Saturday, December 29, 2012

Terrain Parks, Pipe and Thanks......


Another snow day here at Okemo. We could get used to this.  Snow on top of snow.  As we head out of the holiday week the new snow will make for some great skiing and riding.  The new snow has made for a happening ski resort and lots of guests enjoying some fun in the mountains.

Snowmaking is going to begin tonight with snow being made on Black Out, Halfpipe & the base area trails. We will be focusing on some of these locations to build base depth. Bull Run needs snow to get the Nastar course in place, Black out and Nor’easter needs snow for the building of the features for the parks, the halfpipe needs snow to begin construction and we also need snow on mountain road and open slope.  We don’t anticipate going on any of the other trails as we don’t want to affect the great skiing we have now.  Next week’s weather is looking colder, so we will work on areas that need a lot of snow which we can make more efficient in the cold temps.

The parks staff is headed towards Black Out and Nor’easter to get the terrain parks in place. I would anticipate having the Black Out park ready by next weekend with the Nor’easter Park following soon after.  The Superpipe construction will begin this week after snow is made during the week.  It takes some time to get the Superpipe made, so no estimate on time yet.  We also expect to see some mogul trails this week.

This week has seen some good crowds on the slopes. I also realize that there have been some traffic concerns at the end of the day.  Some of this is expected due to it being Christmas week. We continue to work with the town of Ludlow on making the exit off the mountain as smooth as it can be. 

Guests have been very patient this week and I can’t thank you enough. We train our staff for this week, but there will always be challenges.  I am hopeful that even though we haven’t gotten everything correct,  how we recover from those challenges is what sets us apart.

On behalf of all of us here at Okemo, Thanks for skiing and riding with us and we hope that you and your family have a very Happy New Year.
Talk soon,

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bring on the snow...............


We’ve got the snow!  Well we have waited over 600 days for this and look at it now.  Can you believe it? (The last significant snowstorm was over 600 days ago, actually in March of 2011).  13 – 15 inches of the fresh stuff out on the mountain.  This morning went pretty well, as well as the first major snowfall of the year can go. There were some groomer breakdowns, plugged power tillers, a few snowplow issues and your basic clusters at times, but all in all the guys and girls are pretty up to speed and know what to do.
We should be skiing over 110 trails for this weekend.  The ski patrol staff was on active duty today checking trails and opening up the skiing.  This storm had the wind as most Nor’easters do and the wind made for some large drifts on the slopes. More than one guy on a snowmobile got stuck today trying to go through a drift.  There would be no snow and then a 5 foot drift.  We needed to check the trails because of this and either had the groomers come along or have patrol ski pack out the drift.  Lift maintenance works hard on these mornings as the detachable chairlifts sometimes need a little coaxing to get the chairs through the contour of the lift.  Just a little bit of snow on the tires can cause havoc and once one chair gets stacked up in the terminal, there are normally others which follow.  I think the record is 7 or 8, but we don’t count when that happens.  The only way to stop that is have enough people to pull the chairs through and get things moving. Kind of like waking up in the morning and getting moving.

This weekend is shaping up to be a good one. Good ski and ride conditions, great weather and many of our friends visiting. A perfect combination. There are still some openings for ski and ride lessons and other children’s programs, but they are filling up fast.  The phone has been ringing today and I don’t mean maybe………  Snowmaking is taking a night off as the snow winds its way out of here, but we will begin again probably on Saturday.
After all the snow we got last night and today, you were out skiing and riding because many of the Okemo staff shoveled their way out and got into work.  It takes a team and Okemo is the best.
A hearty Thanks to all our Okemo supporters and guests who have the confidence in the job we can do to make skiing the best there is and provide a great experience for you and your families.  As always, let me know how we are doing.
Talk soon,
Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Snow Update - Man made and Natural


It is amazing what a difference a few days with cold temperatures makes.  This Christmas week is looking good with the skiing being top notch, trails being added and a snowstorm on the way.  The snowmakers and groomers worked right through Christmas getting the slopes and trails ready.  We are now up to 60 trail and 11 lifts.  I anticipate us probably adding another 3-5 on Wednesday and more within the next few days.  In speaking to Chris on Ski Patrol, he feels that many of our natural trails will be able to be added. Ski patrol has been ski packing many of them during the day and with a foot or more of natural Wednesday night into Thursday, I would anticipate we should be between 85 – 95 trails.  I wouldn’t anticipate us being able to open our gladed trails or the real steep trails like Ledges or Big Bang, but we should get others.

Snowmaking will continue as temperatures permit.  My guess is we may have to cut back with snowmaking during the snowstorm depending on the intensity of the snow. The forecast is for 8 - 12 inches of fresh powder by Thursday night.   Looking at the weather forecast, the temperature will be rising but then falling again as we head into Friday.  Looking at the next couple days I would anticipate opening on Wednesday, Nor’easter, Exhibition, Moon Shadow, Wardance & Homeward Bound.  By the end of the week we should be skiing several more including Upper and Lower Chief, Chute, Line Drive & Daybreak. As an FYI, last year during this holiday week we had about 50 trails!
Many thanks to all the Okemo staff who shared their Christmas day working at the resort.  It is because of the dedication of our hard working staff members that we are able to provide the best skiing and riding experience around.
A hearty Thanks to all our Okemo supporters and guests who have the confidence in the job we can do to make skiing the best there is and provide a great experience for you and your families.  As always, let me know how we are doing.
Happy Holidays,

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Friday, December 21, 2012

Looking forward instead of backwards........


I recall a saying going something like, if we didn’t have weather what would we have to complain about?  As we head into the Winter Holiday week, we are facing challenges, but also some things positive. Like waking up Friday morning to 5-7 inches of snow on the ground.  This was one of those times when the weather man wasn’t quite right!  The forecast was for 1 – 3 inches of snow, but the temperature held below freezing up through the atmosphere and snow it did.  The challenge part is the rest of the day we will see a mixture and some liquid precipitation. 
So now you ask, what does that mean?  The new snow and wet weather are making for some wet snow skiing today.  The forecast is for this system to clear out of the area this afternoon and change over to flurries and perhaps some light snow.  Our plan will be to wait and see and check on the snow as the evening progresses.  We won’t take the groomers out immediately on the trails.  We want to let the snow dry out some and then begin grooming right around the time the colder temperatures arrive.  Our plan will be to begin snowmaking as soon as temperatures permit.  When the temperatures get into the 24-26 degree range we will turn on the guns.  Obviously that will be on the upper mountain, but we will work down towards the base areas as quickly as possible.

