Thursday, February 23, 2017

Late February Update





Greetings,

The month of February has brought plenty of snow, sunshine and warm weather. Okemo guests have been treated to great ski & ride conditions and we expect it to continue into March. 

This past holiday weekend was a good one at Okemo. While there were no records set, skier visits were very strong and I can’t thank all of our loyal skiers and riders enough. There were some operational challenges, including longer lift lines, slower than normal food service, and some muddy parking lots, but Okemo continues to work on all aspects of our operation and we strive to provide the best experience possible for our guests.

I have been asked about how this past week's weather pattern has affected the skiing conditions and snow. There's no doubt that the snow has been more edgeable and carveable. Grooming has been happening every night and the groomers have been changing their patterns to mix things up. The grooming begins in Solitude each night, since it is closest to the Maintenance Shop. As soon as ski patrol finishes their nightly sweep, the groomers head to either Jackson Gore or the South Face area. Switching things up allows for each area to set up differently. The area which is groomed first is always firmer and on sunny days, can be the best place to start your day of skiing or riding.

Snowmaking will continue, even as spring approaches, whenever temperatures permit and we will remain aggressive in keeping our trails open and lifts operating. The snowmakers have been cleaning up some of their hoses and guns, but are poised and ready to go as needed. We are increasing snow depth for high traffic areas and working on some of our main line trails. Heading into March, we are expecting some great spring skiing and riding!

Okemo is stoked to host the Volvo Sponsored Sugar Daze concert in the Jackson Gore Courtyard. This free concert is scheduled for Saturday March 11th and goes from 3:30 – 8:30pm. A local warm-up act will take the stage at 3:30. MAGIC! will dazzle the crowd with their catchy fusion of reggae, pop and R&B, starting at 5:45. Then at 7:15, two-time Grammy and World Music Award nominee Paul Oakenfold will perform. Sugar Daze is always a great time for everyone!

This week, Vail Resorts purchased Stowe Mountain. Okemo has congratulated Vail on their purchase and we welcome them to Vermont. Stowe is a great resort and we are sure that Vail will continue the great skiing and riding experience that Stowe is known for. Having Vail in Vermont may result in Okemo adjusting some of the ski experience offerings available, but that will come with time.  Presently, we are in wait-and-see mode and we'll continue to concentrate on the positive energy Okemo has going, as well as focus on what we can offer for our guests.

Here is to a long winter and a great spring skiing experience. Thank you for your continued support and for a great February vacation week!

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM



Friday, January 13, 2017

MLK Weekend Update




Greetings,

Okemo has just surpassed Day #50 for the ski season and we are in full mid-winter mode.  The ski season has been going along well and we are looking forward to a strong Martin Luther King 3-day weekend.

The weather has been challenging off and on this winter and that is true this week.  There has been some wet weather, some sunny weather and some cold weather. The great news is that this weekend we are looking at the sunny and cold.  The January temperatures are welcome and will make for a great ski weekend.  There is no doubt that the skiing surface will be variable…we can’t prevent that. But I can tell you that Okemo groomers will be diligently working the snow with mountain tilling, blading and power tilling the best we can.  We will also have the winch cat out on the steeper terrain each night pulling snow up from the bottom and moving things around.  Also helping out will be the snowmaking team.  Snowmakers will be doing their part with an aggressive push on existing terrain.  This will mostly focus on the main line trails in the center of the mountain and head out towards Jackson Gore and Glades peak into South Face.  While we won’t be able to tackle every trail, the plan will be to run and gun, lay out some manmade snow and then move. We are hoping to cover a large percentage of the trails over the weekend both during the day and night.

Work on the Amp Energy Superpipe has begun and between the snowmaking and grooming we are coming along well.  If you haven’t seen the photos, check out the picture above or on our Facebook page.  Lots of snow has been made and now we will push the snow down the superpipe and onto the walls. After that comes more snowmaking and then more shaping. It is a long process but worth it in the end.  I can assure you that the work on the Amp Energy Superpipe is not impacting the snowmaking effort and grooming we are doing on the mountain at all.  We always work on the ski terrain and then go to the Superpipe.

There are times when our business levels are strong on the slopes and around the resorts and I know that there is no doubt some frustration with lines, crowded buildings, full parking lots and lots of skiers and riders. I want to assure you that all of us here at Okemo are committed each day to do our best to keep lines moving, lodges cleaned up, cars moving and doing what is possible to have a great day on the slopes.  I know that we won’t always reach the mark, but the Okemo Team will try and provide the Okemo Difference every day.  Thanks in advance for your support and patience.

