Saturday, December 3, 2016

December Outlook

Okemo Friends,

December has arrived at Okemo and with that some great early season skiing and riding as well as a strong snowmaking push. While the weather has been up and down, the Okemo Mountain Operations staff has been able to open up almost 80 acres of terrain.

We have had 18 days of making snow since early November and we have made snow on more than 20 trails – with 11 currently open for skiing and riding. While the crew worked hard to get top-to-bottom trails, they also have been working to head into the Solitude area, and now Jackson Gore. The snowmaking game plan is broken down into the Upper Mountain, Mid Mountain and Base area. Imagine the mountain being broken into two sections: trails above the Black Ridge, Solitude and Jackson Gore all being upper Mountain, and trails below the top of the Black Ridge the lower Mountain. As you can imagine, I get lots of questions on what is happening as we head into the holidays. Here are some answers.

What is the snowmaking Plan?  That is a pretty broad question, but I can tell you that we balance the best possible skiing and riding with the addition of new terrain as quickly as possible. Presently, we are working with our patrollers and other departments who are on the slopes to decide if we need to make snow on existing terrain. Some of our capacity is committed to that while the rest is committed to adding terrain. We are headed toward Solitude with snow being made on The Plunge, Heaven’s Gate, Screamin’ Demon, Mountain Road, Sweet Solitude and Roundhouse Run. This will get us into Solitude as well as toward Jackson Gore. 

Why make snow on The Plunge?  The Plunge is an easy continuation down from Sapphire. We use the Plunge for both a way into Solitude, and as access to our Maintenance shop. We need a trail near the Maintenance shop to get the snow cats out on the slopes as well as move food trailers to the Summit Lodge. While we could make on Village Run, the Plunge is a better skiing trail than Village Run is, so it makes sense to head there. It also allows us to make Moguls if we wanted to earlier in the season.

When will Jackson Gore be open?  Snowmaking guns are set up on some of the Jackson Gore trails and we will be making snow there most likely Saturday night. Snow will be made first on Blue Moon, Sunset Strip, Lower Limelight and, if possible with HKD temperatures, Vortex and Quantum Leap. If the temperatures come in like we expect, we will also make snow on Inn Bound, Fast Track and Expresso. The plan is to have the Jackson Gore base area open by Saturday December 12. We will have a better feel by early next week. 

How much longer do we have to ride the Sachem Quad?  I know the ride on the Sachem is not the best, but as I always say, it is better than riding the shuttle bus! I am hopeful that we will be riding the Base Quad and skiing down Lower Arrow within the next couple days. The mountain skis better when the quads are operating, so we want to get there as soon as we can.

What about snowmaking on the slopeside lodging trails?  Believe me, I understand the importance of this.  The plan will be to get to those trails before Christmas or soon after. We want to get more terrain open to give more skiing and riding options, and we will pick off some of those lodging trails when we have some capacity. 

What about Wardance?  Once we have Lower Arrow open we will begin to work on some other mid-mountain trails. This most likely will include Lower Chief, Wardance, Black Out and Village Run. I want to have the racers in their own area so training can begin and Okemo can begin to hold competition events.

What about Terrain parks?  We have discussed where our first terrain parks will be worked on and most likely that will be either the Crazy Train Terrain Park or the Lower Tomahawk Terrain park. Both require lots of snow, so we would be doing this only if, and when, we have colder temperatures.

How long will the features stay on Nor’easter?  Okemo is working hard to create some terrain features and rails to balance out the skiing and riding, and have options for everyone. We plan to have terrain park features on skiable terrain until we have a terrain park built and open.

When will there be beginner terrain? As there are snowmaking temperatures in the base area, more of the base area, mountain road and open slope will be widened. We will focus on the F-10 learning area first and then the Mountain Road from the top of the Base quads.

Is Okemo grooming every night during the warmer weather? Yes, Okemo is grooming slopes and trails every night. There may be some areas with less snow that we are working around, but the majority of every trail is being groomed. When it was colder, Okemo ran some mountain tillers to help the surface. We will do this again as the temperature drops to keep the surface softer. Okemo grooming and snowmaking are making for a great skiing experience.

What is Christmas holiday period looking like for slopes and trails?  Whenever I am asked this question I am quick to let everyone know that, contrary to popular belief, Okemo does not have a crystal ball. I will say that Okemo will work hard to get as much terrain open as possible. We will work hard to have a great skiing product on our existing terrain. Our goal would be to have some terrain open in all the different mountain pods.  You can be assured that Okemo snowmakers will be making as much snow as possible whenever possible!  There is no issue with water supply, we have our generators in place, and there is a great snowmaking team that is supported by a strong Mountain Operations team to give all they have every day. 

This is a sample of the questions I hear and am asked. I am hopeful that I have answered some of your questions.  As always, if you have a question send it along. The entire Okemo team will do our best to give you the best skiing and riding possible!

Enjoy your days on the slopes,

Bruce Schmidt

Okemo GM

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