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Jay Peak

  • Start: Hazen’s Notch Camp
  • End: Jay Peak
  • Approx Miles: 7.3

Overnight I dream that it’s the Christmas holidays and I’m getting internship invitations in the mail from biotech startups due to some sort of grad program I’m in. One of them is a whole murder mystery puzzle involving PCR1 that you have to solve to apply. My Dad is scolding me about not taking them seriously enough minutes after I open them. Shows where my mind is thinking about after the hike… 😅

I wake before 7 and pack up quietly. Gem is still in bed when I leave. I want to give myself plenty of time to get to Jay Peak with the resort still open, as I’m hoping to get lunch and some more snacks there.

Today is mostly a pretty easy rolling walk over a bunch of wooded summits: Buchannen Mountain, Domey’s Dome2, Gilpin Mountain. I hope against hope to see a moose at last, but no such luck.

Chet's Lookout and the view from atop it.
Goofing around on Domey's Done
Taking a break on Buchannen Mountain

I cross VT-242 at Jay Pass. Stop at Jay Camp to sign the register and then head up towards the peak, leapfrogging with a couple of day hikers. First half of the way up is cruisy and clear, with some rock scramble near the end. Overall a fun, relatively easy climb, as advertised.

Another big toad
Stairs where the trail passes over Jay ski resort supply pipes.

I wander around the near the summit lodge, lots of leaf peepers around. There’s a deli there, but sadly it’s closed on a weekday, so I’ll have to take the gondola down to the resort village if I want to buy anything. Amazing views from the actual summit nearby, even if they’re partially occluded by the lodge.

Approaching the summit lodge
Jay Peak ski trail map
The last high peak view of the hike
Summit USGS marker
A nearby memorial bench. "Ski Hard ✯ Dive Deep"

It’s also interesting to learn about Jay Peak and get a sense of the vibe, just from seeing the decor and reading the stuff on the wall in the lodge. Jay definitely feels more fancy and corporate than say MRG. Reminds me of Killington in that way. However, because it’s so hard to get to from New York or Boston, it feels more like it’s for “real skiers” who actually love the sport if that makes sense, not just rich people on holiday. Some of the trails sound pretty hardcore. Apparently a lot of Montrealers ski here; a lot of the signs are bilingual in French and English.

I’ve also been learning more about trends and niches in the skiing world. Apparently something that’s gotten really popular lately is “skinning”, or skiing uphill. From signs I’ve seen posted, the resorts seem to be struggling to keep up with demand for it.

There’s also backcountry skiing, which is like downhill skiing, except in unmaintained backcountry rather than a groomed trail. It’s much more dangerous than skiing at a resort—you have to dodge around trees and obstacles, and there’s no ski patrol to rescue you if you get hurt. Big Jay, which can be reached via a saddle from Jay Peak, is a popular backcountry destination.

There’s apparently something of a controversy about backcountry skiers cutting trees to make their own trails. It seems like it happens sometimes and people usually just look the other way, but years ago some skiers did a huge clear cut on Big Jay (which is state land) and faced criminal charges for it. The attitude about this in the hardcore backcountry community seems to be something like “if you need to cut so much it’s because you don’t have the skills, try getting good instead.”

Old photos, flyers, and news articles about Jay on the wall inside the lodge
Ski trail names never fail to entertain me

I sit around in the lodge for a while charging my phone. Feels weird to be in such a modern building. Eventually I decide to ride the gondola down to the resort proper in search of food. I might have to pay to get back up but I decide it’s worth it.

The ride down is really nice. Fancy, four-sided, windowed gondola. Really fast. World of difference from the MRG single chair! I get to the base and wander around for a bit, but it seems like all the restaurants are closed today. Uh oh. I might have to pay the $25 ticket to go back up for nothing 🙁. Fortunately, I eventually find my way to the “general store”, which is open! They sell Jay Peak branded clothes and souvenirs, but also have like half a grocery store in there—candy, snacks, toiletries, beer, a deli, pizza. It’s hiker heaven! They have so many types of candy…

I get a footlong sub and a Long Trail “Limbo” IPA, and sit and eat outside in the sun. So satisfying. It’s late afternoon so I’m HUNGRY by this point. I go back in to get some snacks and candy for the rest of the journey and an Andes mint ice cream bar. So good.

At the base of Jay Peak
The general store
So many snacks
The way back up

Belly full, I head for the gondola back to the peak and manage to bumble my way on for free. Nice.

Back on top, I charge my stuff some more while making all my reservations for a shuttle to Burlington and a bus home from there for Friday. Then wander around taking pictures. The sunset from up here is beautiful. So glad I decided to stay up here rather than go down to Laura Woodward Shelter on the other side.

I set up my tent at the very top of the “Face Chutes,” one of the most death-defying ski areas at the resort. There’s a little vestibule on the lodge that some hikers sleep in, but it has kind of crappy vibes and apparently the fluorescent light stays on all night. I’d rather be cozy in my tent! Don’t even need to make dinner as I’m still full from the sub earlier.

I drink the cider I bought up from the base and write in my journal. As far as the end of the journey—no thoughts, head empty today. Still feels hard to imagine being off-trail. Well, last day tomorrow. It’s just a walk in the woods…

  1. Polymerase chain reaction. I studied genetics and molecular biology in college which is how my subconscious has stuff like this in it. ↩︎

  2. Strong contender for the best place name on the LT. ↩︎