First Day of Winter 2012

What is the plan you ask for snowmaking?  It really has not changed from other blog posts.  Sachem, Wardance, base area trails and lodging trails all are on the top of our list. Rimrock opened today and Sidewinder is only one night away from being finished.  We are going to take a hard look at some of the lodging trails and see if it will be possible to ski them with the natural snow.  We are also beginning on Nor’easter to give us another route from the summit and working towards Quantum Leap.  Blind Faith and Wild Thing will be our first trails in the South Face area.
Since the World did not end today, Okemo will be working every avenue to get the skiing and riding in top shape quickly.  Some trails may open late this weekend as grooming continues and we will make snow on as many trails as possible and that may even include making on some trails while you ski and ride. 
Thanks for your confidence in Okemo and support and I hope to see you on the slopes.  As always, let me know how we are doing.

Happy Holidays,
Bruce Schmidt

Okemo GM

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Heading towards the big Week......


In the ski business, we judge time as before Christmas, Christmas week, January, February vacation and Spring skiing.  Each time frame means something a little different and where we should be in regards to trails open lifts running, reservation etc.  As we leave before Christmas and into Christmas week, we remain cautiously optimistic with the weather.
Snowmaking looks to return tonight, Wednesday evening, and the plan is to go as hard, as long and cover as much acreage as we can.  The mountain operations managers have been looking at what is needed and it seems that there may be a couple trails to refresh, but we will be heading towards new terrain at the same time. Guns are poised to go to work on Sachem and Wardance in the middle of the mountain, beginner areas in the Clock Tower and Jackson Gore Base area as well as Rim Rock, Sidewinder, Moon shadow, Lower Fall Line and maybe Quantum Leap in Jackson Gore.  We are also looking at working on another access from the summit which may be Upper Chief or Nor’easter.   Once we get off of one of these trails we will be heading towards the rest of the lodging trails, as well as working on other terrain heading into South Face. 

The weather pattern looks to be active as we head into Friday and then colder temperatures are looking to settle themselves over our area beginning during the weekend.  This should set us up for some good snowmaking temperatures and if and when that happens, we should be adding trails quickly.  There will be plenty of priorities and we are aware of the need to get new terrain open as well as keep the surface skiing good.
So that gives you the plan for all you Okemo skiers and riders.  Christmas week is right around the corner and we are going to go hard and make it happen.
Happy Holidays,

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Okemo Remembers Newtown


This weekend was a tough one for all the Okemo staff as well as America.  I began Saturday morning with the following paragraph for our daily morning staff update:

“It is with a heavy heart that we begin this Saturday morning after the Tragedy that unfolded in Newtown on Friday.  While we can feel helpless during these times, we also can keep those affected in our hearts and prayers and hold our loved ones closer each day. This area of Connecticut is home to guests who may frequent Okemo and the Ludlow region, which brings this tragic event even closer to the Okemo family. The flags located around Okemo have been lowered to half-mast today as a sign of remembrance for those who lost their lives”.

This tragedy had such a profound impact on how we all look at life.  Okemo being a fun, kid friendly, family centered resort and to think we expected all our staff and guests to go about their day without a broken heart was impossible.  There were numerous conversations that staff had with each other, guests would tell stories of knowing the area of Newtown and where the school was located.  We all have been searching for an outlet and a way to express our grief. Things in life do happen, we all try to do what we can to mitigate the bad things in life, but in the end we are bystanders and never really know what might be around the corner. 

 My blog is dedicated today to thoughts and prayers, or anyway you might want to express your feelings, for those who lost their lives last Friday. Talking about snowmaking, grooming, weather or trails just doesn’t seem right today.  As the GM of Okemo, I want us all to take a moment, hug our family and friends and appreciate what we have here and now.  Life will go on, but in some ways it won’t be the same. 
Look for a new blog tomorrow and I will return to letting you know what to look for in the coming days and how we are going to make Okemo the place to be this winter.
Yours in peace,

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Thursday, December 13, 2012

It takes a Village


As the General Manager of Okemo it is expected that I know many things.  When it is going to snow? When is a trail going to open?  When will winter arrive?  Do I know so and so who works in this department?  The list goes on. Now I would say I know most of the answers, or can use my wit and wisdom to convince someone I think I know, but the truth is that I am only as good as the employees who work with me.  Okemo is actually another word for TEAM and that is what we have here.  I talk about snowmakers, groomers and the mountain operations staff a lot, but there are so many others who make my job easier and do so much to make the Okemo experience what it is.  During this Holiday season it is even more important to be grateful for all that everyone does in our lives, and I will surely say that there are so many who make me look good and make Okemo what it is.

I will answer some of the questions I got this week:

When will Sachem be open? 
The plan is to head there next week after we leave the bulk of Jackson Gore. The snowmakers will continue to make snow in Jackson Gore to get more skiing in that pod as well as the base area, but a bulk of our snowmaking capacity will be heading to other areas such as the middle of the mountain, main base area and towards Rimrock.

When will snow be made on Nor’easter?
Nor’easter takes a lot of snow, so we like to begin there when the temperatures are going to be in the single digits or low teens for an extended period of time.  Between Nor’easter and Upper Chief, the plan will be to begin on one of them as soon as there is some extended cold.

How many trails for this weekend?
The plan is up to 40 slopes and trails with 8 lifts.  Jackson Gore will be opening this weekend with all the services from the Jackson Gore base area.

What is going on with the Terrain parks?
We want to get the terrain parks open as soon as we can. Again, it becomes an issue of snowmaking temperatures.  The park staff has done a great job with making things work on Sapphire, but it is not ideal and we understand that. 

When will the Waffle Cabin open in Jackson Gore?

