Among the small treasures in my memory of skiing and mountains are two occasions when the operators of Jay Peak invited me to spend a weekend in what was then called “Elevation 4000,” a rambling apartment attached to the cable house at the 4,000-foot summit of the mountain.
At night we could see the glow of the lights of Montreal in the northern distance, but best of all, we got our first full-length run of Jay before the lifts opened, giving us the run of this big, rawboned mountain before anybody else was on the snow.
One Sunday morning we woke to about 8 inches of new light powder. We began on the Montrealer, one of the bread-and-butter trails from the top that distributes skiers to a blue and black trail system with such runs as Green Beret, Northway and Milk Run.
Tucked into that group is a short, steep run named for the ferocious Austrian FIS downhill course at Kitzbuehel and my abiding memory of U.S. racer Daron Rahlves going by at about 85 mph on his way to a victory there. I know what the Jay trail cutters had in mind with the Kitzbuehel moniker, a nod to the venue for the famed Hahnenkamm downhill.
Yes, the Jay trail is steep, and on this morning the narrowest spots were even tighter because the snow had not yet melted off the branches but held them down, where they intruded a few feet into the run.
Taking off in all that powder, we stayed left at the first fork and descended the first face, the snow up over our knees as we plowed our way down the face, finding the turning fluid and rather easy, once we had the rhythm.
Kitzbuehel was narrow in spots, with islands of trees that increased the fun. We went down another long straightaway that pushed us into a sweeping lefty, then descended to the junction at Heaven Road, where the run is wider and flatter.
We continued onto Sweetheart, another blue run to the bottom, but a better choice because it has more turns, and came to a stop at the base. There were a few skiers and riders around, but the aerial tram was a good half-hour from opening for business, so we opted for breakfast.
There are some other classic trails on this side. The steeper ones are Hotshot Derick, Haynes, Jet (under the lift) and Northway. The blue runs on this main face of Jay are Purgatory, Angel’s Wiggle and Milk Run.
Of course there was plenty of snow to take us into some of the many gladed areas on the mountain, and if you can order up a few inches of fresh pow and an early start, Jay is as rewarding as any mountain in New England.