Face Shots and Tree Skiing Reign at Vermont's Jay Peak — but the Poutine Is Just As Legendary
Fancy ski lodges and heated chairlifts are nice, but as any skier or boarder knows, that's not what makes or breaks a ski day. Snow — the key ingredient — is what turns a mediocre day on the slopes into a face-shot-filled frenzy. It's what coaxes elated whoops out of the most stoic skier and makes the gear-laden trudge to the lift worth it. And it's something Jay Peak Resort has plenty of and more.
The ski area in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom gets pounded with the fluffy stuff, consistently reporting more snow than any other resort in eastern North America — and giving plenty of Rocky Mountain ski areas a run for their money, too. Jay Peak reports an annual average of 359 inches of snow a year, but some ski seasons, like in 2018/2019, saw 423 inches with 127 inches of snowfall in January alone.
And while Jay Peak has a well-established reputation for the white stuff, the resort's director of communications, JJ Toland, told Travel Leisure by email that it's the tree skiing that really makes the ski area stand out.
"Back in the '80s and early '90s when resorts were making noise about expanded snowmaking and adding new lifts, Jay Peak didn't have a lot of money to do any of that," he says. So, "we went for a walk in the woods, so to speak, and cut gladed trails. That's what we shouted about. And today, we have the best tree skiing in the East." Toland emphatically adds, "Jay Peak's glades are legit."
Plenty of pow and glades make for an experience that feels more like a day spent off-piste than one spent at a cookie-cutter resort. That feeling is only compounded by the resort's liberal in-bounds policy that allows skiers and boarders to dip off the ski area's 81 "official" trails. Those willing to get off the beaten path are rewarded with untracked terrain and hidden powder stashes.
The ultimate day on Jay Peak, according to Toland, includes "First dibs into Valhalla and Green Beret for face shots." He explains, "You have to like the deep and breezy to be a Jay Peak lover" since the wind makes the mountain's heavy snowfall "land sideways sometimes."
If that breeze — or deep pow — is too much, there's plenty going on off mountain, especially for Jay Peak's smallest shredders. At the resort's indoor waterpark, the Pump House, you can trade your skis or board for a surfboard and take on the Double Barrel Flowrider or float through the Big River's rapids and currents.
Toland says, "if you have kids, we guarantee you exhausted children. With a 50,000-square foot indoor waterpark, an ice arena, and an indoor climbing center, even if it's too cold, too snowy, or too windy, the kids will still be spent at the end of the day."
Add fat tire biking, Nordic skiing, a rec center, a movie theater, and an arcade to the list of offerings, and you've got enough to keep the whole crew entertained for days. Those looking to up their comfort on snow (or try skiing or boarding for the first time) can book a day with an instructor who will guide newbies through the specialized beginner areas or show experts the resort's famed tree runs and off-piste pow stashes.
How to Ride:
Pick up a lift ticket for $96/day ($81/day if you're a Vermonter or have a pass at any other ski area) for full-mountain access, or stick to the beginner-friendly, lower part of the mountain for $59/day. Buy in advance to save a few bucks.
Where to Stay:
If half your group is here to ski and the other half is here for the Pump House Indoor Waterpark, book a room at Hotel Jay & Conference Center. The hotel houses the waterpark and has ski-in, ski-out access, and an arcade, coffee shop, pizzeria, and pub. Meanwhile, the Tram Haus Lodge, which sits at the tram's base, offers a selection of studios and multi-bedroom suites with kitchens of full kitchenettes. Deal hunters should head to the Stateside Hotel, Jay Peak's no-frills approach to ski-in, ski-out lodging.
Where to Dine:
It's hard to beat a meal at the Foundry Pub & Grill (in Hotel Jay), where you'll find everything from pork dumplings and seared ahi tuna to chicken wings tossed with a locally made maple sriracha sauce. For a quick bite, swing by Howie's (in the Stateside Hotel) for fast and filling fare like Howie's Notorious P.I.G Poutine. When the snow is so good you don't want to sit down, grab a hearty bowl of ramen from the tram-turned-food-cart, Miso Hungry.