As always, keep the questions coming on Facebook, our competent staff will get right back to you as soon as we can.  We are all in this together and it is because of the great Okemo staff and you as skiers and riders that make Okemo what it is!!! Think snow and Happy Holidays.

Feel free to let me know how we are doing and enjoy the snow.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why I hate Fog and other tidbits........


I’m not going to talk about Snowmaking until the very end of my blog to see if we can change our luck!!!   So if you read about the negative NAO tilt and the Arctic Air LaNina syndrome (I made that one up) it would lead you to believe that there is science for all of these weather happenings……….  I think it is a cycle and we are about to break out of it…….

To be honest, I hate fog more than rain. Fog has a tendency to hurt the snow more than liquid precipitation. With the liquid stuff, there is more draining off of the snow, fog seems to eat the snow.  So rain is bad, fog is worse and cold is great.   The other thing that makes a difference in these weather events is manmade snow vs. natural snow. Manmade stands up much better to different weather than natural.  Natural snow is a lot more water and will disappear quicker in the sun, rain or fog.  Think about the last time you had snow on your lawn and woke up the next day and it was gone? 

Christmas is 17 days away.  I’m pretty optimistic that we will be in good shape as the holiday week begins.  The good news is that our other departments are working hard to get their areas ready for the influx of guests.  The mountain operations staff is getting some other lifts ready to operate and we are taking lodging reservations to beat the band.  It is coming together.

Skiing can be enjoyed in all weather!
Noah Schmidt & Dave Creaser
So what about snowmaking???   It is going to return at 9:17pm on Tuesday night!  Well that is a guess, but it is going to return.  The snowmakers have made some headway into Jackson Gore.  There is quite a bit more to go, but it is coming along. I would anticipate skiing into Jackson Gore by next weekend.  The plan is to also go "snowmaking strong" on many more trails especially in the middle of the mountain and begin to pick off some of the lodging trails.  We have a long term plan, but each day we reevaluate and see what is going to be the most efficient and best use of our system.  There are a lot of options and you can be assured that myself, Eb our Mountain Manager, Barry our VP of Mountain Ops and Ray our Snowmaking manager hash out a viable plan each day and then adjust as needed.

Feel free to let me know how we are doing and enjoy the snow.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Friday, November 30, 2012

Heading into December


I looked at the calendar and I was reminded that today is the last day of November.  Hard to believe…..  I’m not going to bore you with the, “this year is better than last year”.. stuff, you’ve heard all of that and know that this year we had around 5 times as many trails this year vs last...(4 in 2011, 20 in 2012) . I will say that this year has been interesting. Snowmaking has been sporadic and I’m really happy with where we are with trail count at this time. Raymond and his staff have done a tremendous job!  The temperature has been all over the place this past week. You could see the temperature go up as soon as the clouds rolled in.  Then we would chase the temperatures up the mountain with snowmaking guns and back down in the early morning. The snowmakers were on the move this week making adjustments.  This time of the year is tough to move around as they need to use their walking sticks, 4-wheelers or snowmobiles depending on where we are making snow.
The plan will be to ski into Solitude on Saturday morning.  It looks like we will be skiing Heaven’s Gate and Coleman Brook and then down onto Mountain Road. From there to get back to Solitude, you will ski the rest of Mountain Road to Lower Arrow and then down Lower Arrow to Village Run and the base of the Solitude Express.  Also looking to add Upper Fall line, Sprint and Moments Rest from the Glades Peak Quad chairlift area.

With these weather patterns, the groomers are really doing their part.  They are out there every night and each morning cleaning up from skiing or snowmaking.  There are only 3-4 working right now depending on the day.  The groomers are also helping out the night custodial staff by getting them up to the summit lodge as well as helping deliver food to the summit lodge.  During a normal winter week we make 2 -3 food deliveries a week and the trash is also brought down each night.  A lot goes on during the night by this dedicated crew of staff.

Making snow in Solitude early morning

Looking at the Crystal ball, it would seem that there will be some downtime for the snowmakers for a couple days after this weekend with snowmaking looking to begin again Tuesday night into Wednesday.  Jackson Gore will be on the list as well as finishing the rest of Sapphire as well as Screamin Demon and also heading towards Lower Chief, Wardance, and Open Slope and begin looking at some of the Slopeside lodging trails.  There are many priorities and we are constantly shuffling and moving around.  This time of the year, there is a lot of chasing the temperatures!

Thanks as always for your support and I'd love to hear how we are doing.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Monday, November 26, 2012

22-25 trails by the weekend!

Coming out of Thanksgiving weekend we are right smack in the middle of some cold weather and making snow 24/7. The skiing has been really good since we opened. The mountain ops staff and snowmakers brought back the conditions very nicely on Saturday after warmer weather changed quickly to a cold and freeze cycle. The conditions on Saturday, while not perfect, were pretty good considering the changing weather patterns. Snowmaking began early Saturday morning and on some trails, guests were enjoying the slopes while the guns were running. This isn’t something we normally do, but we felt it was important to help the conditions in some locations. Snowmaking will continue to be aggressive as we head into the first weekend of December. Our goal this weekend is to get the Solitude area opened up and then head towards Jackson Gore as well as some of the lower mountain trails like Wardance, Lower Chief & Open Slope. I anticipate having 22 – 25 trails for weekend skiing and riding.

I have been asked about the next 30 days which will be Christmas Day, and what is going to happen with snowmaking and skiing terrain. While it is hard to predict, I can assure everyone that we will work hard to meet our objectives. We will be heading towards trails in all parts of the resort. There are questions on the slopeside trails. Our plan will be to work on these as we go to the different pods. I can assure everyone that we realize the need to get those trails done quickly and will be doing all we can to make this happen.

Thank you to all our season passholders who attended the annual appreciation party this past Saturday evening. It was great to see so many returning guests and new faces. Okemo season passholders are a hardy bunch and very loyal to Okemo, and we appreciate your support.

Thank-you to everyone who supported our Hurricane Sandy Relief effort. Okemo will be making a significant donation to the Red Cross in the Tri-state area. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this weather event and especially the Okemo guests who were affected.

