Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jay Peak in 48 hours: a guest report

Here is the first "guest report" on the RJPSR, I hope there will be more. Will, Duper and Jer are three lads from Huntsville, Ontario who went to Jay for the first time earlier this week. Clearly, they have now  been stricken with the Jay Peak bug. Duper was on skis, Will and Jer the single plank. This is their story, as told by Will:

With two days off and snow in the forecast for the east, the only thing left to do was pack up the car and hit the road. Thanks to the trusty advice from the Great El Gordo (editors note: that would be me), we found ourselves heading to the hills of Vermont.

This must be the place.
We checked into Grampas Grunt's Hostel at about 10pm, Sunday, Feb. 13. Even when checking in you could sense that this was a place of history, a place of legends and with tales of the mountain to suit. Gramps got us checked into our room and informed us there would be no breakfast the next morning as he had a poker game to get to that night.

We woke the next morning bright and early and headed to Jay. We parked at Stateside, as this was the first piece of advice given to us from Gord. We knew that this was the side of the mountain to go to for the true "local experience." Little did we know that’s exactly what we were in for.

Standing eagerly at the bottom of the Bonnie, waiting for the lift to open, we met up with a fellow Gramps resident. Ed, aka VW, has been coming to Jay for over ten years. The story has it that he shows up in a different Volkswagen every time, hence the name.  He assured us that, without question, every time he rolls into town he stays at Gramps. More importantly, he let us know that he would be happy to ride with us up the first chair and "show us a few good spots" to check out on the mountain.

Somewhere down a rabbit hole.
Ed ended up riding with us the entire day, showing us the local lines that we never would have found without him. At the top of every run he would just shout, “follow me to the next rabbit hole” and, without fail, after every rabbit hole we found ourselves in some of the best tree skiing in the east. We rode everything from chutes, to tight lines, to wide open glades, all of which had at least knee deep fresh snow covering them.

We rode from first chair to last that day and even got a run in on The Dip, where we ended down at the road and hitchhiked back to the parking lot. We were hooked: Jay was the place to be.

Grampa Grunt atmosphere.
We spent the night at Gramps' again, cooked up a big feast and shared some beers with our new buddy and local tour guide Ed. He told us we were very fortunate to meet up with him, that usually he’s riding with others and he never would have shown three newbies the lines he did. We sat around the basement rec room; Gramps shared some stories of the 80’s, when the hostel was truly the place to be in the east. The wall mounted snowboards and skis, beer stained floors and dim lit atmosphere certainly made you think: that if only these walls could talk.

Our second day at Jay Peak was bluebird skies and sunshine. With the stashes on the windblown side of the mountain covered in snow, Ed continued to show us tree lines and always seemed to find the deep snow. The tram wasn’t running so we did a hike up to the summit to take in the views and get a run in on Valhalla. We also bagged two more runs on The Dip and called it a day after that. Figured we had to end on a high note. We thanked Ed repeatedly for his guide service and hit the road back to Ontario.
Stop taking pictures - let's go riding!

You want me to go where?
The result, three exhausted guys with memories of epic tree lines and deep fresh snow. My recommendation, go to Jay Peak. Check in at Gramps, soak up the atmosphere and hope you are as lucky as we were to run into Ed.

Thanks VW.

Here is a little postscript from Duper:

You know you are at a great mountain when you barely stop to take photos.  I'm still thinking about the terrain, the people and places of northern VT.  It's defiantly in the top four ski trips of all time for me personally. The green coat belongs to William.  Jer had the pumpkin coat.  I'm in grey with the blue bonnet. Last but not least, our tour guide Ed is Johnny Cash dressed all in black.

A single track is always a good sign.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A first for the RJPSR!

The other day, I stumbled upon a site called the Outdoor Blogger Network. Browsing through the blog categories, I thought: "hmmm, there is nothing about skiing here. Skiing happens outdoors and most skiers I know are outdoorsy-type people."

