Monday, February 1, 2016

Early February Update

Greetings,

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.

Bruce Schmidt

Okemo GM

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bruce Schmidt VP/GM gives us an update on the snowmaking that's been going on all over the mountain for the past ten days.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Happy New Year!

Greetings, 

Happy New Year everyone! The ground is now white, more trails and lifts are open and the forecast is looking like snowmaking will be in full force for a while. Great news as we head into 2016. 

Speaking of snowmaking temperatures, the long range is looking pretty good heading into this coming week -- cold nights and daytime temperatures in the teens and 20's, increasing to the 30’s towards the end of the week. This will give Okemo snowmakers some great temps to lay down the snow. We are working in several directions now with guns running on Count Down/Sprint/ Moment’s rest as well as Rimrock, Defiance and also over on the lower half of Sapphire. Also on the snowmaking map are Sachem, Quantum Leap, Coleman Brook, Sidewinder and then we'll probably look towards Moonshadow. We are still looking to open additional trails in different lift pods with the slope side housing trails also an important part of our plan. We also hope to have the beginner teaching carpets ready to go by next weekend. 

Terrain parks are on our mind. While no firm commitment has been made, we are looking at beginning with Black Out and the zone area and moving on from there. We do realize there are no mogul trails yet and will do our best to find a place to make some soon. 

Okemo remains committed to our race and competition program and we are going to make snow on Wardance which will allow us to begin holding race training and race events. We do need to make enough snow to allow for fence installation so it does take a little bit more snow. We also understand that we need mogul trails and some terrain hits for snowboarding training. It is never easy to get all the different priorities, but we will continue to try. 

 Okemo ski patrol and safety patrol have been out on the slopes with a presence to both help guests and enforce safe and in-control skiing and riding. We all understand that there is limited terrain and at times it can be crowded. Education is key and will be our first goal, but Okemo will take unsafe activities seriously and we feel this is best for all of our guests. 

I realize that not everything was smooth this past Christmas Holiday week. No doubt some or many of you were caught in long lines, including lifts lines that were longer than normal. Many of you probably also feel that we should rethink our new RFID ticketing program. We have had some glitches, but we are constantly working out the bugs. The Tuesday and Wednesday of the past week were tough. I would agree that we should have had two base quads and the Sachem lift running sooner this week. We were up against such a weather issue that we just did not have the time or temperatures to make enough snow to get those two lifts running. The wind on Tuesday was tough and our communication on wind holds, shuttle services and other things that changed were more than likely not up to par in many instances. My guess is that we probably upset many of you who are our skiing guests. We had lines in our culinary departments and lines trying to book ski and ride lessons. While it is no excuse, our staff has worked hard and because of the weather in November & December, we were unable to do as much training as we normally do. Again, not your fault or an excuse, but more of a reality. 

My reason for mentioning these things is not for any sympathy or to excuse instances when we have fallen short. It is to let you know that we realize we had some issues, we do have some weaknesses and we do need to improve. I apologize for any inconvenience; we are sorry if you missed some skiing time and will do our best to make all of this up to you during the season. The Okemo TEAM is 100% committed to making your ski and ride experience the best possible and we are going to work doubly hard to keep you as a satisfied and loyal guest. The weather is a challenge, but out of our control. Our commitment is to improve and make better those things we can control and not worry about those things we cannot control. Our staff will remain positive and upbeat and look forward as 2016 arrives as we are all in this together! 

I want to take an opportunity to THANK all of our loyal guest -- seasons pass holders and Okemo Friends who have supported us this season and the past Christmas vacation week. There has been some great skiing and riding and no doubt some not so great skiing and riding, but the worst is behind us and now we are moving forward. Cold weather and hopefully some snow are on the horizon and we are looking forward to it 

Bruce Schmidt 
Okemo GM

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Take a look at the before and after effects of WS Goliath and the Okemo Snowmaking Crew. Amazing job at getting the mountain covered again! Video was shot on days 12-26-15 and 12-30-15.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Holiday Week Update

Greetings,

Christmas has come and gone and Santa was a little stingy with our gift of snow or cold weather!  None the less we will stay true to the Okemo commitment and work hard to provide the best skiing experience we can.