Bruce Schmidt

Okemo GM

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A White Christmas at Okemo!



Okemo skier and riders,

It is a great winter morning here at Okemo and we are making snow hard and fast. Wednesday night we ran around 150 guns and were maximizing our use of water. Most of those guns are HKD guns so when it gets colder they can use more water and make more snow.  This past week added some natural trails along with adding Defiance and Sel’s Choice.

As we head into the weekend, we will be looking to add the South Face area, with Stump Jumper and Blind Faith most likely being open for skiing and riding as well as Rimrock, Moon Dog, Sun Dog, Moment’s Rest and Sprint.  The snow report mentioned making snow on Dream Weaver, but I want to clarify that that is only the bottom section from Stump Jumper down. We haven’t made snow on the upper section and most likely won’t for the time being.  Also on the list for this weekend is adding Sachem, Wardance, Bull Run, Liftline and the Galaxy Bowl.

During this cold snap, we will be looking to make snow on Upper and Lower Chief as well as Coleman Brook and Sidewinder.  The plan is to work our way towards Moonshadow and Morningstar with the hope of having them open by Christmas.  We will also be working towards Tuckered Out in the Jackson Gore area.

Some of our lower mountain objectives will be expanding terrain in the base area to include Robbins’ Nest, Ledgewood and Kettlebrook.  The natural snow we have received will help the trails in the long run, and we have been rolling the trails with a roller and snow cat to pack down the snow.  Looking further out, I anticipate the snowmaking operations to head back towards the South Face area and the SouthFace Village trail as well as working on some of the lift line trails we haven’t gotten to yet.

This weekend Snow Park Technologies (SPT) will be on-site building the Crazy Train Terrain Park as well as some features in “The Zone” area.  The groomers have also added moguls to the Plunge.  We will have that closed on Saturday for a “B” mogul meet.  It is always great to showcase the excellent talent of the Okemo Freestyle competitors.  I will be honest and say that I don’t anticipate any work being done on the Superpipe until early 2017.

With this new terrain added we are also expanding other operations including the opening of Epic Restaurant at the base of Solitude on Saturday, December 17th, Coleman Brook Tavern opening for lunch and dinner 7 days a week and Siena opening for dinner on Friday, December 16th.  Also, opening will be the Sugar House cafeteria.  An exciting time here at Okemo as we add more for our guests to enjoy, on and off the hill.

This week, we have been diligently making ice at the Ice House with our new refrigeration system, and we will be skating this weekend! Be sure to check it out and watch our new Zamboni work on the surface.  It is just like the TD Garden!

Many thanks to you for your support of Okemo and I want to wish you Happy Holidays.  As always, if you have a question, please send it along.  The entire Okemo team will do our best to give you the best skiing and riding possible!

Enjoy it out there on the hill!

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Saturday, December 3, 2016

December Outlook




Okemo Friends,

December has arrived at Okemo and with that some great early season skiing and riding as well as a strong snowmaking push. While the weather has been up and down, the Okemo Mountain Operations staff has been able to open up almost 80 acres of terrain.

We have had 18 days of making snow since early November and we have made snow on more than 20 trails – with 11 currently open for skiing and riding. While the crew worked hard to get top-to-bottom trails, they also have been working to head into the Solitude area, and now Jackson Gore. The snowmaking game plan is broken down into the Upper Mountain, Mid Mountain and Base area. Imagine the mountain being broken into two sections: trails above the Black Ridge, Solitude and Jackson Gore all being upper Mountain, and trails below the top of the Black Ridge the lower Mountain. As you can imagine, I get lots of questions on what is happening as we head into the holidays. Here are some answers.

What is the snowmaking Plan?  That is a pretty broad question, but I can tell you that we balance the best possible skiing and riding with the addition of new terrain as quickly as possible. Presently, we are working with our patrollers and other departments who are on the slopes to decide if we need to make snow on existing terrain. Some of our capacity is committed to that while the rest is committed to adding terrain. We are headed toward Solitude with snow being made on The Plunge, Heaven’s Gate, Screamin’ Demon, Mountain Road, Sweet Solitude and Roundhouse Run. This will get us into Solitude as well as toward Jackson Gore. 

Why make snow on The Plunge?  The Plunge is an easy continuation down from Sapphire. We use the Plunge for both a way into Solitude, and as access to our Maintenance shop. We need a trail near the Maintenance shop to get the snow cats out on the slopes as well as move food trailers to the Summit Lodge. While we could make on Village Run, the Plunge is a better skiing trail than Village Run is, so it makes sense to head there. It also allows us to make Moguls if we wanted to earlier in the season.

