AlpineZone Challenge 2005 – Steve Wright of Jay Peak

The AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge was designed to provide a method for our forum members to get official answers to skiing-related questions directly from a ski area representative. Steve WrightDirector of Marketing and Sales at Jay Peak in Jay, Vermont, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 6/22/2005:

thetrailboss: Now that you’ve gone through an entire season at Jay, how does working there compare to your time spent at Killington? What are some pros and cons to working at each resort? What things that you learned at Killington did you apply to the marketing operations at Jay?

Steve Wright: 
Hmmm seems like I could get in a fair amount of water here. I’ll be careful. Differences. One has a huge, major, crushing budget advantage. The other needs to get creative on where it spends, how it spends and, most certainly, how much it spends.

One, by its very nature, is almost sluggish with respect to how quickly it can respond to the market, bring new programs online and compete for skier visits. The other is nimble, a bit more proactive and has a JYD mentality in getting things accomplished.

I had more unlearning to do than anything else (still do), but Killington knows how to shake folks by their ankles to get every last nickel out of them (while still showing them a good time). Jay needs to increase their yields-we just need to do it more creatively and to continue overdelivering.

GrizzlyFD: What have you done (if anything) to repair the damage (trail cutting) out to Big Jay? On a related note, will Jay cut anymore “glades” into their existing trail network (like Deliverance and BBP) or add any of the numerous “unnamed runs” (saddle, pumphouse, etc..)?

Steve Wright: To my knowledge, there’s been no approach by the area to ‘repair’ anything that’s gone on outside the ski area boundary. In large part, the ‘maintenance’ of what happens in and around Big Jay is self-regulating and managed by those who spend their time out there. While I did see some evidence of thinning in some spots, I don’t have much of a benchmark to compare it against to be honest. My experiences out there were always good (both of them), and more than humbling in terms of chuffing and huffing. I’m sure there are purists that would like less (much less) in the way of traffic out there but for those up to it (and of the correct ability level), it’s a pretty unique experience.

To your question’s second half, there are no plans to bring any of the unamed into named status. Until we get into the West Bowl, you won’t see anything new showing up on a trail map, with the possible exception of ‘ski-to/from’ trails that would access skiing/riding/golf.

thetrailboss: Will you keep the reciprocal pass program with Burke Mountain alive? I share the same view as Jay’s President Bill Stenger when I say that having two resorts in the Northeast Kingdom will draw more skiers and riders than just one. The sole reason why I bought a Jay pass was because it was reciprocal with Burke giving me plenty of options.

Steve Wright: TB–reciprocal program is alive but modified. I won’t/can’t get into the wherefore and why about, well, the why, but here’s the deal. Full reciprocal privileges Monday through Friday. Adult lift tickets (at either spot) on weekends for $30, juniors at $20. This policy is good for all full priced passes (i.e., everything except M/W and College). I agree about the marketing potential around selling a regional SP product and we’re going to do more (in certain spots) to use a combined voice. There still needs to be a competitive element to all of this, but we’ll definitely keep an eye on the balance.

Tin Woodsman: Can you provide any details on the current plan for the West Bowl expansion? Preliminary documentation that I’ve seen is pretty scary in that it includes 2 detachable six-packs and another 2 quads. Surely such massive capacity would overwhelm the trails and glades with skiers, would it not? Of particular concern is the idea of placing the top terminal of a HS quad adjacent to the terminal of the Green Mt Flyer. While enabling skiers and riders to easily traverse to the Stateside area from West Bowl is a laudable goal, couldn’t this be accomplished in a manner that would dramatically overload already-crowded trails like Goat Run and Northway?

Steve Wright: No six-packs in the West Bowl. This deserves more attention than I can give it right now (plans for the build out) and quite frankly I’ve *heard* a lot more pap about construction than I’ve seen actual progress so I’ll hold off until I hear something that sounds like it has some meat to it.

eatskisleep: Are there any plans to eventually upgrade the Jet Triple chair or even expand further on that side of the mountain? Any upgrades to the Bonaventure Quad? Personally I would rather see the non-high speed quad upgraded and keep the triple the way it is because the triple is a nice place to go when it is crowded elsewhere and still get some nice runs in.

