Thursday, December 29, 2011

Makin' it Happen

Greetings,

These past few days have seen some different types of skiing no doubt. The old adage of we can’t catch a break is having some true meaning this year. Snowmaking has been continuing aggressively when the temperatures permit. The Okemo snowmakers have been on almost every trail that was opened during the wet weather and resurfaced it with new snow. The skiing was better no doubt on Thursday than it was on Wednesday.

Grooming has been working non-stop to keep up with the snowmaking that is being done. The cats were working on Stump Jumper during the day (Thursday) to get the trail opened in the afternoon. The guys have also been putting in some extra time doing the mid-day groom. There have been positive comments on the mid-day grooming. This is a real commitment from Okemo Mountain to our guests to try and keep the conditions a little better during the ski day.

There have been some questions on the completion of the lodging trails. These ski in/ski out trails are important and we realize that it has been a challenge for some homeowners and guests with not having this direct access. Our plan continues to be to put snow on these trails as soon as possible. Some of the guns we have been using in the South Face area will be moved into some of these lodging trails.

The snowmaking plan for the next few days will be to make snow on Upper and Lower Chief, Sachem, Heaven’s Gate, Exhibition, Boomerang, Moon Shadow, and then head towards Quantum Leap and Vortex next week. The long range forecast is for good snowmaking temperatures during the first week of 2012

I wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year and thank you for skiing and riding with us during this holiday week and the ski season. Remember Okemo has the "MOST" skiing in Vermont and we’ve got the most snow.

Happy Holidays and see you on the slopes...


Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Monday, December 26, 2011

MOST Snow

Greetings,

I wrote an apology letter to Old
Man winter. I expressed my sincere apologies for all the bad things I have said
about him through my life. The letter
came back as undeliverable! Now that is
concerning…. So back to reality. Okemo has the MOST snow around and we are
proud of it. Heck, even the Abominable
snowman has taken residence at Okemo because we have the snow!

Snowmaking is continuing to be
aggressive. We have been able to open 46
trails which is over 17 miles of ski and ride able terrain. 16 lifts are operating on several mountain
areas. Our plan will be to make snow on
terrain such as Stump Jumper, Vortex, Quantum Leap, Kettle Brook, Chute, and
Lower Chief as well as on existing terrain.
We are well aware of the need to resurface on some of the more popular
trails with snowmaking to keep the skiing and riding up to par. Although there may be some time of no
snowmaking during the next 24 hours or so, once snowmaking resumes on
Wednesday, we are optimistic of having open 50 – 52 trails by the New Year’s
weekend.

Our experiment with mid-day
grooming has been working out well. In
case you don’t know, Okemo has been taking the groomers out around noon and
grooming a few trails to enhance the surface.
This is an effort to make the experience of skiing at Okemo better
during this holiday week.

Work will continue as quickly as
possible on the ski in/ski out trails. There
is no one set of trails more important than the other. We have discussed how we
can best utilize our snowmaking system, length of trail; air capacity and time
of getting snow on the trails as we make decisions on were to make snow.

As the New Year approaches, I wanted to wish everyone a
Happy New Year and thank you for skiing and riding with us during this holiday
week and the ski season. Remember Okemo
has the “MOST” skiing in Vermont and we’ve got the most snow

Happy Holidays and see you on
the slopes……….


Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Twas' the Days before Christmas


Season’s Greetings,

They say things run in cycles, so if that is true, then this is the 5 year cycle for a slow beginning of the ski season. December of 2006 saw a slow start but Okemo did what we are known for. Made and groomed the snow!! On 12/21/2006, Okemo had 34 trails and 8 lifts. Fast forward to 2011 and we have 37 trails and 9 lifts. Now that is progress!!

Here is where things stand today and looking into the "Crystal Ball" as the holiday week approaches.

--Snowmaking will return today and be getting into full swing by around noon. Our 24-36 hour plan will be to head towards Sidewinder, Wardance, Sachem & Quantum Leap. We are also planning on finishing Sapphire and some other base area slopes. We will be working on beginner teaching areas and trying to spread out the skiers.

--The expectation is that we will have 45 - 50 plus trails during the Christmas holiday week and expect to be operating around 16 lifts.

--The tubing lanes will not be open by Christmas. We are hopeful to have them open sometime after Christmas.

--The Timber Ripper is now open on its winter schedule.

--The Ice House ice rink is freezing well and we are planning to open the day after Christmas.

--The Superpipe will not be opening before the first of the year.

--The Nor’easter Terrain Park will not be opening before the first of the year.

--While it does look like the forecasted snowstorm for Christmas Eve is now going south of us, it is important to remember that the long range weather forecast as we head into the Christmas holidays is for seasonable temperatures and partly to mostly sunny skies most of the days. That is good weather for skiing and riding!

--Our lift ticket pricing will remain the same through Friday. We will be reviewing pricing for the weekend and for the upcoming holiday week. Please call ahead if you have questions on what our day ticket pricing will be.

Okemo is well known for our snowmaking and grooming and I want to assure you that we are doing all we can to cover our ski trails with snow to make for an enjoyable holiday week for you and your families.

The question that I get the most is when will my "slope side trail be covered with snow"? I am here to assure you that we are working towards getting those trails open for skiing and riding as soon as we can. There is no one set of trails more important than the other. We have discussed how we can best utilize our snowmaking system, length of trails, air capacity and time of getting snow on the trails as we make decisions on all trails, but especially the ski in/ski out trails.

Thank you very much for your support and patience during this challenging season. The good news is that the staff here at Okemo is optimistic about a great ski season. There are still some "rooms at the Inn or condos", but they are filling up quick.

Happy Holidays and see you on the slopes!

Yours in Skiing,

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Outlook on the Holiday Week


I can hear the noise………..sounds like the snow guns are blasting away.  The snowmakers got some time off this week and now it looks like some cold weather is on the way.  It is probably easier for me to list out what we are planning:
  • Snowmaking Friday night is going to concentrate on some resurfacing of existing terrain, and also head towards some new terrain. Depending on the temperatures, this may include Sunburst, Escape, Mountain Road, Coleman Brook, Rimrock, and the rest of Count Down, Sprint, Moments rest and perhaps others.  We will plan to run as many guns as we can and have water for.
  • Galaxy Bowl in the Clock Tower base will be worked on this weekend as well as widening the beginner areas in the base.
  • Jackson Gore continues to be a goal of ours for the middle of next week. We remain confident we can get there.
  • This weekend the plan is to have 5 lifts and 15 trails.
  • Looking out towards Christmas, the estimate for trails is that we anticipate expanding our terrain to between 25 – 30 trails for around Christmas and we are hopeful that this number increases up to 40 during Christmas week.  Obviously there is a lot that has to come together for this to happen, but we are optimistic.
  • Right now we have open 6.3 miles of terrain or 88 acres.
  • Many people are inquiring about the ski in/ski out trails. They are a priority for us and we understand their importance. We will be heading towards many of them as we can prior to Christmas.
  • The Sugar house lodge will be opening on Saturday with the cafeteria opening.  Smokey Joe’s and Carvers will be open during the mid-week.
  • Snowmaking will be on-going during the day and it is quite likely that there will be some skiing under the snow guns.

They say patience is a virtue and we all need that right now.  The good news is that the staff here at Okemo is optimistic about a great ski season and ready to provide the Okemo Difference for all our skiers and riders. There are still some “rooms at the Inn or condos”, but they are filling up quick.  Also, check out the new Sno-Cat excursions that are happening as well as 4 limited seating dates during the season for the Sno-Cat dinners.

Happy Holidays and see you on the slopes……….

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Winter Shall Prevail - guaranteed!


Rumor #1. There will be no winter. FALSE: Winter will arrive at some point. Guaranteed. It is just a little late.

Rumor #2. Christmas is being moved to January 25th to account for Winter being late. FALSE.


So there you have it. Winter will arrive and so will Christmas, although Winter may be a little off schedule!!!

I gathered my team this morning. Using the combined wisdom of Ray (Snowmaking Manager), Barry (VP of Mountain Operations), Eb (Mountain Manager) and myself-- here is the very latest:



  • Jackson Gore will not open this weekend. The earliest prediction is middle of next week. Sunburst, Escape and Mountain Road all have a good start on them (with snow).  Snowmaking on Jackson Gore trails will commence tonight.

  • And when that cold air settles in… things will go very quickly.

  • Solitude lift and trails, including epic restaurant will not open this weekend. Earliest prediction is towards the end of next week.

