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Backcountry Skiing Vermont: Jay Peak

Jay Peak Backcountry
Jay Peak Backcountry
Matthew Smith

Jay Peak, Vermont is known for powder and glades. Yearly, Jay Peak’s snowfall rivals or surpasses Western ski resort totals and yearly, Jay Peak’s tree-skiing policy builds its reputation and legend. However, the mountain’s out-of-bounds options make Jay one of the more unique and rugged East coast resorts.

Gate-accessed and patrolled on weekends, Big Jay is Jay Peak’s most famous off-piste terrain. Similar to Western resorts, Jay Peak monitors snow-base on Big Jay and determines when the access gate is opened or closed. A ridgeline connects Big Jay to the backside of Jay Peak, a gradual hour-long hike. Once at the top of Big Jay, skiers and riders have the option of dropping into several different lines, all funneling out to Route 242, where adventurers should have a car parked or plan to hitchhike back to the resort. Steep, deep and unique, Big Jay is one of the East’s few gate-accessed backcountry options.

Jay Peak also offers out-of-bounds terrain that does not require an hour-long hike. An area for skiers and riders looking for lift accessed, rope-duck terrain, is an area benefiting from well spaced trees and a rolling, gentle grade leading to the steep, final descent (out of respect for locals that treasure their secret glades, this column will not reveal directions to “stashes”). Explorers will be able to make their own, un-trekked line on this roughly 1,500-foot gem. This run is worth searching for.

Jay Peak backcountry offers multiple rope-duck areas. Another option is a private, steep hollow full of cliffs and powder. Seldom discovered, this trail provides numerous cliff drops with ample landing space. The biggest drop in this area is 15-20 feet. Finding and hucking this cliff on a Jay powder day should be on any skiers to-do list. A word of warning: this trail severely flattens out after about 500-700 vertical feet, stranding skiers and snowboarders alike. Explore but be cautious.

Jay Peak’s out-of-bounds policy caters to the adventurous. While most resorts will clip passes for ducking ropes, Jay Peak encourages its visitors to escape to the woods for a natural and personal ski adventure. This approach, coupled with glades and powder, is what makes Jay Peak one of the last true New England ski experiences.