Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Answers to your questions, and a look ahead!


There are always plenty of questions as to why and how we do some things around here at Okemo, so I wanted to try and answer some of the questions.  Communication is important with our loyal guests, and it is always good to bring everyone up to speed.

The Sunburst Six is performing as we expected. This past week was a tough one.  We had freezing rain, sleet, rain and snow.  The Sunburst Six was late on several days and did not run one day last week.  Yes, the chairs are stored indoors, but the issue we had was on the towers themselves.  When there are no chairs on the line, there is less weight on the cable, and thus the sheaves may not always turn.  When this happens,  the Mountain Operations guys need to climb each tower and “pound” those sheaves which are not turning to get the ice off of them.  It is hard work and takes time. We also are cautious about putting the Sunburst Six chairs out on the line, if there is freezing rain. If the tractions plates get slippery, the chairs struggle to go through the terminals. It is hard to push a 1200 pound chair through the terminal when there is a problem.  The timing of the freezing rain, and the time it was taking to work on the towers to remove the ice, really affected getting the Sunburst Six and other lifts opened last week. I am hopeful that we won’t see weather like that again for a while.

There have been questions as to how we decide on lifts which operate.  Let me begin be saying that this past Saturday I made a mistake!  The Glades Peak or Green Ridge should have been running on Saturday.  I will take responsibility for that one.  Each week I review, with our Mountain Ops managers, the lifts we are going to operate, and we felt that with access into South Face by Cat Nap, that it would be fine to only run the Sunburst Six.  Not the correct decision, and we adjusted on Sunday.  I will pay more attention to that in the future.  I would like to think it won’t happen again!

Guests have been asking about the speed of the Sunburst Six.  Okemo, working with Leitner POMA, has been running the Sunburst Six at different speeds since opening day.  This was done to put hours on the equipment with different levels of stress and usage. These speed “steps” began at 700 feet per minute and go up to 1000 feet per minute.  The lift has completed this process, and we can now run at full speed. The Sunburst Six has a top speed of 1000 feet per minute, which was the same as the old Northstar.  My only caveat on this is that there are still times when the Sunburst Six is run slower due to weather and wind.  This was the case this past Saturday. For most of the day, the Sunburst Six was running around 750-800 feet per minute due to windy weather.  When there are wind concerns, we always have a lift mechanic at the top watching what is going on, and if the wind dies down, increasing the speed as we can.

The heated seats are a great addition.  There have probably been a few times when you might not have felt the heat?  This is because there are still 13 chairs which do not have the heat operating yet.  Between Leitner- POMA and Okemo working on these specific chairs, we hope to have them all working by Christmas. Some of the chairs need to have the wire run and we are also waiting on some brushes, which go up on the top of the grip and are the electrical conductor for the seat heaters.

Having some colder weather would be very welcome at Okemo, so the snowmaking effort can go even stronger.  We are planning to open Moonshadow and Tucker Out early this week and hope to be going after some other terrain in South Face, the Clock Tower base area and Morning Star.  I am hopeful that colder weather will be arriving closer to Christmas, in looking at the long range weather forecasts.  In order to get more terrain, we will need colder temperatures.  Okemo is committed to making snow into the Christmas holidays, as needed, as we want new terrain too.

Thanks for your support and patience.  Your loyalty is appreciated

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Sunburst Six begins operation today!!


Today is the day we have been all waiting for, the Sunburst Six will begin operation to our skiers and riders.  

This preview of the Sunburst Six will be happening today, beginning at 9am.  As the Okemo team has been so aggressive, we made the decision to open the Sunburst Six without the seat heaters.  There is still some work to be done to get the electrical brushes attached to the chair, as well as the electrical collector plate in the terminal in place.  We weighed the options and decided that it was going to be best to get the lift going and work on the seat heaters at night.

Words can’t describe how proud all of us here at Okemo are of the new Sunburst Six.  Our staff has been so committed to making this lift project their #1 commitment this past summer.  To give you a feel for the time frame, consider this:
  • Some tree cutting on the line began on July 1
  • Concrete forms were begun to be made on July 7th
  • Work began in earnest on the project on July 14th.
If you do the math, July 14 to November 29 is 139 days!  That means the Northstar Express was removed, shipped to Mount Sunapee, and then all new towers and terminals were installed for the Sunburst Six.  A 60' x 120’ building was built and new electrical lines were installed on the summit.

During this time, there were over 50 Okemo employees who worked on the project, along with numerous contractors who worked on different phases of the project.  Okemo also had a very close working relationship with the lift manufacturer.  Leitner-POMA of America has been a real partner with Okemo on this project and has met many obstacles and challenges with a can-do attitude.

All of us here at Okemo are very proud of this newest addition to our lift system, and we cannot thank enough the hard work of all the Mountain Operations staff and Okemo Team members, as well as the unwavering support from all of our dedicated and loyal Okemo skiers and riders.  Enjoy the ride, and we will get those seat heaters going soon enough!

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM