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

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