Where to stop on the way back from MSA.
December 2, 2004
I posted this on Epic but I thoguht you guys might have some insight as well. Many of you ar emore well traveled than I in the North East. Let me know if you ahve any recomendations thanks!! My MSA thread on Epic
The excerpt follows:
I am taking a trip to MSA / Le Massif during mid January.
We will be staying at Quebec City the nights of the 1/9-1/14. We hope to ski both MSA and Massif during the week. Due to a strange scheduleing snaffo and the need to get back to DC for the start of spring classes we will be returning on MLK weekend. We will then have 3 days Saturday, Sunday and Monday to make the estimated 14 hour drive back to DC. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity to hit up Northern NY or VT by just driving back directly. We were planning to drive Down 87 From Montreal.
Whiteface is directly on our prefered path home. I am worried that it will be crowded or that lodging will be difficult to come by on that weekend. I prefer to stay as cheaply as possible and near the highway. What is the lodging like in lake placid? We coudl almost ski 2 days at Whiteface.
Coming from the north, Jay Peak, would be an option as well it seems. Is Jay a better option for crowds? I assume we could stay in St. Johnsbury and then get back to 87 that way. Or we cold go down 91 from there. Hey how about Jay and then Whiteface? Might be doable if my CC isn't maxed otu by then! We have 3 days!!!
Take the following with a grain of salt from someone who doesn't get to the serious north but every few years. I would think Jay would be a better bet than Whiteface to beat MLK Holiday crowds. Looks like from map that you would take a fairly straight shot on Canadian 112 to get there from MSA. After Jay Pk you could follow I 91 south and hit Burke Mtn for another nice mtn (never been but heard good, 2000+ vert) and likely crowdbeater. Another option after Jay is to go to Smugglers Notch. I found it to be a surprisingly fun mtn, enjoyed it more than Jay with Tram closed. Smuggs should also be a crowdbeater. I 91 would be a good road to use to head south when done skiing, and should be ok if you head home in the morning, but it could be very crowded on Monday afternoon Jan 17 with return traffic, but so will most other routes at that time.
I have been to Whiteface and Gore (also near I 87 in NY state) on holiday/weekends when both were very crowded, but they are big mtns.
I envy you're MSA/LeM combo trip to Q City. I've wanted to try that for years since LeM went bigtime, but never made it. Hope you are lucky enough to miss extreme cold.
Add: Just realized that if you took CA 112 bypassing Montreal, it would take you thru heart of Canadian area called Eastern Townships full of good ski areas that I know nothing about such as Mont Sutton, Mont Orford, Owl's Head, all in the 1500-1800 vertical range. Maybe they would be a nice option esp if the currency exchange is good our way.
I'd go to Jay because of my checkered history with that mountain. I once drove there from Stowe during a college February break. The further we got away from Stowe Village, the more empty the road became. By the time we got to Jay, we had trouble even finding the road because there was so much snow on it. I remember that the song, "Life in a Northern Town," by Dream Academy was playing on the radio (this was the 80s after all), and I'm thinking, what life? I couldn't even find a cow here.
My plan was to ski Jay for 1 day and Stowe for 4 days. Anyway, no plan ever survives enemy contact. My friend and I got there, opened the car door, and then closed it IMMEDIATELY. The cold was unbearable. It was worse than anything I'd ever experienced at Stowe (and that place is cold). Stowe, in fact, seemed like Miami Beach by comparison. Furthermore, the tram was not running because of extremely high winds. We got out of the car and the place was a ghost town: there were no people to be found and I couldn't even find the ticket office. Well, both of us decided to head back to Stowe rather than confront the arctic environment at Jay. Ever since then, I have regreted that decision. I wonder what it would have been like--the powder and terrain. It might have been the ski experience of a lifetime. Well, I may get a second chance one day....Who knows.
JimK nailed the recommendations. Despite being the least crowded of all the major Vermont resorts, Jay will still have some crowds on the holiday weekend. Should be tolerable; I was there last Xmas week and the crowds weren't too bad despite 1-2 lifts being down. I got my money' worth. The Tram will have the longest lines, but you can get 90 percent of the vertical by skiing the high speed to the right of the Tram. You do need to ride up the Tram at least a few times.
Jay is by far the coldest mountain in Vermont. However, since you are heading south from Canada, not north from Stowe, I have a hard time believing that Jay will be colder than Canada. You are a brave man for going to Eastern Canada in January.
As for avoiding the crowds and still having very good skiing, Burke is your best bet. Like JimK, I'm recommending this based upon recommendations of people I trust. In addition, you will unlikely be in that remote corner of Vermont very often.
Dig out a road map. Other areas to consider for a day (smaller but should be less crowded and still very nice mountains):
- Bolton Valley
- Middlebury College Snow Bowl
- Magic Mountain
The snowmaking at these areas may not be as good as the big boys and some are a bit out of the Mid-Vermont snow belt, so I'd check conditions before deciding to stop at one of them.
