With winter storm Jayden bearing down on the East Coast and ready to dump up to 14” of snow, it is time to choose your Powder Day excuse. Here is a list to help get your creative juices flowing – some are convincing, some are creative and some we just advise against, if staying employed is also part of the plan
Jay Peak located in the Northeast Kingdom (err...boondocks) of Northern Vermont, is know for four things which are:
Prodigious amounts of snow
Jay Peak, is located in an area of northern Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom and is a short 15-minute drive from the Canadian border. Jay Peak is synonymous with snow, hardcore skiing and investment fraud. Let’s look at each separately.
Anyone who skied and grew up in the 80’s has watched Hot Dog – The Movie (probably more than once). How this movie never won an Oscar is beyond me, but I digress. One of the most famous lines in the movie and probably any ski movie is when Kendo leans into to Squirrel and says, “What is da f*%k is a Chinese Downhill”. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, you should, a Chinese Downhill is first man to the bottom wins and the rules to this race, there are no rules.
Magic Mountain, VT is bringing their own flavor to this epic event with a race called the Road to Ruin – Mad Dash Downhill. This is nothing like you would see on the World Cup. There are no gates, no blue lines marking the course, no water injected courses and probably no timing devices. Instead, this is a “balls to the wall” first the bottom wins. Although, something tells me that spiked pole baskets, helmet mounted smoke screens and spiked gloves will not be permitted.
While the course will not be launching off a cornice into an open bowl with people skiing through lodges, plate glass windows and through skiers eating on an outdoor deck, the course does consist of two double black diamond trails, Witch and Black Line. The race begins at the intersection of Witch and Redline. After plunging down Witch for xx feet you will be stomping on your left foot to make a hard right onto Black Line. Now make no mistake, Black Line isn’t as narrow and rocky as its big brother Black Magic, but it also isn’t a joke. There are a couple areas where you have the potential to take big air, which mean you have the potential of star fishing upon landing. You will continue to haul ass until the finish banner located at the intersection of Black Line and Hocus Pocus.
Besides becoming a legend, at least in your own mind, what do you win? The top three overall finishers take home cash, with the overall winner taking home a Grover Cleveland ($1000). If this sounds like an entertaining Saturday afternoon, hurry up and register, the race is limited to the first hundred entries. The entry fee is $40 and a discounted lift ticket of $40 will need to be purchased – total cost $80. Day of registration on February 2nd will be allowed if there is room at $50, but must be done by 10am. A Road to Ruin t-shirt is included for each competitor. Registration/bib pick up is from 9am to 11 am at the ticket office.
If you do enter this race at Magic, you may want to consider having the magic of Ullr on your side. Ullr (pronounced like ruler but without the r) is the mythical Norse God of Winter, who was unbeatable on skis, never losing a race. In fact, some believe the Aurora Borealis is the snow flying off the tail of his skis. Ullr is also known for protecting skiers from harm while in the mountains.
Lastly, if you do enter, I’d love to hear about your experience.
Located approximately 80 miles north west of the cosmopolitan city of Montreal, in the Mont Tremblant National Park lies the year-round resort of Mont Tremblant. In the winter, the resort is a popular destination for many skiers on both sides of the border. In the summer, the area is popular for boating, golfing and IRONMAN triathlons. Tremblant, as it is commonly referred to, is diminutive even by Laurentian Mountain standards, at only 2871 feet, it isn’t in the top 35 highest peaks of the mountain range and almost a full 1000 feet smaller than Mont Raoul Blancher which is the highest peak, although not a ski area, in the Laurentains. However, good things come in small packages because Mont Tremblant offers up a few surprisingly challenging runs along with a distinctive village of shops, restaurants, bars and condos.
