Big Jay, Jay, VT
Jay, Vermont, just two miles south of the Canadian border, holds the northeast’s best backcountry skiing and its most devoted backcountry community. The most iconic line in the area is Big Jay, the mountain that sits just behind the summit of Jay Peak Ski Resort. Most people use their Jay Peak lift ticket to get a tram ride to the top, and then set off along the Northway Trail, on the hour-plus hike along the ridge that connects the two peaks.
Jailhouse Chute, named for the illegal trail “maintenance” that used to happen during the off season — until a couple chainsaw-wielding powder lovers were caught and arrested — is the best line off the top. It puts you out along Route 242, miles away from Jay Peak, on the Montgomery Center Side. Those who can’t afford a lift ticket make the hike directly from route 242 to the top of Big Jay in about two hours.
Beware: The flanks of Jay Peak and Big Jay are vast, dense, and disorienting tracks of forest. Only attempt this hike early in the day, in groups of three, and with a car parked along route 242 for your return. Don Ellis, owner of First Trax in Montgomery Center, has been backcountry skiing in the area since 1970. He’s always happy to help people have fun and stay safe in the backcountry, and could even be convinced to join you on a tour — and show off his backcounty BBQ skills — during one of his days off. Next season, Ellis will be offering guided tours.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!Back to top