February is upon us here at Okemo and this milestone usually marks the halfway point of the winter season. We are around day 70 for skiing and riding here at Okemo. I can’t thank the entire staff enough for all they have done to make Okemo the leader of terrain in Vermont and New England with 520 acres. We are pushing hard to maintain the terrain and keep our grooming top notch.
I wanted to mention a few things to keep the lines of communication open.
Snowmaking will continue through February. Our plan is to make snow when possible the entire month. It most likely won’t be 7 days a week and maybe not around the clock, but we are going to be aggressive. If there are some good temperatures we will be going for it. Surface conditions are very important and this will be a priority. We also have some other trails to make snow on and those include Dream Weaver, Triple Sec, Lower Fall Line, Eclipse and possibly Ledges. I know that everyone has their favorites, but most likely we won’t get to all the snowmaking trails we have.
Guests have asked about the construction of the Amp Energy Superpipe. I can assure you we had some discussions about this and in the end it was decided that we wanted to provide different experiences for our guests. Making snow in the Superpipe is actually pretty easy because of the snowmaking pipe arrangement and there is always water going up the Superpipe and Sel’s Choice trail. This allows the guns to be turned on when it is cold. The snow we made there was made when it was very cold. The building process does require snowcat time, but we do have our longest-employed operator Bill, who works the day shift for us, available to do most of the work. So we aren’t taking an employee off of a night grooming shift. There is some expense to making the Superpipe and our Terrain Parks, but we do feel that having the only Superpipe in New England and the best Terrain Parks around are worth the grooming and snowmaking time. We hope you will agree, too.
No doubt you will see some operational changes which we will be making around the resort. These changes have been thought through and discussed due to skier and rider levels as well as midweek vs weekend volume. With these changes we have taken into account options -- we work hard at providing options for our guests. If there is a change we try to provide something similar or another option for our guests. When it comes to the operations of lifts we do try to provide a way to get to all the trails. I realize that it may not always be the most convenient and may take a little more time, but the options have been reviewed, and between me and our mountain manager, we have tried to find a balance. We will be communicating any changes as timely as possible.
Our RFID ticketing system is improving, but not perfect. I’m sure there are some stories about reload issues or 3&Easy challenges, but rest assured we are working on making the process better and easier. Some of these fixes will be longer term in that we need to work on them in the off season and some are being done immediately. I do realize there have been some longer lines than I would like to see as well as our guests. This is being discussed at the highest levels of Okemo and we are trying new solutions and working on problems. There is some frustration all around, but I feel things are getting better. We have in the 10’s of thousands cards registered and more every day. Reloads are happening 24 hours a day and this in turn is allowing skiers and riders to bypass the ticket windows. It will get better -- I promise.
Snow grooming is happening every night. We are mountain tilling almost all our trails every night as well as power tilling them. There are normally 5 or more Snowcats out on the mountain and we run two shifts, 3pm – 12am & 12am – 9am. Each night a decision is made on where grooming will begin as we switch from starting in Solitude/Jackson Gore Area, to starting in the South Face area. We switch start locations so that different areas can set up more. The quality of skiing morning can be impacted with the set up time during the night.
Your support of Okemo is appreciated. No doubt what we provide to our guests can always improve. We strive to have the best possible skiing and riding experience and that experience is encompassed by the grooming, the ticketing, the lifts you ride, where you eat and where you sleep. Thanks for supporting us through this season.