memory bank over the summer. We took a chance and headed for the Tram lineup, on Pudd's estimate that we would make the next ride. Well, we did but I was the last one through the turnstile, and only because I pointed at Pudd and said "I'm with him!" Being last on a Tram is rare and the best part is that it means you are first off. No need to dawdle and wait for the crowd to disperse, especially on this day when everybody else was bound to lollygag at the summit taking pictures. So there we were, minding our own business, when the young man beside me started quizzing me about my Prophet 100s. We shall call him Shogun Guy, because that was what he was skiing on. Long story short, it was clear that he and his quiet friend were completely stoked (as in: off the meter) about being at Jay Peak this weekend. After getting a great deal on a condo, they had driven the eight hours from New Jersey, past their beloved Plattekill, to ski at Jay. He listed the runs they had done so far, told me how his skis performed forwards and backwards, all the while giving us the impression that he had quickly consumed four or five Red Bulls and was just starting to peak. Needless to say, we followed them down the Vermonter, the four of us ahead of everybody else. Seeing them resting at the Green Beret junction, I stopped as well, and looked uphill to observe Pudd straightline the pitch above, launch a full Todd Brooker move off the lip and ski it out at Mach 10. I didn't have to check if Shogun Guy was watching, because all I could hear was a full-on Red Bull-infused bellow of appreciation:


Nice it was. So long Jay Peak, see you next season.

More air on Green Beret.
Pudd sticks a Jonny Jay Jet Turn in Valhalla.

You have to like the first chair feeling...
The Lord of Powder revels with the minions looking on through the window.

Conditions are perfect on NWP.

Let the spring celebrations begin!
Rock on buddy: Olin Mark IVs, Burt bindings, safety straps, Lange XRs and awesome toque.
A very appropriate spring-skiingmobile.
Pudd bids adieu to Jay Peak for another season.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Happy first birthday, new ACL...

April 2, 2010

April 2, 2011

Which was preceded by some earned turns:
It's been a great winter, with lots of skiing at Jay Peak and elsewhere. And it is not over yet.

Monday, March 21, 2011

JJ update: Why is THIS the Real Jay Peak Snow Report? (Part Two)

Jonny Jay checks in, as told to SBR. He apologizes for no pics.

After the early March snow dump, that I of course had to miss in the interest of making a living, I was getting excited about a ski day planned for March 11 with a bunch of guys I hadn’t seen in many years. But Mother Nature was punishing me again -- with rain this time -- so after breakfast on Friday morning at the JJ Clubhouse, I decided to call the snow phone at Jay Peak. As you can tell from the title of this blog site, I always have mixed reactions to the snow phone wisdom. Sometimes it’s a whole new ski vocabulary, sometimes you can taste the obvious optimism, sometimes you wonder what mountain they are reporting from and sometimes (when the sun is shining and there is no wind) they get it just right! Well at 8:15 on a wet March morning, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that all 7 lifts “were spinning” and all trails open. Plus they mentioned a "mini snow fall" expected for that evening and somehow overlooked the fact that it was raining at the moment – but that was quite obvious.

Being a diehard and likely a masochistic skier who can find the joy in any kind of weather, off I went to the mountain. Arriving just before 9:00, the first thing I see is that the Bonnie is not running. Then a report from a fellow masochist that the only lift running was the triple and a couple of lower mountain lifts. That’s a big change from half an hour earlier when all seven lifts “were spinning!” Well,  I thought, not much to explore but it will be fun. But the other guys all wimped out! So by 10:15 I was off with my plastic Jay baggie over my jacket to check out the snow. First run I tested the Derrick, which turned out to be far better than expected but a bit slow because there was about 6” of now wet snow to plow through. A good test for the Line Prophet 90s, which I am happy to say have worked out very well in most conditions (thanks to SBR for buying a pair the year before to give us all a report). Then it was the UN, which I rarely ski now as the knees can only take so much in a day. All alone, new snow to check the speed so I could “let 'em go” and the knees were fresh and ready. Great run! I looked back up and remembered the old days when it was called “The UN Express.”  They’ve dropped “Express” from the name now and I am thinking that is because it is not as narrow as it used to be – and certainly not as gnarly.

