AlpineZone Challenge 2011 – 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 WrightVP of Marketing, Sales and Hospitality at Jay Peak in Jay, Vermont, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 11/1/2011:

deadheadskier: We received some questions regarding Stateside Lodge. Deadheadskier wants to know if the lodge is rebuilt, has any consideration been given to locating it somewhat where the current ski patrol shack is? A day lodge would seem best situated in between the Jet and Bonny chairs. Where it is currently located, it’s not all that convenient to use the facilities at the lodge when you are skiing the Jet chair.

Also, we got a question about ticketing and services at Stateside. Will such services be upgraded such that folks can get the same tickets, customer service, and discounts as Tramside?

Steve Wright: As I may have previously mentioned, the Stateside Lodge and parking area will be the next stage of redevelopment. We will be executing a campaign whereby local architects, Raised Jay’ers, back-of-the-napkin designers, deep thinkers, locals, etc..can show us their designs. We’ll pick from the best, sit the winner on a design panel with our team and build it, the new Lodge, together. We’ll have more info about this as we move forward but, suffice to say, there will be lots of room for feedback. We won’t listen to everything, I’m sure of that, but we’ll listen to a lot.

And we absolutely have to get more ticketing services over there-at minimum to mimic everything, or nearly so, over at Tram side. We need Ski school and rental/demo/repair to be represented to so folks don’t have to trundle west. It’s all coming.

jimmywilson69: With all of the family friendly amenities being constructed at Jay, which are great in my opinion; how does the skiing experience change to satisfy what may be a totally different demographic of skiers than jay Peak has serviced in the past. Aside from the proposed trail realignments, can we have some peace of mind that there will be no major changes with grooming, grading, and widening of trails? I know West Bowl is supposed to be more geared towards the intermediate, and perhaps this will be what will satisfy many of the new skiers.

Steve Wright: I don’t see the existing trail network as being insufficient for beginners to be honest Jim(mywilson69). With what we have at Tramside-a dedicated lift accessing the interstate, a bunch of beginner/advanced-beginner gladed runs and a bunch of new skier services, we have plenty for the never-ever; it’s just not what people talk about when they talk Jay Peak. IMO we’re light in truly next-step-up blues and that would be tee’d up when West Bowl, comes into view.

deadheadskier: We also received some questions regarding the 2007 wrongful cutting on Big Jay and regarding backcountry access. Deadheadskier wants to know how ‘the gash’ been healing on Big Jay? Have most skiers and riders been respectful of that environmental damaged area being off limits? And can you outline Jay’s efforts to curb wrongful cutting and your current policy regarding folks accessing backcountry areas from the ski area?

Steve Wright: Near as I can tell the gash is healing as it should though, to be honest, I wouldn’t be able to identify if it wasn’t. I will say that folks skied the area last year and shouldn’t of. We’ve worked with Forest and Parks to help control access, open it up via the Tram only when adequate depths allow (as determined by our Patrol and the State), and tried to inform people about the downside of cutting. Our “If You Can’t Hack It Don’t Hack It” outreach probably isn’t as educational about the downside as it could/should be, but it identifies that if you have to wholesale cut it to ski it, it probably shouldn’t be skied in the first place, and you probably shouldn’t even be there. I think more people are respectful of what’s happening out there than not, but we’ve seen/heard about poachers. Locals have done a good job policing it in my opinion.

deadheadskier: Does Jay or has Jay considered offering package deals on lift tickets with its neighbors to the North? With Jay’s proximity to Owl’s Head, Orford, Sutton etc, I think partnering with one or several of those areas on transferable lift tickets would offer a very unique vacation opportunity not present at other areas in the East. I used to ski Jay quite frequently when I lived in Stowe.

Now that I’m in Southern New Hampshire, I don’t make it up as often due to length of travel. Having the ability to cross the border and check out one of the Eastern Township areas on the same day pass would make Jay a more compelling destination for me to travel to for a ski vacation.

Steve Wright: We’ve done packages with neighbors to the north but pricing tends to get in the way. The Township resorts can have a give it away mentality that, in all honesty, we just don’t subscribe to and it can make the cashing up process difficult. The reality is that, on a day pass, the likelihood of skiing around multiple resorts, (same day) is appropriately low for most folks. I think a 3 day ticket that would include some of the Bromont, Orford and Owl’s Head’s of the world might have merit though. Good idea.

thetrailboss: Jay has a reputation for lots of natural snow, but it is not really known for its snowmaking. I’m wondering what has been done to expand your snowmaking system, to tap more water, and to improve on what is made. Will Jay aim to open earlier than in the past considering the expansion that has been done?

Steve Wright: Yes TB and, as you’d agree, deservedly so. The reputation I mean. Equally true for a lack of snowmaking (at least commensurate with our natural net) but not altogether absent either-especially with last season’s meaningful, and immediately impactful, upgrades (100 new HE tower guns and coverage on Perry Merrill, Alligator, Montrealer, Vermonter, etc…. Issue as it stands now is that we’re at our max withdrawal capacity from our existing water source and equally at capacity in terms of covering new trails (we can put more guns on trails where we currently have them; just can’t expand to new ones or draw more water). We are currently in the process of coordinating and filing State and Federal permits to expand each but it will take another season or so. No new time frame on that now, but suspect the span of 6 months will tell us a lot more.

from_the_NEK: Has a ratio of open trails to glades been calculated for the future trail expansion in the West Bowl (I really think it should be named “”Ullr’s Bowl””)? Obiviously more glades are better.

