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Jay Peak Resort, Jay, Vermont

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Anyone who lives the mantra "ski the East" has heard of Jay Peak. This northern Vermont mountain gets the most snow in the region and offers some of the best backcountry. There is more than 50 miles of trails at this mountain, of which only 20% is rated for novices, the rest is more advanced. While much of the terrain on Jay is designed for more advanced skiers and riders, there are plenty of places for beginners to practice. Jay Peak has 2 peaks and more than 385 acres of skiable terrain. Its 8 lifts access the 2150 vertical feet of mountain side. The mountain itself mostly faces the Northeast, so icy conditions can prevail if the conditions are just right (which they often are). There are a total of 76 trails, tons of glades and chutes and a good Nordic centre.

Jay Peak Resort
flickr image by Robbie Sproule

Getting to Jay Vermont can be somewhat difficult, as it is located up near the Canadian border. This makes a popular destination for Canadians to visit. The mountain has its fair share of locals, but most of these locals share the Northeast Kingdom's friendly disposition and will welcome outsiders. The closest major airport is Burlington International, which is about a 1 hour and 20 minutes away. The mountain is located on RT 242 and most drivers will have to pass over the mountains to get there, where conditions can be a little rough when the snow falls. Jay Peak tends to get more snowfall each season when compared to the other VT resorts. Even if it is raining in the valley it is probably snowing in the mountains. If you plan to ride or ski Jay Peak be sure to dress warm. Its northern location makes it very cold at times, so cold in fact that the lifts will often display frostbite warning signs. The Flyer Express Quad lift is nicknamed "the freezer", because the ride up can be very blustery and cold, so pack a face mask or neck warmer to cover your vulnerable nose and checks.

The skiing and riding at Jay can be truly awesome. Icy conditions will arise and sometimes create difficult 'East-coast' skiing conditions. Watch for ice when skiing at Jay. Park monkeys will like themountain's 4 different terrain parks, including the expansive rail garden and half pipe. These parks have some beginner's level jumps and some really big stuff for the experts. The backcountry riding can be really great if you know where to go. There are plenty of on-mountain glades and chutes to enjoy, some of the best are the Face Chutes and Tuckerman's Chute, both of which are accessible from the Arial Tram. These glades are steep and deep and often hide deep pockets of powder for days. The Tram also offers spectacular views and access to both black diamond and intermediate runs. More awesome on-mountain glades include Timbuktu, Derick Hot Shot and Hayes, which are accessible from the Jet Triple Chair. The scariest run is probably the River Quai, which can also be accessed from the Jet Triple. The run with best views is the Vermonter, which begins at the top of the tram and heads all the way down the side of the mountain.

Jay Peak skiing
Jay Peak is a fantastic mountain for learning how to ski and ride the glades. The Full Moon, Quarter Moon and Half Moon beginner's glades can be found just off the Metro Quad. These glades are not too steep and are just open enough to really practice getting those turns down. For expert level skiers and riders (we mean expert), awesome backcountry glades can be reached through skier's left offset trails from Northway, which starts at the base of the tram. If you do venture off into the backcountry, be careful not to go too far to skiers left and be sure to drop back on-mountain before you reach the bottom. These woods feature a stream gully which can trap skiers and bring them down past access to the lifts. If you end up in this gully it's a long and deep hike out. As always, make sure someone knows if you are venturing out into the backcountry, so that they can summon help if you get lost or hurt while out there. Northern Vermont gets very cold and death from exposure is certainly possible. Both beginner and intermediate riders and skiers will be able to find on-mountain terrain that is both challenging and fun, so going off-mountain is not necessary.

Jay offers lots of on-mountain accommodations, from ski in and out rental houses and condos, to standard lower cost hotel-style rooms in the Tram Haus Lodge. The Mountain Village features a Village Double ski lift from the houses to the other lifts. There is plenty of fun to be had off the slopes at Jay. The Ice Haus offers hockey and ice skating action. Jay has also recently opened the Pump House, its new state of the art indoor water park. This park features an indoor wave pool for surfing. Jay also has a great après ski scene. On mountain there is the Clubhouse Grille, which features an outdoor fire pit and the Tower Bar, which is located in the Tram Haus Lodge. Some of the best après ski locations are found just two miles down the mountain road, where RT 242 meets with RT 101. The Jay Village Inn is right on this intersection and features great local beers. The Inn also has frequent hot wing eating competitions. Just across the street is the Cedarwood Resort, which offers good food, the D'Cota's bar scene and very often features horseshoe competitions. For awesome take-out and souvenirs there is the Jay Country Store. Also located at the intersection of RT 242 and RT 101 is the Snow Job, which is an excellent ski shop.

Jay Peak is a local favourite for several reasons. It has some of the state's best glades and tree-skiing and gets a good deal of snow. In fact, it is not uncommon for the snow to fall in feet at Jay. If you are planning on hitting up this awesome mountain, pack warm, be ready to ski the challenging stuff and be cool to the locals. The locals have been known to take out-of-towners who are nice under their wing and show them the really good stuff.

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Jay Peak is a wonderful resort for high intermediate to expert level skiers. Everglade and Valhalla are the two best advanced glades. Even the most experienced skier will have their heart pounding skiing these. The terrain on the Green Beret trail was truly high expert level as it was treacherous but I loved the sense of danger there.

It snowed everyday that we were at Jay Peak which made for nice, fresh powder. I must say, the wind at the summit was incredible. One of the staff members showed us where the paint on the lift towers had been blown off! I highly recommend Jay Peak for a wonderful ski getaway.

My first time skiing Jay Peak was with my Texas husband who had never skied before. We hired a private instructor to teach him some basics so he couldn't get mad at me and within three hours he was up on the slopes with me, on a intermediate trail. Sure, he fell a couple times, but that was part of the fun! After a few runs we made our way to the base lodge for a rest and were greeted with warmth and coziness. The snack bar gave us back some much needed energy and we were out the door to do it all over again!

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