Thanks for your support and enjoy the snow.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Plan, the Pricing + the Parks


It looks like the snowmakers are going to be able to spend Thanksgiving Day sharing their feast with their families. This is great for them, but not for the rest of us. Warmer temperatures have migrated in to the area and it looks like the guns will be off until Saturday. The forecast for the weekend is colder temperatures returning on Saturday. When that happens, we will be firing up the snow guns.

The snowmaking plan will continue to be shoring up existing terrain and expanding as quickly as possible. We are planning to finish up Jolly Green Giant and Lower Arrow. There is also some work to be done in the base area off of the top of Quad A. New terrain that will be worked on will include Sunburst, Escape, Defiance. We will then head towards Solitude and Rimrock. The temperatures will dictate where we are headed and how much can be accomplished. Some of the longer range objectives will include Wardance, Lower Chief, Open Slope, and the Galaxy Bowl and of course Jackson Gore after December 1st. We will also be looking at beginning work on some of the slopeside trails around the resort as we head into December. The team looks at what will be best for skiers and riders as well as flow around the resort.

There have been questions on how we decide on ticket pricing. When deciding ticket prices I discuss with our VP of Marketing and Director of Operations some different scenarios. We try to find a balance of the value of the product, competition and market constraints. I feel that guests know that there is an expense to the skiing product which is being offered and expect to pay between 30 – 40% of a normal day ticket in early season. They also understand how the steps happen as more terrain is added. There are numerous discussions on these step increases and we are working on trying to make fewer steps, but at greater amounts as we work towards the normal ticket prices. The other factor we face is that many guests use vouchers or coupons during the early season, so many do not pay even our full-discounted price. I realize we won’t please everyone and there will always be naysayers, but in the end I feel our review and thought process is sound and fair.

Some have asked about the terrain features on Sapphire. Sapphire is a normal trail we use early season. Eb Kinney, Okemo's Mountain Manager; Dennis Brady, Park Manager; and John Boudro, our Park Groomer all work hard to provide a good early- season park that can mesh with the skiing public. We appreciate your support in our parks and understanding of the need to share the trails as we work to add terrain.

Reminder that Okemo will be supporting Hurricane Sandy relief beginning on Friday, Nov 23 and running thru Sunday, Nov 25. The first 1000 guests who give $50 or more in donation to the relief fund will receive a voucher for a midweek ticket good any day during the season. This comes on the heels of Okemo's $10,000 donation to the tri-state area Red Cross to benefit those in need after the storm. Help us raise more than $50,000 in support of our neighbors who were affected. This is Okemo's way of thanking those loyal guests as well as everyone who supported and helped Okemo, Ludlow and Vermont after Hurricane Irene last year.

Happy Thanksgiving, thanks for your support, and enjoy the snow.

Bruce Schmidt Okemo GM

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What a difference a year makes......


What a difference a year makes!   Last year Okemo wasn’t even open until Thanksgiving day!  Things are looking so much better for the season of 2012-13.  Good snowmaking temperatures have allowed the Okemo snowmakers to lay down snow so we are skiing top to bottom.  We are taking the scenic route to the skiing with the F-10 carpet, Sachem Quad and Northstar or Glades being used to get to the summit.  If you decide to ski on Sachem and Timberline, you will need to take the Green Ridge Triple to get back up to the summit.

I get asked quite often what the best temperature for snowmaking is.  The answer begins with below 20 degrees.  Above 20 degrees there are more factors with humidity.  We are constantly monitoring the “wet bulb” temperature which factors the ambient temperature and the humidity.  The lower humidity, the higher ambient temperature can be to make snow.

The long range forecast is for seasonal temperatures and sunny skies. So much for November being the cloudiest month of the year. This November has been sunny since we got out of the first week.  Good news although some colder temperatures would be welcome. 


(Many thanks to Ski Instructor Courtney McGuire for sharing this photo with us as she was traveling from Boston to Rutland on Cape Air.)

The plan for snowmaking continues to be heading towards Solitude with our snowguns. Sunburst is being worked on as I write this.  The base area objective will be to get skiing off of one of the base quads and to complete snowmaking on Lower Arrow down mountain road to the Northstar.  The word from the slopes is that the skiing has been very good for early season opening. The snowmakers have done their job, but now it is the groomers who are responsible for keeping the conditions up to snuff!  Snowmaking in the Jackson Gore area will begin as soon as possible after midnight on 12/1.  Due to permit conditions, we are unable to make snow over there on the state land prior to 12/1.

Reminder that Okemo will be supporting Hurricane Sandy relief beginning on Friday 11/23 and running thru Sunday 11/25. The first 1000 guests who give a $50 or more donation to the relief fund will receive a voucher for a midweek ticket good any day during the season. This comes on the heels of Okemos $10,000 donation to the Tri-state area Red Cross to benefit those in need after the storm.  Help us raise more than $50,000 in support for our neighbors who were affected.  This is Okemos way of thanking those loyal guests as well as everyone who supported and helped Okemo, Ludlow and Vermont after Hurricane Irene last year.

For all of you who have Thanks for your support and enjoy the snow.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Okemo Full Steam Ahead



By now you know that Okemo has opened for the season!  It was a yeoman’s effort from everyone. While the snowmakers and groomers were doing their job, the rest of the staff were hard at work getting everything ready to open 10 days early.  There are so many departments which must work together to get the resort up and going.  They were all given 48 hours’ notice and pulled it off great.  It is like trying to get the train going, it takes some time, but once it gets moving, it keeps on chugging along.

We have had some good weather for snowmaking and this has allowed our snowmakers to move quickly.  This weekend we are at 7 trails and 2 lifts. While we are continuing to shuttle up to the Northstar lift, I am glad to say that we are no longer downloading as World Cup is open from top to bottom. 



So where are we headed?  For the next few days it looks like the snowmakers will have a couple days off.  Snowmaking temps look to be returning by Tuesday night.  Once the temperatures return, the plan will be to patch up needed areas on existing terrain and then head for new terrain. We are very close, probably just one night of snowmaking away, from completing the Sapphire, Upper Arrow, Double Dipper connection down into the base of the Green Ridge Triple.  Once this is the plan will be to begin to expand towards Solitude as well as the Rimrock area.  This time of the year we have to follow the temperatures and normally that means up on the summit areas.  If there are any temperatures in the base area, we will head there as our number #1 goal will be to have top to bottom skiing from the base area.  We are very optimistic about having much more terrain for the Thanksgiving holiday. The Terrain park staff has some rails and features out on the slopes and will expand this as we add more terrain. 

