I kind of miss Stowe and Jay Peak back when they used to be ski areas.
The “Old Vermont Style” Stowe Ski Area is now long gone
If you visit any of the Vermont ski resorts these days, and had never visited before, you would probably laugh at what they “used to be”. Both Stowe, Jay Peak, Burke an other resorts now resemble their counterparts in the western US states, for better or worse. While they are indeed impressive, the charm of the traditional Vermont ski areas is long gone. Never to return.
Back in the late 1990’s, I used to ski at Stowe (when it was a ski area). The parking could be a bit challenging and the locker/rest rooms weren’t fancy by any means. The skiing was fantastic though and if you wanted the apres ski experience, you’d have to drive down to the village to enjoy it, which was just fine.
These days, everything is available at the Stowe mountain “resort”. A massive hotel, shops, restaurants and just about anything else you can imagine. Also, sky high lift ticket prices. Many locals can no longer afford to ski there. As one employee said “I only work here because the free ski pass is the only way I could afford to ski here. No way that I could pay what they’re getting for ticket prices now.” Many Vermonters now view Stowe Mountain Resort as a place to ski for the well to do and out of state crowd.
Jay Peak is no longer the wild and raucous place the locals used to call their own
Back in the 1970’s Jay Peak was quite a busy place, all up and down the mountain road. Though I never went myself because I was not old enough, tales of parties at the Blue Bandana, a bar just a mile below the ski area, were legendary. Many of the inns and lodges along the mountain road were packed on weekends and the village businesses thrived. At least during the winter months.
In 1980, I worked at the Ski Rental & Repair shop at Jay Peak.
It was quite a laid back job and I worked with a few friends who I knew quite well from our North Country Union High School days together, in nearby Newport. The lady who hired me for the job was a manager at Jay Peak, which was owned at the time by a group in Quebec.
The first question she asked me during the interview was “how do you feel about working with Canadians?”, which took me by surprise.
I thought she meant the owners. After I explained that I had never worked with Canadians before, she replied “…no, not the owners the customers. Do you think you will have any issues working with Canadian customers?” to which I also replied “no”. What came next was a bit surprising. She looked at me with full sincerity and said, “I’ll warn you right now. You WILL have issues with Canadians because they love to come here and give people a hard time. Simply because they can. Do you think you can deal with that?” Needless to say, I thought it was an odd interview question but I told her that I could probably handle things just fine. She then told me I had the job and asked when I could start. Then as I was getting ready to leave she said, “I like your attitude but I can tell you it will change 100% after you’ve been here for awhile. See you next Monday.”
As I went back to my car, I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. As it turned out her warnings were 100% correct. After talking with my co-workers who also confirmed what she had said, it wasn’t long before I started to see it for myself, first hand. While many of the Canadians were very nice people, there were an equal amount (probably from the urban Montreal area) who seemed to consider themselves a bit “high and mighty”. They were arrogant, pushy and sometimes belligerent. They didn’t feel they should have to pay Vermont sales tax, they left their equipment on the slopes and expected the employees of the ski rental shop to go out and retrieve it for them.
One very nice lady from Montreal once commented that she was “ashamed of the rude behavior of her fellow Canadians” and that she loved skiing at Jay and found the local people very kind and friendly. Just goes to show there is good and bad everywhere. But perhaps being a “local ski area” the more elite visitors tended to look down on the area “woodchucks”. But all in all, that was part of what made local ski areas so unique.
The season’s end ski parties were wild and raucous as well. Some pretty R rated things tended to take place, giving local ski areas a bit of a reputation they probably weren’t happy to make public. In any case, those were exciting and wild times and best of all…the skiing was affordable!
So for better or worse, Vermont ski areas are changing and becoming more upscale. It is happening throughout Vermont and will most likely continue. There are some ski areas left that are relatively affordable, albeit with far less amenities. Get out and find them, based on what you can afford. Vermont skiing is really some of the best!