So what the heck, we’re on a roll, why not try the Kitz? Another great run, especially without any people interference, but my arms and pants were starting to get pretty wet. Well after a cruiser down the Montrealer I chose the last run to be lower Powerline or Lift Line (since I couldn’t get to much else and the glades were a bit heavy and I was really alone). Good thing it was the last run – very heavy down Powerline – and I was soaked. But you can always have fun if you’re dressed for it at Jay.

Moral of the story – the Jay Peak snow phone is a guide, if you’re a skier or rider then Just Do It, you never know until you get there!

And by the way, the weekend turned out to be actually very good with the promised few inches of snow covering the firm surface very well. Even had an epic run down the skier left Upper Kwai with my two great nephews and the tram running overhead – It was “showtime boys" and the old knees and the Line Prophets delivered!

Jonny Jay

Part one is here...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Seeing Jay Peak through new eyes

Despite the twin-tip mid-fat skis, baggy pants, newschool poles and internet-based apres-ski activity, I am an old-school skier at heart. Or maybe just a little stuck in my ways. The experience of skiing at Jay Peak with five people I had never met, and living the "condo lifestyle" for the first time, gave me a unique opportunity to see a very familiar place from a variety of new perspectives. You might even say it bounced me out of very pleasant rut.

Ski in condo - no kidding!
Boot up to ski out is very handy...

Like Steve the day-tripper, I had never stayed in a "ski-in ski-out" type of accommodation before the NSBS. Not at Jay Peak, not anywhere else.  Skiing anywhere else has either been day-tripping or sleeping on someone's couch (or floor). When visiting Jay, Blue Toes and I are very fortunate to have access to two very nice ski houses in the Jay area, owned by family members. Before those houses were bought, there were rentals, and before that (which was before Blue Toes), we were all in day trip range from Montreal. Whether staying within driving distance or driving up for the day, one still ends up being lodge-based at the hill.  On top of that, our family has some routines. We start the day with oatmeal and coffee. Unless the skiing is sketchy or everyone is a little hungover (say, on New Year's Day), we usually roll into Stateside Lodge before 9 am. Those that miss that meet-up know that "hot chocolate break" is at 10ish, over at Tramside. Then lunch at 12ish, back at Stateside. After that you are on your own, just make sure you have a ride back to the house. It works, because everybody follows the drill.

Another summit based on communication
This condo thing got me all messed up. I had to think about food and booze before arriving, rather going shopping after skiing was done. I had to check-in, get keys, be certain that other people got their keys and tickets, not lose the keys, so much to think about, aaahh!!! I wasn't even sure who I was rooming with, let alone it was someone I'd never met. We organized a meeting at Stateside by e-mail. Everybody made it. We sent an e-mail with directions to MadPat from the chairlift using an iPhone. It worked. After skiing was done, we settled in to the comfy Jay Peak Village Condos. And settled is the right word. Once you realize that the car is parked, the lift is a short walk and ski away, and there really is no reason to go anywhere, much stress is relieved. Yeah, OK, I'll have another beer. I could get used to this...

Then we went skiing. Skiing with a group of people you only met in person that morning doesn't really fit with my "slow to adopt change" philosophy on life. On one of our first runs, trying to be a good host, I stopped in the usual spot and waited for everybody. Hey, wait a minute, everybody is skiing by me! But, but, we always stop here. Why aren't you stopping here? Oh well, off we go... Then it started snowing heavily and powder madness took over. MUST SKI IN THE TREES was the mantra. Later I learned that some people actually viewed "groomers" as a necessary evil to get to the various glade runs on a mountain. But wait, this is a cool run, not simply a "groomer." And it is covered in a lot of new snow. There are no trees in the way. On day one, Steve and I sure got that, and had the "Run of the Day" on Upper Exhibition. Oh yeah, did I mention that? We have to play "Run of the Day" at the end of the day...