In addition to Epic, www.snowjournal.com
is an excellent site for information on New York / New England ski areas. Both Epic and SnowJournal often have links to DCSki for information on the Mid-Atlantic.
Thanks for ideas, keep 'em coming. I think i am going to print this out and bring it up with me and then have alitttle debate on the way home about where to go.
I agree that travel south from QC should be straight forward to any of these areas. I am also leaning toward Jay. White Face is much more easily accesible from the south and I think that Jay will probabbly have better condituions that White Face. Also with whiteface I have heard if the slides aren't open then it loses somehting of it's appeal. So Jay is a nice "option" to try out. I have heard a lot about the place so Its deffinatly on my list of places I want to go. Also I was guessing that Whiteface will probably be more crowded. Burke Mountain looks nice as well. I had never heard of it so that was a good find Thanks!
The cold never bothers me much. When I was a kid we would camping year round in the mountains near here with the Boy Scouts. each year there was this extreme winter camping thing called 0Degree challenge where you got a special prize if there was below 0F. I went on that 8 years and twice it got to below 0. Its much colder when you are out all night like that. Its bad when you wake up and have to put on frozen boots. Even Quebec can't be that bad.
We plan to take to stop and take a look at plattekill or bellayre on the way up. This is lokoing to be a major road trip here.
All right: there is a third reason to hit the Jay Peak route- you don't get caught in the border crossing I/15 - I87. If you're smart, you'll save the 2 hours drive west, ski at either Mont Sutton for some more trees or Jay, and cross the border at Abercorn where there isn't a 2 hour wait for the busloads to be processed. Yes, you can get your GST refund stamps at the Abercorn crossing, but you'll miss out on the duty-free (darn!).
You can rejoin I87 by nav through Burlington, which is a nice town in its own right.
BTW, You'll definitely want to be on the north side of the river from Trois Rivieres to Quebec City. I usually cross the river to the south side at Trois Rivieres when driving back, and go past Drummondville and Granby. 3.5 hrs in mild flurries to Sutton from the interchange at Quebec City (5 from Beaupre, snowplow delays).
There can be moose and deer on the side roads. For a bit of humor, see if you can't spot the fried chicken (not pizza!) delivery guys. Last point: unless you have a tri-mode phone, coverage is -EXTREMELY- spotty.
Good point about the border crossing. I second the recommendation about Burlington.
There are some good threads on Epic concerning Burke Mountain. There is a ski academy there which uses Burke as it's home mountain. There are some good threads about Whiteface on both Epic and SnowJournal. Also, don't discount Whiteface because The Slides are closed. From what I've heard about them, they are rarely open and are pretty exposed terrain. In other words, there are very few, if any, posters on this forum who could ski them. It's comparable to saying you won't go to Jackson Hole because Corbett's Couloir is closed. Though there are some on this board who wouldn't go if Corbett's was open.
As an FYI, of the areas omentioned on this thread I have skied Jay, Bolton, Stowe, Smuggler's Notch, Sugarbush, Mad River, Killington, Middlebury Snow Bowl, Ascutney, Bromley. I haven't been to Plattekill, Belleayre, Whiteface, Burke, Magic, Sutton or Orford, but they are areas that I would like to check out if I'm in that neck of the woods. Just so you have an idea of what's a first-hand vs second-hand recommendation.
If I went up to the top and saw the sliides. I am sure I would chicken out. It looks scary on the trail map yikes!
As I said I like the idea of jay and burke on the way back. I foudn a couple threads on burke already. It looks great. Its a great opportunity to sample some out of the way palces.
Two years ago I had a great day at Sutton on Dec. 26. In fact it was my best powder day of the year with about 18" of light fluffy stuff. It started out as a very bad looking day at Jay, which can indeed get very windy and cold. We pulled into the Jay Stateside parking area at about 9:30 after a tough drive from Burlington. In the car were my son, grandson, and son-in-law who lives in Burlington. It had rained hard then turned to snow on the back end of the front with a lot of wind. The predicted 1" in B'ton was 6 in the driveway and we were excited. When we got to Jay we were hard pressed to stand up in the icy parking lot while leaning 45 degrees into the wind. The lifts were all on wind hold; maybe by noon, they said. Jim got the idea to drive another 45 min to Sutton, where none of us had ever been because his VT friends say the glades are great and it is well sheltered from the wind. The border guards had no problem letting us across with just the adults driving licenses. The original reason for choosing Jay was that it was boxing day and half of Jay's skiers are Canadians. Well that goes to about 90% at Sutton. It was beautiful. We skied uncut snow in the woods all day and never waited in a line. The glades were better too. Most of Jay's glades have been over thinned and many have looong flat runouts to get back to a lift. The other eastern township areas of Quebec, Owl's Head, Orford (there's more but I can't remember names) are also reputed to be excellent and much cheaper than the US or Tremblant.