Deep into a Steep Vermont December

In December 2016, on an early-season trip to Killington, our group planned to visit Okemo on the second day. Conditions in the region were typical for December—the snow was hard, crusty, and mostly manmade with a slick layer of ice hiding underneath. When I saw the next morning that Jay Peak had landed nearly two feet of surprise snowfall, I headed north in search of powder, with or without my friends.

I arrived to waist-deep powder runs on some of the steepest trails and glades in the northeast, making the day trip well worth the five hours of extra driving. That was my first day as a “powderhound,” obsessively checking the weather and allowing Mother Nature to steer my Subaru to the mountains I would visit.

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A Jay Peak Thanksgiving

Last August a friend asked me to recommend the Eastern resort with the best chance for fresh snow over the Thanksgiving weekend. I was intrigued because it seemed like a bold and direct challenge to me, to organize an early season destination trip with a good shot at pow.

Jay-Summit

It didn’t take me long to consider Jay Peak, Vermont. Jay is of course the exception that proves the rule, recent winner of Powder Magazines “Best Pow” award and home of a mindbending Eastern US accumulation record total of more than 500″ in a single season.

While there are few guarantees for conditions anywhere on the planet, I’d also been itching to get back to Jay. Few resorts get to completely re-imagine themselves, but it seems that’s what Jay has done in the past 20 years.

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Jay Peak Partners Acquire Burke Mountain

Burke Mountain.A few years ago Jay Peak’s advertising campaigns poked fun at casual skiers: “Black Diamonds, they sound expensive.” In news announced today, Jay Peak partners Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros are undoubtedly hoping they’ve found a diamond in the rough. Long overlooked as the perpetual “best kept secret” in Vermont, Burke obviously caught their neighbors attention. While Burke doesn’t get the abundant snowfall that Jay does, its 240 annual inches and snow preserving temperatures have long made it a tree skiers paradise.

The consolidation will almost certainly provide for joint marketing efforts and pass reciprocity between the two areas. This should give many skiers reason to celebrate, particularly the 6 million Canadians that live beyond the border and comprise one of Jay’s primary markets. No plans or details have been released, but it is likely that this sale will provoke few complaints. Burke Mountain is located in a sleepy corner of Vermont, but the area is blessed with tremendous natural beauty. The mountain has room to expand terrain and plans in place for increasing the snowmaking capacity.

With the new and aggressive owners, it is likely that eastern skiers will be given more reasons to visit soon. Ski area operators elsewhere will surely be taking note as this purchase boldly rings “your move” to the rest of the industry.