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