  • The Sugar House will open this weekend.

  • The Superpipe will not be open for the Christmas Holidays.

  • We will get as many of the slope side lodging trails open as quickly as we can. We all understand and realize their importance, especially to those who have homes located in these areas.

  • The galaxy bowl will be worked on beginning Friday – guns are already locked and loaded in that area.

  • Wardance is important for racing and all of us would like to have them on their own trail. That will be one of our mid-mountain objectives beginning next week.

  • There is a desire to get one of the larger trails off of the summit open. It will most likely be Upper Chief.

  • It is highly unlikely that we will have the Nor’easter Terrain Park open. Our plan will be to have some features, rails and other items on different trails if the park is not open. There will be gated entrances to these areas.

  • Snowmaking will continue around the free learning carpets in both base areas as we head into the Christmas week.


The weather has surely been chasing us up to higher elevations for snowmaking. The bottom line is that we just make snow where it is the coldest… and we can achieve the best production. 

Christmas week is just 10 days away, and the excitement is building.  Despite the weather not being great, reports from our guests on the hill are very positive. Hope you have plans to join us!  (And if you don’t, lodging tells me there are still a few openings here and there, but not many.)

Bruce Schmidt

Vice-President & General Manager

Okemo Mountain Resort

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Snowmaking, Choices and Thanks


Cold weather returned last night. The snowguns were blasting on the upper mountain as well as some terrain on the lower mountain. Choices had to be made last night, so it was decided that we would concentrate on the upper terrain, Lower World Cup and a few guns in the base area to make sure that we kept the conditions on the existing terrain the best. We also wanted to be sure to be able to give some other skiing and riding options off of the summit. While it is not ideal to access the mountain off of the F-10 carpet and Sachem, at least we are not running shuttle buses.

We realize that Saturday was a busy day. There is so much pent up demand to get skiing. In hindsight, we should have made sure that the entire length of Upper World Cup was open and not sent skiers and riders over to Drop Off. There were a few things that forced this to happen, but we learned to do all we can to not have that happen again.

Okemo also was not giving any reduced rates for ski racing teams. It became evident that ski teams were purchasing full rate tickets in order to get on the slopes. I want to thank our ski patrol, safety ambassadors and other staff for working hard to stay on top of any issues and also thanks to our guests for their patience as Okemo adds more terrain and works hard to get the ski and ride season going.

Bruce Schmidt
General Manager

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Top-to-bottom Skiing & Riding!

Good morning,

Interesting night of snowmaking for Friday night 12/11 into Saturday. Temperatures did not get as cold as was forecasted, so snowmaking was concentrated on the upper mountain trails. Wet Bulb at 3am at Mid Mountain was only 27. That was on the high end of the forecasted temperatures. The good news is that we are going to be able to open up trails so we have skiing top to bottom. Today we are going to open Link, Lower World Cup and Fairway. Guests will ride the F-10 carpet to the Sachem quad and then either take the Glades Peak to the summit or ski down to the base of the Northstar Express. There will be no downloading and no shuttle buses. Guest can ski right back to the base lodge. Due to the warmer than forecasted temperatures, we will plan to open on Sunday the base quads and lower mountain road, Green Ridge Triple lift and Jolly Green Giant and Double Dipper. The F-10 carpet will remain open, but not the Sachem quad, on Sunday.

Saturday nights temperatures look colder which will be a good start as we head into the final two weeks before Christmas. More terrain will be added as we head into next week. Temps look good into next week. Our goal is to head into Jackson Gore as quickly as possible as well as head towards other priorities such as Wardance and the lodging trails. We will keep everyone informed as things change.

Happy Holidays

Bruce Schmidt
Vice-President & General Manager
Okemo Mountain Resort

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Another great night of snowmaking!


The crew made snow on several trails including the lower half of Upper World Cup, Lower World Cup, Drop off and Link. It was also the beginning of snowmaking on Timberline and Jolly Green.

The thermometer was moving around all night with some real fluctuations. With the sky as clear as it was last night, we were hoping for a little colder temperatures. In talking with our weather forecaster, Tony, it looks like this unseasonable weather pattern should be ending this week. He thinks this unseasonable pattern we are stuck in should break by Wednesday and we should begin to see some more normal winter weather. Let’s hope he is correct.

Sunny skies today with temps in the 40’s. Snowmaking will end up shutting down today and the guys will get a couple warm days off. We anticipate being able to make snow again beginning Tuesday night. We are as aggressive as we can with the temperatures that we have. Our goal is to get top to bottom skiing and get out of the shuttling business as soon as possible. At the same time we will be heading towards Jackson Gore and Solitude to begin to spread out the traffic.

Enjoy the sun today!

Bruce
General Manager

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Planning for the Holidays


This way to great snow!

As December 1st arrives, one thing that seems to be on everyone’s mind is the weather.  I think we are all amazed at how unseasonably warm it has been.  No doubt our entire staff has done a great job in getting Okemo open for skiing and riding, even if the terrain has been limited.  It takes all of us to provide the Okemo experience and for that effort we are all thankful.

I get asked a lot, are we going to stay open? What happens as we head into Christmas for slopes and trails?.  My normal answer is we will try to stay open at all costs and we’ll make decisions as we get closer to Christmas on trails etc.  There is no real science into planning for our busy holiday season and where we make snow.  Our goal is to have as much as much terrain as possible open for the holiday’s as temperatures permit.  No doubt there will be some challenges as each day we don’t have the good snowmaking temperatures is one less day we can prepare.  No doubt tougher decisions need to be made as Christmas looms and the weather stays mild. 

One thing can be assured and that is that we will be as aggressive as we can be to get trails open and we will use all our resources available.  Staff will work the hours that they need to and machines will be run.  Our goal will be to have several different pods of the mountain open for skiing and riding, although there may be less trails in that pod open.  It is important to get spread out and use our lift system in the best possible way.  Of course we have other demands from slope side trails and racing, to our ski and ride programs that need terrain too.  There are many requests and we will work hard to satisfy as much as we can.

It is safe to say that when it gets cold, it won’t take long for our snowmaking and grooming team to get the trails open and looking good.  Our snowmaking capacity and staff are second to none when it comes to making it happen with the right conditions. 

Bruce Schmidt
General Manager

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful to be Open


Opening day has arrived.  I wasn’t as optimistic as to whether we would be open on Thanksgiving  last Saturday, but with some good temperatures, hard work, a little luck and a foot of snow, ta da, we are open.  It is quite a business we are in, one day we are planning to open our Mini Golf and adventure zone because we don’t have any snow, and then we are skiing and riding with some great conditions.

The snowmaking forecast will be a challenge this coming week no doubt.  It does look like we are in a quick warm spell through this weekend and into early next week. As we get through the week, the temperatures begin dropping with what looks like some much colder weather arriving the first week in December.

So where do we go from here?  When we can make snow, the crew will begin branching out on some of the upper mountain trails where the temperatures are colder as well as those that get us some movement off the summit. Defiance will be worked on as it is close to Upper World Cup and takes some pressure off of World Cup, Sapphire and Sunburst will be made on as Sunburst gets us towards Escape and into Jackson Gore and Sapphire is a good trail to work on as we head towards the Green Ridge and Route 103, Upper Arrow down to Lower Arrow.  Sapphire also gets us to Solitude and Heaven’s Gate. It is important during the early season to get spread out with skiing and riding so we can make the experience better for everyone and get terrain open as we head to the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. All of us can find something to be thankful for.  Keep your eye on the web site and you will find the latest news and updates…….

Think snow and some cold weather…….

Bruce Schmidt
VP & GM

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Snowmaking Update

It was an interesting night of snowmaking. You can always tell when there is mixed precipitation on the way do to a temperature inversion. It was colder at the base most of the night than it was on the summit!



The good news is that the crew had a good night of snowmaking on World Cup down towards the base of the Glades peak chair. There was very limited snowmaking on the summit. There is still a need for more snow on Buckhorn as well as sections of Upper World Cup and Drop off. We also ran some guns in the base area near A&B quad to take advantage of the colder base area temps.

As today progresses, there will be an evaluation of what the trails look like and what is left to do. We will also send a groomer up to push around and get a feel for what we have so far.

Stay close because we are also looking at the weather as tonight’s storm has taken some interesting twists and turns...

