Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter Weekend Update & Looking Ahead

Greetings,

Spring skiing
Easter weekend is upon us which means we are heading into the final week of skiing and riding for the 2015-16 ski season. There have been many different words to describe this past ski season but I remind everyone that it is a marathon not a sprint and we all have short memories. So while many will tell their grandchildren, “I was there during the ‘El Nino year’ at Okemo,” I am also confident that the reputation of the resort as well as everyone’s support will make next ski season even better.

We are going to be making some changes to our operations here at Okemo beginning on Monday March 28th through our closing day of Sunday April 3rd.  All skiing and riding operations will be out of the Jackson Gore Base area. The Clock Tower base area lifts and operations will not be open for the remainder of the season beginning on Monday March 28th.

The operations open in Jackson Gore will be Culinary, Rentals, First Aid, Retail and Resort Services, as well as normal hotel operations. The Ski + Ride department will be offering private lessons only.Lifts operating will be Coleman Brook Quad, Quantum Four and Sunburst Six.  Depending on the trail count and access into Jackson Gore, we may operate Solitude.

Guests will be able to ski down to the Sunburst Six. They will not be able to ski down past the Sunburst Six into the Clock Tower Base area as there will be no lift access out of that base.It is looking like we will have around 40 trails beginning next week. Signage and staff will be out in the morning to let guests know of the change. We will also post on the website, social media, etc.

Our lift ticket pricing will be adjusted again beginning on Monday March 28th as we make these changes.

I understand that this will be a change to how we have operated in the past, but it is our feeling that we can provide a skiing and riding experience using the Jackson Gore Base Area that is equal to what we have offered at the Clock Tower base area in the past. Our services are similar and many of our guests will be staying at the Jackson Gore Inn.

While we are ending winter, summer isn’t far behind!  Okemo Valley Golf Course will be opening in early April and Okemo’s Adventure Zone is scheduled to open on Memorial Day weekend. Our plan is to bring back all the same attractions as well as some great special events including the weekly Friday night concert series, July 4th activities and Hops in the Hills Beer and Wine Festival in August.  Be sure to join us some time during your summer.

Thanks again for your support and loyalty this past winter season.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spring Operations Update

Greetings,

I’m sure many of you are enjoying this weather.  It is spring weather, but isn’t a lot different from the entire winter we have had!  I wanted to thank you for the many comments I get from guests who read my blog.  I don’t receive many written comments so it is good to hear personally from guests.

I get asked several times a day about our closing date.  Okemo will look to close on Sunday April 3rd for the 2015-16 ski seasons. The asterisk is always the weather.  Right now we are working on keeping the Glades Peak and South Face areas open.  We are leery about moving snow too much when the weather is such as it is. Moving the snow adds air to it and then it can melt even quicker.

Our job is to constantly look at our operations and evaluate which ones are the best to keep operating or operate on a limited schedule. We fully realize the need to have some culinary services open -- the question is always how many? We also are aware of the need for restrooms around the mountain, and so do our best to keep that in mind.  Operating of lifts is another area where we spend time debating the merits of each of them.  Sometimes the decision is made for us by Mother Nature, but other times we have to really contemplate our choices.  In the end we work to do our best to please as many guests as possible and as always communicate. While we may make some decisions on the fly, we do work to let you all know.  Okemo.com is the best place to find out the most up to date info.

 You may wonder how a decision is made on when a trail is on hold vs closed?  While there is not a science or any “ski resort rules”, I will tell you my philosophy.   If I believe that a trail will be closed for just the day or possibly a couple days, then I will put it on hold.  Because some of our trails are used for different events etc. there is a need to have them used for the event and we can’t have skiing guests mixed with the event.  It is important that we have an accurate trail report and it is also important that the trail count not fluctuate up and down with trails opening and closing.  While I understand there may be some frustration with why and when a trail is on hold, we do work hard to communicate our changes.

Guests ask about ticket pricing and when a decision is made to adjust the day ticket price?  Again there is no science.  During the shoulders of early and late season most likely the ticket price is adjusted at some point.  What we look for here at Okemo is what the product we are offering on the mountain is like?  How is the market reacting and what will a price adjustment  do to other packages we might have available? We also watch what other resorts are doing.  Very seldom during the early and late season will price make a decision as to whether a guest is going to come to the resort to ski and ride. Many guests have coupons so they won’t be paying full price anyway and others are coming on days when we have certain promotions going on.  As this season comes to a close we will be looking at adjusting our pricing as we head towards Easter weekend.

While we are ending winter, summer isn’t far behind!  The Okemo Adventure Zone is looking to open on Memorial Day weekend and will bring back our complete menu of attractions as well as some great special events including the weekly Friday night concert series, July 4th activities & the Hops in the Hills Beer & Wine Festival in August.  Be sure to join us some time during your summer.

I want to thank you for your support, positive comments and suggestions on improvements this season.  The guest support that Okemo receives is second to none in the ski resort business and I can’t thank you enough for making Okemo your mountain and for spending your winter days with us.

Bruce Schmidt

Okemo GM

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bouncing Back!

While we did get some wet weather on Tuesday, it is looking like we will be bouncing back pretty well on Wednesday.  Today we and riding on 87 trails and 18 lifts. Some trails opened late as grooming continued this morning. Grooming began around 6pm last night and we had all the machines we own out grooming. Work is continuing in the terrain parks and most  opened on time with the exception of Crazy Train Terrain park which we knew would open late. The temperature gradually fell during the night which is positive so there wasn't a quick temperature drop to really tighten things up. There is no doubt that there will be some trails where the surface will be chunky, but that should ski out during the day.  
Tuesday is gone and we are on to the rest of this week.  The weather sure didn’t help things, but there are some things you can’t control in the ski business. 

Snowmaking will be happening by the early afternoon and our plan is to resurface across the main mountain. This should include Upper and Lower World Cup, Sapphire, Upper and Lower Arrow, Base area, Upper and Lower Chief and maybe some other areas. We also will be doing heavy grooming with mountain tilling and power tilling happening. I am hopeful that the surface will soften up somewhat during the day.

Okemo remains committed to working hard to provide the best possible skiing and riding experience. While there are weather challenges, no doubt, we don’t let that be an excuse for at least trying and working our hardest.  Thanks for your support.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

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

Snowmaking Update



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

Before & After



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.