You are here: Home > Travel News > Explorer: A New Jay Peak, in Vermont

Explorer: A New Jay Peak, in Vermont

Most days, that did not add up to what you would ever call a crowd. Despite being blessed with an annual snowfall that usually exceeds that of every other Eastern resort, Jay Peak was largely overlooked by American tourists.

A glimpse of the local niceties helped explain why: Yes, there was running water in the lodge and electricity in the dated hotel. There was a cafeteria and congested bar. Ten miles down the road, you could stay at Grandpa Grunts, a $35-a-night hostel-like lodge with a basement B.Y.O.B. lounge.

But watch your step. On your next visit, you might trip into the just-completed wave pool at Jay Peak’s 50,000-square-foot glass-enclosed water park, which is heated like a tropical paradise — one with water slides and a retractable roof. It’s right there, a few steps from the all-suite hotel and the professional-size hockey rink that went up last year.

From there, it’s a short walk to the new Nordic center and golf clubhouse. Soon, you will be able to get a penthouse suite overlooking it all at the 173-room Hotel Jay, which will have a conference center and three restaurants.

All this luxury and leisure activity at Jay Peak is north of Stowe, Sugarbush and Stratton — north of everything in Vermont but the customs stations entering Quebec.

And where, oh where, has scruffy, unkempt but lovable Jay Peak gone?

“It’s certainly a culture shock, but we will never lose sight of our core values,” said Bill Stenger, the Jay Peak owner. “The mountain and the freedom to enjoy it are still the essence of the experience. But if we didn’t adapt, the ski operation by itself might not survive.”

The new Jay Peak is the latest example of an ever-expanding working model for a snow-sports resort, and it is built on this premise: diversify or die. Become a four-season resort (or at least a two-season resort), and the skiing and riding operation will be swept along with the ancillary profit. Try to make it as a major resort with only a stand-alone winter business, and one overly warm, snowless winter could bring bankruptcy.

“Jay Peak needed to give people other things to do,” Mr. Stenger said. “And there’s nothing wrong with that. In many families, there are people who don’t ski or snowboard. There are young children who don’t want to ski seven hours in a day.”

The hope is that a remade mountain resort can be all things to all people, without offending any constituency.

Jay Peak, the fancied-up version, began its metamorphosis in 2008 with the construction of the all-suite Tram Haus Lodge, the first stage of a development entirely financed by the federal EB-5 program. The resort’s management raised about $250 million through the program, which permits foreign investors to obtain green cards in exchange for a minimum $500,000 investment in capital projects in high-unemployment areas. The project must create at least 10 new jobs.

Jay Peak has found more than 330 investors from 55 countries and is recruiting more. The resort said that this has translated to more than 3,000 direct and indirect jobs in the life of the development.

On my first visit to Jay Peak 25 years ago, I walked into what seemed like an oversize hut next to one of the lifts. I asked where I could find the base lodge.

The woman behind the counter began giggling, and that’s when I knew I was in the base lodge. But, oh boy, what a great day of skiing there was to be had outside that little building.

No one arriving at Jay Peak these days will wonder where the base of activity is. The hotels, rink and water park beckon, looming at the top of the resort’s access road, and I admit that at first they were jarring. But even I, a New England native and something of a skiing purist, had one of the most varied and entertaining trips to Jay ever over the recent Thanksgiving weekend.

It started with several quick descents on reliable, top-to-bottom snow over the mountain’s east side. This was made possible thanks both to improved snowmaking ability and the phenomenon known as the Jay Cloud — a cloud that locals insist hovers over the mountain during snowstorms and had recently delivered nearly a foot of snow.

Tags: ,

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Twitter
  • RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.