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The Transformation of Jay Peak


The expansion of the Jay Peak Ski Resort in northern Vermont is well underway. The dense forest below the 4,000-foot mountain is being transformed into an 18-hole golf course designed by Graham Cooke of Canada. The project is all part of a transformation that will take the former winter-only facility into a year-round destination resort in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

“The four seasons of Vermont are nowhere more evident than the pristine Northern Kingdom and Jay Peak,” related Bill Stenger, president of Jay Peak Resort, in comments to Tony Chamberlain of the Boston Globe. Stenger is overseeing the master plan that will convert the facility into a major multi-sport recreational hub.

The so-called Northeast Kingdom was named in the 1960s to describe the tri-county area it encompasses. Caledonia, Essex and Orleans counties comprise the northeast corner of Vermont. The 2,000-square-mile region is bordered to the north by Canada and to the east by the Connecticut River and New Hampshire. Though it has emerged as a hotbed for outdoor sports, the Northern Kingdom has resisted change for most of its history.

But with fairly easy high access via surface roads, that former isolation is changing. “Boston has been the biggest growth market,” Stenger said. “That has happened in skiing for the last few years, and now the Northeast Kingdom appeals year-round. There’s just an authenticity of place here that makes it unique – you don’t find it in other places.”

Besides the $10-million, 18-hole championship-caliber golf course, the $100-million resort expansion involves a doubling of the ski areas, dozens of new condominiums, and renovations to the 30-year-old Hotel Jay. All told, Jay Peak’s overnight accommodations will grow to 1,100 beds this year to a total of 1,650 in 2006. Despite the additional facilities, only 150 acres of the 4,000-acre resort will be impacted, with the remainder of the land left in its glorious natural state.

Many of the projects at Jay Peak have received financing from state and federal subsidies. The funds are earmarked for development of industry and jobs in a region beset with rural poverty. The expanded resort will create hundreds of new jobs and will provide a much-needed boost to the local economy.

In general, Northern Kingdom’s way of life won’t change much with Jay Peak’s growth. With its wide roads virtually devoid of traffic, the area will still be easy to navigate. Many of the routes, including Highway 114, a north-south artery from Canada to Lyndonville, see more bicycles than automobiles.

One famous resident of the Northern Kingdom is Bill Lee, the former left-handed Red Sox pitcher whose antics on and off the mound led to him being dubbed “The Spaceman.” In comments to Chamberlain, Lee said, “A traffic jam in Craftsbury is when you get out of your car after a thundershower to move a bullfrog off the driveway, and a 2-year-old moose on his way to rendezvous with one of those Jersey heifers walks by wondering what all the excitement is about.”

If the weather cooperates, Jay Peak’s new golf course will open in summer 2005. Related plans include a clubhouse, a golf academy and perhaps another nine holes. For updates on the project, visit www.jaypeakresort.com.