[Editor’s Note: Jay Peak Week is held over by popular demand. The first article in the series is here, and the second part of the series is here.]
JAY PEAK: THE PEOPLE THAT YOU MEET – 601, MICKY, AND CREECH, OH MY…
JAY, VT – As any true sports writer will tell you, we don’t just write about skiing, we write about the people who ski. And as any winter enthusiast will tell you, what makes our great sport even more terrific is the colorful characters you meet. If you don’t come back from skiing with five mew friends every time, you’re doing it wrong.
That’s because you don’t have to be a professional athlete to be beloved in winter sports iconography, you just need passion and panache, and to that end, Jay Peak is choc-a-bloc with colorful characters. We’ve met three of them briefly, but now it’s time to take a few laps down the mountain with them.
I suppose 601 is as good a place to start as any, and that patroller for whom Powerline was renamed is certainly a member of the Great Pantheon of Jay Peak historical figures. Peg Doheny is her name, and you can’t tell her story without also mentioning her husband Micky. Together they are the “601 to Micky” who replaced Powerline on the trail map. Peg was the ski patrol director at Jay Peak for 40 years before retiring in May of 2018, and from her first season until the last she was the gold standard of the profession. She was so proficient and reliable as a rescuer, she was appointed to the Vermont Governor’s Search and Rescue Council for her dedication, skill, and acumen. Whether it was enlisting the aid of local farmers with tractors to extricate backcountry skiers in the dead of night, or finding lost or injured skiers in the Black Falls area â€“ notoriously difficult terrain with poor to zero GPS or phone service – she and her team were lifelines in the cold and dark to lost or injured athletes.
“We â€” [the] ski patrol â€” are the only game in this area if someone gets lost,” Doheny explained in an earlier interview.
Not to be outdone, Micky Doheny, her husband of 35 years, is as equally beloved and quintessential to Jay Peak history. Micky started as a ski instructor and soon after became the founder and director of the mountain’s ambassador program: the host program where energetic and well-informed patrons greet visitors and assist the patrolers with navigation or safety.
“We also work with the ski patrollers to help people with downloading guests on lifts who have equipment issues or find themselves on too challenging trails. These are all volunteers who love Jay Peak and just want to help,” Micky said, gratefully highlighting the devotion of the locals.
Micky is celebrating his 66th year skiing at Jay, (he started when he was ten after his family moved to the Northeast Kingdom), while Peg celebrates her 50th overall in the region. After moving here from the Pacific Northwest, she began her career at Jay as a waitress.
“That’s how Micky and I met. He was an instructor back then, and he and the classes he was teaching would have lunch together in the restaurant I waitressed in the lodge, the old Charter Jay,” Peg recalled fondly.
“Yes, but we didn’t start dating until about ten years later, when we both were operating a sailboard business taking folks to the Outer Banks,” Micky added chuckling.
To this day they still shred madly on the toughest of Jay’s formidable terrain and forbidding woods. Peg’s list of favorites reads like a Jay Peak Murderer’s Row: Upper River Quai, Kitzbuhel, Exhibition, Green Beret, the Face Chutes and, of course, the trail named after her: Â 601.
“Powerline is still one of my favorite runs. It’s long, it’s sidehill, it’s narrow, and it’s never the same due to the moguls and the way the wind blows the snow,” Peg beamed energetically. “It’s old style, and those are the type of runs I like the most. The old school trails are like puzzles to solve.”
And as for why it was renamed 601? Easy!
“Each department has its own radio numbers, and the ski patrol are in the 600s,” she explained, “As director, I was 601.”
Together she and Micky can recall close to seven decades of history of not only the mountain, but the entire region. Micky even predates Jay Peak itself; the mountain was merely an open slope with a poma lift called the “Jay Peak Ski Club.”
“The first year (1956) the poma only ran halfway up the trail UN,” Micky said, laughing. “But the next year it ran all the way up,” he concluded, still chortling.
“But what drew us here and keeps us here is the culture of the locals,” Peg noted poignantly. “Whether it’s Montrealers, Ontarians, New Yorkers, or anyone else, once you come here, you become an ‘instant lifer’ â€“ devoted and committed to driving however long it takes to come back again and again.”
Still, not every star of the Jay Peak galaxy is officially employed by the resort. There’s always that local legend at every great winter park, that free spirit that’s the soul of the mountain’s character, and in Jay Peak’s case it’s the Angel from Montgomery, a.k.a Big Creech, or just Creech. He’s big, he’s hairy, he’s friendly; he’s Jay Murphy to the world, a math whiz whose nifty nimbleness with numbers keeps bridges from collapsing and hones the aerodynamics on our roads so we don’t go skidding into each other.
But on the mountain, he’s one of the finest snowboarders in the region, particularly in the deepest, and darkest of the glades or the fire-breathing steeps of the Face Chutes. Yes, his “A Party List” of buddies consists of local instructors, patrollers, and other Jay Peak lifers, but you don’t have to be skiing cognoscenti to shred madly with the Creech.
Already on his 40th day on the mountain this season, Creech is known to log as many as 85-90 days per season at Jay. But you’ll find him in several more unlikely places as well:
—He played washboard in an eclectic, turn-of-the-millennium musical combo, the South Catherine Street Jug Band.
“We were this amalgam of Americana, bluegrass, and jam band from Plattsburgh,” he recalled. Enjoying a cup of coffee with success touring with other popular stars of the nascent jam scene, the band survived from 1996-2005, but Murphy left in late ’90s to raise his family and, as he put it, “get a real job.”
—He’s an expert skateboarder and dirt biker, who also designs ramps and other features.
“For years I had all kinds of ramps, including one that was bigger than my house. They’d come from Boston to Philly and from Maine to Maryland to skate in my back yard!” he beamed proudly.
—He designs, builds, and races radio-controlled trucks, supercharged trucks that can climb logs, trees, rocks and countless other obstacles.
“I built an RC [Radio controller] course on the river bank in my back yard and practice in the woods,” he explained. “We have as many as 15 trucks at a time racing each other. These things negotiate rocks, trees, water crossings, steep slopes and muddy slogs. They’re a blast.”
— He’s an accomplished angler. Whether it’s ice fishing at Lake George or Lake Champlain pulling out Lake Trout or Northern Pike or making a sojourn to the middle of New York State for a salmon run, he’ll catch it, cook it, and eat it.
So come have dinner with him, or at least take a rip or two down the mountain, then kick it in the lot with him. Creech, the Angel from Montgomery, or just Jay, whatever you call him, he’s got inimitable style, a sort of uber-civilized hippie, a slacker renaissance man.
“I actually prefer the moniker ‘Headnecks,” â€“ half Deadhead, half Redneck,” he quipped puckishly. “And I’m the Mayor of the Headnecks.”
Whatever label the press ends up leaving, he fits them all. By any name, meeting him and taking a run or at least chugging a beer is an imperative when visiting Jay Peak. All hail King of the Headnecks!