When will Jackson Gore be open?  Snowmaking guns are set up on some of the Jackson Gore trails and we will be making snow there most likely Saturday night. Snow will be made first on Blue Moon, Sunset Strip, Lower Limelight and, if possible with HKD temperatures, Vortex and Quantum Leap. If the temperatures come in like we expect, we will also make snow on Inn Bound, Fast Track and Expresso. The plan is to have the Jackson Gore base area open by Saturday December 12. We will have a better feel by early next week. 

How much longer do we have to ride the Sachem Quad?  I know the ride on the Sachem is not the best, but as I always say, it is better than riding the shuttle bus! I am hopeful that we will be riding the Base Quad and skiing down Lower Arrow within the next couple days. The mountain skis better when the quads are operating, so we want to get there as soon as we can.

What about snowmaking on the slopeside lodging trails?  Believe me, I understand the importance of this.  The plan will be to get to those trails before Christmas or soon after. We want to get more terrain open to give more skiing and riding options, and we will pick off some of those lodging trails when we have some capacity. 

What about Wardance?  Once we have Lower Arrow open we will begin to work on some other mid-mountain trails. This most likely will include Lower Chief, Wardance, Black Out and Village Run. I want to have the racers in their own area so training can begin and Okemo can begin to hold competition events.

What about Terrain parks?  We have discussed where our first terrain parks will be worked on and most likely that will be either the Crazy Train Terrain Park or the Lower Tomahawk Terrain park. Both require lots of snow, so we would be doing this only if, and when, we have colder temperatures.

How long will the features stay on Nor’easter?  Okemo is working hard to create some terrain features and rails to balance out the skiing and riding, and have options for everyone. We plan to have terrain park features on skiable terrain until we have a terrain park built and open.

When will there be beginner terrain? As there are snowmaking temperatures in the base area, more of the base area, mountain road and open slope will be widened. We will focus on the F-10 learning area first and then the Mountain Road from the top of the Base quads.

Is Okemo grooming every night during the warmer weather? Yes, Okemo is grooming slopes and trails every night. There may be some areas with less snow that we are working around, but the majority of every trail is being groomed. When it was colder, Okemo ran some mountain tillers to help the surface. We will do this again as the temperature drops to keep the surface softer. Okemo grooming and snowmaking are making for a great skiing experience.

What is Christmas holiday period looking like for slopes and trails?  Whenever I am asked this question I am quick to let everyone know that, contrary to popular belief, Okemo does not have a crystal ball. I will say that Okemo will work hard to get as much terrain open as possible. We will work hard to have a great skiing product on our existing terrain. Our goal would be to have some terrain open in all the different mountain pods.  You can be assured that Okemo snowmakers will be making as much snow as possible whenever possible!  There is no issue with water supply, we have our generators in place, and there is a great snowmaking team that is supported by a strong Mountain Operations team to give all they have every day. 

This is a sample of the questions I hear and am asked. I am hopeful that I have answered some of your questions.  As always, if you have a question send it along. The entire Okemo team will do our best to give you the best skiing and riding possible!

Enjoy your days on the slopes,

Bruce Schmidt

Okemo GM

Friday, October 28, 2016

Halloween Weekend Update



Greetings,

It is Friday October 28th and Okemo woke up to around 9 inches of new snow on the summit, about 6” at mid-mountain and 2-3” in the base area. The ground is white and looking like winter! This will bode well as we look to begin snowmaking early next week. While the weather is looking a little mild, we are hoping for some colder nights which might allow us to at least test the system.

There have been some questions as to why we did not make snow last week when it was colder. Killington has been aggressive in their snowmaking and opened for skiing this week. While we applaud and congratulate Killington, we have to keep in mind that Okemo has unique weather challenges, especially in the fall.  Killington has a higher elevation than Okemo and it does get colder earlier. When making a decision to “push the button”, I look at a lot of factors and discuss things with our team. We want to be smart and aggressive.  Early season if there is no long-term cold in place (temperatures in the 20s at night and maybe 30 - 40 during the day) the snow does not set and thus there is more loss. The best way to make the decision is to look at different weather models and rely on experience. Okemo is shooting for early November; even if we had made snow last week and received this snow, we would not have been able to get open for skiing and riding next week.  Again, smartly aggressive!

