Jay Peak rejoices in early snow, continues to court buyer
Four-feet of snow in the last week has made this one of the best -- if not the best -- opening for Jay Peak. Friday morning, the tram opened for the season -- the earliest it has ever opened. Plenty of powder translates into plenty of green for Jay Peak, and it could also mean a more stable economic future for the Northeast Kingdom resort.
"It gets us off to a start that I've never seen. I've been here 15 years, been in the ski business 25 years, and I've never seen a start like this," said Steve Wright, Jay Peak's president.
It was long lines to get onto the Tram at Jay Peak Friday. Enthusiasts skipping work, school, or chores to catch the lift's earliest-ever opening day.
"It is spectacular. I only had time for one run because I have a lot of homework to do but it was worth it. It was so great," said Hannah Sourbeer of Jay.
Skiers and riders said they wanted be the first to cut through fresh powder. "Not a lot of tracks hopefully," said Brooks Curran of Waitsfield.
"The tram's opening, that's awesome. They're going to get a bunch of snow here, so I'm super stoked to get up there and see what's up there," said Travis Lee of South Burlington.
Having a packed tram -- and also having it open this early in the season -- is good news for Jay Peak, which is hoping for another good season. And that's because the resort is for sale, so they have a lot riding on good seasons.
"There's been a ton of interest," Wright said. He says that so far buyers haven't stopped by. But that's coming, and he says strong starts like this are a strong selling point. "Huge, huge. We've had two consecutive years of record growth, both in terms of top-end revenue and bottom-line profitability."
Profitability will determine the resort's price. Most of the attractions here are basically brand new, which works in Jay Peak's favor. And more importantly, Wright says the business itself is running smoothly. "They'll look at the standing structures, but they'll really come in here and put a premium on how well is the business operating," Wright said.
He says that's a credit to their employees, who stuck with the resort through the EB-5 scandal with the previous owners in 2016, and the federal receivership that has followed since. Employees like husband and wife Micky and Peg Doheny. He's a former ski instructor and she works in ski patrol.
"It's beautiful. It's amazing. The coverage is amazing," Peg said.
Despite the ups and downs of the past few years, the long-time employees believe Jay Peak is on the right track.
"Employee of 47 years," Micky said. "There's been some negative stuff that's happened, but if you look around and you talk to employees and stuff, we're doing great, the mountain is doing great."
They know a different owner brings unknowns, but say they hope their hard work means a future owner would not change much.
There are still several questions about the resort's pending sale that remain unknown. Officials couldn't say how much Jay Peak might sell for, but based on other resort sales in Vermont it will likely be tens-of-millions. As for who might buy Jay Peak, it could be a major conglomerate like Vail or Alterra, or another player in the hospitality industry. It’s also unclear when it will be sold. Earlier this year, officials said it could be by next summer, but that timeline may have changed. Once the deal goes through, money from the sale will be used to pay back investors.