So, what the heck, I signed up and suggested that they add a "skiing blogs" section to their existing "outdoor athletics" category. They agreed with my logic and, lo and behold, the RJPSR is the first ski blog on the site.

So if you have a ski blog,  an outdoors blog, or just enjoy reading blogs about outdoorsy stuff, check out the the OBN.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Social media case study: hate VS debate.

Disclaimer: In case you haven't figured it out, this gang of Jay Peak skiers live a long way from Jay Peak. That's why you aren't reading an account of how great the skiing is right now. So if like me, you WISH you were at Jay Peak right now, and need something to distract you from the powder stories, feel free to read on.

Unless you have been living under a rock, with only dial-up Internet access, you'll have noticed that social media services like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and the like are increasingly being used by businesses to promote their products and services. In the tourism industry, which, like it or not, ski resorts are part of, progressive operators have been using social media for some time because they know that “creating the conversation” between themselves and clients, or even better, between clients and clients ABOUT the product, is a relatively easy way to keep people thinking about their operation. And if you keep thinking about something good, you'll want that something, even if you have to drive seven hours to get there.

The trouble is, keeping on top of the blog, chatter and tweet is yet another thing for the marketing person to do, more tasks to be completed in an already busy work day. Hopefully, the marketing person's boss gets it and doesn't chastise them for “spending too much time on the Internet.” Fans and followers come to expect regular blog posts, Facebook updates, tweets and responses to their comments. And you never know when it just might blow up in your face (book).

Let's take a look at two recent Facebook incidents that underscore the need for vigilance and responsibility. Two ski resorts, Jay Peak and Sunshine Village (near Banff, Alberta) have had Facebook blow-ups recently and dealt with them in very different ways.

If you follow ski industry news (and who doesn't, he asked facetiously) you will have heard about the recent public relations meltdown at SSV. If not, the very short version is that a junior patroller pulled the pass of someone who was skiing in a closed area. Turns out that the someone was Taylor Scurfield, the son of the resort's owner, Ralph Scurfield Jr. Shortly afterwards, several senior patrol and operations staff were fired. The remaining patrol had a bit of a protest and more were fired, including the rookie patroller who pulled young Scurfield's pass in the first place. Now the skiing public is up in arms on-line and the ex-employees are launching a wrongful dismissal suit. You can read the full story, along with links to various other discussions and articles, on MadPatSki's excellent and detailed recent blog post. But please come back.

At this writing, Sunshine Village has taken down their official Facebook page (the page that appears to be official is a “mirror” site, apparently not managed by the resort). When it was up, there was much heated discussion, a lot of hate, many people got banned, popped back under a new name, banned again, and so on. Several other pages have popped up, including pages for supporting the wronged patrollers, boycotting Sunshine, etc. etc. If you are on Facebook, try a search and you'll see what I mean. What a mess. The resort management appears to have completely given up on trying to communicate about the situation and mitigate this public relations disaster. There is no indication that anything is amiss on the resort's web site. The score: social media backlash, 1; Sunshine Village, 0. This will be a very interesting story to follow.

Meanwhile, over at Jay Peak's Facebook page, there has been some heated, but friendly, debate about the ongoing development project. As you can imagine there are a lot of people for it, and a lot of people against. The waterpark, in particular, seems to get folks pretty riled up. The screen shot below is of the Jay Peak Facebook post on Jan. 31. What started out as an innocent photo and comment about the waterslide developed into a 108 comment debate about development with the “fors” and “againsts” well represented throughout. It is worth reading. No matter what your stand is on the development, you have to admire the Jay Peak marketing team's thoughtful and attentive replies to the stream of comments. It takes a lot of work to stay on top of this stuff and keep a professional level of response going. The score: social media dialogue, 1; Jay Peak Resort, 1.

PS: The Jay Peak development story keeps popping up in various places, check out this recent thread on AlpineZone and several pages of back and forth on the TGR East Coast Stoke thread (note: the discussion starts about half-way down the page and goes on for about two more). Word of warning, if you have never visited TGR before, be prepared for some, uhhh, colourful language and more than colourful characters.