Jay Peak Sale Has "Ground to a Halt" in Wake of Covid-19
Plus Bretton Woods takes honors for the most bizarre season pass development of the offseason
Luckily, what’s happening in the NEK is working in its own weird way
Jay Peak’s eternally stalled sale has “ground to a halt” since the Covid-19 shutdown, according to court papers filed last week in U.S. District Court in Florida. A dozen potential buyers remain, and the filing indicates that they expect “at least one” of the parties to “ultimately submit a bid,” but this seems unlikely to happen anytime soon. Sister mountain Burke, meanwhile, has still not “generated sufficient jobs” to qualify for a sale at all (listen to my Storm Skiing Podcast conversation with GM Kevin Mack to see why this is the case). This means that both mountains are likely angling toward a fourth season of management under court-appointed receiver Michael Goldberg, who took over in the wake of the Ariel Quiros EB-5 scandal.
For the rank-and-file skier whose first concern is the flat fact of the mountains existing, this is not the worst situation to be in. Jay and Burke Passholders should throw Goldberg a parade when this is all over to thank him for keeping the lifts spinning rather than shuttering both mountains, as he easily could have done. Meanwhile, General Managers Steve Wright and Kevin Mack have done a fine job keeping Jay and Burke, respectively, cranking along in a climate of uncertainty that the Covid crisis has only exasperated. Pass sales increased 10 percent at Jay last season, according to the filing. Burke recorded its highest-revenue MLK weekend in history, and combined ticket and pass sales jumped eight percent overall.
Still, the shutdown, “will have a substantial impact on [Jay and Burke’s] finances,” the filing states. Join the club. This roster of the financially hard-up most likely includes most or all potential buyers. Jay and Burke might remain in this weird limbo for years.
Which is fine. Sometimes, weird works. And the situation in the Northeast Kingdom, while bizarre and tenuous if viewed without context, is working. For now. Eventually, someone needs to settle this. That someone does not need to be Vail or Alterra. While Epic and Ikon fans would likely welcome the Northeast’s top snowtrap onto their passes, skiers could also benefit from a smaller operator stepping in to provide a megapass counterweight. Preferably, this would be someone with a history of successfully operating ski areas and not plunging them Quiros-style into scandal.
There are plenty out there: Mountain Creek and Big Snow owners Snow Operating, the Fairbank Group, or the Schaefers, who own Berkshire East and Catamount. When Vail scooped up Peak Resorts, it left a vacuum, with no Northeast-focused independent with enough scale to provide an attractive regional pass offering. Jay, the Northeast’s Batman, with Burke in the Robin role, could provide the New England anchor to do exactly that. With Bousquet joining the Schaefers’ Berkshire Summit pass last week under new ownership, the precedent now exists for regional cross-company pass collaborations. Combine Jay and Burke’s Judge Pass with the Berkshire Summit Pass, and you have an I-91 no-brainer for powderhounds from Connecticut to the Canadian border.
Skiing some of Burke’s standout glades in March 2019.
Northeast season pass updates – all changes reflected in this chart
Deferral or refund options introduced this week
Bromley introduced a pass assurance plan that mirrors those that sister mountains Jiminy Peak and Cranmore announced last week: the ability to defer the value of a 2020-21 pass to the 2021-22 season by Nov. 1, and a 100-day-season guarantee, with a one percent credit toward the purchase of the following season’s pass for each day fewer than 100 that the mountain is open for skiing. Bromley previously introduced a payment plan and pushed their deadline to June 15.
Butternut rolled out a super simple pass deferral program: if you purchase but do not pick up your 2020-21 ski season pass for any or no reason, the mountain will automatically roll the pass to the 2021-22 season. Beautiful. Curiously, Otis Ridge, which shares ownership with Butternut, has not yet updated their pass policy (though the ski area’s pass, at $159, is among the cheapest in the region, so maybe they don’t plan on doing anything).
Running list of Northeast mountains offering refunds or deferrals on 2020-21 season passes: Vail/Epic Pass (Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, Wildcat, Attitash, Crotched, Mount Sunapee, Hunter, Roundtop, Whitetail, Liberty, Jack Frost, Big Boulder); Alterra/Ikon Pass (Stratton, Sugarbush); Pats Peak, Waterville Valley, Cranmore, Windham, Mount Peter, Plattekill, Bristol, Jay Peak, Burke, Magic, Bolton Valley, Killington-Pico, Smugglers’ Notch, Bromley, Boyne 3 (Loon, Sugarloaf, Sunday River), Lost Valley (ME), King Pine (NH), Elk (PA), Blue Mountain (PA), Spring Mountain (PA), Yawgoo (RI), Berkshire East/Catamount, Jiminy Peak, Wachusett, Butternut
Mountains that have committed to some sort of refund/deferral policy, but have not yet provided details (new category based upon my podcast conversation with Mad River Glen GM Matt Lillard): Mad River Glen
Notable holdouts (I have been told off the record that some of these mountains are working on policies): ORDA 3 (Whiteface, Gore, Belleayre), Greek Peak-Toggenburg, Holiday Valley, Cannon, Bretton Woods, Gunstock, Black N.H., Ragged, Shawnee Peak (Maine), Mt. Abram, Saddleback, Camelback, Seven Springs-Hidden Valley-Laurel
New pass releases
With their announcement that the mountain was under new ownership, Bousquet also released 2020-21 season pass prices, which will be $359 for ages 6 to 64. There is no obvious deadline listed for this early-bird price. The mountain will also join the Berkshire Summit Pass, which provides unlimited access to Berkshire East and Catamount, though there is no mention of this yet on their websites. No word yet on whether Bousquet will join the Indy Pass.