Bruce Schmidt
GM

Friday, November 18, 2011

Groceries in Ludlow

Everyone familiar with Okemo knows the devastation Hurricane Irene dropped on us at the end of August. The transformation from Sunday morning August 28th to today is nothing short of amazing. At last count only two or three sections of road in the whole state were still closed for repair. Locally all of our roads are now open and accessible. If you followed Facebook or You Tube during the aftermath you might have seen a tent in the Shaw's Supermarket parking lot. After the store was totally wiped out, Shaw’s set up their first ever, tent market to accommodate the basic needs of residents. Believe me everyone has been extremely grateful.



However, the devastation has required a total renovation of the store. While the crews have put in long hours every day, they are now far enough along to know that they will not be in the building until probably mid January. The tent will stay until that day but we wanted to let everyone know ahead of their vacationing at Okemo, that it will not be shopping as normal at Shaw’s Supermarket. The basics will still be there, but the space is small. We have all survived and you will as well with a little extra planning and knowledge of some of our local secret gems.

In nearby Proctorsville, Singleton's Store stocks a wonderful meat counter with hand cut selections, including their famous smoked bacon as well as groceries and wonderful specialty items. Right around the corner Crow's Bakery is stocked with bread, pies, cookies and more. If you access Okemo via 103, you have been passing Lisai's market in Chester, right next to the train station. Lisai's also has a well stocked meat counter as well as a full service grocery.. Besides these gems, there is a large full service Shaws market in Springfield complete with a fresh produce and a fresh fish counter. Perhaps plan to stay on the highway one more exit and you will go right by the store on your way to Ludlow.

So never fear. Life does go on. All us local folk have eaten quite well for the past three months, but it does require a little extra planning. Now that you know, make your own plan. Perhaps call ahead if you have special requests. Pack a bag of some basics for that first night. Hit the local gas station markets for milk on our way into town. It will be fine.

We're looking forward to winter and having all our loyal fans back home and on the slopes. See you soon and THINK SNOW!!!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Snowmaking is Underway!

I have been asked more times than I can shake a stick at about when Okemo is going to open. Well it won’t be Saturday the 19th, but we are planning on opening as soon as we can after Saturday. In fact, snowmaking began last night! Check out the pictures and video we posted at okemo.com

I wanted to give you a feel for what is going on since we don’t have the snow yet. I took some time and asked Okemo staff, "What are you doing since we don’t have any snow"?

Shannon Diehl – Resort Service Manager.
Finishing up the brand new "Learn To" Ski and Ride program. Working on finalizing the P.S.P. (Park Safety Program) so we can begin having our guests sign up for their pass this year. New this year we are offering Sno-Cat Excursions and I am waiting for final approval from the General Manager!!!!

Tim Morton – Sign Shop Manager.
Working on all of the Culinary signs for Crested Butte, Okemo & Mt Sunapee. Normally we are getting Okemo done first, but since Crested Butte will be opening on 11/23, we need to get them done first.

Rick Doyle – Sitting Bull Manager.
Cleaning the Sitting bull. Moving equipment. Organizing spreadsheets. Talking to vendors. Hiring staff. Securing bands and playing some golf.

Jay Beardsley – Facilities Operations Director.
Finishing painting the Base Lodge bathrooms (check them out, they are looking sharp), repairing the stairs around the base area, installing signs in different departments. Finishing the Welcome center that was damaged by Irene, replacing the fire pump for the Sugar House that was damaged by Irene. Installing new lights above the Spring House Pool and for walking area in the Jackson Gore parking lot. Finally, installing a new dishwasher in the summit lodge.

Eb Kinney – Mountain Manager.
All the lifts are being inspected for the winter by the state of Vermont. Removed two trees near the Mountain Lodge at Okemo. Cleaning up from summer projects. Getting the Mountain Coaster ready to roll. Installed insulation and heat in the Mountain Coaster building. Finalizing the course location for the anticipated Canopy Tour Zip line to be installed next year. Re-installing the bungee trampolines to be used over Thanksgiving weekend for our guests.

Think snow and more cold weather- and stay close for updates.

Bruce Schmidt
VP & GM

Friday, November 4, 2011


As many of you are still digging out from the Snowtober storm, up here at Okemo we are looking at the long range forecast and wondering when we can begin making snow.  Let’s hope that the electricity gets back on in Southern New England.  It is amazing the photos of the destruction of trees and power poles.  I would think that in 2011 we would have systems in place to get the electricity back on quicker.  Here’s to some good luck for all our Okemo fans without power.

This time of the year is an interesting one in Vermont. We call it stick season here at Okemo. Kind of that time between when the leaves are gone and we are anticipating snow.  It is so true about the change of the season. You can feel it in the air as the days get shorter and the air feels different.  A lot of time is spent preparing the slopes for some snow. The Snow guns are put out, some of the guys are working on rails for the terrain park, and the groomers are being prepared to do their work.  Here’s something you probably didn’t know, we always use the groomers with the most hours first as they will be coming off lease at the end of this season. We also try to get them to the slopes before we begin making snow so we can move on softer terrain before the ground freezes as the frozen ground is a lot harder on the machines.

Each morning, I and the Barry, The VP of Mountain Operations talk on the phone about what we see for weather.  We use Northwinds Weather as our weather service. Tony is our guy and while we chide him for some of his forecasts, he does a very good job and is pretty accurate.  Barry and I discuss what the long range looks like and what might happen.  Our philosophy is to be smart with snowmaking.  The temperature needs to be below 26 degrees wet bulb, you remember science class that is the temperature and humidity combined, and it is important to have that temperature stay that way for an extended period of time.  I frequent the “CafĂ© at Delight” for early coffee and I get asked a lot “how come you didn’t make snow last night, I had 23 degrees when I work up”.  That is probably true, but that temperature may have only been for an hour or so.  Remember this; it is “always coldest before the dawn”.  That is also when it is the darkest.  So don’t always believe that it was the same temperature when you got up as it was earlier in the night.

The weather always gets cold and this year will be no different. Once the snowmaking season begins, things happen quickly.  Lots of water is moved in a short period of time and lifts and trails open sometimes daily.  The snowmakers are a dedicated group of guys.  The early season they spend a lot of time walking the trails. Many times vehicles cannot be used.  Okemo has a shuttle system we use were an employee, usually a groomer who we are looking to keep busy, works the night shift and drives a truck up Mountain Road with snowmakers and then makes his way to the bottom of whatever trail they are working on to pick them up.  It is always heartening to be able to see the pickup lights at the base of the trail as the snowmakers know they are near the bottom and done their run.  Early season is tough on everyone, but as trails open up, snowmobiles can begin to be run and it becomes easier.

Well that gives you a little insight into what is going through our minds as we prepare for the season.  The first cold snap is always an exciting time for everyone no matter how long you have worked in the ski business.

So thanks again for being an Okemo supporter.  We all appreciate our skiing and riding guests and hope to have some early season slopes and trails opened by November 19th.

Think snow and some cold weather…….

Bruce Schmidt
VP & GM

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In response to Take 60 introduction

Greetings,

It is good to see such lively discussion in response to my recent introduction of “Take 60” on this blog.

I’d like to address a few questions and hopefully clear up some confusion.

As with any resort, we are constantly evaluating our business practices and trying to find ways to improve our guests’ experience while improving our business enterprise. “Take 60” is not an alternative to “Try Before You Buy.” It is replacing “Try Before You Buy.” There will be no free hour of skiing and riding during the first hour of operations, as there has been in the past. Although Okemo’s “Try Before You Buy” has been popular with many skiers and riders who enjoy skiing for free, our intent was to invite trial use as an incentive to provide purchase confidence.

This transference is not something that happened overnight. We realized it a few years ago and made a decision, in 2003, to cancel “Try Before You Buy” outright. We learned from that experience, and we are looking at this transition away from “Try Before You Buy” differently; Thus the introduction of “Take 60” as a more complete solution for our skiing and riding guests.

We are confident in the snow quality and surface conditions that Okemo offers skiers and riders. We work hard to provide you with the best possible on-snow experience every day of the winter season, and we empathize with you when Mother Nature interferes with our best efforts. “Take 60” is a more flexible program that appeals to a broader group of our guests – not just those who can coordinate their arrival with the start of lift service each day. It also allows us to better maintain the program’s intent: giving our guests the ability to return another time if they are not fulfilled with their experience on a given day. While we are taking something away, we are providing a more equitable solution for those who accept there is a cost associated with skiing and riding at Okemo.

