Spotlight Slope of the Week: Okemo—Vermont
So many mountains, so little time; we know it might be hard to choose where to go when you only have a few precious free days in the season. The Active Times staff would like to help you make the best of your time in the snow. In addition to our gear reviews, ranked lists and interviews with the experts, we’ve started this section to gather the most important information you’ll want to know before booking a trip or heading out for a day on the slopes. Each week we will feature a new mountain, complete with statistics, snow conditions and plans for 2014. So, whether you’re thinking about your next big trip or you’re going last minute, check out the details on the top mountains here.
Location: Ludlow, Vermont
Chairlift pitch: “Okemo Mountain Resort is the second-most visited resort in the East and it ranks in the top 20 nationally for most-visited (according to the National Ski Areas Assoc.)
Okemo has been winning awards and accolades for having some of the best snow quality and grooming in the East for many years. The resort's dedication to providing a superlative snow surface (96% of trails are covered in snowmaking) includes some practices that make other resort operations crews shake their heads in disbelief—but it works. Okemo's recent $1 million investment in upgrades to snowmaking included another 225 energy-efficient HKD tower guns and upgrades to pumps and pipe—allowing Okemo to maximize snowmaking production starting on day one when winter rolls around. Top-of-the-line grooming machines and a veteran cadre of operators turns Okemo into corduroy city, but there are plenty of glades, bump runs and natural terrain to offer a variety.
Customer service is another place where Okemo excels. When Tim and Diane Mueller purchased the Resort 32 years ago, they wanted to make an immediate impression on visitors. They didn't have a lot of capital to make meaningful improvements to the infrastructure those first few years, so they focused on something that could make a difference … something that has been termed "The Okemo Difference" and continues today.
Another advantage (that comes with decades of experience) Okemo has over other resorts is its attractiveness to families. Tim and Diane raised their two children on the slopes at Okemo and as a skiing family; they know what families look for in a ski vacation or getaway. There's specialized learning terrain and easy trails leading down from nearly every chairlift. There's a variety for skiers and riders of all abilities. There are half a dozen terrain parks and a super pipe for thrill seekers. And there's all the base area convenience and comfort that a family could expect from a destination resort,” said Bonnie MacPherson, an Okemo mountain representative.
“Okemo: It's about snow, service and families … plus a lot more.”
True-up Vertical Descent: 1,902 feet according to Mountainvertical.com; 2,200 feet according to Okemo
Ski-able area: 655 acres
Ratios of difficulty (trail classification): 31 percent novice, 38 percent intermediate, 31 percent advanced
Number of trails/glades: 120
Number of lifts: 19
Hours of operation: 9 a.m.—4 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m.—4 p.m. weekends and peak
Avg. annual snowfall: 200 inches
Adult lift ticket price on their website: $82 weekdays; $89 weekends
Deals and discounts: Okemo is offering The Spring Skiesta Card, which gives the cardholder unlimited skiing from March 17 until the end of the season. The card costs $99 and if you’re looking into a 2014/15 season pass, you can apply the entire $99 toward the cost when you buy before May 1. The awesome 4.0 college pass is set to return for the upcoming season even better than before. And you can see other deals available through Okemo’s website here.
Renovations: The big addition for Okemo is the South Face Village project. Okemo has partnered with Ted Rossi, a passionate Okemo skier, to complete the massive plan. The resort has begun clearing for the first lift, and when the project is finished there will be seven new trails on 22 acres, snowmaking capability and a new base lodge. For Ted’s side of the project, he has secured permits and will begin building 208 total residences, ranging from single-family homes to penthouses. Okemo hopes to have construction on the lifts underway for the 2014/15 season, the residence building could take 10 years, but presale of the homes could start as early as 2015.
Events: Okemo has plenty more to do before the snow season ends. The Sugar Daze Concert Series continues on March 14 and 15, featuring international artist Matisyahu and a “giant beer garden.” Okemo will also host the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge Finals from March 28 to 30. The challenge series is free and open to both “skiers and boarders of all ages and abilities.”
Recommendations: If you’re looking to grab a drink, The Sitting Bull is the base area bar featuring live entertainment on weekends and holidays. “If you're looking for local color, it's Tom's Loft Tavern, located next door to Okemo's Clock Tower Base Area. This little red barn gets rocking as a locals' favorite and bar-of-choice for Okemo's Ski + Ride School staff. The exterior sign on the building says it all … ‘warm beer, lousy food and grumpy owner.’ The truth is that Tom isn’t all that grumpy,” said Bonnie MacPherson, an Okemo representative.
Bonnie suggests Epic for lunch, as they feature an amazing menu and locally renowned chef. The low prices only sweeten the deal. For dinner the number one choice is the Coleman Brook Tavern. “Okemo’s most elegant and intimate culinary experience” features a wine room for adult dining, but also welcomes families. The extensive wine menu features 542 wines from around the world, and the restaurant was the recipient of the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, the information above was found at the mountain’s website.