Our November 8th opening was the fourth earliest in the history of Okemo.  The earliest was the 97/98 season when we opened on Halloween, although we had to close as the temps went up.  The earliest opening day and staying open was 02/03 on November 2nd.  Okemo was the 2nd resort in Vermont to open and the 3rd in New England this season.  The work that was done on our snowmaking system this past summer and the capital purchase of new snowguns has paid off with early season snow.

Thanks for your support and enjoy the snow.

Bruce Schmidt

Okemo GM

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Okemo Survives the Sandy Visit



I wanted to let our guests know that Okemo was spared the brunt of the wrath of Hurricane Sandy.  For the past few days all we have heard about is Hurricane Sandy.  We watched the graphics, the maps and the experts tell us what was going to happen and how bad things were going to be.  In the end, the State of Vermont, Ludlow and Okemo dodged a big bullet. To see the photos and videos of the destruction in Southern New England and New York relives memories of Hurricane Irene over 13 months ago.

After Hurricane Sandy came into Vermont, the damage assessment was minimal. The storm was more like a good rain storm with some wind.  There were trees which blew down around the mountain towards the summit. Some of these were on the Mountain Road up near the look outs as well as some window damage at the top of the Jackson Gore Lift.  A couple trees came to rest on some lift cables. The mountain Operations staff has most of them cut down and the damage cleaned up.  Many thanks also to the Facilities maintenance staff. Some stayed through the night to be sure all was well.  There was also a generator set up outside of the IT department server room which ran through the night so we would have power to our phone and computer systems. Of course the local phone company had issue and thus it was hard to call into Okemo or call out.

It is evident that Mother Nature is in charge when you see what happened to our neighbors to the south and some of the towns that our guests hail from.  It goes without saying that we should be keeping those people in our thoughts.

Nor'easter Terrain Park Early Morning

Snowmaking temperatures may be upon us early next week. The snowmakers are prepped and ready to go. We will keep everyone informed as to when snowmaking begins.  Until then I added a great photo to let you know what things will look like soon! Opening day is scheduled for Saturday November 17th.  Many thanks for your support

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Excitement is Beginning.......


I get asked all the time, #1. How much snow are we getting?  #2. Are you making snow yet?  And now this week, #3. What is going to happen with this Hurricane?  Here are my answers.  #1. 176 inches. Calvin the Catamount told me.  There is no way we can have a no-snow season 2 years in a row. #2. Not yet, but we are prepared and when we see envision extended cold, the guns will roar. #3. I think we will get a strong rain storm. Possible elevation snow above 2800 feet and some wind. I predict it will focus on Maine area when it comes ashore. 

So there you have it. Things I get asked every day! As the GM of Okemo, I am expected to know a few things.  To be honest, if it wasn’t for our paid weatherman, a few selective weather web sites and some experience, I wouldn’t be able to answer the questions either.  I know when we will make snow, obviously when it gets cold, but we rely on others to help us navigate many of the other challenges that we face or expect to face.  This time of the year is some of my favorite months. Soccer, another passion of mine, is in full swing, Skiing is getting ready to begin soon, another passion of mind, and every day there is something new to deal with.  It is great to see new staff come to work with energy and vigor. It brings everyone else up too.  Old friends return to get their seasons pass, new friends purchase seasons passes for the first time.  Full time staff are working on finishing up taking their vacation time.  Many staff are avid outdoorsmen and are either hunting now or preparing to hunt.

There is also a beehive of activity on the inside getting ready for the season. You will be able to get your Starbuck’s fix in the Clocktower base lodge this year. We have expanded our franchise to have two kiosks to sell Starbucks coffee around the mountain.  The rental shop had some minor expansion with wall removal. New carpet in the Sugar House and summit lodge and also some laid down in the Jackson Gore skier services area.

Here is a photo of the new gladded trails that were cut this summer.  As soon as there is enough powder, look to track some freshies. 

Opening day is scheduled for Saturday November 17th.  Snowmaking will begin in Early November as we begin to see a string of cold weather. Reminder Daylight savings time takes effect on Sunday Morning November 4, 2012.

Bruce Schmidt

Okemo GM

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Final preparations for a great season!

The first cold snap of the fall season is upon us and we have seen some snowflakes in the air on the summit. The old adage is if you see snowflakes on October 8th, then it is going to be a great ski season! There is a lot going on around the resort. Last minute painting is being done in the lodges, packages are arriving of new ski boots and winter wear and the mountain crew is hard at work getting the slopes, trail, lifts and equipment ready.

Yesterday saw the arrival of 42 new SV-10 Snow guns direct from HKD snowguns. These new guns are part of our capital expenditures this summer and will be used on trails like ower World Cup, Lower Arrow, Upper Arrow and the base area. These marginal temperature guns will allow us to help get open earlier season and sustain the surfaces on those trails all season-long.

Some more important work is being done in our lift maintenance department. Every 7 years, the State of VT requires each chairlift to be "load tested". This entails putting 110% of the maximum weight capacity in the chair and running the lift on electric and diesel power. We are also required to check the brakes with the lift going in reverse. The weight is provided by water in plastic bags and cardboard boxes. (We don’t use staff or disgruntled guests)! Once passed, the lift is officially put into service. This week we are testing the Glades Peak, Morningstar and Black Ridge Triple chairlifts.

Opening day is scheduled for Saturday November 17th. Snowmaking will begin in early November as we begin to see a string of cold weather. Reminder: daylight savings time takes effect on Sunday Morning November 4, 2012.

So, we're ready to make snow when the temperatures drop so stay tuned. As I've mentioned before... Calvin the Catamount is predicting 176 inches for the season. I hope he's right!

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

P.S. I'm also told our brand-new four season website is just days away from launch - so stay close to to be one of the first to check it out!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Great forecast, snowmakers are ready!


Some rain this week will bring out the fall colors, no doubt. Columbus Day is 3 short weeks away!