Our intent was never to inconvenience any of our guests, but we do realize that although change is never easy, it is often necessary. Several people have expressed a concern about lines. We do have lines at our ticket windows and at Resort Services on some busy days. We do our best to maintain appropriate staffing levels to minimize the wait time and we do offer a number of direct-to-lift season pass products for those who find waiting in line to purchase a lift ticket objectionable. In fact, we offer a variety of options to make the overall experience more convenient and economical for frequent skiers.

Thanks for speaking up. We value your input and we do our best to serve you while sustaining a business to be enjoyed by generations to come.


Think Snow

Bruce Schmidt
Vice-President and General Manager
Okemo Mountain Resort

Friday, October 21, 2011

Greetings,

We all have heard the old adage, "time changes everything." Well, that is also true at Okemo this coming season. Okemo has decided to change our “First Hour Free” program to “Take 60.”  We have been hearing from our guests that they are unable to use the First Hour Free due to many different reasons.  Getting to the slopes early just doesn’t work for everyone.  We wanted to continue providing great guest service to our skier and riders, so we have changed the program to fit the needs of all.

We are so confident in our ability to offer consistent surface conditions, that we are providing skiers and riders with a flexible alternative to our Try-Before-You-Buy, First Hour Free program, with Take 60.  Rather than limiting you to sampling our conditions during the first hour of lift operations, we intend to accommodate your schedule by inviting you to take the entire first hour after you purchase your lift ticket – no matter what time you start your ski day – to decide if you are completely satisfied with your on-mountain experience.  There is a time stamp on every lift ticket, so the clock starts ticking when you purchase your ticket. If you choose not to continue your day with us, just stop by the Resort Services Desk for a return-visit coupon.  It is as simple as that.  Now, as always, there is some fine print:

·       Guests must return within one hour of time stamped on their ticket to be eligible for a return visit
·       Coupons will be issued for a comparable product.
·       Coupons will be for the designated guest’s use only and will require ID for redemption.
·       Coupons will be non-transferrable and carry no cash value.
·       No rollovers please! Coupons will not be issued against tickets originally generated by this program. 

As always, guests can stop by our Resort Services Desk with any questions.  We remain committed to making this easy for you, as a guest, to ski and ride and enjoy Okemo.

As you know, Okemo typically receives nearly 200 inches of natural snow annually. We have spent over 30 years building our reputation for snow and surface conditions through our grooming and snowmaking.

So the bottom line is that the new program is better for those who purchase a ticket, and for some reason, just don’t like the skiing. We want you to be able to enjoy the intended flexibility by taking 60 minutes, on your schedule, and not be rushed to check out the conditions during our first hour to make your determination of value.

Please continue to check out the blog site for future postings.  Next week we will be talking about what we did on our summer vacation.

Think Snow!

Bruce Schmidt
Vice-President and General Manager

Monday, October 3, 2011

Changing Leaves and Changing Trails

This winter season Okemo Mountain Resort is introducing some changes on the hill.  The biggest change is the addition of a park on Black Out.  This new park will take the place of the Race Arena and be accessible via The Pull.  So get ready to show off on the rails underneath the Black Ridge Triple for the 2011-2012 season.

The Race arena will be moving to Bull Run, and will still be home to NASTAR.  Head out to the course and give it your best, then head to the Sitting Bull in the main base lodge and watch as others compete. 

And thanks to the addition of the new park on Black Out we are happy to announce that Timberline is being restored to the trail once touted as “one of the best the East has to offer” by the Boston Herald.  The Progression Park that has been on Timberline is being discontinued, so cruisers rejoice, the trail is sure to be a favorite for those in search of corduroy as far as the eye can see.

As the leaves continue to change colors and the temperatures continue to drop, preparations for the upcoming winter season are in full swing at Okemo.  Check out our website for last minute deals on Season Passes, and our new Super 7 Savings Card, early season pricing on Season Passes ends on Oct. 10th.  

Don't forget that this weekend is the 5th Annual Parrothead Party at Jackson Gore.  Come on up and join in the fun with food and drinks starting at noon on Saturday and live music from Changes in Latitudes, also free hay rides through the afternoon! Sunday brings more festivities at Jackson Gore, so join us for the long weekend and take in the foliage and the festivities!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Okemo is "Vermont Strong"; Winter is On Schedule!

Dear friends,

It's been a difficult couple of weeks since Hurricane Irene passed through Vermont, leaving many friends and neighbors with personal challenges of their own. Communities have rallied in support of those in need and the newly created motto, "I am Vermont Strong," has taken on the status of a battle cry.

Okemo Mountain Resort did not escape Irene’s fury unscathed, but most of the damage has already been repaired. Okemo's Mountain Operations and Facilities Operations staff worked their usual magic and got the job done. Okemo’s Clock Tower Base Area suffered most of the damage. Flooding washed out Mountain Road below the snowmaking pump house. Water and mud washed through the base area, depositing several feet of silt and sand in the Snow Stars learning area, also known as Galaxy Bowl. There was some wash-out along the sides of Okemo Ridge Road, near the Morning Star lift and the road to Okemo Valley Golf Club was washed out temporarily.

On the positive side...

The Jackson Gore Inn never even lost power during the storm and the Jackson Gore Base Area suffered no damage at all.

Okemo Valley Golf Club was accessible and open for play on 18 holes starting at noon on Tuesday – just two days after the storm. Tater Hill also reopened with 18 holes of play that same day.

Mountain Road was repaired and autumn leaf peepers will be able to wind their way to the summit of Okemo Mountain for colorful vistas this foliage season.

Recovery is underway and we are aggressively tackling clean up and repair around the Resort and throughout the community. Ludlow has gone from being one of the hardest-hit Vermont villages to one of the quickest to recover. We spent the first few days in the aftermath of Irene cut off from the world due to washouts and road closures. Most roads have been repaired and access to Okemo Valley and Okemo Mountain Resort has been restored.

We’ve received an outpouring of support from Okemo guests and homeowners, and we’re grateful for their concern and contributions to our neighbors in need.

We are using social media, Facebook and Twitter, to chronicle the recovery status of Okemo and the surrounding communities. We’ll be out and about, speaking with locals and snapping photos of the progress, so fans and followers can see that Okemo Valley is ready to welcome visitors.

We’re looking forward to a spectacular fall foliage season and the start of another brilliant ski season soon afterward.

Bruce Schmidt,
GM

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

More Ways to Help Ludlow, a message from Diane Mueller

Although a lot of hard work is bringing Ludlow back from a devastating storm, there are many people whose lives have been impacted in a way that is hard to totally comprehend. Okemo employees and residents are literally shoveling out and throwing out their worldly possessions. People have lost everything from their homes to clothes to furniture.

Not all the destruction is visible, but filling garbage bags in a basement filled with mud and rotting food made it clear to me that people have immediate needs and longer term needs as they put their lives back together.

Vermonters are resilient and industrious, as was evidenced at Okemo where we have repaired much of the damage and are open for business. Now we are focusing all our efforts on helping people rebuild their homes and their lives. If you are looking for a way to help, please join us in buying gift cards at local and other businesses and sending them to this address. Alternatively, for those wishing to help that are not not in the area, please consider sending a donation.

Okemo Mountain Resort
Attn: Flood Relief Aid
77 Okemo Ridge Road
Ludlow, VT 05149


These will be distributed to Okemo employees and local residents who are victims of Irene. We suggest buying gift cards in increments of $50 or less. Thank you for helping us get back on their feet before the snow flies.


Local businesses selling gift cards:


Aubuchon’s Hardware
LaValley’s Building Supply
Singleton’s Market

Other businesses close by might also have gift cards where people can buy clothing, food and building supplies.

Diane Mueller
Executive Vice President
Okemo Mountain Resort

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ticket Plaza Makeover Begins!

Greetings,

If you have been around the Clock Tower base area, you have seen the work being done on the plaza area. Some real effort has been going into rehabbing some of the old concrete and walk areas, and extending the greenspace.

Much of the plaza area concrete was laid down back in 1984-85, as the base area work was completed and the start of the resurrection of Okemo Mountain Resort was in full swing. As you can imagine, there have been a lot of ski & snowboard boots that have walked on this concrete as well as thousands of yards of snow have been pushed over it. The time had come to do some replacement. Several of the most worn sections will be replaced by upwards of 40 yards of concrete. There will also be drainage and gravel placed underneath to hopefully help keep the frost heaves to a minimum.

We are also removing the stairs between the Marketing doors and the entrance to Snow Stars, and renovating a set of stairs near the back door of the lodging offices. This is the area that we will be removing the existing concrete and extending the green space with additional planters and grass. Once this is done, we will then move to the concrete in front of the upper ticket booth, the Demo tent and the corner of the base lodge.