Willis meets the bloggers.
Eventually, I chilled out. The chairlift discussions about where to ski next took on a familiar tone. The collective knowledge of three experienced Jay Peak skiers and the turbo-charged enthusiasm of the others had us skiing all over the place. Like I said in an earlier post, rope to rope, and a little beyond. A flow developed and everybody went with it. Despite skiing at Jay Peak on a semi-regular basis since I was twelve, I skied places I had never skied before. I took people to places they hadn't been before, or back to places they hadn't been in a long time. We skied runs like the Quai and the Green Beret, that, while well marked on the trail map, could never be considered "groomers." Beyond that, we ate at the Tram Haus Lodge with our ski boots on. We blogged like uber-geeks in the restaurant on the first evening. The jovial and accommodating Willis Whitaker of DEW Construction gave us a hard hat tour of the Waterpark construction site. By the end of the day on Friday, I was exhausted.

SBR's big sister shreds Haynes
It is good to be jolted from the routine every now and then. Seeing Jay Peak through the eyes of five different people has given me a fresh perspective on a long-time friend. I have found a few new creases in the armor, and a few new quirks in the personality of Jay. After the other bloggers left, I stayed an extra day and skied with my sister and her husband, who had appeared out of the blue on Friday. Saturday was one of those days you could feel a little smug and say "you should have been here yesterday." The weather was damp and it eventually started raining. Line-ups were long due to school break crowds and wind delays on the Bonnie and Tram. Who cared? Not me. After a couple of great runs on the Derrick and the Haynes, we had the usual bag lunch in the usual place and then Sklinda and Dogski called it a day. I carried on for while, and after a great chat on the Flyer with some guy from Philly, I skated off for a solo run down the Can Am. From the top of the pitch, I could not see another person. The Bonaventure chair was silent and unmoving. The rain-wetted ice glowed blue in the grey light. I knew that if I fell, it would be a while before anybody found me. After all the preparation for the blogger event, and the intensity of the previous three days, I suddenly felt like the last skier on earth. There was no choice but to ski down.

Monday, March 7, 2011

NSBS backstory: A Blind Date at Jay Peak

Bloggers ready for first run at Jay. Photo by Matt.
When I told Blue Toes that I was going skiing with a bunch of guys I met on the Internet, she gave me a funny look. Not that this kind of Internet dating is a new thing. Since the early days of the Web, newsgroups, and then ski forums, have allowed like-minded individuals to find rides, ski partners, crash pads, ticket deals, mad parties, gear deals and much more. If you combine that with the standard travel industry model of the FAM tour (as in FAMiliarization), you get the Northeast Ski Blogger Summit, or NSBS. Or, as Steve Wright (Jay Peak Sales and Marketing VP) called it, the Anti-FAM. The guy does have a way with words.

A rare view of Timbuktu - untracked. Photo by Harvey.
Now that the first NSBS is over,  I can look back and say that those guys and I had an amazing experience at Jay Peak, on many different levels. What made it so? Well, for one thing, the mountain delivered the goods. Day One at Jay Peak was an unexpected powder day and days Two and Three were bluebird sunny days with enough leftover powder and finely tuned groomers to keep anybody happy. What more could you ask for? Well, maybe the storm that dumped 30 plus inches today - but I am not complaining. I don't know if my legs could have handled it. Beyond that, we had some very interesting insights into the future world of Jay Peak, the developments happening now and those scheduled for the years to come. Tough questions were asked and frank answers were given. These stories will come out in due time.

Secondly, you have the people: two Canadians, four Americans, with representation from one big province (Ontario) and three of the "New" states (NH, NJ and NY). Ages ranged from 30 to 53. Skiing ability was high. Stoke level was off the scale. Two kinds of glisse were performed, with both the locked and free heel getting along famously and, in some cases, switching it up. Three of the group members had considerable Jay experience, one a little bit and two were JP never-evers. The blogs (see below) represent six very different views on skiing.

Thirdly, you have the common threads: obsession with skiing; the Eastern skiers' constant quest for powder days among the icy days; a predilection to write about the ski experience, take pictures and, finally, an inclination to share that commentary online with whoever chooses to read it.

