AlpineZone Challenge 2012 – 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 Wright, VP of Marketing at Jay Peak  in Jay, Vermont, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 10/30/2012:

from_the_NEK: Jay has been really forthcoming with information about their growth and development so coming up with questions is a bit difficult this year. With that said:

  1. How is Jay’s marketing going to overlap with Burke’s? Are you (Steve), now the head of a combined marketing team?
  2. Are there any plans for a Hockey/Golf or a Hockey/Ski race tournament at the ice arena this year?
  3. Why in the world would the planners of new trails at Jay ever consider cutting a trail around Timbuktu?

Steve Wright: 

  1. The overlap, with respect to marketing, will largely include creating shared-access products, cross merchandising across each campus, and anecdotal help.  Burke is doing a good job with respect to branding-direction (at least in my simple opinion), and I have all I can do to manage the Sales, Marketing and Hospitality teams here at Jay Peak to be honest.  We’ve started with Season Passes and are rolling out The Great Big Kingdom card now.  More on this later.
  2. We’re already doing a bit of this (Did a Men’s Hockey/Golf Tournament this Summer) but, in reality, nearly every weekend is booked with some sort of boys or girls hockey tournament from Friday am through Sunday afternoon.  Many of the kids ski and waterpark—and in the summer golf—but we don’t have any plans to build a combined tournament—at least until we’re able to build another rink.  I’m kidding.
  3. Good question.  We’ll start by saying that we realize-as well as anyone and better than most—that the terrain in The Orchard area is a fun spot-great snow, good pitch and good s/c access.  It is also, however, the only place within the existing ski area that we can build new, uninterrupted intermediate level ability trail(s).  That being said, and as we’ve said to others-we do not intend to build or re-imagine anything until the new glades in the West Bowl have been developed.  And even when it does, Timbuktu will still remain wholly intact between the new trail and Derrick’s and the s/c will still be fully accessible.  The current area in question represents roughly 6 acres of terrain; our goal in West Bowl is to add over 70 acres of new gladed terrain.

    It’s worth pointing out, as many of you are aware I’m sure, that providing a range of terrain for all levels is good practice and fundamental to good ski area design.  Jay Peak has a shortage of intermediate and low intermediate terrain and we have to look for areas we can add without deconstructing what it is that makes the place special-this is a common psychological theme everywhere you look around here these days and something I, as one of three officers at the company, take very seriously.  As far as those that suggest Jay Peak is in danger of becoming ‘boring’ well, that’s an awfully subjective stroke and, as such, I’ll leave that to the tribes and trolls to kick around.  Suffice to say, I’m in a different camp on this one.

Thetrailboss: Three questions:

  1. Jay has run Vermonter rates for locals and folks from nearby counties in New York. Will Jay continue to run these discount day tickets, in light of the expansion work?
  2. With the increase in development at Jay, and more folks, does Jay limit ski ticket sales? If it doesn’t, is that something that will be considered in the future?
  3.  Steve, you’ve been in the industry for quite some time having worked for both Jay Peak and Killington before that. Just speaking for yourself, and not JPR, what trends do you see happening in the Northeast Ski Industry? Things that you like? Trends that you think are disturbing? And thanks to you and JPR for being involved in the leadership of the Vermont Ski Industry (through Ski Vermont and other trade groups).

Steve Wright: 

  1. Yes, we will continue to run Vermonter (and Clinton Country NY of course) specials on lift tickets, lodging deals and the like.  Burke has similar programming across certain days and they’ll be doing the same.  I would look for more of this type of geographical discounting-certainly not less.
  2. No, we haven’t ever limited ticket sales-don’t see it happening anytime in the near future either.  In reality, we expect the increase in skiers and snowboarders to be modest (as it indexes across new guests here at the resort) given the other opportunities (waterpark and skating specifically), and with added terrain coming on board at some point, within at least someone’s lifetime I mean, we don’t anticipate trail crowding to be much of an issue.  If ever it came to that, it’s certainly something we would look at.
  3. Thank you TB.  Trends?  With respect to booking, folks are definitely looking for deals, waiting until the last minute and chasing weather.  Not a new scenario but more have been falling into these camps over the past few seasons.  I think there’s been a plateau of those using the internet for booking and commerce—a natural one, I think, given the spike of 5-7 years ago.  Obviously resorts are scrambling for ways to get additional spend out of guests with off-trail activities, and they’re trying to contract typical shoulder seasons so they lose less money during those lean periods.  Not sure I look at anything as truly disturbing, actually I guess I do, but it’s not appropriate for this forum.  Backchannel if you’re really interested.

deadheadskier: Can Jay Peak utilize some of it’s EB-5 Visa investment monies into Burke or would that require a separate application?

