Monday, March 7, 2011

Northeast Ski Blogger Summit: Change

Change is inevitable.  Regardless of whether it is good or bad, anticipated or unanticipated, minor or major, change is going to happen eventually. Like when you're standing in a little plastic room, and all of a sudden the floor gives way and you find yourself careening down a water slide in a tilted corkscrew:

I only mention this because the "Aqua Loop" is one of the many planned features of the new Jay Peak Waterpark.  And I gotta say, I want to give it a try.

I've written before about resorts catering to many types of skiers (I even used Jay Peak as an example of a resort that remains "pure").  I have always felt that different people go to different ski areas for different reasons, and these days, ski areas have to cater to all of those differences (during the day and at night). I don't really know anything about advertising, but it seems that in order to draw a lot of people to your resort, you need to spread your marketing tentacles really wide to encompass everyone; whether that means advertising in a family magazine, or letting 6 bloggers ski and stay slopeside for free in hopes that they'll write some good stuff about your area.  And sometimes, it might lead to mixed signals:

FURTHER UP. FURTHER OUT. At another resort, they're questioning whether to tip the ski valet.  But up here, no one questions anything.

But if there's no ski valet, who will watch my skis while I'm on the Aqua Loop?!?

Like I said, though, I don't begrudge a ski area simply for giving the people what they want. It sounds like they're taking the necessary steps to develop the mountain into a year round "resort."  And in a time of increased costs for snowmaking, electricity, and personnel, this is the kind of thing that keeps the lifts turning every winter, which is something that every skier wants.  And they even found an innovative way to pay for it: The EB-5 program, which provides funding and local jobs (something I think we should all get behind).

I do want to talk a little bit about another option, though.  Last Friday morning, we started skinning up an old trail in the area.  We eventually found ourselves in pristine wilderness.  It was quiet.  Really quiet.  There was none of the hustle and bustle that we'd been accustomed to over the last couple of days in the resort.  Just us, the sounds of our skins sliding up the slope, and the sunny silence of an empty trail.

We weren't that far away from Jay, but it felt like another world.  Calm, serene, soothing.  The snow was velvety soft, too:

 Eventually, it got a little more dense::

And we had to start ducking:

So the slopes weren't perfectly cut, it took a little work to get up, and the extreme roadside snow bank barrel roll still needs to be perfected.  It was still one of the most fun times of the whole trip.

And that's what I'm trying to get at.  Regardless of how "overdeveloped" and "corporatized" your home mountain becomes, somewhere in those hills, there's a way to escape.  There's a way to leave everything behind and, even if it's just for one morning, there's a way to go back to skiing the way it was before the slopeside condos, resort villages, and ski valets.  There's a way to just ski.

I still want to try that Aqua Loop, though.


  1. I can't take issue with any of the points you've made -- the terrain, snow, woods, sidecountry, etc. will still be there for those who want it. However, there is something unsettling to me about a ski area that has positioned itself so effectively as a "genuine" experience shifting gears this radically.

  2. What do you mean the extreme roadside snow bank barrel roll still needs to be perfected? You want a dismount with that?!

  3. You mean I didn't stick the landing?

    One thing is for sure, if I had millions invested in a ski resort that made money during the season and sat largely idle for half the year, I'd be thinking hard about how to get a better return. I guess a golf course is buried by the snow and out-of-sight, out-of-mind during the high season.

    After talking with Steve Wright, I do think financially the new development will be a success. It will work for his group business which is a key to survival. Will something essential to Jay Peak be lost? I don't know. I'm told that the Tram House wasn't originally well received, but as a Jay newbie, I had no problem with it.

    Great post Matt.

  4. Harv makes a good point elaborating on Matt's post.

    Everyone wants their favorite ski areas to be financially viable -- which seems to be borderline Sisyphean endeavor these days, especially in the northeast with its constant weather challenges and shorter season. Then, when the mountain starts breaking eggs for its tough-decision omelette, people hold their nose and complain about the smell. I guess I'm one of those types. As the French would say, I want the butter and the money from the butter.

    Sorry for all those metaphors. I'm sure I'll get over my righteous indignation eventually.