In one of the offseason’s more bizarre developments, Bretton Woods’ pass shot from $839 up to $1,029 on June 1. This is notably weird because skiers can still purchase a White Mountain Superpass – with unlimited access to Cannon, Waterville Valley, Cranmore, and, um, Bretton Woods – for $999 until June 30 (Bretton Woods’ site still lists the old May 31 deadline and a current $1,159 price for this pass, but the other mountains’ sites say June 30/$999; buying through Bretton Woods does confer a parking benefit at Bretton Woods, which, yay? Is that worth an extra $160?). So it’s cheaper to buy an unlimited four-mountain pass that Bretton Woods is a part of than it is for just Bretton Woods’ pass alone. This is why someone invented the person-smacking-their-forehead emoji. Why are you doing this to me, Bretton Woods? Is the world not confusing enough right now? Are you trying to look like you’re not paying attention? Maybe – Bretton Woods is also one of the few large Northeast mountains that is still not offering a payment plan or any kind of deferral or refund policy on next season’s passes. Their site also says you can “Ski the rest of the 2019-20 season on your new season pass when you purchase prior to April 20th, 2020!” So, yeah, someone’s checked out up there. Given current circumstances, I’m OK with that, but they should probably look into it.
The Berkshires Summit Pass increased from $479 to $549. The price increases to $599 on Sept. 1. The pass, which provides unlimited access to Berkshire East and Catamount, will also include Bousquet this year, as I outlined yesterday.
Smugglers’ Notch’s pass price increased modestly, from $549 to $579. There is no indication on their website that this will increase again.
McIntyre’s season pass is scheduled to increase from $259 to $309 today, June 2.
Spring Mountain, Pennsylvania’s pass price increased from $350 to $360. The next deadline is July 31. Notably, Spring is one of the smallest and most off-the-radar mountains to offer both a payment plan and a pass deferral policy.
Pass deadline extensions:
Black Mountain, New Hampshire extended their $499 early-bird deadline from May 31 to June 15. The mountain is still not offering a payment plan or any kind of pass assurance.
Additional season pass notes
Lost Valley, Maine’s May 25 early-bird date passed, but the pass price remains unchanged at $395, with no mention of a new date on the site.
West Mountain has the most 1996 website text layout I’ve seen since 1996, when the internet was brand new and we didn’t yet realize the society-destroying plagues it was poised to unleash. I know this because every week when I’m putting together this newsletter, I squint through the centered and stacked-without-logic information on the season pass page to figure out if the mountain has updated anything. They didn’t this week, which means that the now-passed May 31 deadline for the $499 pass is still listed. The pass does appear to still be available at this price.
Not much happening in ski-ville these days. This is pretty much the headliner of the week:
A-Basin was the fourth mountain to re-open for the 2019-20 ski season, and also the most high-profile, being in the Summit County epicenter of North American skiing. Alterra’s Crystal Mountain, Washington, joined them yesterday, as did Beartooth Basin, Montana, which is always a summer-only ski area (its access road, US 212, is closed in wintertime. I rode over this spectacular Wyoming-Montana connector on a motorcycle some years ago, and if you have any way to experience this drive in your lifetime, go). Mt. Baldy and Mt. Bachelor have already closed again, the former because it ran out of snow, the latter because it stated from the outset that it was returning only for a limited run.
This week in not skiing
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COVID-19 & Skiing Podcasts: Author and Industry Veteran Chris Diamond | Boyne Resorts CEO Stephen Kircher | Magic Mountain President Geoff Hatheway | NSAA CEO Kelly Pawlak | Berkshire East/Catamount Owner & Goggles for Docs founder Jon Schaefer | Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis Cofounder Jeff Thompson | Doppelmayr USA President Katharina Schmitz | Mt. Baldy GM Robby Ellingson | Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory |
The Storm Skiing Podcasts: Killington & Pico GM Mike Solimano | Plattekill owners Danielle and Laszlo Vajtay | New England Lost Ski Areas Project Founder Jeremy Davis | Magic Mountain President Geoff Hatheway | Lift Blog Founder Peter Landsman | Boyne Resorts CEO Stephen Kircher | Burke Mountain GM Kevin Mack | Liftopia CEO Evan Reece | Berkshire East & Catamount Owner & GM Jon Schaefer | Vermont Ski + Ride and Vermont Sports Co-Publisher & Editor Lisa Lynn | Sugarbush President & COO Win Smith | Loon President & GM Jay Scambio | Sunday River President & GM Dana Bullen | Big Snow & Mountain Creek VP of Sales & Marketing Hugh Reynolds | Mad River Glen GM Matt Lillard | Indy Pass Founder Doug Fish