We are doing all we can to get the snow where needed and make the experience the best we can with the temperatures we are facing.  The mountain operations staff is leaving a Snow Groomer up on the summit during the day in the event that we need to try to move some snow or patch an area. We also have a groomer on staff ready to roll if need be.  At this point the terrain on the summit is for advanced skiers and riders only.

Our multiple weather forecasts are showing that snowmaking is looking to return on Sunday afternoon into the evening.  This forecast is showing cold temperatures lasting into Tuesday.  This will be great news for everyone and Okemo will be firing up the guns as soon as we can. Our snowmaking plan at this point is to begin making snow on existing terrain. We want to get Nor’easter back on line, and patch up all the other existing trails we are skiing and riding on now. We also need to make snow around the top of the mountain near the summit lodge & top of Sunburst and Green Ridge.  Depending on the temperatures, we expect to be able to max out our system and this will mean we can go on new terrain.  Some of our objectives will be Wardance, Sweet Solitude, Coleman Brook and Southern Crossing.

There is a forecast for natural snow to fall.  While this forecast is a long way out, we are hopeful for some natural snow. Normally the first snow fall does not allow us to be able to open up any new terrain. Depending on any new snow fall, we will seriously look at some of the trails near the condominiums and ski on ski off homes and decide if we should run a groomer on them to help pack things down. The trail then at least could be used by homeowners if possible.  I don’t have to tell you that our snowmaking plan and natural snow fall forecast can be very fluid and flexible and may change quickly.

Okemo ski patrol and safety patrol will be out on the slopes with a presence to both help guests and enforce safe and in control skiing and riding.  We all understand that there is limited terrain and at times it can be crowded.  Our Ski Patrol and Safety patrol team will be visible around congested areas at different times during the ski day and will be working with skiers and riders to make everyone aware of the need to share the slopes and to do so at a speed that is with the flow of traffic.  Education is key and will be our first goal, but Okemo will take unsafe activities seriously and we feel this is best for all of our guests.

There have been questions on our terrain parks.  Okemo has been trying to balance the terrain we have with our guests needs.  For this reason we have been putting some terrain features on existing terrain.  You will notice we have been moving some around.  We will continue to do this, but also realize that getting a terrain park up and going is a priority and we will do this as soon as we can.
Guest service is important to Okemo. As a reminder to help making purchasing a ticket easier, The ticketing kiosks located at the base of the Sunburst as well Solitude will be open beginning on 12/26  Guests with Real.Easy cards who have registered them can load tickets on their cards on line and go direct to the lifts.  Okemo is also providing some other activities for guests to do beginning on 12/26.  For the latest information: http://www.okemo.com/activities/holiday-week-activities/

Thank you for your support and loyalty during this time.  We all are in this together and that statement sure rings true this season.  I don’t have to tell anyone about the weather. Everyone at Okemo is working hard to make the skiing and riding as enjoyable as possible.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Heading to Jackson Gore...


Greetings,

The Okemo snowmakers are working hard and the temperatures look like they will be cooperating this weekend.  We have a very aggressive plan to be executed. Snowmaking has been strong and many objectives were met.  Below are some highlights and information on where we are, where we are headed and the Crystal ball of the future

