“Raised Jay”: What Has Jay Peak Done Differently?


Unless you are an avid Vermont skier, Jay Peak Resort probably means nothing to you. Even if you have heard of it, the most likely scenario is that its name has gotten lost in the homogeneity of small New England ski areas. In all honesty, I don’t blame you. There are over 90 ski resorts across New England, almost all of which bear similar terrain, offer the classic yet delicious ski lodge food, and gift us with great, but familiar experiences. So, why should Jay Peak be any different—and why should you care? The ski industry in the Northeast faces economic and social struggles unlike any other sector of the tourism and recreation industry. Especially in recent years, thriving, or even surviving, as a small ski resort has been a difficult feat. On one hand, climate change poses the difficulty of unreliable snow conditions and shorter ski seasons that threaten the economic stability of a resort. On the other hand, small ski resorts as of late have had to put in immense effort in order to adapt to the greater demand for a European-quality skiing lifestyle, rather than for the sport itself. Jay Peak, despite the obstacles faced by all resorts of their size and location, has economically prospered even more in recent  years than ever before and clung even tighter to its rugged Vermont core values. This is precisely why I have continued to return to Jay for the last fifteen winters of my life without any hesitation. Of course, other mountains have enticed and impressed me. However, having skied all over New England, in Switzerland, and out West, I have never felt that same urgency to return as I do toward Jay Peak. Now, what makes the mountain so unique in such a competitive industry?

Looking down a mogul-filled JFK trail. Taken by Jessica Grauberd.


The primary activity that most look forward to when visiting any mountain is the skiing. However, the ski conditions at Jay Peak cannot be lumped in with those of other Vermont ski resorts. Any mountain can claim that they have the best skiing in the Northeast, but actual numbers tell a different story. According to OnTheSnow.com, Jay Peak has the highest average snow fall of any mountain in the Eastern United States, averaging 349 inches per year. This is far greater than other well-known ski areas such as Stowe, Killington, Okemo, Mount Snow and Stratton. One heavily promoted feature of the mountain is the “Jay Cloud”: a weather system that sits just above the mountain that consistently produces snow throughout the season. There is some ambiguity as to whether the “Jay Cloud” has scientific basis or is simply exaggerated part of a marketing strategy. However, it does seem that whatever is happening meteorologically  has been producing supreme snow fall totals for the resort. While this information alone is not grounds to deem Jay Peak a superior and distinctive ski area, it does speak to its ability to survive in a competitive industry that will only grow to face more challenges. 

Not only is having the highest average snow fall very worthy of bragging rights for the resort, but it heavily impacts the economic prosperity of the mountain and winter tourism in the area. Many studies have been conducted on the impact of climate change on the alpine skiing tourism industry. Not surprisingly, snow reliability and subjectively “good” ski conditions at resorts, especially during holiday times, was crucial to consumer choice in where to vacation. This subsequently gives Jay Peak a direct advantage when guests are choosing where to bring their families skiing. There have also been numerous studies regarding the impact of climate sensitivity on tourists’ perception of snow conditions at a given mountain and, in turn, their behavioral response. More specifically, a study by Steiger, Posch, Tappeiner, and Walde found that when perception of ski conditions is unacceptable to tourists, the most common response is to change their skiing destination. The statement as follows is found in their article: “Stated-preference studies with ski tourists demonstrate that snow is the most important factor for destination choice and the primary constraint for participation” (Steiger, 2020). Some skiers, somewhat surprisingly, would rather entirely give up their skiing trip than visit the mountain when there are bad snow conditions. While the changing climate renders much of the Northeast vulnerable to shorter ski seasons and greater weather variability throughout the season, Jay Peak’s location, which is the Northmost of any New England ski resort, makes for higher reliability in their snow and objectively better conditions throughout the winter. It seems that the “Jay Cloud,” which was initially a promotional strategy, does actually have meteorological basis and some implications for the future of the resort. 


Looking down the glade Andrés Paradise. Taken by Jessica Grauberd.

As the prices surrounding the skiing lifestyle have increased dramatically over the last couple of decades, it is no surprise that there is a large demand for a desirable après-ski culture. Not only does a large price tag come with the joys of the sport, but  a lot of time and commitment; this comes with the expectation of a resort experience outside of the few hours of skiing per day. Jay Peak, while sticking to the authentic Vermont skiing culture that values the sport itself, does offer the amenities that have been important for attracting tourists in recent years. 

