It’s Official: Pacific Group Resorts Owns Jay Peak
The Vermont powder king becomes the sixth ski area in PGRI’s portfolio
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I don’t know whether Ariel Quiros, the onetime owner of Jay Peak who is now locked in federal prison, was naïve or shady when he funneled tens of millions of EB-5 dollars from citizenship-seeking foreign investors into things like luxury Manhattan apartments. I don’t know whether he was a good guy or a bad guy. Whether he was a mad genius or an idiot. Whether he received bad advice or just didn’t understand the law. I don’t know if he liked kittens and milkshakes and the Red Sox and old war movies and taking his grandkids fishing.
All I know about Ariel Quiros is that his shenanigans nearly ruined New England’s greatest ski area. In 2016, federal agents showed up at Jay Peak wondering where those millions - which were meant to be invested in local projects such as a biotechnology center in Newport, Vermont - had gone. Unsatisfied with the answer, they plucked the resort – along with sister mountain Burke – out of Quiros’ pocket and handed it to a federal receiver, Michael Goldberg.
And then we all waited. And every time anyone wrote about Jay Peak, they had to include the backstory of this moron who – and this actually happened – was so arrogant and callous that he had rebranded the great Burke Mountain as “Q Burke.” But now we don’t have to rehash that whole bit anymore. Because as of today, Pacific Group Resorts, a Park City-based company that operates five other ski resorts across North America, owns Jay Peak.
“PGRI’s prevailing bid was approved by the United States District Court in Southern Florida, and the State of Vermont approved the assignment of leases for ski terrain allowing the sale to close on November 1, 2022, six and a half years after the resort entered receivership,” the company said in a press release this afternoon.
This is the best possible outcome. For skiers, for New England, for the ski industry, for Jay Peak itself. Pacific Group Resorts is an experienced operator with a light-touch corporate philosophy that empowers local managers. Jay Peak is one of the finest U.S. ski areas east of Colorado, with the highest average annual snowfall, vast and varied terrain, and a management team that just pulled off the ski equivalent of landing a plane whose tailfin had been blown off. The resort and its skiers deserve stability, resources, and a focus on what makes Jay great, rather than on what nearly ruined it.
“It is especially hard to operate any business in a receivership, and the staff and management team have done remarkably well under the circumstances,” said PGRI President and CEO Vern Greco. “With that chapter in Jay Peak’s history behind us, we’re shifting the focus to a well-executed transition. There is a lot to be gained by listening to the team and learning about the resort. We want Jay to stay Jay, and we’ll spend a lot of time in the operation before making any meaningful changes. We’re very much looking forward to it.”
It took a while to get here. Delays multiplied: Covid, local disputes over property assessments, waffling potential buyers. It was PGRI who, in August, ignited the final sales process with an out-of-nowhere $58 million bid for the resort. An auction followed. Two other still-anonymous parties joined the moshpit, but PGRI won with a $76 million bid.
So now what? “PGRI expects the staff and winter operations at Jay Peak to remain largely unchanged from previous years,” today’s press release reads. “All existing season passes, reciprocal pass arrangement, and the Indy Pass will be honored for the 2022-23 winter season.” The resort will continue to accept Canadian dollars at par.
Jay immediately becomes PGRI’s flagship resort, an Epic- or Ikon-caliber headliner that’s as good as anything that America’s largest ski passes have in New England. Unlike the company’s larger but remote Powderhorn and Mt. Washington Alpine resorts, Jay is seated in the continent’s most densely populated region, just two hours southeast of Montreal, four hours from Boston, and six hours north of New York City. And Jay will finally tie together what had felt like a scattered network of smaller eastern ski areas, drawing skiers from PGRI’s Wintergreen, Wisp, and Ragged Mountain. Here’s a breakdown of the company’s current roster:
While PGRI’s other five resorts offer reciprocity for season passholders, the company has not yet confirmed any such arrangement for Jay Peak. It is no doubt coming. Whether that is this season or something that comes together when PGRI’s famous Mission: Affordable passes hit the market next spring remains to be seen. “More information regarding the renaissance of Jay Peak is expected to be announced as the 2022-23 winter season unfolds,” the company said in its press release.
Whether that “renaissance” includes reciprocal lift ticket agreements for PGRI passholders, a new (and long overdue) Bonaventure chairlift, snowmaking upgrades, or something else altogether is unclear. But here’s what we do know: we can forget about Quiros, forget about Q-Burke, forget about unbuilt biotechnology centers. I never have to try to pretend like I understand this ridiculous scandal again. So seal up your care packages and mail them to Ariel Quiros at FPC Pensacola minimum security federal prison camp, register number 12517-082. He’ll be there until Oct. 17, 2026. And today is the last time I will ever speak of him in this newsletter.
“Today marks a major milestone in the receivership of Jay Peak, and I’m very proud of our team for bringing the property to the point where we had a very competitive auction and have now concluded the sale,” said Goldberg. “General manager Steve Wright and his team successfully navigated the resort through very challenging times and delivered healthy bottom-line results in the process. That financial rigor combined with their customer-focused approach allowed our investment bank, Houlihan Lokey, to maximize the sale price of this important asset. The leadership and guests of Jay Peak are fortunate to have an experienced resort operator like PGRI take the helm from here.”
Indeed. I’ll have more thoughts soon on the future of Jay and its potential under PGRI. For now, this podcast conversation that I recorded with Wright in September breaks down where Jay’s biggest, most-immediate needs are:
And here’s a longer piece (written pre-auction) breaking down the whole Jay scandal, PGRI’s history and business model, and how the two entities may mesh:
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I haven't heard anything for a while about the status of Burke Mountain. Of course, if you're not going to mention Quiros again, maybe we'll have to find out elsewhere. :-)
Pacific Group MGT. should have several dozen large banners printed up, and hang them at the bottom of each lift, resort gateway, ticket office, ski school, rental shops, cafeteria proclaiming to their guests. " WELCOME BACK VALUED JAY PEAK FAMILY AND GUESTS" LETS ALL MAKE 2022/2023 THE VERY BEST THAT JAY PEAK CAN OFFER, ITS TIME TO TURN EM' N BURN EM'!
JAY PEAK MGT. COMPANY
E MAIL ADDRESS