Have you seen the latest Farmer’s Almanac forecast map? Now this is showing us the way winter should be!

I use this with props given to the 2012 Farmers Almanac to emphasize that this coming winter will be one to remember. We have all heard the old timers' signs of a tough impending winter coming; lots of acorns, bees sectioning off the hive early, squirrels gathering nuts early and wooly caterpillars being brown, black or all brown or all black!

Here are a few you probably haven’t heard of: woodpeckers sharing a tree, thick hair on back of a cow’s neck, early arrival of crickets on the hearth, spiders entering the house in great numbers, and my all time favorite... "See how high the hornet’s nest, ‘twill tell how high the snow will rest".

So what does it mean? Probably very little, but we do like to talk about it. I can tell you that all of us here at Okemo are confident in a great winter, and we are even willing to bet this winter will be one of the best in recent memory.

So when will the snowguns start blowing? As soon as the temperatures drop! This summer there has been a considerable amount of work done on our snowmaking infrastructure, with pumps rebuilt at the mid-mountain pump station and motors upgraded in the base pump station. We also added $150,000 of new snow guns to our arsenal of heavy duty snow guns. Throw in a couple new snow cats (one specific to maintaining our terrain parks) and things are looking really good!

If you are in town, take a drive up the Mountain road, check out the foliage and great views and envision all the snow that will be on the trails soon enough! Calvin the Catamount is predicting 176 inches for the season...

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Irene - One Year Later


This week there has been many reminders about the anniversary of Hurricane Irene.  Today, August 28 is the actual day of this historical event in Vermont and Okemo history.  To say this was unexpected would be true.  I recall that day as being one to waking up to some rain and being mindful that we were expecting 3-4 inches of rain. What we got was closer to 8 inches of rain. 

There was so much that was happening that Sunday.  Getting to Okemo in the morning, it was obvious that there were problems developing and things were happening quickly.  Roads were washing out, water was going through buildings in the base area, pumps stations were being inundated and we were witnessing a crumbling of roads and bridges.  There were many Okemo staff that came into to help the situation and others would have if they could get in. By the time the seriousness of the situation was evident, many roads were washed out and travel was virtually impossible.


Okemo was lucky. By the time the water had receded, we were looking at damage of between $300 - $400,000.  Our marketing and lodging offices had been flood damaged and we also received some damage to roads, parking lots, some golf course bridges as well as other drainage culverts.  Many in Vermont suffered far worse. Some of our staff lost their homes, many had flooded basements or roads and still others were without power or access for over a week. 

They say during this type of life challenges, the good always come out in humans. This was so evident after Irene.  Neighbor helped neighbor, those who could donated money, food and equipment. Roads were made passable, culverts repaired and hugs were given.  Okemo staff rallied around each other to help those who were left with so little.  Okemo held the next Jackson Gore Music Series and over $15,000 was raised in donations and supplies. Okemo guests were calling asking where they could donate clothing or food as they had seen the photos of water charging down Main Street.


On this one year anniversary of Hurricane Irene, I wanted to take the time to thank all of you who stepped up to help those Vermonters in need.  Your support was greatly appreciated. I also want to thank the entire Okemo staff.  What you all did to help others and put Okemo back together after Irene was notable and so very much appreciated. The long hours and extra effort as we headed into the winter season were tough on everyone, but the work was done and when winter came, Okemo was ready. Thank you very much.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Two New Attractions in Summer; Three New Trails for Winter!

I hope you have been enjoying your summer. It sure has been a busy one here at Okemo! While our fearless leader is away for some much deserved time off, I thought I would fill you in on what's happening around the resort.

Our Adventure Zone is in full-swing with the addition of two brand-new attractions this summer. Our Segway ® PT Tours entered the lineup in late June, with the Sawyer’s Sweep Zipline Tour soon thereafter in early July. I had the pleasure of taking the off-road Segway® Tour last week with Okemo’s very own Chris Carner. He is just as outstanding on the Segways as he is on the snow! In fact, in so many ways, those Segways operate in a way that makes you feel like you ARE on the snow. If you have never experienced them, it is a definite must-do before the snow flies.

And the Zipline Tour… well you know what they say about a picture being worth a 1,000 words right? I’ll skip the words (lucky you) and go with this:

Book your tour today by calling (802) 228-1600.

And, of course the COUNTDOWN to winter… which is just 108 days but who’s counting? We have some exciting news about THREE brand-new gladed areas, which will add 16 acres of tree skiing and riding to our lineup! These new gladed trails run from the top of Upper Mountain Road to Easy Rider; from the top of the Coleman Brook Trail to Mountain Road; and from Mountain Road to Village Run. Stay tuned for updates from the hill, and of course, trail names!

We have also added TWO new grooming machines to the fleet including another Prinoth 500 horsepower Beast and an agile Prinoth Bison Park Cat. While these machines are “behind the scenes”, you will certainly enjoy the fresh corduroy they’ll add on a nightly basis!

Finally, we’ll be adding ONE additional Waffle Cabin at Jackson Gore! This is BIG TIME as that sweet, siren smell of those beguiling Belgian waffles will now tempt skiers and riders at both base areas. How’s that for some good news?

See you on the hill soon, Jenn

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Not Just for Winter Anymore!


First day of Summer has arrived! Summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere on June 20, 2012, at 7:09 P.M. (EDT).

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, each year the timing of the solstice depends on when the sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator. This occurs annually on June 20 or June 21 in North America, depending on your time zone. The word solstice is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the sun appears to stop at this time. In our region, we notice that the sun is higher in the sky throughout the day, and its rays strike Earth at a more direct angle, causing the efficient warming we call summer. In the winter, just the opposite occurs: the sun is directly overhead at its most northern point at "high-noon" on the summer solstice, creating more sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere on this day then any other. So what are you going to do on the longest day of the year?

CampGokemo has opened up at Okemo and anyone who visits the Jackson Gore area Monday thru Saturday will see lots going on at camp. Plenty of activities happen during the day ranging from swimming, to hikes, team sports to rock climbing. There are also visits to Plymouth State Park on some days and field trips to area attractions.

