Jay Peak Ski Area – Adult Day Pass $82, Adult Season Pass $700-$1000
“If you’ve been to Jay Peak, you know our reputation is deserved—the most snow in eastern North America and a liberal in-bounds policy that ensures you can enjoy it. 78 trails, slopes and glades wait for you but the nooks and crannies are what really set Jay Peak apart. If you haven’t been here, come experience the reality behind the legend. From the far-out corners of the backcountry, to the close-at-hand convenience of The Zone learning area, there’s a little something for everyone at our larger than life mountain. Poke around and make some moments of your own.” – Jaypeakresort.com
Tucked away amongst the northern green mountains in the “Northeast Kingdom” in Vermont is Jay Peak and the town of Jay. Named for John Jay, First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the town of Jay sits next to many large mountains, including Jay Peak and Big Jay, both of which served as markers for Native American travelers as they passed through the area.
Snow Quality – Great – Jay Peak is unique here. While many places on the east coast would love to have even 100 or 200 inches of fresh snow a year, Jay Peak is consistently higher than all other eastern ski areas, and can even compete with western resorts in some years (500 inches, 2016-2017 season…#2 in U.S. Snowfall, 2014-2015 season). The locals call the spontaneous snow dumps the “Jay Cloud”, which can sometimes see Jay bring in a foot or two of snow, when other Vermont ski areas only receive a few inches.
Crowds – Good – Because of Jay Peak’s proximity to Burlington in Vermont (about 1 hour 30 min) and Montreal in Quebec, Canada (about 2 hours), there can get to be a fair number of people on the mountain. However, there is a very large indoor water park on site to help mitigate the crowds, the trails are separated in such a way so it is easy to stay away from where the most people are, and the lifts are good.
Lift Infrastructure – Good – Jay Peak has 9 lifts including 1 tram and 4 quads. These five lifts service the majority of the terrain that brings people to Jay Peak. The other 4 lifts (1 triple, 2 doubles, 1 surface) all service beginner/low intermediate terrain. The way the lifts are laid out is like a progressive sections. You can start on the lower lifts with all of the beginner terrain, then move to the middle section for intermediate runs, and finally to the summit section for advanced/expert terrain. This is a nice set up for some, but it also limits many from seeing parts of the mountain, because they may not be good enough yet to make it off the summit or off the middle section and they may not have an easier trail option.
Trail Variety – Good – 20% Beginner, 40% Intermediate, 40% Advanced – This is tough, because there is some variety here, but it’s mostly between intermediate and advanced/expert terrain. There is also a decent beginner area, with some easy runs to start on and some solid progression runs as you start to get on the chairlifts, but the real reason you go to Jay is deep snow and advanced terrain, both in-bounds and backcountry.
Trail Quality – Great – This is big here. Jay enjoys a multitude of different trail conditions, but overall they are usually in good shape. The mountain crew does a great job getting trails open, making snow, grooming and keeping things ride-able. Also, the large average snowfall means there are usually considerably more powder days here than anywhere else on the East Coast. All that said, there is still some serious wind once you get over the ridge near the top of the mountain. When I was there, a Canadian local on the chair warned me about the wind, but I had no idea how serious he was. That section of the mountain was so icy and windblown that I may have had a better time if I was on ice skates. Now, while I was told that when the wind was kicking, the ice was the norm, most of the mountain that day was still soft and very much ride-able.
Terrain Parks – Average – They did have a park section, but it did not seem all that impressive. There are 2 terrain parks (excl. Riglet Park) and they are certainly passable, everything is groomed fine and there is a decent mix of features, but there isn’t anything that crazy or progressive and it could be groomed a little better and all that. But you don’t go to Jay for the park, head south in VT for some of that.
Family Friendly – Great – This is a little bit of a “catch-22”. So it is a great place for families because everything you need is there at the resort. They have 16 different food/drink options, and 5 retail shops, including the “Provisions” General Store. They also have a daycare, a spa, an ice arena, and of course, the “Pump House” indoor waterpark. However, there is not much around the resort, unless you want to drive an hour or two. Also, the beginner area and the teaching programs are very good, but, you can only use 3 chairlifts and a surface lift, and you can only ride 20% of the mountain. But, if you are a true beginner and you now you’ll be limited to that terrain ahead of time, they do offer a beginner-terrain-only lift ticket at a discounted price. So again, it isn’t the absolute best place for families but it is a pretty great place for families, especially if you have young children.
Cost – Good – Not the cheapest trip you’ll ever take, but by no means the most expensive trip you’ll take. There are plenty of much more expensive resorts in the East Cast alone, but Jay definitely will start to build costs quickly if you’re not careful.
Nightlife – Average – There are a few bars on the mountain and they’re definitely nice but there isn’t anything special happening. You would have to drive an hour and a half to Burlington.
Things to do – Good – There’s a lot to do on the mountain and if you’re there for serious skiing then there is also some backcountry terrain that you can venture to, but there isn’t a ton to do off mountain, other than snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and cultural activities. Again, if you want to drive an hour or two, there is A LOT more going on.
* A friendly Canadian Jay Peak Local told me that on a clear day, you can see Montreal from the top of the mountain…..I’m not sure I believe him though haha*