by Becky Hayes
Ski resorts may not have started out as an ideal place for a summer vacation, but Vermont’s favorite mountains are working hard to change their image as a one-season destination.
“There’s no such thing as an off season anymore,” said JJ Toland, Jay Peak’s communications director.
Now Jay Peak, like many other resorts in the state, is operating year round and offering more than a few summer attractions.
After its completion in December 2011, the Jay Peak Pump House Indoor Waterpark is finishing up its second summer season with monetary goals met each and every week, Toland said.
Last summer, the waterpark saw more than a quarter of a million people go through it, Toland said.
“The Pump House exceeded our wildest expectations in terms of visitorship,” he said.
The Pump House is a 60,000 square foot, dome-shaped room with a retractable roof made entirely of glass. The roof and side doors open when the weather is nice, transforming the space for use all year round.
“You can even get a sunburn in here, doors open or closed,” Toland said.
The features of the park include water slides, a Big River that runs around the room, a kids play area, hot tubs, family arcade, snack bar, poolside bar and surf shop.
The two main attractions are La Chute - a 65-foot tube slide that drops you straight down at 45 miles per hour and spins you 360 degrees in six seconds - and Double Barrel Flowrider - a cross between skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding in which you use lightweight boards to surf on a manmade, continuous wave.
“Our claim to fame is that you can say you’ve surfed in Vermont,” Toland said.
Like many other ski resorts throughout the country, Jay Peak needed to morph into a year-round business, because only having 140 to 150 days of business wasn’t sustainable, Toland said.
So in the 1980s ski resorts started to build golf courses, but the problem wasn’t fully solved because golf is a sport that not everyone plays.
“The Pump House was born out of necessity,” he said.
Summer is a significant season for Vermont’s overall tourism economy, Parker Riehle, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, told the Times Argus.
“In addition to the golf courses at seven of our state’s ski resorts, the ski areas have constantly been on the move to expand their summer offerings with mountain biking, disc golf, zip lines and canopy tours, in addition to pushing hard for wedding business,” Riehle said.
But Toland said the waterpark hasn’t just contributed to bringing in revenue during the summer.
When families plan ski vacations, there is always an element of stress because weather is unpredictable, Toland said. By adding the water park, you can remove that stress.
“Even if you look back as recently as the 2011/12 winter, which was a short winter - come Christmas we only had 20 trails open - the industry as a whole when that was happening saw cancellations across the board.
“Everyone was down 20 percent, we were up 4 percent,” Toland said. “No one cancelled because they came and skied on the 20 trails, got bored around noon and came into the Pump House.”
Dana Heter, a 19-year old from Richford, works as a lifeguard at the water park and said teens can apply online since the job is geared toward high school students.
“I love when there are people to talk to,” Heter said when asked what she likes about the Pump House. “It’s really clean and any of the slides are the best attractions.”
Jay Peak also offers an NHL-sized hockey arena, conference center which holds public concerts, golf, hiking and tram rides. On the stateside of the mountain, Toland said they are building a brand new hotel and recreation center featuring a cinema, self-belaying rock climbing wall and a game room Toland described as similar to Dave & Buster’s.
And Jay isn’t the only Vermont resort looking to bring in a summer crowd. Below is a list of other mountains that offer year-round attractions.
Summer in the mountains:
Okemo Mountain resort:
A new wedding garden that can accommodate 200 people and be used to host receptions
An Adventure Zone including zipline tours, mountain coaster, miniature golf, trampoline bungee jumping, inflatable big-air bag, climbing pinnacle, disc golf and Segway tour
Concert and festival venue
Stowe Mountain Resort:
Hiking, driving or riding to the peak of Mount Mansfield
Play tennis at the Mountain Tennis Club
The alpine slide at the base of Spruce Peak
36-hole golf course
Smugglers’ Notch Resort:
Splashville, a water playground for youngsters six and under
Eight pools, four waterslides and a giant water trampoline
Zipline canopy tour
Outdoor activities including hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and biking
Llama treks. Yes, you can walk around the woods with a llama.
Triathlon Training Workshops
The Wolverine Challenge — a six-mile course with 25 military obstacles
Wanderlust Yoga extravaganza
Activities like paintball, golf and tennis schools
The Indoor Amusement Center includes inflatable jousting, bounce house, airborne adventure, giant obstacle course, Dance Dance Revolution and a 14' video screen.
Biking Kingdom Trails, recognized as one of the best mountain biking trails networks in Vermont