The skiing at Tremblant is done off all sides of the mountain, known as Versant Sud (South Side), Versant Nord (North Side) and Le Edge. The south side, is the side seen from the village, and has a mix of easy, intermediate and expert trails. The expert trails are generally wide-open GS rippers that have been groomed for maximum speed. The best of these trails was Erik Guay, which is named after the Canadian speed merchant who won the World Cup season title in super-G in 2010 and was the world champion in downhill in 2011, as well as in the super-G in 2017. Guay grew up racing with the Mont Tremblant race club. However, Quebec is not really known for producing great ski racers, instead the province is a proverbial factory of mogul skiers, currently 10 of the 11 mogul skiers on the Canadian World Cup Team are from the province of Quebec, including the “Michael Jordan of Moguls” Mikael Kingsbury. With that said, you would expect some trails littered with “bosses” (the term for moguls in French) and you wouldn’t be disappointed. On the South Side the two places to get your bumpin’ on are Vertige and Zig Zag. Vertige is an appropriately named trail, the appears to drop away from the top of Erik Guay at a dizzying rate into sea of moguls, however the trail in reality isn’t as steep as it appears. The trail next to Vertige is Zig Zag which has a gentler pitch, but just as many moguls – you won’t be disappoint with either trail.
However, if true double black diamond skiing is what you are looking for then head to Versant Nord and ride the Expo Express and you’ll find yourself with access to three very good trails, they are Cossack, Expo and Dynamite. Cossack and Expo are run of the mill double black diamond trails, but Dynamite isn’t run of the mill. La Dynamite is infamous terrain for countless skiers in the United States and Canada. The trail is situated on the Nord side of Tremblant and can be accessed via the Expo Express Chair. Dynamite is the crown jewel of all Quebec steep skiing – the trail has the steepest sustained pitch of any inbounds trail in the 527,079 sq. miles of Quebec. It is one of only three trails in Quebec that have sustained pitches over 30 degrees, the others are Alexander Dispatie at Mont Chantecler and La S at Mont St. Anne. Dynamite can be divided into two segments the upper half is a “simple” double black diamond mogul run, the lower half of the trail is as difficult as they come on the East coast, to say it is a valid double black diamond is not an exaggeration. The lower segment of Dynamite, carries a pucker factor that will put butterflies in the stomach, of all but the most skilled skiers. To make matters worse, if you get past the headwall (err…frozen waterfall) you will still have mogul after mogul to deal with before the trail ends at the intersection of Expo. Dynamite is very similar to Rumor at Gore Mountain in NY. They both have very steep headwalls followed by a mogul field, although Dynamite is 25 feet narrower than Rumor. The trail is appropriately named – Dynamite will unleash an explosion of demolition if you don’t have your “A” game. However, if you ski it, really ski it – you will be quoting Jimmy Walker from Good Times (if you are younger than 45 you may need to Google that reference)!
USA citizens frequently state that when they go to Tremblant it is like going back to the old country, since it has a very European feel to it, although the colorful buildings resemble Reykjavik, Iceland more than the buildings of Chamonix, due to the various colors of all the buildings. Some say Interwest went too “Disney” when the village was created, but I’m not in the camp. When I’m on ski vacation I want many après ski options and Tremblant fits the bill with various restaurants, shops, night clubs and activities for the kids such as the water park (more a pool with a rope swing), ice skating and tubing. If you plan on staying at Tremblant for at least a night it is highly recommended that you make reservations at La Savoie. La Savoie is a fondue/raclette restaurant, and while a bit pricey, is fun to do with the family or a date. The raclette (a Swiss cheese dish) is served at your table via a half of a wheel of cheese that you melt onto bread with various meats and veggies. It is delicious, although you will leave the restaurant smelling like a wheel of cheese.
If you are in your twenties or early thirties and looking for something a little more exciting then P’tit Caribou is where you should head. The bar has been voted by Ski Canada and Freeskier magazines as the best après ski destination in North American and Men’s Journal and Forbes both listed it as one of the top 10 après ski destinations in the world! In the write up by Men’s Journal it says, “P’tit Caribou lures in skiers early with a dirt cheap 2 p.m. happy hour that escalates in price until 4:30 p.m. After that, things get…wild. The crowd doubles by the time the lifts close, and by nightfall, the once rocking après-ski bar has transformed into a full-on club, replete with visiting house DJs, cage dancing, and patrons dressed to the nines. Just how did all this happen in the span of an afternoon? No one really knows, least of all the guys still dancing in their ski boots at 3 a.m.” The drinking age in Quebec is 18, so the crowds at P’tit Caribou can skew to young. Lastly, you can’t leave Tremblant without trying the maple syrup taffy sticks at Cabane à sucre de la Montagne, located by the base of the Cabriolet lift. Heated Maple syrup is poured on snow and after waiting 45 seconds you roll it up onto a popsicle stick for a delicious, teeth rotting treat.