In speaking with the "golf guys", things are going well at both Okemo Valley Golf Course and Tater Hill Golf Club. The greens are in great shape, the grass is growing quickly and the irrigation systems are going full swing during this hot weather. Did you know some of those guys begin mowing greens at 5 am? It is a lot like the winter operations guys, except it is much warmer! Rodney, who is the course superintendent at Okemo Valley and Eric at Tater Hill work hard to keep their courses looking good and it shows.

The biggest question I am getting asked..."how is the zip line coming?" Well, things are looking good. The name is Sawyer’s Sweep Zip line, and the lower two sections are complete. Work is progressing nicely on the upper sections. We are anticipating an early July opening and guests can begin inquiring about reservations at We will have a more firm opening date to share soon.

The Adventure Zone begins 7-day a week operation beginning on Friday June 29th, so be sure to check it out!

Enjoy the sun and have some fun... Okemo, not just for Winter anymore!!

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer Fun is Underway!


It is time to begin some weekly blog posts to talk about what is going on during the summer. I’ll try to not do some shameless advertising, but some of my descriptors may come out of the marketing vocabulary! Either way, I’ll keep you informed as to what is going on.

There is going to be many new things to do this summer in the Adventure Zone. The largest and most expensive addition is the new Sawyer’s Sweep Zip line tour. The new high-flying, treetop tour located on the mountain behind the Resort’s Jackson Gore Inn will feature a rope ladder, suspended bridges, tree platforms and seven zip lines that rise 40 to 50 feet above the ground - the longest of which is 900 feet. Okemo’s zip line tour will operate year round with a different experience in every season, and the tour will take approximately 2 hours.

We have also added a new rock climbing wall. Actually new to us... as we purchased it from Killington. Our very own Diane Mueller did some authentic painting so it looks like a real wall, well almost! The Amp Energy Big Air Bag is also going to be set up for the summer. Purchase a ticket and then climb up the stairs in the staging set up and jump 30 feet into the bag. This should be lots of fun. The last new addition is Segway tours - those two-wheeled, always balanced vehicles. We plan to have tours around the resort area in Jackson Gore.

The mountain operations staff has been helping the zip line contractor set up their poles and string some cables. There are two large 50 foot poles that will be the finish of the zip line and they have already been erected. They have moved on to completing some of the others, with a real tough one near the Moonshadow trail. For this installation, they've had to drag the pole about 300 feet into the woods before being able to stand it up.

Of course all the other mountain work is moving along. All the chairs are now off of Quad A as lift maintenance is doing a normal x-ray inspection of the main haul cable and the grips are being inspected. Work is ongoing in the maintenance shop with the groomer tracks having their belting replaced and the groomers are getting an overhaul.

So that brings you up to date on some things happening around the resort.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Closing Up Winter, Looking Ahead to Summer


As fate would have it, as soon as Okemo runs out of snow and we close for the season, the warm weather disappears and cooler and more seasonable temperatures return. The mountain operations team (back in their winter gear!) have been busy cleaning things up, preparing the lifts for summer maintenance and putting things away. Today we even had some snow at the summit!

Lots of time and effort goes into opening and operating Okemo Mountain Resort, but a significant amount goes into closing things up too. State law dictates that we remove 10% of the chairs from each lift for a thorough inspection. The lift maintenance team removes them and scatters them around the base of the chairlifts to make this inspection easier. The lift shacks are boarded up to protect the glass. The summit lodge is boarded up for the same reason.

The snowmakers have been putting guns away and bringing in snowmaking hose. Inevitably they miss one and the groomers encounter it in the spring. Of course you know they find it with the mountain tiller and then all heck breaks loose... kind of like running over some wire with your lawn mower blade! The groomer mechanics really love when a hose gets wrapped in a power tiller attachment. Needless to say the next few hours are filled with all kinds of fun removing the tangled hose.

The groomers have been putting attachments away, clearing up some of the snow on the mountain road and bringing the mountain tillers to the upper mountain. We put them there now so they can be easily accessed in the fall. The mountain road will be opened probably sometime in May.

Looking ahead to the weekend, remember that Okemo Valley Golf Course will be opening for the season on Saturday 4/7. Tater Hill to follow in late April. I will continue to write on the blog periodically to keep you all informed as to what is going on. Work on the Canopy tour will begin in early May and we are hopeful for a July 4th weekend opening.

Thanks for your support this past winter and we are hoping to see you all this summer taking advantage of all we have to offer.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Closing Day Announced

As the warm weather is making the days enjoyable, it is also melting away the snow that our Snowmakers worked so hard to make all season. The groomers and Mountain operations staff have done a remarkable job keeping the skiing and riding going.

The time has come to put the 2011-12 ski season into the history books. Okemo Mountain Resort will be closing for the season at the end of the ski day on Sunday March 25th. It will be day 123 for this season. While we gave a gallant fight, the warming sun has been too much for even our large snowmaking effort and too many open spots have been developing. The Okemo Slush Cup has also been cancelled for this year.

I want to thank everyone for choosing to ski & ride at Okemo this past season, and appreciate all the guests that have read my blog and submitted their feedback. I consider each and every comment I receive - and frankly rely on them to help shape the future of Okemo. If you ever have thoughts or questions, I would invite you to share them.

Okemo Valley Golf Course and Tater Hill will both be opening soon, so get your clubs ready! And, we are excited to share that coming this summer to the Adventure Zone will a new Zipline Canopy Tour adventure. We are expecting a July 2012 opening, so stay tuned. The Canopy Tour will join the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, Lumberin Cal’s Mini Golf, The Maples Disc Golf and The Stump Jumper Bungee Trampoline for loads of family fun.

Thanks again, and enjoy the summer.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring has Sprung

Okemo is weathering the hot weather the best we can. The Mountain Operations staff is busy keeping snow where needed and checking trails constantly.  If it wasn’t for the aggressive snowmaking that Okemo did this past winter, we would be in even worse shape.

There are questions going around as to what the plan is for Okemo?  Our goal is to continue skiing and riding as long as we can. We are constantly monitoring what the slopes look like and marking where needed.  My plan is to review again on Thursday and make a decision as to what next week looks like.  I can tell you that we are planning and working hard to continue skiing & riding through this coming weekend. 

