Thursday, January 6, 2011

Snowmaker to the Rescue

Okemo Mountain Resort operates on a 24/7 schedule 365 days a year. Sure, during the winter months we open a ski area during the daylight hours, but there is so much more that happens throughout the night. In fact, most times our guests are not even aware - but there is always something going on.

On the day of the big snow storm last week (Dec 26-27th) a guest who was staying at Trailside had her two beagles escape from their unit. Of course the wind was howling and the snow blowing, making it nearly impossible to find them. She called Okemo and the word went out to the night staff to be on the look out for these two dogs. Unfortunately those little characters weren’t seen at all that night... they must have had their nose to the ground looking for rabbits!

Well on the evening of January 2nd Jason Burton (who was the snowmaker on the noon to midnight shift) spotted them on the Buckhorn trail. He immediately called Brian Boudrou, our Night Operations Manager and he came and picked the dogs up and took them down into his office for the night. He laid some jackets on the floor and turned the heat up. Except for a few porcupine quills from an encounter in the woods, they weren’t too worse for the wear - just two very tired pups.

Brian called the owner the next morning, who was ecstatic to learn they had been found. He then arranged them to be transported to the local animal clinic where they could be looked over while awaiting their "people".

Many thanks to Brian, Jason and the entire Night Operations crew - you went above and beyond in making this happy ending.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Weather, Wind and What's Ahead

The year 2011 began with our first January thaw. I guess we should have expected such a "gift" since the weather has been ever changing for the past 6 weeks. One major snow storm, some mixed precipitation and a very cold December. Typical weather in Vermont. But a quick turnaround is the name of the game here, and snowmaking was back on as of last night. Our focus will be on both re-surfacing and patching existing terrain and working on new terrain.

Trails that have been open the longest will get first priority. These include Upper and Lower World Cup, Sapphire, Defiance as well as Upper and Lower Arrow and the base area. Some trails will get the full treatment and others will receive attention in certain sections, depending upon need. The weekend's warm weather opened up some thin spots on heavy traffic areas, so it will be obvious as to were we need to make snow.

New terrain to focus on will include the Pipe, Dream Weaver and the lift line trails. We will also revisit our slopeside lodging trails and do what we can to keep them open.

Now to wind. It goes without saying that our thoughts are with those who were injured in the Sugarloaf ski lift accident. Since that accident many of our guests have asked us what the wind procedures are at Okemo.

First, our Lift Maintenance department is staffed with top notch, experienced lift mechanics. Our Head Mechanic has been with Okemo for 20 years. His longevity is a strength not to be underestimated. He and his staff ride each lift everyday and focus on preventative maintenance all year long. Okemo's commitment to safety is both well-documented and respected in the industry.

Ski lifts are affected both by direction and speed of wind. Whenever there is a potential for a lift to be shutdown due to wind, our lift mechanics and mountain operations staff team up to constantly monitor the situation. Mechanics are vigilant to watch changing weather, operations staff ride the lift line on snowmobile to constantly assess conditions, and our ski patrol (riding the lifts) maintain a direct line of communication with mechanics. At any point any member of the team feels that wind is causing dangerous conditions they have full support to cease lift operations. Constant vigilance is not only very important, it is a priority.

This past week was very busy and hopefully you were able to enjoy some great skiing and riding. Receiving a snowstorm around Christmas is always a blessing and helped enhance the holiday week. The Okemo staff will now be working on making things better as we head into January. Thanks for your support and feel free to drop a note on how we are doing.