Nice condos and first tracks to Racoon Run!
Ultimately, this event could not have happened without the support of Jay Peak and, in particular, Steve Wright. When I first dreamed up the idea that it would be cool to bring together a group of ski bloggers at the same mountain, at the same time, and see what came out, I had no idea that I would be staying in a ski-in/ski-out condo with three days of complimentary skiing for six people. As the idea gained momentum, with the input of Harvey44 and others, I started to think that the do-it-yourself original plan was maybe not enough. I drummed up my courage, wrote out a proposal and set up a meeting with Steve back in October. The meeting went very well, IMHO. The stage was set, the incentive was offered and all that remained was for Ullr to smile upon us, which he did. Selling out to the man? Not at all. Taking advantage of a generous offer made by a creative marketing guy taking a big chance on my pitch? Absolutely.

Your humble author finds some fresh tracks on one of his favourite runs at Jay Peak, the Green Beret. Photo by Matt.
The blogs involved in the 2011 NSBS

The Real Jay Peak Snow Report:
The Snowway:
Ski = MC Squared:
Ski Mad World:
Harvey Road - The New York State Ski Blog:
The Magazine - The Mountains Less Traveled:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

NSBS Day 3: Nothing like a little hike to start your day!

Posted live from a yellow picnic table in Stateside Lodge. Man, am I a geek!

Yesterday, I did something I've been wanting to do for a long time. I have to admit, I'm a bit of a slave to the lifts at Jay Peak and have long wanted to get into the Vermont backcountry. Every time I drive up the Mountain Road, I stare at a certain hill and think, "I'd like to hike up there and ski down." It's not a particularly secret stash, and certainly not hard to find, but most people opt for the ease of The Dip. Oh well, too bad for them. On the third day after a storm, there were only about half a dozen tracks ahead of us.

With the route-finding guidance of Steve, our gang of four headed out and were skinning up by 8:30 or so. We could have been earlier if it were not for a few cascading and hilarious mistakes that caused some delay. Oh well, the snow wasn't going anywhere.

Matt skins up the track some nice people made for us.
Steve looks pleased with his situation
Where's Harvey? Backlit in the early morning light. Lots of snow to go around.
After an epic sidestep to egress from the run, we dashed back to the condo, threw everything in our cars and headed for the lifts. Another sunny day, the groomers were super-fast and fun. We even found fresh powder in a few spots in Beaver Pond, probably the most popular glade at Jay Peak.

For the first time visitors in the crew, this trip was a dream come true. For the returning skiers, it was a rekindling of the stoke you have for a familiar place. The lesson: never take Jay Peak for granted.

After a delicious lunch at Alice's Table, we went for a different sort of hike. More on this later!

You can read about day three (and see more pictures) from other points of view at The Snowway, Ski = MC Squared and Harvey Road. I'm sure there will be more to come on this trip.

Friday, March 4, 2011

NSBS Day 2: Oh darn, the sun came out.

Today was a day for exploring. Light winds, brilliant sunshine and cold temperatures. Not to mention a little leftover snow from yesterday. But where to go? With MadPat added to the collective, our fired-up crew now had three sources of Jay tribal knowledge for seeking out leftover powder. In doing so, we literally skied from one boundary rope to the other. There were even a couple of forays beyond a rope. I have to thank Snowway Steve for sharing his extensive knowledge of woodland nooks and crannies, which allowed me to ski somewhere I'd heard about but never been before. If I can find it again...

Since the sun was out and the wind was down, out first ride (after the Village Chair), was up the the tram and down the Green Beret, one of my favourite runs at Jay Peak. After negotiating the sketchy, rocky, top section we found only a few tracks in the fresh powder and plenty of room for new ones. After that things became a blur of trees with powder, trees with not so much powder left, repeat. The handy groomed runs that take you to the various glade runs were in great condition - truly "powder/packed powder."

Ullr is smiling on this group.

Steve takes the rock jump on Green Beret

Matt ups the ante with a tele-heli. I took pictures.

Ski bloggers in their happy place

MadPat running gates in the forest beyond the rope
Check out more tales and pictures from today on Harvey Road (there's a video there too), Ski = MC Squared and The Snowway.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

NSBS Day 1: What a day!

There was a little unexpected snow at Jay Peak today. You could even call it a powder day! SBR got a face shot on Upper Exhibition at 11:30 am, on the way to lunch. Unreal day, snow-filled everywhere.