Hopefully that helps.  Keep in mind that Okemo will be holding our FESTEVOL concert weekend with the Barenaked Ladies performing this coming Saturday 3/24 and Big Head Todd and the Monsters with Guster on Sunday 3/25. Tickets are available on
Thanks for your support and keep checking back at for the latest updates.

Bruce Schmidt
Vice-President & General Manager
Okemo Mountain

Monday, March 19, 2012

Snowmaking this season v. 5-year averages


I don’t have to tell you that spring skiing is upon us and the end is near. The Mountain Operations staff is working hard to keep the slopes and trails open. Grooming is continuing and the Winch cat has been getting used almost every night. This warmer weather has been affecting our ability to push the snow up from the bottom of the steep sections. Using the winch cat has helped no doubt and we will continue to do what we can. The winch cat is being used on trails were we wouldn’t normally use it like Wardance and Sapphire.

I was looking at some snowmaking numbers in comparison to last year. Here are some highlights:

--The snowmaking guns ran about 5.5% less this year than the average.

--Total gallons of water pumped was about 10.5% less this year than average

--The total gallons of diesel fuel used for the season was about a 12.1% increase over the 5-year average.

--Okemo saw a cost per gallon of fuel increase of 26.8% over the 5-year average in per gallon price.

The other side of the coin was that we were able to open up our terrain quickly compared to the weather and we led the pack on many days as we headed into late January and February. No doubt snowmakers were on the run more this year than ever before and we were fortunate in that we made snow on all our snowmaking trails except 5 of them.

Reminder that Okemo will be holding our FESTEVOL concert weekend with the Barenaked Ladies performing this coming Saturday 3/24 and Big Head Todd and the Monsters with Guster on Sunday 3/25. Tickets are available for purchase at

Okemo plans to stay open as the snow holds. Now there are many things that can happen no doubt, but you need to be confident that all of us here at Okemo will do all we can to keep skiing and riding. Okemo will be there to provide the skiing product so our very important guests can have a place to take to the slopes.

Think snow and thanks for skiing and riding with us. If you want to follow what is going on from my desk, follow me on twitter @okemogm

See you on the slopes,

Bruce Schmidt
Vice-President & General Manager
Okemo Mountain Resort

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Heading into Spring


Spring skiing is fun as it is always different every day. Mornings are different than afternoons, Mondays are different than Thursdays. I’m sure you know what I mean. Even though the first day of Spring isn’t until March 20th, we are seeing some good weather headed our way.

So it is official….NO more Snowmaking this year. We were anticipating making snow in
March, but we just didn’t get any consistent cold temperatures to fire up the
guns. The snowmaking crew is now finishing up sending back the rental compressors, draining the water and air lines were need be, dragging in the hose and guns and cleaning things up.

As for grooming, the guys powertill the trails this time of the year. The winch cat
goes out on the slopes 2 – 3 times per week to pull snow up from the bottom of
the steeper trails and deposits it on the top and the halfpipe is cut 3-4 times
per week. Eb, Okemos Mountain Manager, also has the groomers start in different areas of the mountain to keep things different. One day it might be Jackson
Gore, it may be Nor’easter or perhaps South Face. This is also the time of the year when we make changes out on slopes and other operations.

A few examples:
- ePIC restaurant is closed for the season.- Top Shop Ski shop is closed for the season
- Timber Ripper is closed Tues & Wed - Snow Tubing is closed Tues & Wed
- Ice House is closed for the season - Amp Air Bag is open Fri/Sat/Sun only.

As many of you know we do make adjustments to lifts and trails. These will be on an as needed basis due to snow conditions. If
the weather forecast is somewhat correct, the trail count will probably be adjusted during the week. Guests are encouraged to call ahead or check for the latest updates.

Reminder that Okemo will be holding our FESTEVOL concert weekend with the Bare Naked
Ladies performing on Saturday 3/24 and Big Head Todd and the Monsters with Guster on Sunday 3/25. Tickets are available on

Okemo plans to stay open into early April, Mother Nature willing. Now there are many
things that can happen no doubt, but you need to be confident that all of us here
at Okemo will do all we can to keep skiing and riding. Okemo will be there to continue to provide the skiing product so our very important guests can have a place to take to the slopes.

Think snow and thanks for skiing and riding with us. If you want to follow what is going on from my desk, follow me on twitter @okemogm

See you on the slopes

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Monday, February 27, 2012

Great week, full steam ahead!


This has been a good vacation week. While the weather had a few hiccups, all and all it has been a good ski week. During the week we made snow on several trails and we fired up the guns this weekend. Mother nature also added some powder for our skiing and riding enjoyment with her storm on Friday night. Now not enough, but some is better than none. Snowmaking will continue as we head into March.

This time of the year is challenging for our grooming staff and Eb and Barry, the Mountain Managers. Decisions need to be made on grooming so as not to let things "get away from us". The temperatures fluctuate so much on different nights, that some nights they want to mountain till and other nights is strictly a power-till night. The key is making sure we don’t mountain till too long into the Spring. If the snow is stirred up too much from Mountain Tilling and then does not have time to set, it can create some real spring conditions much earlier than normal. There is always a balance, but in the end the guys always try to stop mountain tilling earlier rather than later for that reason.

The winch cat gets more on-mountain time during the spring as the snow is brought up from the bottom of the steep section of the trails. While it is important to make sure that the snow is not stirred up too much and then not be able to set, it is also a great way to use the existing snow to its fullest potential. The winch cat works on many of the steep trail sections during the spring and really helps cover up thin areas as needed.

Many people have been asking about the season and what Okemo's plans are for the spring? Okemo is a major Vermont Ski Resort and thus we will continue to fill our role. Okemo plans to stay open into early April, Mother Nature willing. Now there are many things that can happen no doubt, but you need to be confident that all of us here at Okemo will do all we can to keep skiing and riding. Okemo will be there to continue to provide the skiing product so our very important guests can have a place to take to the slopes.

Think snow and thanks for skiing and riding with us. If you want to follow what is going on from my desk, follow me on twitter @okemogm

See you on the slopes

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM