1. Where to Stay
Situated near the Canadian border, Jay Peak is a little-known skier’s paradise that dumps fresh powder well into spring. To get on the slopes stat, rent a ski-in, ski-out Village Condominium at Jay Peak Resort (from $219 with lift tickets included). These two- to five-bedroom, cedar-sided units have spacious kitchens with dishwashers, dining-room tables that fit ten, gas fireplaces, and bay windows overlooking the slopes. If the kids are coming, inquire about free day care for the littlest ones and free skiing and lodging for kids under 14. There are also free midweek ski and snowboard lessons for adults (non-holidays only).
Ex–New Yorkers Jay Kerch and John Perkins run the Phineas Swann Country Inn (from $189), a well-kept century-old farmhouse located near the foot of Jay Peak. Wake up to a belt-loosening breakfast of omelettes stuffed with Vermont Cheddar cheese, maple-sugar-battered bacon, and strawberry-preserve crêpes—a recipe John picked up in the South of France. Not charmed by the ghost that allegedly tickles feet in the Red Room? Stay in the Blue Room—it boasts a window seat with perfect views of the mountain and a private bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub.
For a break from the mountain, stay at Jay Village Inn (from $60), a 1902 post-and-beam barn updated with a pool table, sauna, wireless Internet, and an enclosed, outdoor hot tub, and it’s located just four miles from the mountain. Black Bear Restaurant serves hefty Americana fare on the premises; it gets crowded, so order a spinach-and-ricotta pizza to go and eat in the room.
2. Where to Eat
Take a midday break to Trout River Traders, a lunch-only restaurant and general store, open since 1876. Snag a two-top near the wood-burning stove, and order the fresh-roasted-turkey sandwich on thick slices of honey-wheat or maple-walnut oat bread, brought in from Burlington’s Klinger’s Bakery. Afterward, peruse the store’s vintage Rossignols skis, antique oil lamps, and vast maple-syrup array.
Après ski favorite the Belfry (242 Amidon Rd.; 802-326-4400) serves pub standards and an unexpectedly good Cajun blackened steak inside a renovated old schoolhouse—old-timers who studied in the building often camp out at the bar. Leave room for a homemade slice of maple-cream pie made with owner Chantal Pothier’s own homemade syrup.
Thaw out with whipped-cream-topped spiced cider by the enormous field-stone fireplace at Jay Village Inn’s Black Bear Restaurant. Order chef JR Hamel’s slow-smoked barbecued ribs and tender lamb loin in sweet red-pepper sauce and wash it down with a full-bodied Mountain Ale from Stowe’s Shed Brewery.
3. What to Do
Jay Peak’s 75 sanctioned runs are owned by Jay Peak Resort. Reach the 4,000-foot summit via one of eight chairlifts or Vermont’s only aerial tramway. Warm up on gentle, groomed Northway or mogul-strewn Upper Can Am before plunging into feathery powder on Buck Woods, one of 24 forested glades. Beginners find gentle declines and widely spaced trees on Bushwacker glade. For fresh tracks, tackle tree runs on the ski area’s edges like Beaver Pond to the west or Timbuktu off the Jet Triple Chair to the east.
For bigger thrills, take advantage of the resort’s liberal backcountry policy, which allows skiing and boarding anywhere within property lines. Then ski the Dip, a wooded expanse of knee-deep powder outside Jay Resort’s eastern border— and the only out-of-boundaries skiing the resort condones. The trail ends at Route 242, so leave a car there and have a buddy pick you up, or hike back to the lifts. For supersize adventure, hike up, then ski down adjacent Big Jay Mountain, the Green Mountains’ highest peak without a maintained trail system.
If you can’t ski another foot, go dogsledding in Belvedere with veteran musher Kathryn Venable (802-326-3229; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) and her team of huskies. Bound along groomed, wooded trails at a pace perfect for taking in still-frozen streams and maybe a moose or two: Dogsleds move quietly enough to sneak up on the 1,000-pound beasts.
4. Insider’s Tip
The lifts close each year around the third week in April, but Jay Peak got 84 inches of snow in April 2007, and freshie-seekers can still hike up the mountain until the last flake falls. Even better, prices on gear and hotel rooms are slashed after mid-March. Stock up on used high-performance demos marked down 50 percent at ski shop First Trax . After mid-March, a pair of $1,200 K2 Apache Outlaws goes for around $595. After April 4, hotel rooms go for $119 per person per night at Jay Village condominiums, half of the high-season cost, while rooms at Jay Peak Hotel are reduced to $99 per person after April, including lift tickets and meals.
5. Oddball Day
Explore Quebec’s eastern townships, a sanctuary of Slow Food farmers and restaurants, located less than an hour from Jay. Make sure you’ve got your passport. Border regulations changed on January 31, 2007, and North Americans now need either a passport or a birth certificate and photo I.D. to reenter the United States. Drive along Route 108 to the low-traffic East Franklin crossing (check border-crossing wait times). At the nineteenth-century town of Frelighsburg, visit the Mulard ducks at La Girondine, a farm that raises the animals for foie gras. Sample their foie gras mousse infused with iced cider. Then follow Route 213 north to Compton for a taste of raw-milk cheese at La Station Fromagerie. Try the Comtomme, a semi-soft rind made from milk provided by the dairy farm’s Holsteins. Before the sun sets, pick up a bottle of award-winning namesake dry white wine at Le Cep d’Argent (1257 Chemin de la Riviere; 819-864 4441), a winery outside the lakeside town of Magog. Try not to get sucked into the views of Little Lake Magog, because dinner is a must at La Table Tourigny, fifteen minutes away in Georgeville. This BYOB restaurant inside a 150-year-old converted schoolhouse serves an excellent five-course prix fixe meal—chef François Tourigny curates from a daily rotation of locally sourced dishes like quail consommé or foie gras poêlé topped with the chef’s hand-harvested wild mushrooms. Belly full, reenter Vermont via the Derby Line crossing.
Before you pack, visit SkiReport.com’s Jay Peak page for up-to-the-minute condition reports and powder alerts.
When news of a storm hits, check out the Jay Peak Lodging Website for last-minute hotel vacancies and deal.
The Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism Association will mail you free maps of the area.
The Chronicle, Orleans County’s weekly paper, offers local art-gallery, museum, and yoga-class listings and unparalleled glimpses of life in the Kingdom (recent headline: “Arland Macie knows how to run a wheelbarrow”).