“Oh it’s beautiful up there”, said everyone we told about our planned ski trip to Jay Peak in northern Vermont. Some people even commented that it was quite a long way away, although nobody we know on this side of the Atlantic was at all surprised that we were driving up (a not inconsiderable 400 miles or so). The one thing, however, which I don’t recall anyone mentioning, is how abso-perishing-lutely freezing we should expect it to be.
Now, this could be because I still don’t really understand temperatures measured in Fahrenheit, apart from a few key points (40F is 4C, the 70s are pleasant, anything above 90 unbearable), so generally have to rely on Tom to translate (or just to make sure I’m wearing appropriate clothing for whatever the forecast is predicting). And of course I’ve been on many ski trips where the weather has been rather chilly (it generally comes with the territory), so I wasn’t exactly expecting warmth. But this is something else altogether – on our first day I think the maximum was just into the teens Fahrenheit, then it dropped to around 8 for the rest of our stay, plus or minus a couple of F. (On the third morning I spotted the thermometer at the summit gondola station registering a balmy 5F as we passed by.)
Now I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m getting over a cold, or just that my circulation isn’t up to the job, but despite wearing 5 layers of clothing under my jacket and 2 under my salopettes (many of them good-quality technical fabrics), plus 2 pairs of socks, stick-on toe heater pads, 3 pairs of gloves, a neckwarmer, hat and two hoods, I couldn’t stay out for more than an hour or so at a time before needing to come indoors and warm up.
This meant that this particular ski trip felt much more like a holiday than the boot-camp these things usually turn into. Instead of throwing ourselves down the hill at every available opportunity, we lingered in cafes (the one at the summit was particularly fine), enjoyed long lunches in several of the surprisingly nice slopeside restaurants, and knocked off early each afternoon to return to our b&b for saunas and leftover Christmas cake before settling down for cosy, lazy spells of reading and watching Food Network in our room.
After a reportedly excellent start to the season, the snow had been spoiled by rain over Christmas, and not enough had fallen between then and our arrival to improve things much, so many of the runs were very icy under a light, loose covering of powder. They were doing a valiant job with the snowmaking, and grooming the pistes nicely each evening, but after about 2pm it wasn’t much fun to be out as most of the ice had been exposed, temperatures notwithstanding.
Which was a shame, because the resort itself is lovely – a nice mix of runs, with enjoyable long blues and pleasantly challenging blacks – and the views from the mountain superb (on a clear day you can see Montreal, apparently). Despite being school holidays it wasn’t too busy, so the lift queues were always short, and people behaved nicely on the slopes.
So really, once I got over the notion that we weren’t having a ‘proper’ skiing experience, it was all very nice indeed. And for once we’ll be heading home feeling refreshed and relaxed rather than completely wiped out, which is an unexpected bonus!
But if anyone has any tips for how to keep warm on super-chilled ski trips, (except for taking our next winter holiday on a beach somewhere, of course), then I’d love to hear them.
I know this has been quite a long post already, but I couldn’t stop without wishing you a very Happy New Year, and saying thank you very much for reading. Given that I mostly ramble on here for my own amusement I’m still a little surprised that people actually choose to read this stuff, but I’m completely delighted that you do! We’re certainly looking forward to lots more adventures, diversions and excursions in 2015, so watch this space…