To keep you up to speed on some of the things we do around the resort, I want to talk about grooming. Okemo purchased a 2016 Prinoth Bison X Terrain Park Groomer. It will be great to have this versatile machine in our fleet for both grooming on mountain and in the terrain parks. This new machine is our first of many machines that will be the new “energy-efficient” model. The NEW BISON boasts a 406 HP motor, yet also offers low fuel consumption and a 90% reduction in nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions in-line with the “Stage IV/Tier 4 final” exhaust emission standard set by the federal government. Okemo is excited to be able to have this new machine and be helping the environment also.

All in all, things are coming together for the winter.  Paper products, propane and other storable items have been delivered to the Summit and Sugar House.  It is always good to get those items in around the last couple weeks of October.  Then there are no issues when snow is made on Buckhorn and the road is closed.  Oh, and by the way, the Mountain Road is closed for the winter. Sorry, but we aren’t going to be plowing the road until Spring!!

Get ready for skiing and riding, the time is near!!

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

An Okemo Winter Preview!

Installing snowmaking pipes at SouthFace Village.


Greetings,

Fall is in full swing here at Okemo and we are enjoying the colors, but at the same time preparing for the winter and getting the resort ready for everyone to do some skiing and riding.

There have been some questions concerning how the lack of rain will affect snowmaking this coming winter.  I want to put everyone at ease that the Okemo snowmaking ponds are full!  While it has been dryer than normal this summer, there was pumping that was done into our storage ponds during the earlier part of the summer and we feel comfortable with what we have and are ready to go.  The weather patterns always balance out and it is likely that we will see some wet weather this fall which should raise the river level before snowmaking begins.

Snowmaking is on track and set to begin around November 1st.  This date is fluid and if we were to go earlier we would need to see some long term cold weather, but it is safe to say we will be ready to light up the guns right after Halloween.  Our plan would be to try to get open as soon as possible with our anticipated opening hopefully in early November.

I am sure there are some questions on the RFID ticketing system and the Real.Easy card and how that will be working this winter.  We understand and realize that there were some challenges this past season. And while some of these can be attributed to a new program, we also realize there were some software challenges, and we have worked hard this summer to hopefully fix these issues. The way we will distribute the 3&Easy cards will be different and the web pages for registering Real.Easy cards as well as loading tickets have been upgraded and are more user-friendly.  There has been a lot of effort this summer to make the RFID system work better and we are hopeful that you will see a difference.

This summer has been a busy one with many projects visible and some not so visible.  Here are a few we worked on:

  • Snowmaking pipe was installed on Cat Nap & the Suncatcher Trail over in the South Face Village area.  Guns were installed on Suncatcher and when we are ready to make snow on Cat Nap there will be guns brought in.  With snowmaking on Cat Nap we hope to have the trail open even more.
  • Snowmaking pipe upgrades on Lower Arrow, Open Slope as well as up to the Mid Mountain pump station.  While this work is not very visible, it is very important.
  • A large scale purchase of rental equipment was completed this summer. Okemo will have all ski and snowboard rental equipment that is less than 2 years old for use by our guests. Gone are the days of the old rental equipment. This year we are upgrading our rental fleet with the purchase of 515 new Volkl skis, 869 pairs of Dalbello ski boots, 153 Burton snowboards and 272 pairs of Burton snowboard boots.
  • Okemo is always looking to have activities for our guests to do when they are not skiing and with that we have purchased an ice mat to be used to make ice in the Jackson Gore Ice house. This glycol infused system has a compressor and chiller to make the ice and with delivery expected by early November we are hopeful for ice around Thanksgiving weekend.
  • As an added feature to our guests we have joined the M.A.X. Pass family. The “Multi-Alpine Experience” pass offers skiers and snowboarders five days at each of the 32 participating resorts with a total of 160 days on the slopes and no blackout dates. From day trips and ski weekends close to home to ski vacations at destination resorts out West, the M.A.X. Pass gives winter sports enthusiasts the ability to dream and travel to mountains they’ve never gone before.
  • We have added a new Prinoth Bison X park cat to our fleet of snow groomers this winter. This snow cat is equipped with a Caterpillar 400hp tier 4 engine. This Caterpillar diesel engine meets all the new federal emission standards with more fuel efficiency and a 40hp increase compared to the previous model.
  • We also have been painting lifts, replacing carpet and sprucing things up to great this coming beast of a winter.  We are getting more snow shovels for this winter.

I hope you are making plans, we are amped up, chomping at the bit and going to make it happen this winter so make sure you are doing the same.

I will be sure to keep you aware of what our plans are and what we are doing.  Thanks for choosing to ski and ride with us here at Okemo.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Thursday, August 18, 2016



General Manager Bruce Schmidt with an update on what Okemo has been up to this summer.