Please note, this post–among many other posts by All Mountain Mamas–was created and shared before the COVID-19 pandemic and some content may no longer apply. Please always stay updated on Vermont’s travel and gathering guidelines before planning a trip during the 2020-21 season.
Ski instructor Kory Gozjack strolled into the Stateside Hotel & Base Lodge and greeted my daughter like a dear old friend.
“How are you, Phoebe?” he asked, crouching down to meet her at eye level.
My 8-year-old beamed and smiled right back. “Pretty good,” Phoebe answered. After my husband and I briefed Gozjack about Phoebe’s ski experience, I could tell she wanted her parents to vamoose. So we did. And she happily tagged along with Gozjack right up until last chair.
Phoebe has been in ski lessons ever since she was three years old. Over the past five years, I’ve found that the best instructors are professional, friendly, enthusiastic, patient, empathetic, and good at communicating. Gozjack more than fits the bill. The North Carolina native, who arrived at Jay Peak ski school three years ago, was previously a scuba diving instructor for 15 years. Teaching is not only his livelihood but his passion, too.
The moment Phoebe clicked her boots into her bindings and grabbed her poles, Gozjack made sure to focus on having fun. After all, at Jay Peak ski school, fun is a key ingredient to learning.
Lessons for All Ages and Abilities
Jay’s specialized beginner areas, freestyle terrain parks, steep trails, cruising blue runs, and glade system are ideal for a variety of skill levels: from first-timers riding the Magic Carpet to seasoned skiers and riders itching to explore the glades.
Ted Fleischer, programs manager for Jay Peak’s Ski and Ride School, explains that while the end goal is to make a student a better skier or rider, enjoyment is how you get there.
“It’s has a lot to do with the human nature of wanting to play,” says Fleischer, who has worked at Jay Peak since 1999. “What our focus has been for a number of years is to make sure that fun—as well as safety—is the most important aspect. That’s when the learning happens.”
Phoebe tends to hit her stride on skis later on in the season. Like clockwork, I hold my breath every December as she starts the winter feeling nervous and apprehensive about skiing. That’s why I’m always grateful for lessons and knowledgeable, compassionate instructors. Because, as Fleischer explains, instructors know that it’s all about finding a middle ground to help kids lose their fear and build confidence on the slopes.
“If we choose something that’s not interesting enough or too easy for kids, then boredom sets in. But if we choose something too challenging for them, there’s a risk of injury and success is limited. You need to find that middle zone,” he says. “What we focus on at Jay is that you break everything up into such small pieces and present it to the student that way. Then the student can’t help but succeed, and it keeps them in the flow and moving forward.”
What kept Phoebe in the flow during her lesson was practicing on terrain that was easier compared to what she was skiing last March. Cruising on easy greens helped Phoebe get her ski legs back and feel more comfortable. From there, she worked on some skills while playing games. Once she mastered those skills, she moved onto newer terrain.
“Our mantra is old terrain, new movement and new terrain, old movement,” Fleischer says.
What that means is that if you’re skiing on old, easy terrain, that’s when you work on new techniques and skills. But if you’re on new, more challenging terrain, then you stick to familiar movement and skills that you already know.
“Where people get in over their heads is when they do new movement on new terrain,” Fleischer adds.
Phoebe’s lesson was a success at Jay. When we booked her for an afternoon private lesson during our mid-December visit, we weren’t sure if she would enjoy skiing for two hours with an instructor she had just met. We couldn’t have been more wrong. If the lifts hadn’t closed for the day, she would have kept going. Thanks to Gozjack, it was the most fun she had on skis all weekend.
Indoor Activities at Jay Peak
At Jay, the focus on fun also extends off the slopes. While the resort has the largest average annual snowfall of any ski area in Eastern North America (423 inches during the 2017-18 season), it’s nice to know there are plenty of options for entertainment if the weather is less than cooperative.
Whether your family loves movies, climbing walls, or splashing around, Jay has you covered.
Clips & Reels Recreation Center
Located across from the Stateside Hotel & Base Lodge, the Clips & Reels Recreation Center is home to a 142-seat movie theater—complete with its own liquor license. As Vermont’s only slopeside movie theater, it shows flicks that parents and kids will love—from The Goonies to Maleficent 2. Special offerings, like Friday Family Night and Throwback Thursdays, are also offered.
In addition to the movie theater, Clips & Reels Recreation Center also features a state-of-the-art arcade, an indoor horizontal ropes course, and climbing gym. If you want to climb high or stay with your feet planted firmly on the ground to play Space Invaders, the center gives families plenty of room to move around and play.
Pump House Water Park
Perhaps Jay Peak’s most well-known indoor activity is its impressive water park. Located at Hotel Jay on the mountain’s Tramside, the Pump House Indoor Water Park is what kids’ dreams are made of. Flow along the Big River in an inner tube (or swim it) and experience the thrill of strong currents and splashing waves.
Meanwhile, the Mill Pond Kids Play Area is perfect for little ones to dip their toes in, while the La Chute water tube is ideal for thrill-seekers (like my husband). The water park also features hot tubs, pools, and a FlowRider (a mix of surfing, snowboarding, and skateboarding on water). Combine that with a nearby snack bar, surf shop, family arcade, and bar, and you’ll quickly find that the Pump House Water Park is a real crowd pleaser.
What also makes Jay such a treasure are its 385 acres of terrain, 100-plus acres of glades, nine lifts, and 81 trails. And more than anything, its ski school offers one of the best experiences ever.
For more information, visit JayPeakResort.com.
For more family-centric posts about this great resort, head to the Jay Peak Resort page.
Erica Houskeeper is a writer and communications professional with nearly 20 years of experience. She grew up in Manchester, Vermont, and started skiing at age 4 at Bromley Mountain. She also spent her childhood skiing at Stratton, Magic, and the former Snow Valley ski area. After working as a journalist in Vermont, Erica later became director of communications for the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. In 2009, she launched www.happyvermont.com, a Vermont travel blog that explores the places and people of the Green Mountain State. Her blog has hundreds of subscribers and a loyal following. She currently works as writer and photographer, and lives in Burlington with her husband and young daughter.