The main focal point of the nonskiing recreation offered by Jay Peak is the Pump House Indoor Waterpark. The facility opened in 2011 along with the Hotel Jay in a large expansion project that totaled around $20 million. The accessibility of the waterpark, especially before the pandemic, made for the quintessential apres-ski activity with a twist. Instead of going to the bar straight off of the slopes, people of all ages could enjoy light-hearted fun that directly juxtaposes the snow sports going on outside. Family and meaningful relationships with others is one of the core values that Jay Peak prides itself on, which are strengthened with a space like the Pump House. In addition, the waterpark itself is structurally designed with elements of authentic Vermont life that resemble the character of Jay Peak. 

While appealing to the needs of its consumers, the waterpark and other facilities such as a golf course, summer camps, and ice rink, etc. allow the mountain to thrive outside of the winter months and appeal to non-skiers. In an interview, Steve Wright, the current general manager of the resort, stated that these amenities “helped stabilize the business model.” In addition, it allowed for more staff to stay on year-round, despite the fact that skiing is a very seasonal industry. It also brought in more profit during slower or shoulder seasons because these amenities are used frequently during these times. Wright has also talked about how connections with their staff is extremely valuable to them. Jay Peak’s desire to keep their employees on year-round represents a greater care for the staff beyond what is expected. Though amenities like the waterpark appeal to customers’ desire for a full day skiing lifestyle and help the resort economically,  Jay Peak always makes its unique personality abundantly clear through all of its endeavors, which is not seen at most resorts.


Views of blue skies and nice conditions from the Bonaventure Quad Chairlift. Taken by Jessica Grauberd.

Perhaps the most convincing evidence of Jay Peak’s individuality and resilience as a New England ski  resort is found in their marketing strategy. After hearing from Steve Wright, the CEO of Jay Peak Resort, it is clear that the mountain takes a different and far more raw approach to promoting themselves. He spoke of the done-before ski area advertisements that they  tried to steer away from—photos of powder storms, happy children, cozy fireplaces, etc. Although Jay has all of these assets, so does every other ski resort in the country and across the world. The marketing department tried, and was successful, at displaying the qualities of Jay Peak that other mountains didn’t have. For example, they emphasized the long-lasting and meaningful relationships with many of their guests; many skiers at Jay Peak return for years on end and become close friends with the employees of the resort. Even in my own experience, there is always a friendly face I recognize anywhere I go on the mountain. Through marketing, they also highlighted the overall eccentric vibe of the resort. Said eccentricity comes from the motley crew of individuals that work at and visit the mountain, the unique décor that is the hallmark of their image, and the general special experience you get from being “Raised Jay.” Rather than tout the physical features like the aerial tram, challenging terrain, and superior weather conditions, they felt it was more worthwhile to speak of the Jay lifestyle. 

Essentially all of the advertisements that Jay Peak has publicized stem from their original idea of being “Raised Jay,” which has been used as their catchphrase for years now. Throughout the multiple marketing campaigns put out each year, an overarching theme of appreciation for the individuality of every guest and staff member that make up the Jay community is easily recognizable. 

One example of this is Jay Peak’s 2018 Gratitude Campaign. The resort partnered with Origin Outside, an advertising agency that specializes in outdoor recreation, to make the idea come to life. The slogan of the campaign was “We’re us because you’re you” and was visualized through candid black and white portraits of real guests and other mountain workers, as well as a short video statement. It was an authentic and not-trying-hard way to give thanks to each member that comprises Jay Peak. This form of advertising contributed to the resort’s image of unique culture and values, rather than monotonous touting of amenities and physical features. The use of real Jay Peak guests and workers gave the message a life of its own and further accentuated their gratuity toward the community.

Another promotion that speaks to the warm heart at the core of the mountain is the “Behind the Flake” campaign. It references the small communities surrounding the mountain and how they make Jay Peak not just a one-off vacation destination, but a meaningful experience. They established the Flake Foundation in an effort to support local towns and their inhabitants because of their duty as the largest business in the region. They have pledged to give back to the community “in the form of scholarships to local students, the donation of lift tickets, lodging stays, golf rounds and waterpark visits to local charities, or providing the support of our employee network to local efforts and events.” 

In the eyes of a consumer, campaigns such as these enrich the mountain and bring a level of authenticity that is not easy to find elsewhere in New England and across the United States. In a study by Isabelle Frochot and Dominique Kreziak that examined consumer perception of the image of ski resorts, it was determined that “Mountain Authenticity” is an important factor in one’s view of a particular mountain. Participants did not care for pictures of snowy nature scenes or extreme skiing photos, but rather photos that gave the resort its own personality. This has major implications for Jay Peak in that their marketing strategies do just that, which in turn differentiates them significantly from most other New England resorts.


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