I did not take many pictures today but the guys I was skiing with did and have already written some great reports. How can I keep up? Check out Harvey Road, Ski=MC2, The Snowway and FTOL. Watch the "ski blogs to read" feed to the right for further reports from some other skiers that were here for the festivities.

It snowed heavily all morning. Accumulation on my pants only halfway up the Bonnie.
When I returned to the Snowbaru, it turned out that the car had a powder day too!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jay Peak in 48 hours: a guest report

Here is the first "guest report" on the RJPSR, I hope there will be more. Will, Duper and Jer are three lads from Huntsville, Ontario who went to Jay for the first time earlier this week. Clearly, they have now  been stricken with the Jay Peak bug. Duper was on skis, Will and Jer the single plank. This is their story, as told by Will:

With two days off and snow in the forecast for the east, the only thing left to do was pack up the car and hit the road. Thanks to the trusty advice from the Great El Gordo (editors note: that would be me), we found ourselves heading to the hills of Vermont.

This must be the place.
We checked into Grampas Grunt's Hostel at about 10pm, Sunday, Feb. 13. Even when checking in you could sense that this was a place of history, a place of legends and with tales of the mountain to suit. Gramps got us checked into our room and informed us there would be no breakfast the next morning as he had a poker game to get to that night.

We woke the next morning bright and early and headed to Jay. We parked at Stateside, as this was the first piece of advice given to us from Gord. We knew that this was the side of the mountain to go to for the true "local experience." Little did we know that’s exactly what we were in for.

Standing eagerly at the bottom of the Bonnie, waiting for the lift to open, we met up with a fellow Gramps resident. Ed, aka VW, has been coming to Jay for over ten years. The story has it that he shows up in a different Volkswagen every time, hence the name.  He assured us that, without question, every time he rolls into town he stays at Gramps. More importantly, he let us know that he would be happy to ride with us up the first chair and "show us a few good spots" to check out on the mountain.

Somewhere down a rabbit hole.
Ed ended up riding with us the entire day, showing us the local lines that we never would have found without him. At the top of every run he would just shout, “follow me to the next rabbit hole” and, without fail, after every rabbit hole we found ourselves in some of the best tree skiing in the east. We rode everything from chutes, to tight lines, to wide open glades, all of which had at least knee deep fresh snow covering them.

We rode from first chair to last that day and even got a run in on The Dip, where we ended down at the road and hitchhiked back to the parking lot. We were hooked: Jay was the place to be.

Grampa Grunt atmosphere.
We spent the night at Gramps' again, cooked up a big feast and shared some beers with our new buddy and local tour guide Ed. He told us we were very fortunate to meet up with him, that usually he’s riding with others and he never would have shown three newbies the lines he did. We sat around the basement rec room; Gramps shared some stories of the 80’s, when the hostel was truly the place to be in the east. The wall mounted snowboards and skis, beer stained floors and dim lit atmosphere certainly made you think: that if only these walls could talk.

Our second day at Jay Peak was bluebird skies and sunshine. With the stashes on the windblown side of the mountain covered in snow, Ed continued to show us tree lines and always seemed to find the deep snow. The tram wasn’t running so we did a hike up to the summit to take in the views and get a run in on Valhalla. We also bagged two more runs on The Dip and called it a day after that. Figured we had to end on a high note. We thanked Ed repeatedly for his guide service and hit the road back to Ontario.
Stop taking pictures - let's go riding!

You want me to go where?
The result, three exhausted guys with memories of epic tree lines and deep fresh snow. My recommendation, go to Jay Peak. Check in at Gramps, soak up the atmosphere and hope you are as lucky as we were to run into Ed.

Thanks VW.

Here is a little postscript from Duper:

You know you are at a great mountain when you barely stop to take photos.  I'm still thinking about the terrain, the people and places of northern VT.  It's defiantly in the top four ski trips of all time for me personally. The green coat belongs to William.  Jer had the pumpkin coat.  I'm in grey with the blue bonnet. Last but not least, our tour guide Ed is Johnny Cash dressed all in black.

A single track is always a good sign.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A first for the RJPSR!

The other day, I stumbled upon a site called the Outdoor Blogger Network. Browsing through the blog categories, I thought: "hmmm, there is nothing about skiing here. Skiing happens outdoors and most skiers I know are outdoorsy-type people."

