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


Rich said...

why don't u update the website. 119 trails were not open today. not even close. don't print out your trail status until u know what's open. All of the reports (in the bus, at the base) listed 100% open. Shouldn't they be printed out in the morning after patrol has done their job and confirmed trail openings?

Rich said...

While I'm complaining, why does ski patrol shut down so much at 3:00. I understand that you want to avoid people ending up stuck at the wrong base area, however, I would like to ski until the lifts close. Maybe the lift ticket should be prorated for the last hour. Most of the trails at Jackson and solitude get roped off way to early.

Okemo Mountain Resort said...

Hi Rich, thanks for your comments. Yesterday was definitely one of those days we wished there was a "reset" button. We had some curve balls from Mother Nature that prompted miscues in the morning. Bottom line is that we did not do a good job of communicating that to our guests. Please accept our apologies.

In terms of closing times, I have shared your comments with head of ski patrol. Here is a look at closing times around the mountain:

South Face sweep begins at 3:20 so we can put last chair on a 3:30. Solitude ropes are pulled at 3:30 for a 3:45 last chair. (This leaves Sidewinder and Village Run open to homeowners/JG guests.) Big Bang and Eclipse are closed at 3:30. Our earliest closings occur in gladed areas, where more time is needed for sweeps. This begins at 3 pm.

I hope this helps. Thanks again for writing.

Allie said...

Okemo has always been the best at grooming, even 20 years ago when no one did it. Bad snow? Awful weather? Okemo will turn the lemons into skiiable snow. I like the insight here on how this stuff gets done (who knew it was so much work? not me). Wow, a new respect for those groomers.

Yeah, it would be a bummer to show up and find fewer trails, but most other mountains can't compare.