The next phase will be focused on the iconic Okemo Clocktower. New siding will be installed, and painting done on several areas. To complete the makeover, the entire 2-minute circle area will be repaved.

Much of this work is being done by the capable Okemo Mountain Operations staff as well as our Facilities Operations employees. I'll be sure to keep you up to speed on what we are doing on our summer vacation here at Okemo Mountain Resort.

We've also created a photo album which you can view at okemo.com! Enjoy.

Bruce Schmidt
General Manager

Friday, May 20, 2011

Weather, Mountain Improvements and Summer Fun

Greetings,

The weather does many things, but probably the biggest thing it does (other than affect our daily lives) is to give us something to talk about and keep stats on. Did you know that during December – March (meteorological winter), we had the least amount of rain for the past several years and the most snow? Then comes March and from March – May, we have had over 15 inches of rain which has been a record in modern time for the state of Vermont! Mother nature always adjusts herself in her own way.

Spring has slowly been returning to Okemo and we have begun working on projects and will be going even stronger as real summer begins. Here are a few projects we are working on:

Repair, replacement and fixing up of the Clocktower base area. Some of the old concrete will be removed and repaired. New walls put in, stairs removed as well as the re-siding of the Clocktower.

Painting of the Ranta Farm house, a historical building located on the Jackson Gore property.

Installation and construction of an 18 hole miniature golf course as well as a 4 stations bungee jumping station.

Adventure Park concept with culinary option near the miniature golf and timber ripper. Pricing will be one ticket with unlimited usage.

Refurbish and upgrade pumps and motors for Black River and Mid-Mountain snowmaking pump stations.

Repave 2-minute circle area in the clock tower base area.

Replace carpet & awning at Okemo Valley Golf course.

Purchase a stage for the special events including Jackson Gore Music series and other events.

Many other building specific or department specific projects and improvements.



Over $1 million is being spent on capital improvements at Okemo this summer to enhance and improve both the summer and winter guest experience.

There are also many weekend events happening that guests can be part of as a participant or to enjoy as a spectator.

Okemo Hill climb (organized by the Ludlow Rotary) – June 25th
The Okemo Bike climb is a challenging 5.8 mile uphill race on Route 103 and Okemo Mountain Road. The event is staged and started from Okemo’s Jackson Gore Village. This is the fourth year for this event and is the second event of the season in the Bike Up Mountain Point Series (BUMPS), a series of nine uphill races held throughout New England. This race benefits the charities of the Ludlow Rotary Club.

Okemo Challenge – July 30th:
The featured 10 mile race starts at the base of Okemo Mountain and features 2 climbs to the mountain’s summit before returning to the base of the mountain. There is nearly 9,000 feet elevation change in the 10 mile run. The companion 5K race starts at the mountain’s base and ends the summit. 5K participants can take the ski lift down to the base of the mountain after they finish. The majority of both races will be run on grass and trails. The Okemo Mountain Challenge brings the spirit of adventure back on the Mountain this summer!

Post-race party and entertainment- Runners will enjoy a band playing at the summit and another band playing at the post race party at the base of the mountain. After the race all runners (free) and their families (nominal cost) are invited to a post race cookout and with live music. Information - (203) 481-5933 or www.jbsports.com

Hops in the Hills Brew Festival – August 6th
Okemo Mountain Resort will host Hops in the Hills, a beer festival, from 1-6 p.m., on Saturday, Aug. 6. Jackson Gore will be the setting for enjoying the great outdoors while sampling a variety of beers from local and regional brewers and some of the best chicken wings the valley has to offer in the Chicken Wing Challenge. Chris Kleeman and The Sly Geralds Band will provide live musical accompaniment to the beer tasting and Coleman Brook Tavern will fire up the grill for some burgers, barbecue and all the summertime fixin's.

100 on 100 Relay – August 13th
The 100 on100 Relay is a 100-mile team running relay race through the Heart of Vermont and ending at Okemo’s Jackson Gore. Runners from across the country converge on the Green Mountain state each August for this long distance relay along scenic Route 100. Running races in New England are bounding in popularity and Vermont running races put on by Heart of Vermont Productions are looking to lead the way.



We are hopeful that you will come up and experience what Okemo has to offer in the summer and let us treat you to the Okemo Difference year round.

Bruce Schmidt
Vice-President & General Manager
Okemo Mountain Resort

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Long Live the Snow!

As the final week of the ski season is upon us, there have been many comments about this ski season..."Best ever", "We will have snow until July", or my favorite, "Global Warming????"

Whatever you want to call it, we no doubt can say that this was a good year on the slopes. Okemo was open 146 days this year. While this won’t go down in the record books (at least with record books we keep), there may be records broken by some. I have had people tell me that they have skied the most days ever this year and two who told me they have skied every trail at least twice this year. True records for them...

There are probably a couple records that were broken that we don’t keep track of. Let me see if I can rattle off a few:

**Most days of having at least one natural trail open. Probably happened as we had natural trails open beginning in mid-December.

**Most consecutive winter days without it raining. I was thinking we didn’t have any rain in December, January and almost till the end of February! (Kudos Mother Nature!)

**Almost the earliest opening of the slopeside trails. This was the first year in a while I didn’t spend most of December explaining by email, phone or in person how we want to get all the condo/homeowner trails open, but we do need to prioritize.

**And the last record - probably the most miles in a season on our grooming machines. Having full coverage allowed us to be running our groomers a lot this winter - and they sure as heck did a great job.

So in closing, I want to thank you for another record - most readers of our blog. Now some glass half empty philosophers will say "but this was your first year", and that is true, but I’m looking at the glass half full and saying we set a record. In all honesty and sincerity, thank you for being a part of the Okemo family, for spending time with us on the slopes and for asking questions and commenting on what we do. Thanks for a great season and I am hopeful that you come to visit Okemo during the summer. The Mountain Coaster will be operating, we'll be adding a mini-golf course, and our other summer amenities will be open for your enjoyment.

Opening Day Next Season? November 19, 2011

Take care,
Bruce

Thursday, April 7, 2011

More Spring Operations

Greetings,

Warm weather is in the forecast which can only mean some better spring skiing, or perhaps I shouldn’t say better, how about warmer? Can the spring skiing get any better? It is almost mid-winter like. No doubt after some 50-60 degree days, there will be some bare spots opening up, but there is still a ton of snow on the slopes. We are running a few lifts on the weekend and less midweek.

Our last week will consist of skiing and riding off of the Northstar, Quad A, Coleman Brook express and Jackson Gore Express. Don’t be surprised to see some of the Department managers out there bumping chairs. Whatever it takes is the motto.

Here is an update on operations, pricing and general information for the resort as the season winds down. Our closing date is Sunday April 17th. This year due to the amount of skiing and riding that is available, we will not be closing the Jackson Gore base area earlier than the rest of the mountain. The plan is to maintain the operation of the Jackson Gore Quads as well as the Round House and ticket windows. There will be another Lift ticket pricing adjustment made on Monday April 11th.

Tickets:
Ticket windows are closed at the Clocktower and Jackson Gore for the season. Guests are directed to Resort Services to purchase daily tickets.

Ticket Pricing thru the weekend 4/9-10
 Adults $65 ½ day $49
 YA/Seniors $55 ½ Day $41
 Jr/Sup Sen. $42 ½ Day $32

Lifts:
7 lifts scheduled to operate for the weekend
 Quad A F-10
 Northstar Solitude
 Jackson Gore Coleman Brook
 Stargazer
LIFTS MAY BE ADJUSTED AS WEATHER AND BUSINESS DICTATE.

Lessons
Privates will be available for $80 one person, one hour. An additional person in the lesson at $45. Multiple hours will be multiples of this price models. Any request lessons will be at the regular rate. Lessons will be available at the both the Clock Tower and at Jackson Gore, based on available staff.

Day Care:
Jackson Gore Day Care will be open for the remainder of the season. Clock Tower Daycare closed for the season.

Culinary Still Open:
Base 68: Open daily 8:00-2:00. Saturday-Sunday 7:00-4:00
Sitting Bull: Open daily 11:00-6:00
Summit Cafe: Open daily 9:30-3:00. Saturday-Sunday 8:30-3:00
Round House: Open daily Monday-Friday 8:00-4:00 until Sunday the 17th.
CLOSED EARLY AT 2:00 on Saturday April 9th for a wedding.

