Guest Blog — More About the Jay Peak Cutters

Post by blogger | September 14, 2007      

Thanks all for your excellent comments about the Jay Peak trail cutting. To sum it up, this interesting email came in today — we thought it would make a good guest blog as it seems to focus in on a core issue that for backcountry skiers might be THE issue.

By Chris Skalka

Hi Lou, I live in VT near Jay and so have some local insight into the “Jay Peak Cutters” (call them JPCs).

There is no doubt that trail cutting is very active and generally accepted around here. In fact, that has a lot to do with the negative reaction to the JPCs among locals. The thing is, there are relevant conditions which are specific to the cutting up here:

– The geographic area is really small compared to the West, the terrain rarely requires technical mountaineering skills to access, and there are a lot of people skiing, so you need to “fog out” your stashes to keep out the riff-raff.

– There is a lot less wilderness up here than in the West, and the political attitude is much more conservationist, so you need to be very subtle about cutting to maintain the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy practiced by the ski areas, or to avoid outright prosecution by the Parks Services frantically trying to protect the little wilderness they have.

In short, the understood norm is that cutting should be very low-key — entrances and exits should be invisible, don’t cut anything thicker than your thumb, etc. It ends up being more a matter of clearing pucker from otherwise skiable glades than outright cutting a new trail (though of course we all cheat a little sometimes).

So, what the JPCs did was violate local etiquette and endanger cutting in general, since the average Joe will identify all cutters with the JPCs (note in particular that Big Jay is a favorite BC stash, and even the access situation there is *very* tenuous due to the management of Jay). And they did it in such a wildly over-the-top fashion (the fact that their cut is visible from Jay resort is almost laughable), that it is clear they’re total newbies, almost certainly not experienced BC skiers. So of course, that such tyros would endanger our sh*t is really making people see red.

Anyway, I certainly understand the points you’re making, but I wanted to point out that there are some local peculiarities relevant to the situation.

Hope it’s snowing for you in CO, we’re just heading into Fall up here and can’t wait for the skiing.




4 Responses to “Guest Blog — More About the Jay Peak Cutters”

  1. Brad September 15th, 2007 8:30 am

    I spent 4 years skiing Jay Peak in the late ’90’s before Big Jay exploded in popularity. Generally you could find fresh tracks 1 week after a storm on Big Jay. What surprises me the most about this story is that the run was perfect and did not need any trimming or cutting. It was a classic Northeast gladded ski run – steep with perfectly spaced trees. I hope this incident does not ruin the experience for my friends who still ski at Jay and prevent future backcountry access in the area. Some of my best memories from Jay are skiing this run in neck deep powder with a small group of close friends.

    On a side note, I seem to remember in 1999 the Ski Area cut a trail to the top of Big Jay without obtaining proper approval from the group managing the land. If I remember correctly the resort was fined for each tree that was cut down (this was a 1-2 mile – 3 foot wide trail — lots of trees were cut).

    Does anyone have a picture of the damage on Big Jay?

  2. Cork Nester September 15th, 2007 2:10 pm

    Hi Lou;

    I agree with Chris completely. We follow a similar motto here in the Adirondacks. A little here, and a little there will most of the time make for a far more exciting and challenging run, than just a clear cut swath. These guys have threatened the joy of skiing in the BC for everyone in the Jay area. They should be publicly flogged!!
    Just my two cents.


  3. Mark September 16th, 2007 1:11 pm

    It seems the greatest harm that has been done, in the context of backcountry skiing, is that the whole endeavor of backcountry skiing in that area is now under the microscope and access could be damaged. That’s really unfortunate.

  4. Bob Misu September 18th, 2007 9:58 am

    You have to wonder how this will effect the mountain itself. Many of the trees cut (according to one news report) are over a foot in diameter. Erosion is bound to be a problem and will ruin what was a “classic Northeast gladded ski run – steep with perfectly spaced trees”- Brad.
    Chris’ comment: “In short, the understood norm is that cutting should be very low-key — entrances and exits should be invisible, don’t cut anything thicker than your thumb, etc.” – should be considered more than a rule of “thumb” but practically a law.

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