Learning to ski or snowboard at an early age is the perfect way to help young children instill a love for winter. Exploring the slopes helps kids build self-confidence, meet new friends and develop a lifelong affinity for the outdoors.
Bringing my dad on a ski trip is kind of an oxymoron. The man hates cold and snow more than just about anyone else I know and I blame his aversion to all things winter for my learning to ski so late in life. On the flip side my dad loves to travel and is a big fan of his three granddaughters, so inviting him to join us for a trip up to Jay Peak Resort made sense, despite the fact that it meant that he might have to put on a pair of boots. For a minute I even thought we might have success convincing him to take a lesson or two, but he later reneged, claiming he’d rather hang out by the fire with his book. I didn’t push—there were plenty of off-mountain ways to have a good time at Jay.
But that hasn’t always been the case—Jay Peak used to be only about the snow. Thanks to the meteorological mystery known as the Jay Cloud, the mountain consistently sees upwards of 350-inches of snow each season, rivaling the west with deep swaths of powder and tremendous backcountry terrain and frequently surpassing all other east coast resorts in total snowfall. But beyond these accolades, recent years have seen a rash of capital improvements at Jay, transforming what has historically been a rough and tumble skiers’ mountain into a full-service family resort including three new hotels, a revitalized Stateside base lodge, a whopping 50,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, a professional-sized ice arena, and a luxurious on-site spa.
Yet in the midst of all of these upgrades, one can’t help but catch glimpses of Jay’s beloved, rugged soul peeking through the posh. From the funky bits of marketing peppered throughout the resort to the somewhat warped ‘Way to Jay’ images on the kids’ menus and the cool metal dudes stationed throughout the Pump House waterpark, Jay Peak has an edge. It’s a resort that isn’t afraid to go against the grain—and we loved it.
Room to Spare at the Hotel Jay
Given that Jay Peak is about a six-hour trek from our home in New York we opted to stretch the weekend by heading north right after school on a Thursday afternoon, pulling up to the Hotel Jay around nine o’clock. Upon check-in we collected everything we needed to fill the days ahead—room keys which doubled as our lift tickets, bracelets that would admit us to the Pump House, and a folder full of information about the resort complete with a booklet full of coupons.
With our bags loaded onto one cart and our ski equipment onto another, the girls, my dad, and I headed upstairs while my husband took our gear to Jay’s equipment room. Every guestroom is assigned its own spacious locker for stashing skis, boots, helmets, and anything else just steps from the lifts. This made gearing up in the morning as much of a snap as it could be with three kids in the mix.
Our home for the weekend was a three-bedroom suite—a combination of a two-bedroom suite with an adjoining standard king-bedded room—and we were pretty floored by its spaciousness and amenities. Upon entering, we were greeted by a large, open-plan kitchen, dining, and living area offering a ton of room to spread out and a pretty view of the slopes. The wide foyer and hall area is equipped with tons of hooks and places to store hats, mittens, and snowpants—super helpful for keeping everyone’s stuff organized. I’d brought lots of groceries so we could make breakfast each morning along with a lasagna for dinner one night. Having that huge kitchen is a great money-saver, making it a breeze to prep meals throughout your stay.
The girls loved their room, which had a set of bunk beds along with one single bed, and were thrilled that they didn’t have to share. Right beside the kids’ room was a master bedroom with a king bed and an en-suite bath. Given the fact that the living room also offered a queen sleeper sofa, families of four or even five could certainly make due with a one-bedroom suite, though having the extra bedroom for the kids was fabulous. At the end of the hall, my dad was comfortably ensconced in his own private retreat where he could holler at the T.V. in peace during a UCONN basketball game.