CBT: Closed for Lunch. Dinner daily at 5:00 until 4/17, then closed for Dinner Mondays and Tuesdays.
Waffle House: Open Weekends

Lodges:
Base Lodge: Open daily.
Summit: Open daily.
Solitude: Restrooms ONLY
Round House: Open daily.

Lodging & Welcome Center:
Phone Lines (800-786-5366) Open daily from 8:00-6:30. Front Desk: Open Sunday-Thursday from 7:30-6:30. Friday & Saturday 7:30-6:30. Next day ticket sales Sunday-Thursday from 3:30-6:30, Friday & Saturday 3:30-6:30.

Rental/Repair:
Main Base: Monday-Friday, 8:30-4:30, Saturday & Sunday 7:30-5:00.
Jackson Gore: Monday-Friday, 8:30-4:30, Saturday & Sunday 7:30-5:00.

Resort Services:
CLOCK TOWER Base Area: Resort Services is currently open in the base lodge for Season Pass, purchases, all ticket sales, lessons, Monday-Friday, 8:30-4:30, Saturdays & Sundays, and holidays 7:30-5:00.

Jackson Gore: Resort Services is currently open at Jackson Gore for Season Pass pickup, purchases, ticket sales, lessons. Monday-Friday 8:30-4:30, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, 7:30-5:00

Retail Shops:
Base Shop: Open Monday-Thursday 8:45-4:30, Friday til 5, Saturday/Sunday from 7:45-4:45.

Jackson Gore Snow Sports: Open Monday-Thursday 8:45-4:30, Friday til 5, Saturday/Sunday from 7:45-5:00.

JG Corner Store: Open Monday-Thursday from 8:30-4:30, Friday til 5, Saturdays from 7:30-8:00, and Sundays 8:45-5:00.

Ski & Snowboard Demo Center
Performance ski and snowboard equipment demos. Last Day Sunday 4/10

SPRING HOUSE
Gym open daily from 7:00am-10:00pm. Lap swimming 8:00am-10:00am. Pool opens from 10:00am-10:00pm

TIMBER RIPPER:
• Fridays . 8th & 15th 12:00-5:30
• Saturdays - 9th and 16th Open 12:00-7:00
• Sundays – 10th and 17th Open 12:00-4:00
• Mondays – Open 12:00-4:00
• Closed the balance of the Month.

These services are closed for the season:
Tubing, Nastar, the Ice House, Nordic Center & Shuttle Services.

Thank you for sharing this past winter with us here at Okemo.
Thinking Spring.

Bruce Schmidt
Vice-President and General Manager
Okemo Mountain Resort


Friday, April 1, 2011

Spring Operations, continued


Another update on operations at Okemo as we head into the final weeks of this season. The good news to share is that due to the amount of skiing and riding that is available, we will not be closing the Jackson Gore base area earlier than the rest of the mountain! (cheer) Our planned Closing Date is April 17th.

Tickets
Please buy tickets from the Resort Services desk inside the base loge at the Clock Tower base area. Jackson Gore Ticket Windows will remain open until the end of the season.

Pricing
This weekend, Saturday and Sunday, April 2nd and 3rd we will be at midweek pricing. (Adults $74; Adult half-day $54). Remember Flex Card Holders ski free, just secure a lift ticket to board the lifts.

Starting Monday, April 4th, an adult ticket will be $65, with half day at $49. Stay tuned to the daily snow report for any changes in pricing.

Lifts
16 lifts are scheduled to open for this weekend. Starting Monday, April 4th, 7 lifts will operate including Quad A, F-10, Northstar, Solitude, Jackson Gore, Coleman Brook, and Stargazer. Lifts may be adjusted as weather and business dictates.

Lessons
Ski & Ride School is open for regular business this Saturday and Sunday. April 3rd is the last day for regular lessons schedules. Starting on Monday April 4th we will offer private lessons only ($80) on a walk up basis. No advance reservations are required. Lessons will be available at the both the Clock Tower and Jackson Gore base areas.

Daycare
Open Saturday and Sunday as usual, both base areas. Starting Monday April 4th, only Jackson Gore Day Care will be open for the remainder of the season.

Culinary
These are the culinary venues still open: Base 68, Sitting Bull, Summit Cafe, Sky Bar (until April 2), Sugar House and Smokey Jo's (until April 3rd), Roundhouse (note closing early on April 9th for a wedding), Coleman Brook Tavern (closing for lunch service after April 2nd), and the Waffle House.

NASTAR
Will operate this Saturday and Sunday from 10-2 pm. Closing for the season after Sunday.

The Nordic Center remains open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing until Sunday, April 3rd.

The Ice House and Snow Tubing are closed for the season.

Rental and Repair Shops remain open, as do the retail shops inside the Clock Tower base lodge and at Jackson Gore.

I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to call Resort Services at (802) 228-1600. They are open daily from 8:30-4:30, with Saturdays & Sunday hours from 7:30-4:30 until April 17th.

Bruce

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring? Not so fast.

So just a day after I posted our Spring Operations update, we have news of impending snow event for Friday. Snowfall totals below compliments of accuweather. Mountain forecasts (higher elevations) are currently pointing upwards of 16". To say this has been an amazing snow season is truly an understatement. I don't know as I recall an April on record where we have still been this close to 100% open (just two trails shy today!)

Also, don't forget that Friday is our annual April Fools Cares & Shares food drive day. Bring three non-perishable food items to donate to our local food bank, and ski and ride all day (in the powder!) for just $10. We've also put together some great lodging rates for Friday night, should you choose to make a night of it.

Bruce

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Operations Update


MOUNTAIN UPDATE as of Monday 3/28/11

I wanted to bring you up to speed on what is going on as we head into the final couple of weeks of the season.

TICKET PRICING
During this week we will maintain our normal mid-week ticket pricing. Beginning on Saturday 4/2, our pricing will remain at our mid-week rates. Stay close to the snow report for adjusted ticket pricing from that point on.

ON MOUNTAIN
The skiing is almost like mid winter. Spring skiing will be here sometime, but right now we are enjoying some great snow. As we head into April we will be making some changes on the mountain. The forecast is for sunny skies through Thursday with clouds developing and some precipitation forecasted towards the end of the week.

LIFTS
This coming week beginning on Monday 3/28, the following lifts will be closed:

Morning Star    Black Ridge      Quad B           Sachem
Basin Skywalker Carpet Orion’s Belt The Pull



TRAILS
The plan will be to keep trails open that can be accessed. The snow is holding up well.

CULINARY
Siena – Closed
Epic - Closed
Sugar House Cafeteria- Closing 4/3
Smokey Jo's- Closing 4/3
Vermont Pizza Company - Closed
Carvers Deli Closing after Friday April 1st
Coleman Brook Tavern Closing for lunch after 4/3
Round House – Revised schedule for private function on Saturday 4/9

SHUTTLES
Resort Shuttles – Closed as of 3/12
In-Town Shuttles – Closed as of 3/24

SKI AND RIDE/SNOWSTARS/DAYCARE
Snowstars and Daycare are combined mid-week in the Jackson Gore base area. Weekends both sides are open

Ski and Ride School continues to be open.

RACING
The Competitions department is closed and all events done. Nastar is planning on being open this coming weekend.

LODGING
Lodging & Welcome Center:

Phone Lines (800-786-5366) Open daily from 8:00-7:30pm

Front Desk: Open Sunday-Thursday from 7:30-7:30pm. Friday & Saturday 7:30-10pm. Next day ticket sales Sunday-Thursday from 3:30-7:30, Friday & Saturday 3:30-10pm.

OTHER ACTIVITES
Ice House – closed
Snow Tubing – Closed
Timber Ripper – Open every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Hours: Thu, Fri, Sun & Mon 12pm – 5:30pm, Sat. 11am – 7pm

Nordic Center – Open
Spring House - Open

Special Events Coming Up:
Cares and Shares Food Drive – Friday 4/1 – Both Base areas – Reduced rate lift ticket for $10 with donation of 3 non-perishable food items

14th Annual Slush Cup – Saturday 4/2 – Jackson Gore Begins at 11am

Tug of War – Saturday 4/2 – Jackson Gore Begins at 1pm

Anticipated Closing date – Sunday April 17th

Bruce Schmidt
VP & GM
Okemo Mountain Resort

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring in VT? Just wait a day...


We just came off a great weekend of sun and temps in the 30’s! But in the blink of an eye, the weather changed and it has been snowing all day. Go figure. The sun was great over the weekend and although the temperature was slightly below the average for this time of the year, with the sun at its spring angle it felt warmer than it would be for similar temps earlier in the winter.