There you have it, Tremblant offers up skiing for all abilities and night life choices for all. For anyone who lives south of the border and wants a genuine European flavor for a ski weekend, this is the place to go.
- European flair in a francophone town
- Plenty of condos available in and around the village
- Varied terrain for all abilities in your group
Throughout the research of my book, “Experts Only! The History and Ranking of Eastern North America’s Hardest Trails”, I have observed Quebec ski areas routinely recognizing local athletes that have achieved the pinnacle of their sport by naming a trail in their honor. This seems like an appropriate honor since many of these skiers and riders have spent tireless hours training at the mountain that has named a trail after them. For example, in Quebec the following athletes have trails named after them:
- JP Auclair (legend) - Stoneham
- Nicolas Fontaine (3x Olympian) – Mont Orford
- Lloyd Langlois (Bronze Medalist 1994 Olympics) – Mont Orford
- Erik Guay (3x Olympian) - Tremblant
- Jasey Jay Anderson (Gold Medalist 2010 Olympics) – Tremblant
- Alexandre Despatie (2x Olympic Silver Medalist in diving!)– Ski Chantecler
Why don’t we have trails on the east coast after our successful athletes? Just off the top of my head the following athletes should have trails named after them.
- Seth Westcott (2x Gold Medalist Olympics) - Sugarloaf
- Bode Miller (6x Olympic Medalist/Legend) - Cannon
- Andrew Weibrect (2x Olympic Medalist) - Whiteface
- Kelly Clark (3x Olympic Medalist/Pioneer) - Mount Snow
- Donna Weinbrecht (Gold Medalist/Pioneer) - Killington
Should Avalanche be renamed Bode Miller, Upper Skyward renamed to Andrew Weibrect, Outer Limits renamed to Donna Weinbrecht?
What are your thoughts, should the mountains south of the border recognize athletes that have reached the pinnacle of the sport?
Skiing is a sport of progression, no matter who you are and what you have skied, there is always a segment of the sport where your skills can be elevated. It can be venturing into the parks to learn to ride a rail, zipper lining a mogul field, hucking off a cliff or dropping into a glade to go tree skiing. Over the past 10-15 years, ski area management at areas such as Jay Peak and Mont Sutton, began to see skiers going into the woods and saw them coming out smiling, so instead of banning the activity, they embraced glade skiing and began thinning the stands of trees to create glades. Since those early days, tree skiing has become immensely popular with just about every resort and Mom and Pop area offering tree skiing. However, many folks find tree skiing intimidating because it generally involves some of the more difficult conditions found in skiing such as moguls, powder, ice, cliffs and always involves trees! In the woods, all species of trees are hardwoods, they all hurt regardless if it is one of Vermont’s famed Sugar Maples or a “soft” Balsam Fir – even saplings feel like you are involved in some sort of “Fifty Shades of Grey” whipping activity.
Many skiers have resorts such as Aspen, Whistler, Verbier, Kitzbühel and Portillo on their bucket list. However, after a recent trip to Le Massif de Charlevoix, I am convinced Massif should be, at a minimum on every East Coast skiers bucket list. In fact, the mountain is listed in Chris Santella’s book, “Fifty Places to Ski & Snowboard Before You Die”. Le Massif de Charlevoix, most commonly referred to as Le Massif (translation The Massive), is a Canadian ski resort located approximately one-hour east of Quebec City (7 hours from Boston and 9 hours from NYC via car), in the province of Quebec.
Spring doesn’t officially begin until begin until March 20, 2016, but now is the time to start thinking about one of my favorite times of the year, which is spring skiing! The longer day bring more sun, higher temperatures and soft snow, and with soft snow brings moguls, big moguls.
While the popularity of mogul skiing has dropped, since the heyday of the 80’s and 90’s, when just about every ski company made a mogul ski and just about every ski area held a bump contest in the Spring, it is still an enjoyable activity, especially when the bumps are soft and forgiving.