So, what the heck, I signed up and suggested that they add a "skiing blogs" section to their existing "outdoor athletics" category. They agreed with my logic and, lo and behold, the RJPSR is the first ski blog on the site.

So if you have a ski blog,  an outdoors blog, or just enjoy reading blogs about outdoorsy stuff, check out the the OBN.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Social media case study: hate VS debate.

Disclaimer: In case you haven't figured it out, this gang of Jay Peak skiers live a long way from Jay Peak. That's why you aren't reading an account of how great the skiing is right now. So if like me, you WISH you were at Jay Peak right now, and need something to distract you from the powder stories, feel free to read on.

Unless you have been living under a rock, with only dial-up Internet access, you'll have noticed that social media services like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and the like are increasingly being used by businesses to promote their products and services. In the tourism industry, which, like it or not, ski resorts are part of, progressive operators have been using social media for some time because they know that “creating the conversation” between themselves and clients, or even better, between clients and clients ABOUT the product, is a relatively easy way to keep people thinking about their operation. And if you keep thinking about something good, you'll want that something, even if you have to drive seven hours to get there.

The trouble is, keeping on top of the blog, chatter and tweet is yet another thing for the marketing person to do, more tasks to be completed in an already busy work day. Hopefully, the marketing person's boss gets it and doesn't chastise them for “spending too much time on the Internet.” Fans and followers come to expect regular blog posts, Facebook updates, tweets and responses to their comments. And you never know when it just might blow up in your face (book).

Let's take a look at two recent Facebook incidents that underscore the need for vigilance and responsibility. Two ski resorts, Jay Peak and Sunshine Village (near Banff, Alberta) have had Facebook blow-ups recently and dealt with them in very different ways.

If you follow ski industry news (and who doesn't, he asked facetiously) you will have heard about the recent public relations meltdown at SSV. If not, the very short version is that a junior patroller pulled the pass of someone who was skiing in a closed area. Turns out that the someone was Taylor Scurfield, the son of the resort's owner, Ralph Scurfield Jr. Shortly afterwards, several senior patrol and operations staff were fired. The remaining patrol had a bit of a protest and more were fired, including the rookie patroller who pulled young Scurfield's pass in the first place. Now the skiing public is up in arms on-line and the ex-employees are launching a wrongful dismissal suit. You can read the full story, along with links to various other discussions and articles, on MadPatSki's excellent and detailed recent blog post. But please come back.

At this writing, Sunshine Village has taken down their official Facebook page (the page that appears to be official is a “mirror” site, apparently not managed by the resort). When it was up, there was much heated discussion, a lot of hate, many people got banned, popped back under a new name, banned again, and so on. Several other pages have popped up, including pages for supporting the wronged patrollers, boycotting Sunshine, etc. etc. If you are on Facebook, try a search and you'll see what I mean. What a mess. The resort management appears to have completely given up on trying to communicate about the situation and mitigate this public relations disaster. There is no indication that anything is amiss on the resort's web site. The score: social media backlash, 1; Sunshine Village, 0. This will be a very interesting story to follow.

Meanwhile, over at Jay Peak's Facebook page, there has been some heated, but friendly, debate about the ongoing development project. As you can imagine there are a lot of people for it, and a lot of people against. The waterpark, in particular, seems to get folks pretty riled up. The screen shot below is of the Jay Peak Facebook post on Jan. 31. What started out as an innocent photo and comment about the waterslide developed into a 108 comment debate about development with the “fors” and “againsts” well represented throughout. It is worth reading. No matter what your stand is on the development, you have to admire the Jay Peak marketing team's thoughtful and attentive replies to the stream of comments. It takes a lot of work to stay on top of this stuff and keep a professional level of response going. The score: social media dialogue, 1; Jay Peak Resort, 1.

PS: The Jay Peak development story keeps popping up in various places, check out this recent thread on AlpineZone and several pages of back and forth on the TGR East Coast Stoke thread (note: the discussion starts about half-way down the page and goes on for about two more). Word of warning, if you have never visited TGR before, be prepared for some, uhhh, colourful language and more than colourful characters.