So what does it look like for this coming week? Below is a quick snapshot. Now always remember, a forecast is only a forecast...

Tuesday: Partly sunny, with a high near 36.
Wednesday:. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 37.
Thursday: Cloudy, with a high near 38.
Friday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 33.
Saturday: Partly sunny, with a high near 34.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 41
Some sun, some clouds and temperatures beginning to get more spring like.

Snowmaking has finished for the season. Okemo used about the same amount of water as most years and operated about the same number of hours. Energy costs were higher, but due to efficiencies in gun placement and gun usage, we were able to handle the increases better.

Grooming continues every night. There have been some curveballs thrown with the temperature getting real cold (12 degrees on the summit last Sunday morning). This has caused some heart burn on what the skiing was going to be like in the early morning. Some days the trails have been regroomed, other times we have tried to wait out the sun in hopes the trails would soften up. It can be a real quandary, if we groom, we run the risk if chunks. If we don’t, it can be too firm and result in a "hard to edge" surface. We are hopeful that we are right more than wrong.

Now is also the time when we look at all the lifts which are operating and try to consolidate when and where possible. We are cognizant of better skiing on the summit area, so will be taking that into account with the Green Ridge Triple and Glades Peak lifts operating at times. Mogul trails will remain open as long as possible and with the racing season slowing down, Wardance will be open more often. (Cheer!)

Believe it or not, we still have about 25 or so days left of the season. The good news is that the forecast looks favorable, our base depths are healthy, and there are not any bare spots! So come on up and take a few runs - it's worth it!

Bruce

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Skiing is Sugar Sweet this Spring!


The sight of steam billowing from local sugarhouses marks the start of spring skiing season. And what a sweet season it is ~ especially with the amount of snow we've had this season! The mixture of warm days and cool nights helps fill sap buckets hanging from maple trees and creates the snow surface conditions that skiers and riders savor through the final days of winter. In fact, here is the forecast for the next few days...and it looks pretty sweet!

Friday - cloudy, some precip, with summit temps 45-49
Saturday - partly sunny with summit temps 22-26
Sunday - mostly sunny with summit temps 17-23
Headin' into next week - Monday's temps moderate a bit, followed by Tues and Wednesday a bit cooler and probably dry


Closing Date? Not so fast. Okemo Mountain Resort is planning to offer skiing and snowboarding through mid-April, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the spring snow, sunny skies and numerous on-snow events like Okemo’s Joey Jam, Slush Cup pond-skimming competition and, new this year, a wet and wild Tug o’ War.

On March 26, some lucky Joey is going home with a 1987 Kawasaki JS 550 stand-up jet ski!

Okemo is pulling out all the stops for the third annual celebration of all things "Joey." Known as Gapers, Front Rangers or by other regional monikers, in the Northeast it's the Joey who provides us with endless hours of entertainment on the slopes with his bravado and ubiquitous sense of style. Joeys will be required to ski or ride on (or near) several easy terrain park elements. Big points will be awarded for costume and attitude. Participants may register for $20, from 8-10 a.m., in the Main Base Lodge on Sat., March 26, or online at active.com; limited to the first 50 adults to register. The competition gets started at 10 a.m. for under-18 and 11 a.m. for adults.

It’s no joke – on April Fool’s Day, April 1, when skiers and riders donate at least three nonperishable food items they can purchase a full-day lift ticket for $10. All donations will go to a local food bank.

It's a chilly spring dip for costumed skiers and riders who don’t make it across an 80-foot long slush pond at Okemo’s annual Slush Cup pond skimming competition on April 2. This popular competition is open to the first 125 participants. The entry fee is $20. Fabulous prizes will be awarded in several categories: best costume, driest competitor, best wipeout, and more. Registration starts at 8 a.m. and the pond skimming starts at 11 a.m.

New this year, a wet and wild Tug o’ War will determine the strongest (and driest) team in the Okemo Valley. This single-elimination battle will land one team in the slush pond during every round. The victorious team of eight will win $250. Registration is free and limited to the first 16 teams.

With a little planning, skiers and riders can combine some sweet spring snow sliding with a visit to a Vermont sugarhouse and a chance to win Vermont lift tickets. In partnership with Ski Vermont, select maple producers across the state will give away free lift tickets during the Tenth Annual Maple Open House Weekend, Sat., March 19 and Sun., March 20. A lift ticket will be awarded to the first sugarhouse guest who knows how many gallons of sap it takes to produce one gallon of Vermont Pure Maple Syrup. Visit skivermont.com for more information and a list of participating sugarhouses.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Under the "hood"


I know many of our skiers and riders have seen our snow grooming equipment in action either at night or during the day. You see the gleaming machines headed in from a night out on the slopes as an early morning skier or you may see the lights of the mammoth machines making their trips up and down the mountain. Have you ever wondered where these machines hide during the day while everyone is skiing and riding?

The headquarters for grooming and mountain operations is located at the bottom of the Village Run trail. If you come down Village Run or if you come down The Plunge, you will see the Okemo Maintenance shop. This 9,000 square foot maintenance shop is headquarters for the Grooming fleet.

Every day each grooming cat is brought in behind the closed doors and given the once over. The machines are washed down with a power washer and the tracks looked at, the power tiller looked at, the lights, horn and alarms are all checked. Once the outside is looked over, the cab is flipped up and a look under the hood begins. Hoses are checked, belts checked, filters looked at. The entire process takes about 2-3 hours per machine. At any one time there will be 3-4 machines being serviced and checked out. On certain days, the machines will be put on the vehicle lift and fluids changed, track bolts tightened and the rig is given an even more thorough once over.

All is this is accomplished by the top-notch Vehicle Maintenance crew. Led by Bill Johnson and Bill Palmer, the staff of mechanics are certified by the Grooming Company "Prinoth" to work on their machines. They have years of experience at Okemo as well as work as a mechanic. The newer machines have more computer processing which the guys have had to learn. Oh yea, and these same mechanics also work on the 30-40 vehicles and 15 shuttle buses that Okemo has. To say those guys are busy is an understatement. They are on a flat out run!

So the next time you are out skiing and think, hey these groomers did a great job today, also keep in mind that if it wasn’t for the Vehicle Maintenance departments and the dedicated souls "in the shop", Okemo wouldn’t be known for the grooming like we are.

March will soon be here, lets hope for some great spring skiing.

Bruce Schmidt
Vice-President & General Manager

Monday, February 14, 2011

The 411 on Okemo Grooming


For this week’s post we reached into our mail bag. The topic? Grooming. We get questions about our grooming often, so we turned to Eb Kinney, our mountain manager of 21 years to fill us in on Okemo’s grooming philosophy. Here is what he had to say:

After last season we took a hard look at our grooming and snowmaking techniques. Making changes in the way you have done something for years is never easy, but we knew it had to be done. To give you a little background, we run two shifts of 7 snowcats from 3:45 pm – 9 am and we groom roughly 500+ acres a night, most of which is groomed twice. We have changed 3 major components in our grooming and snowmaking philosophy. What we have learned is that timing is everything, when dealing with snow.

The first thing we changed in grooming is our mountain tilling program. A mountain tiller is a drag behind cultivator or as we like to call it an aerator. It breaks up the hard surface into chunks and will cultivate to 4-6” in depth. The reason for doing this is to keep the surface from getting hard and eventually icy. Even with as much natural snow as we’ve been getting, without doing this, the surface would get hard as a rock. The next step is to run a power tiller over this, grinding up the snow and leaving the corduroy finish. The timing of this is very important. In the past we did the entire mountain tilling on first shift, from 3:45- midnight. What we found was that this allowed the mountain tilling to set up hard, not allowing the power tillers to grind it up. This also seemed to leave the small ice balls that all skiers dislike. So, this season we never let our mountain tillers get more than 2-3 hours ahead of the power tillers. This seems to have made a noticeable difference to the surface and our guests.

The second change we made was in the timing of opening the snowmaking trails. Whenever possible we let our heavy snowmaking trails leach out for 24 hours before pushing them out and opening them to the public. What I mean by leach out is let the excess water drain out from the snowmaking piles. By doing this the snow is less dense, drier and makes for a better product on the first day we re-open the trail. The first runs will be a little rough, but will typically ski in very quickly. This in turn makes for a great surface the second day after we’ve mountain tilled and power tilled. This again has been well received by our guests.