Fun on the Mountain…
Despite Jay’s tradition of mind-blowing snow, our visit coincided with one of this season’s annoying freak thaws, which delivered terrain-killing rain to the mountain the day before our arrival and shrunk the trail count from 78 to 25 in a matter of twelve hours. A blast of cold meant the wet surfaces were transformed into an icy sheath, but also meant that the snowguns would fire back up coating those surfaces with fresh powder. I tend to be a glass-is-half-full kind of gal and have spent a good amount of time this winter looking on the bright side—and since the forecast for the weekend sparkled with images of snowflakes and Jay’s snowmakers were on the case, I was optimistic that improved conditions were on the horizon.
Friday morning found us heading up the Express Quad for a few runs on Ulr’s and Northway before heading up Jay’s tram—the only of its kind in Vermont—for a cruise down Vermonter. It was tough seeing all those ropes hanging across closed trails on the way down, as I was dying to get into Jay’s beloved glades—especially the lower “Moon” runs that offered intermediate skiers some easier fun in the trees. As the weekend progressed, however, those ropes began to drop and we had the chance to ski some of the fantastic terrain off the Jet Triple and the Bonaventure Quad.
Having my dad along meant that our girls, who struggled with the firm trails, took a few runs and then escaped for a bit of grandpa-style debauchery involving sugary drinks and lots of time in the arcade. I found myself feeling annoyed with my prima donna kids for not wanting to ski in less than perfect conditions. Raise ’Em Jay implies toughening up your kids—I especially like the message that reads, “Nobody grows up soft on rugged terrain,” but ours were being total wimps.
Rather than fight that battle, we sent the girls off with Pop and skied the rest of the afternoon by ourselves, something we rarely get to do, and packed in far more runs than we ever would have if we’d had the kids with us. We ended the day with a couple of après Tram Lagers, Jay’s signature brew, in the Bullwheel Bar over at the Stateside Lodge where we had a blast despite being the oldest people in there besides the graying rockers in the band.
…And Fun off the Mountain
Meanwhile, back in the room, we found our girls making blanket tents on the bunk beds, surrounded by all the exciting plastic crap they scored at the arcade and slapping each other with those gross, stretchy sticky-hand novelties. I have no idea how much cash my dad blew in order for them to rack up enough tickets to get all that stuff and I didn’t ask. All I know is that my girls, especially the youngest, had had a pretty fun time and were now raring to head down to the Pump House.
Let me say for the record that I hate waterparks. Great Wolf Lodge is my idea of being trapped in the seventh circle of hell. But oddly, I loved Jay’s Pump House. Even during the post-ski hours, there weren’t any lines for the slides and we rode them all several times. The wave pool was super cool and it was great fun watching the surfing action. The lazy river wasn’t at all lazy and there were plenty of places to sit and relax while the kids had the run of the place. And for added après-fun, the Drink is a huge bar overlooking the park, which is a great place for parents with older kids to hang out and have a cocktail.
Somehow, after a few trips down the slides, I managed to sneak away and pop over to the Tram House Lodge, home to the Taiga Spa, where I indulged in a pre-dinner massage and a maple sugar foot scrub. I met my family at the Foundry Pub an hour or so later, rubbed down and nicely chilled out. After dinner, we hit the arcade as a family, going head-to-head shooting hoops and playing a few vicious rounds of air hockey.
If I had to offer any feedback from our multi-gen trip to Jay, it would be that despite all the fun my dad had with the girls, he struggled to find a cozy place to hang out when the five of us were skiing. The Hotel Jay has what they call the Family Room with some sofas and games, but there’s no fireplace or amenities—he would have loved a cup of coffee, but the coffee joints in both our lobby and over at the Tram House were closed when he went exploring. He had been hoping to sit somewhere in front of a roaring fire with his book and a glass of port. That said, our suite had a fireplace and he alternated between there and the Family Room during his down time.
I know I’m not alone in hoping that the east coast will be treated to another epic snow season sooner rather than later. Regardless, our intro to Jay Peak was great fun and I can’t wait to get back up there to explore the rest of the mountain. Knowing what we know now, I plan to spend the coming months instilling the Way to Jay anthem into our day-to-day lives. Uncommon fun is definitely the best kind to have.