Steve Wright: DHS—we are creating an EB-5 project at Burke that will include some new on-mountain lodging which, at least by our count, is sorely needed.  We added half a million in snowmaking improvements over there for this season, but that wasn’t through the EB-5 financing model.  At this point, short and medium term, we don’t anticipate any other programs.  Standard caveats apply.

fbrissette: Can you provide some updates on the west bowl development – Is ‘trail cutting in summer 2013 and lifts in summer 2014’ still the plan ? I would suggest that tree cutting in the west bowl glades be done as quickly as possible. This could become an incredible back country area to those willing to earn their turns while awaiting lifts.

Also, there were plans on mountain biking trails at the base of Stateside. Has this changes with the acquisition of Burke Mountain ?

Steve Wright: fbrisette, that’s the plan right now and agreed with your thoughts.  I can’t possibly drop a big enough caveat on this one though.  My two cents?  We have big permitting hurdles to jump over.  Set your expectations to cautious and be pleasantly surprised if anything happens ‘quickly’.

In terms of mountain biking, we are still planning on adding mountain biking sooner than later and the acquisition of Burke, if anything, has probably accelerated the reality of this.  Not to say we have plans to replicate Burke as we certainly do not—only to suggest that looking closer at their model suggests there’s a profit equation that works and that some iteration would work well here.

Sick Bird Rider: I’ll add the age-old (now) question: what is the current timeline for the construction of the Bonnie six-pack and the quadrification of the Jet?

Steve Wright: We get it next year.  Least that’s what the tea-leaves are showing right now.  They’re spread all over my office-you should see them.

JPTracker: Jay used to host a Fall Arts and Crafts Festival every year on Columbus Day weekend. It stopped due to construction on the hotel. Now that construction is almost complete are there any plans to bring it back?

Also, recently a lot of tress were taken down at the entrance to the resort. What is the purpose of this? It does not seem to fit in with any of the ongoing construction projects.

Steve Wright: no plans on bringing the Arts and Crafts Festival over Columbus Day as, frankly, it’s been more than replaced by The Bean and Brew Festival.  Anyone here over Columbus Day/CAD Thanksgiving would also attest to this—there simply is no room to put any more people anyway.  The Craft Festival—at its present home at The Degree Auction House down the road—is doing quite well from several accounts.

The trees taken down at the front of the resort were done so to create a small stormwater retention pond—we’re increasing impervious areas (parking lot, new MLC, etc..) that create runoff.  Has to be a place for that to go and (essentially) get cleaned before it runs off campus.

BigJay: If Burke is to copy what Jay has done in order to get more activities during the winter months, is Jay Peak looking at doing the same in order to bring more visitors in the area during the summer?

Also, between Kingdom Trails bringing 5M$ from mountain biking in the small village of East Burke, Stowe that has a great network of trails and building the “Vermont Ride Center” based on the IMBA model and it’s neighbours to the north (Owl’s Head is holding the provincial DH championships in a few weeks, Sutton is moving slowly and Bromont is already a hot spot!), I think Jay Peak would fit in nicely with trails for all levels all located below the higher elevation…

Steve Wright: We don’t, at all, look at Burke ‘copying what Jay has done in order to get more activities during the winter months.’  We’re simply looking to create some lodging options at this point.  Second part of your question though has some relevance and, as many of your questions tend to lean in this direction, yes—mountain biking is in the plans.Regarding Jay Peak fitting in with trails for all levels, we feel the same.

luvinjaycloud: I’m wondering if Jay peak has any plans to post a web cam somewhere on the mountain. Seems like everything else they do is on the front edge of technology. I would love to know real time , or close to it, when the snow is starting to fly or if the droplets have turned to flakes.

Steve Wright: Yes, we’ve heard this before.  Happy to look at options in great real time cams but most that I’ve seen range from moderately bad to supremely awful and unless I can fund one that’s fantastic, I’m not integrating it.  I just don’t think it adds enough unless it can capture reality.

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