Steve Wright: Hey there FNEK. Right now we’re looking at 6 open, 6 glades and 3 lifts. That could obviously slide a bit to 5:7, 4:8, but it won’t slide toward more open and less gladed terrain. At this point, let’s call it a minimum of 50:50 glade to open and, if I were to lay down a bet right now, I’d say it moves to 7 glades and 5 open. And noted on the naming. We’ve had a lot of folks suggesting that.

drew626: Steve, there was a lot of discussion about an additional lift to the summit, like there once was back in the 1960’s. drew626 asks if you have ever considered having an additional T-bar or surface lift (ex. from the top of the Flyer or Bonnie) for additional access the summit? He, and others notes that it seems like the tram is often on wind hold or has too long of a wait.

jimmywilson69 also suggested a funicular or stairs and xlr8r observed that the Tram is roughly 45 years old and may need to be replaced soon and does not offer enough capacity. Your thoughts on summit access?

Steve Wright: Want to make sure we all understand that while Jay has had a Tram in operation for decades we’ve had both the cabins upgraded and the entire line-cable replaced thus adding quite a bit of longevity. To the question about adding an upper mountain surface lift, it is unlikely to happen for several reasons. The tend to interrupt the terrain as they tend to immediately follow the fall line (where you want to be riding/skiing), the maintenance on them (esp at that elevtation) can be significant, and they also take a bit additional snowmaking (admittedly not a huge deal on our end-see point 5.) but still, we’d rather use what we have in other, higher priority spots.

riverc0il: When will the Tramside parking issues be resolved and is any additional parking planned for Stateside? The construction and new hotel really messed up the parking lot at Tramside which was a bummer.

Steve Wright: To Riv, et al. Yes, the parking on Tramside—although not as bad as we had forecasted-was still something approaching a shit-show at times. This year, all of Tramside will be ready for parking-pretty much right out of the gate (by second weekend in December I suspect). For Stateside, we’ve nearly doubled the amount of space over there in the past 2 seasons (without the need for a garage) and, with plans we have for creating tiers and additional fill, we could add 50% more space within the following few seasons. Not saying a garage is totally out of the question (though my vote is no as it would have to be small and not impact us nearly enough to suffer the eyesore) but, at this stage, it is highly unlikely.

Sick Bird Rider: There were questions regarding the Sky Haus at the summit. JPTracker asks what is going on with the Tram House at the summit? He notes that you have been replacing the windows but not much else. He also wonders why the soda machine at the summit is still out of order? It has been out of order as long as he can remember. The rumor is that it is not really out of order but just empty because no one wants to fill it. It would be great addition if that machine was stocked and also add a machine that dispensed coffee and hot chocolate.

Can you also provide details on the proposed mountain top restaurant and Sick Bird Rider asks if the apartment unit will ever be available for rent to the public?

Steve Wright: Yes the Tram Haus. We are currently looking at water and sewer feasibility testing (more sewer than water) but have committed to renovating the main Sky Haus space in time for next season. It will not be a 5 star restaurant, spa, conference space or anything that requires titanic amounts of maintenance, staffing and support.

Our current thinking is to create a compelling day space where you can get coffee and something interesting to eat that you can’t find across the rest of the campus. And possibly even a stocked soda machine. Our new F and B guy tells me that will actually happen this here, so full steam ahead from there. In a typically strange JP twist, the renovated apartment (ready for next season)will actually only be available to rent to Sick Bird Rider.

JP Tracker: The bypass road has been closed for a couple years now and it looks like it will be permanently closed. Plans talk about a new entrance road where the new fire house is located and a new customer service building along this road. Any timeline for this?

Also, he notes that all the new housing being built in prime locations, along Chalet Meadows and at the golf course, is all expensive EB-5 housing. The more affordable housing is being built at the bottom of Grammy Jay. Why is this?

Steve Wright: The housing at the base of the mountain (God help us, hopefully complete for the weekend of December 16-18 as it’s already sold out to a few hockey teams) and, although an EB-5 project, is far from ‘the most expensive on the mountain.’, so I’m not sure where that tale has been told and done. (Hockey groups can book the one bedrooms, which sleep 4, for about $150 a night in winter.) As well, the Chalet Meadows location will, at this point, not be an EB-5 project-but something we do on our own and will, by all rights, be appropriately expensive.

The shortcut road will not be reopened, correct. The housing built at the bottom of Grammy Jay is also something we’re doing on our own and will fetch market rates plus, given the location. More affordable? Not on what I make.

Looks like that may be it. I appreciate Nick’s gentle nudges as I took way too long on this and, for that, I apologize. Hope you all have a great season and that we see you up this way at some point.

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