  • Snowmaking has been going on since Friday afternoon.  The objectives are to work on some of the existing terrain while at the same time heading into new territory.  Our plan is to run as many snow guns as possible with the temperatures that we have.  With Saturday night being the coldest night we fully anticipate having up to 200 guns running across the resort.  Okemo is working hard to have the Jackson Gore base area open by Monday.  We can assure our loyal guests that the entire Okemo team is laser focused to making this happen.
  • Our snowmaking plan continues to be to make snow on trails that will be for the good of many. What this means is that we will work on trails many people can ski and ride, we will be staying away from expert trails, we won’t be working on terrain park trails, but will put out rails and hits on existing terrain, and we will work to spread out across the mountain.
  • Once we get the Jackson Gore area open our anticipated trail count will be around 25. With these trails we will have 8-10 lifts operating during the holiday week.
  • Our Terrain park features will be on the upper section of Sapphire.  Okemo is committed to having some aspects of our terrain parks on the side of the Sapphire trail so all our guests can enjoy what they want on the slopes.
  • There will be a shuttle service between Jackson Gore and the slopes until the Jackson Gore Base area is opened. This shuttle service will be operating through the day to move skiers and riders as needed.  Okemo will also be enhancing our shuttle service through the Christmas Holidays in the Solitude condominiums and Solitude Single Family homes areas.
  • The ticketing kiosks located at the base of the Sunburst as well Solitude will be opening after Christmas.  Until that time guests will need to go down to the Jackson Gore base area or the Clocktower base area for their tickets. Guests with Real.Easy cards who have registered them can load tickets on their cards on line and go direct to the lifts.  A great suggestion for those who are not near a ticket location.
  • The long range forecast if for milder weather to return after the weekend and go through Christmas Eve.  Around Christmas it is looking like some colder weather will be in place for hopefully some snowmaking.
  • Our plan moving forward with the next cold snap will be to shore up any existing terrain challenges and then heads towards another trail in Solitude, Wardance or lower Chief, and look at some lodging trails such as Sachem or some in the Solitude area.  We also will begin heading toward South Face with Count Down, Sprint, Moment’s rest on the list.  This will happen when the next long term cold spell arrives.
I know these challenges have not been easy on anyone, but a large part of the battle is remaining positive and optimistic.  Negativity is contagious, but optimism will change attitudes and bring about a vision that things will be better.

Okemo appreciates the loyalty and support that you have given us and we look forward to getting through these weather challenges and will continue to work at providing the best possible experience you can have while at Okemo.

Happy holidays to everyone and Think Snow!

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Weather Perspective

Greetings,

Despite the lackluster start to the season, it's insightful to look back at other years for comparison. This year is actually not the most challenging seasons Okemo has had. I took the date of December 6th to compare. In 2001 Okemo was closed until December 12th. In 2009 & 2011 we had 2 lifts and 4 trails open. So things can be worse! I know that many of you, as loyal Okemo guests, have questions and I am hopeful that I can answer some and instill some confidence in Okemo as we head into the Christmas Holiday time.


  • Snowmaking will happen whenever possible. We have staff working when there is a potential to fire up the guns. There have been some inversions when it was cold in the base and warm at the summit and guests wondering why we did not make snow. The rule of thumb is that if we think we can get a minimum of a couple of hours of snowmaking time, we go for it. 
  • Our snowmaking plan is to make snow on trails that will be for the good of many. What this means is that we will work on trails many people can ski and ride, we will be staying away from expert trails, we won’t be working on terrain park trails, but will put out rails and hits on existing terrain, and we will work to spread out across the mountain. 
  • We understand the importance of trails that give slopeside access. We will be working on a balance with these, but the reality is that we won’t be able to get all of these trails covered. 
  • If anyone is going to have snow it will be Okemo. Enough said. 


The long range forecast is looking at some up and down temperature fluctuation and limited precipitation. Looking towards the end of the month we are expecting some changes to more winter-like conditions. Okemo is doing all we can to make the skiing and riding experience the best it possibly can be. Our plan is to be flexible, adjust as necessary and to look at other activities and things to do around the resort.

 Our team members are remaining positive and optimistic. It is hard to make lemonade with these lemons, but we can remain confident that, when the weather does change, things will happen fast! 

The ski season is upon us. Let’s all focus on the positive and look ahead. Thanks for choosing to ski and ride at Okemo and for spending time with us during this holiday period.

 Happy holidays to everyone.

 Bruce Schmidt Okemo GM