Passing Through: Jay Peak

Vermont’s Jay Peak is out there, and definitely worth the trip

SKIER: Nick Stolowitz | PHOTO: Lenny Christopher

Welcome to Jay

As you drive north on Vermont’s fabled skier’s highway, Route 100, quaint white steeple churches and town centers give way to the flat, wind-swept farmland of the Northeast Kingdom. Herein stands Jay Peak, a place of rugged quirkiness rather than Green Mountain quintessence. Famous for its abundant snowfall, steep glades, and backcountry access, the mountain has long attracted a loyal, if limited, following.

Despite being blessed with an annual average of 355 inches of snowfall, which usually exceeds that of every other Eastern resort, Jay Peak had been overlooked by most because of its distant location and lack of amenities. That has changed in recent years due to the resort’s tapping of a unique federal economic-stimulus program known as EB-5, which has enabled a nine-year $420 million transformation. The resort now boasts three hotels, a year-round indoor waterpark, ice arena, golf course, and a number of restaurants and bars.

For most ski resorts undertaking large construction projects, the high costs of financing are soon passed along, eventually pricing many skiers out of what was their favorite hill. At Jay Peak, just the opposite has happened. The resort has focused on making skiing more accessible and affordable—a lift ticket costs $79/a season pass $899 (if you buy early)—banking on market share rather than yield. And while the number of distractions has increased, Jay Peak is still a place where first tram trumps last call.

A Typical Morning

First Tram. You’ll need to get there at least a half hour before the lift starts spinning to contend with the feisty locals. If you do make it early enough, grab a breakfast sandwich and coffee at Provisions, the general store located at the Tram Base Area. Once you unload at the summit, head straight for the Face Chutes, home to some of the most unique terrain in the East. The Face is a steep, open scar littered with 20-foot drops that descend directly below the tram you rode to the top. At the bottom of the Face, maintain elevation by skating across St. George’s Prayer and the Northway to the top of the Bonaventure Quad. From the Bonnie, dive into some of the best trees on the mountain in Vertigo or Deliverance. When you are through, avoid the tramline by lapping the Bonnie or Jet Triple.

Accommodations/Après

Jay Peak has two sides to the resort, Stateside and Tramside. Both have full amenities, including lodging, restaurants, bars, rental and repair shops, and mountain service.

Your best bet is to be based at Stateside, home to the resort’s rowdier bar, The Bullwheel, located in the base lodge. Après like a local with a Long Trail Limbo IPA and a sidecar of Cabin Fever, the north country’s signature maple whiskey. Stateside has a large cafeteria with all the classics and also welcomes brown bag lunches. If you prefer a sit-down lunch, try Howie’s, located downstairs next to the cafeteria, for some of their comfort-food specialties.

Tramside is the home to the Tram Haus Lodge, the resort’s classiest accommodations, and the Hotel Jay, directly next to the Pumphouse Indoor Waterpark. While at Tramside, stop by Jay’s other après spot, The Tower Bar, located in the Tram Haus Lodge, and try their poutine or maple-ginger wings.

While you are at Jay Peak, make sure you venture beyond the resort. For dinner, head over to the backside of the mountain to the Belfry, a former school house, now a cozy local spot with amazing steak au-poivre and twice-baked mashed potatoes. Don’t miss the après around the fireplace at the Jay Village Inn, and stick around for their large dinner portions.

If you’ll be up for a few days and plan to cook with family and friends, pick up some bacon sausage from Brault’s Meat Market in Troy, or venture to Greensboro for some of the best beers in the world from Hill Farmstead. Stop at the Jay Country Store to fill in the missing pieces.