Steve Wright: Because of permitting implications on the Stateside of the resort, (and the fact that our focus has been/will be decidedly in the other direction), I doubt you’ll see much in the way of expansion over there. Upgrades for sure (mostly with regard to facilities and possibly snowmaking), but nothing with regard to trails or lifts in the foreseeable future.

awf170: I did not go to Jay Peak this year, even though I really love it and it is one of my favorite ski areas. So my question is I heard that you did not clean out the brush in your glades last off season so they were not skiable until mid season. If this is true, are you going to clean them out this off-season?

Steve Wright: Yup. We did a d*g-shite job clearing out brush this past season for a number of different reasons that would sound like bs excuses if I offered them up. Suffice to say that it won’t happen this year.

GrizzlyFD: Snow reporting has come under some scrutiny recently with accurate snow reporting on the decline and “big numbers” snow reporting on the increase to attract more skiers/riders. What is Jay’s stance on snow reporting and how is it done (official meters on the mountain, groomer’s opinion, a big stick, etc…)?

Steve Wright: Ah yes, Snow Reporting. My perspective? Let’s just say we offer a hell of a lot more detail on what’s going on up here than any resort I’ve ever been associated with (with the possible exception of MRG). We got far more positive feedback this season than negative–just that the neg folks bark louder. We actually posted (on both our online reports AND in front of our ticket windows) that skiing in the Glades and ducking ropes would be a dangerous thing to do. Not such an eye-opener of a policy unless you compare it to the rest of the eastern Ski Industry, granted.

We’ll be putting in snow stakes at lower/mid/upper levels this season and using aggregates. We used groomers and snowmakers first hand info this year, but even that’s a little less specific than we’d like. Not perfect, but we’ll keep improving. Fact is, with the web, you can run, but you can’t hide.

eatskisleep: Since you are huge in size and get a lot more snow than almost anywhere else, why don’t you try to stay open longer than Killington and other areas like that?

Steve Wright: Huge in size doesn’t play much of a role in a mountain’s ability/philosophy to stay open later. Killington does/did it because they had history behind them and, frankly, it was a big part of their brand. They didn’t care about selling May/June lift tickets, but they were bought off on the notion that it reinforced their snow position to those wondering where to find good snow in Feb/Mar. For us, folks just stop coming, or at least that’s what it looked like last year (my first season). I tell you what, the Jet holds snow every bit as well as Superstar does. This place runs on a pure weekend to weekend mentality. If we do a thousand skiers/snowboarders on the 2nd weekend on April, (and the weather looks agreeable), we’ll be open on the third.

GrizzlyFD: Anyone who’s ever visited Jay during a cold January day knows that the worst part of the resort is the Green Mountain Flyer (Freezer). After the lift crosses Goat Run (the first time) the wind can become unbearable. Are there any plans to enclose the lift (maybe a shield)? In that same regard, are there any plans to build fences/plant trees to help stop the wind that can scrape snow off the trails and leave resembling more of an ice rink rather than a ski slope? Some locations that can be particularly bad are the top of Exhibition (which is almost always unskiable), the top/middle part of Northwest Passage (which is always closed), and Upper Can Am. How about adding a surface lift that accesses the Upper Mountain and could be used during windy days? Jay has enough of a die hard cult that would still use an exposed surface lift to get into the trees on a brutal day.

Steve Wright: There are no plans to enclose the Flyer with a shield as, largely, it’d create the potential for dangerous situations w/respect to swinging, wind-propelled chairs. Planting trees would be a costly, high maintenance project that, given the wind speed, probably would net much in terms of results. Without years of grow-in, there just isn’t much hope for trees, even big ones, to be able to withstand the wind throttle that buffets that area. Fences, on the other hand, may provide some protection and it’s actually something that’s presently being considered. I would suspect that there is a limited chance that you’d see some development for this season (3 in 10), and a better chance for FY07 (7 in 10). A surface lift may be an alternative, but will be a consideration only after you’ve/we’ve seen measurable progress out in The West Bowl.

awf170: How about expanding the Stateside Lodge? It seems like the place is always packed. Also how about adding a warming hut over at the base of the Jet Triple? It is pain going back and forth from Stateside Lodge to the Jet area. I would like to complement you guys on the soup over at Stateside — the best I have ever had at a ski area.

Steve Wright: I don’t disagree. Stateside needs some love. But we have other priorities as well–the most important being the raising of The Hotel Jay, the expansion/modification of our rental/repair/demo and ski school buildings and updates to our kid’s ski school area.

Look for those needs to get addressed first, but Stateside updates are next up.

Glad you liked the soup. I’ll pass on the compliments…

To view forum comments on this Challenge and the Challenge Results, please visit the following page: width=