The last thing we’ve changed in snowmaking is our re-surfacing program. Our snowmaking manager has been experimenting with different nozzles in our snow guns. When re-surfacing we install smaller nozzles making a finer crystal and a nice light surface that our skiers can enjoy right away. This also allows us to move faster across the mountain. This also has been well received. Although you don’t feel our grooming has improved, we have gotten many compliments on the noticeable changes. By no means do I think we can’t become better. You have my word that we will continue to make improvements and push hard to re gain our guest’s confidence.

I hope that helps explain our grooming strategies at Okemo. As always I look forward to and appreciate all comments - both good and bad – so keep them coming!

Best regards,

Eb Kinney
Mountain Manager
Okemo Mountain Resort

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Everything but the kitchen sink...


The past 24 hours have been interesting here at Okemo. At Noon on Saturday Feb 5, the weather forecast was for 6 – 12 inches of snow. At 5pm the forecast was changed to 3 – 5 inches of snow with some possible icing, at 8pm the forecast was for sleet, 1-2 inches of snow and a potential thunderstorm.

Well the weatherman got the snow accumulation and the thunderstorm correct. Snow thunder is an anomaly and not something that happens very often. I’ve only seen it once in my life and I’ve never seen the type of thunderstorm that was experienced during last evening. So what did that mean for the morning opening?? Well it was interesting to say the least.

What began as dealing with some snow, soon turned into an ice problem. The Mountain Ops staff got the Base Quad, Sachem and Glades peak lifts open so we had access to the summit. The Black Ridge & Morning star as well as the carpet lifts were all good to go. The guys then went to Northstar lift and ran into some ice, some hard ice..

The decision was made to try and get the Coleman Brook Express and Jackson Gore Express up and going before the Northstar. Keep in mind, it takes anywhere from 7-11 guys to get these lifts going. The towers have to be checked to make sure the wheels (sheaves) are turning. (When they aren’t, you climb the tower with your climbing harness and beat the ice off the sheave). After the line is cleared, the chairs need to be put on the lift. This takes pushing them on with a couple guys and then getting them "spaced" for the day. As you can see it takes some time.

While some of the guys are getting the lifts going, there are several others who are going around the mountain looking at trails to make sure they are groomed and skiable. When it is decided they are not, a groomer is called over to take his machine either down or up the trail. Of course throw in that the crust that was evident on the snow was not skiable and thus the mogul trails needed to be groomed. So a groomer goes down slowly over each mogul to break things up and make it skiable. If this wasn’t done, then the rope would have to be pulled.

Now we throw in the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster. The Ripper had some ice problems on the rails. Another group of guys was working on de-icing the Timber Ripper. Hitting the rail and removing the ice. We are learning on the Ripper and we learned that it takes time, more time than we thought...

So I’m here to thank you for your patience. I know we could do a better job communicating with our guests on what is happening. We apologize if one of your favorite trails wasn’t opened, we apologize that we had to groom the moguls, and we apologize if the skiing wasn’t the Okemo experience. I do know that things will get better and today was one of those weather days. We will work hard to improve and learn from every one of these, but safety is paramount in our decision making and there are times when things just take time.

Thanks for your support and for skiing and riding here at Okemo Mountain Resort

Bruce Schmidt
Vice-President and General Manager

Sunday, January 30, 2011

More Snowmaking? You bet!

The end of January is upon us and that means we are heading into the exciting months of February and March. February, while the shortest month in number of days, has some of the most exciting times with normally more snow, some great weather, excellent skiing and good business. March has the weather, more sun and some excellent spring skiing.

Snowmaking is continuing here at Okemo. No doubt it is on an as-needed basis, but we have made snow every week through January and plan to continue making. Normally, snowmaking temperatures end in early March, but we have made snow in March before……

The decisions on where to make snow is made collectively with input from mountain operations, ski patrol and myself. There may be a need to make snow to freshen up the moguls, high traffic areas, or to just make the skiing better. The intent is to pick specific areas and work on them and not get spread out so much on the mountain. With the fresh powder, the need for snowmaking becomes somewhat diminished, but we are ready to make when needed.

Grooming this season has continued with an aggressive schedule. The groomers have kept some of our trails ungroomed, but the others are being done each night. Eb Kinney, Okemo's mountain manager, changes the routine of grooming during the month so the groomers don’t always begin in the same area. This helps change things up and allows different trails to set up in different ways. The mogul trails have been groomed and snow made as needed to try and keep them in top shape.

The latest addition to the groomers' responsibility is the Superpipe. This is groomed several times a week and done with the winch cat and with the laser guided Zaugg pipe cutter. From what I hear, the pipe is in great shape.



Here's hoping for some fresh powder and great weather as February is upon us ...

Bruce Schmidt
VP & GM






Thursday, January 20, 2011

What a ski operator lives for


This season has been playing out to be one of our better ones in terms of number of snow storms, amount of snowfall, and overall winter weather. At the risk of sounding greedy, here are a few things I live for:


  • Ideal snowmaking temperatures between 0 – 15 degrees. Above 15 is OK, but not as efficient. Below 0, while we do make snow, there is a much higher alert for frozen pipes, staff frostbite and overall problems.

  • Snowstorms on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays. Other days can affect travel for guests, perception of travel problems and clean up issues. We like to clean up midweek when it is not as busy.

  • Snowstorms in Southern New England. SIMB...(Snow in my backyard) is great. It gets people thinking about skiing. And, they know Okemo will have great skiing. It also helps when the Weather Channel plays up every storm like it is the "storm of the year". We like when snow is on everyone’s mind!

  • Dry Powder Snow. Snow that is sticky can be tricky. Snow with a crust can be trickier. Trails that can be groomed aren’t the issue, trails that are gladed can’t be groomed and therein lies a problem. Sometimes it is a waiting game, other times we send in staff to break up the snow, sometimes we try to sneak a groomer on some of the trail. (Note to self: The Narrows is named that because it is narrow... too narrow for a groomer. And believe me we have tried!)

  • Sunny skies on Weekends. Self explanatory.



The most recent storm was an example of nice dry snow with a thin mix of sleet at the end. Thus, we got some crust. It has really affected the glades and moguls. The Mountain Operations staff had to "run over" the moguls so they became "beginner" moguls. The plan is to re-seed and make snow on Black Out and Sel’s Choice before the weekend so we can get them back up to snuff.

So while I'd prefer my perfect world as outlined above, there are also realities about what happens in a Mountain environment. The best thing we can do is try to communicate what we know at the time to our guests and work our hardest to try and provide the best skiing and riding possible.

In other news - the Bigloo is being built today in the courtyard at Jackson Gore. Check it out on the live web cam.

It looks like an amazing day today, hope you can get out skiing. It is Day 59 of operations. How many times have you been on the slopes???

Bruce Schmidt
VP & GM

Thursday, January 13, 2011

So you want to build a superpipe?


Okemo's Superpipe is slated to open this Saturday, January 15th. This will be great news for skiers and riders and the completion of a big project by Mountain Operations. Believe it or not, this project got underway about 21 days ago!

A lot of people don't realize that the pipe gets it basic shape from the ground below. The earth is actually dug out to form the basic template of a half pipe. Snow is then used to build up the walls and create the bottom of the pipe.

Once the snow is made up to the sides of the earthen pipe, the guns are shut down and work begins on phase one to "push in the pipe". The walls begin to take shape and snow is moved from top to bottom and bottom to top, as the basic structure comes together. Barry Tucker (VP Mountain Operations) and Eb Kinney (Mountain Manager) then take some readings with a laser level to determine the line and get a feel for where the walls will eventually be. After this first session of pushing and measuring, then it is back to snowmaking. Okemo works to maintain 18 foot walls with a 17 degree pitch on our Superpipe, and that takes a lot of snow!

After another round of pushing and shaping with groomers, the "cutting of the wall" begins. This work begins with an excavator for basic shape and is finished with the precision of a Zaugg pipe cutter. The Zaugg is kept in line with a laser level and a winch cat to help the machine travel up the pipe. Normally it takes a couple of passes to get it "race ready".

At this point it becomes all about letting riders take their turns so we can dial in the fine tuning of the walls. The grooming team gets on a schedule of cutting the pipe and touching up the walls a few times during the week. It is important to not cut the pipe too much - as every time it is cut we are a few inches closer to the earthen walls. As the season progresses, this can also cause the transition to become too far between the walls.

Many thanks to everyone who has helped get the pipe up and running this year. It has taken a little longer than we had expected, but we feel the final product will be well worth the wait...


Ride on,
Bruce
V.P. & G.M.