Sunday, December 10, 2017

Heading towards the Holidays at Okemo



Greetings,

New snow has covered the ground and it's looking white around the resort.  Winter is here.

As of the weekend of December 9th we have 36 trails which is almost 200 acres of skiable terrain. Even though we have received the first snowfall of the season, snowmaking will continue at every opportunity while we have these colder temperatures.  During the past week we added trails in the Jackson Gore area, some in Solitude -- and most likely will be adding Rimrock and trails around that area early this week.   The plan will be to work on Upper & Lower Chief, Sidewinder, Quantum Leap & expand teaching terrain in Jackson Gore as well as beginner terrain in the Clocktower base area. 

The other areas we will put some of our snowmaking capacity on will be Wardance, Sachem, Ledgewood, Kettle Brook and the Morning Star and Solitude lodging trails. The lodging trails are important to Okemo and we should be opening some of these with the weather expected this week.  Wardance has been tougher for us this year as the snowguns we have on the trail are the standard HKD variety and to use these guns the temperature requirement is below 20 degrees.  This coming week looks like that will happen.  Without Wardance thus far, we have been holding race training on Sapphire. Okemo also hosted a VARA slalom race on Nor’easter.  We understand this setup is not ideal and will work hard to get snow on the Wardance race trail.

During the past week or so there have been a couple days where the skiing conditions on some of the trails has not been ideal.  In fact it probably wasn’t good at all!  We realize this and are not proud of the initial opening on some of these trails. We realize that some of the Jackson Gore trails weren’t ideal when we opened on Friday. In order to help make the skiing and riding better we are going to let trails “sit” for 24 hours after heavy snowmaking. We will begin grooming after the 24 hours of “time out”.  This allows the snow to settle, some of the water to leach out and makes for a better surface.  Rimrock will be an example of this. We will finish snowmaking on the trail tonight and then won’t plan to open the trail until Tuesday.  We can’t do this every time, but will whenever possible.  Trails may not open as quickly but the skiing, when they do open, will be better.

Our RFID ticketing system at the lifts is working well. We appreciate your patience when it comes to working through any challenges. Most of these are quickly fixed -- and much of the time right at the lift with the gate monitors. If you are asked to go down to the resort services desk that means that the problem is more than what can be done on the phone.

Thanks for your support and as always let us know how we can improve.


Bruce Schmidt

Okemo GM

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Off and Running here at Okemo



Greetings,

The Okemo blog is returning and will be in the winter mode moving forward with more timely updates.

Skiing and riding at Okemo have been great for the Thanksgiving weekend.  The snowmakers and groomers provided 20 trails and lift operations and lift maintenance crews had 5 lifts operating. The skiing has been good with very carveable snow and, even though we have had changing weather conditions, the snow has remained pretty consistent.  This late fall/early winter pattern fluctuates dramatically, but the good news is that we have not seen a lot of melting of the snow crystals and thus, the skiing has stayed more consistent.  The other good aspect of this time of the year is that even though the sun is out, the angle of the sun is lower and doesn’t heat things up as much.  So there is your weather lesson for the week!

As the ski season marches on, Okemo will continue to make snow when we can.  Don’t be fooled by looking at your thermometer and saying, “Hey Okemo must have made snow --  it is 30 degrees this morning”!  When we talk about making snow at every opportunity what we really mean is that there is a window to make snow, not just that the temperature dropped to the high 20’s late at night.  Always keep in mind the old saying, “It is always coldest before the dawn”. Okemo snowmaking needs temperatures below 25 and we need a “temperature window”.  2-3 hours is a minimum most of the time, as it doesn’t even make sense to get the system charged unless we will have some consistent snowmaking time.  It takes between 90 to 120 minutes to charge both the air and water system to make snow on the Summit area, Jackson Gore, Solitude or South Face so we want to be sure we are getting a good window.

So what is the plan?  Snowmaking this week we will be working on Jolly Green Giant, Defiance, Coleman Brook & Mountain Road. We also will put some guns on some of the existing terrain to keep the surface up to snuff.  Our plan is to head towards the Jackson Gore area by the end of the week if the weather cooperates. We can only begin snowmaking after December 1st in the Jackson Gore area because of wildlife permit conditions.  Looking at the weather it looks up and down this week but there does look to be a pattern change the first week of December which hopefully be positive for winter weather returning and staying around.  We also have Wardance on the list and will be heading toward some of the lodging trails like Sachem, Ledgewood & Kettle Brook.  No promises can be made but we fully understand the need to get those open as soon as possible for our loyal guests.

As for grooming, we have our groomers hired and most are working now. We have a lot of returning staff which is great as they know the product that our skiers and riders are looking for.  The groomers are working at night to get the skiable terrain done and most importantly to set up the snow so it is ready for the morning. We also have a couple who come in at 5am and take care of any snowmaking or other small projects.  The Mountain Operations staff are always looking to make the on-mountain experience even better than the day before.

Thanks for your support and as always let us know how we can improve.

 

Bruce Schmidt

Okemo GM

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Season End Approaches



Greetings,

April has arrived and the snow and colder weather stayed with us.  This spring has been an unsettled one, no doubt.  It is looking like the warm weather and bright sun will now be with us for a while and that will make for some great spring skiing to finish up the season.

 
When the season ends on Easter Sunday, April 16th we will have skied and snowboarded 144 consecutive days beginning on November 23.  The weather had its ups and downs but all and all we had some great snow, wonderful ski & ride conditions and a strong season.  There is always the question about why end the season now vs keeping it going as we have open trails.  This is always a debated question amongst some of us here at Okemo.  In the end, we look at the long-range weather, look at the what we feel the conditions will be and we look at business levels.  This week is beginning a warm period that is looking to be extended into next week and this will no doubt change the look on the mountain.  I know we cannot please everyone with the decisions we make on closing day but it is important to note that there is plenty of discussion.

 
This coming week skiers and riders will see some changes in operation which will include the closing of the Jackson Gore area during the week and reopening on Good Friday, April 14th and remaining open through Easter Sunday.  This is a good balance and will allow some consolidation of operations on the Clocktower side for most of the week.  We will be operating Base Quad A & The Sunburst Six beginning on Monday April 10th. There will also be ticket pricing changes when this begins.

 
I want to thank each and every one of our guests who spent time with us here at Okemo this past winter.  We appreciate so much the confidence you have in committing to ski with us if for a day or the entire season.  I understand there is a certain amount of trust that is needed when you drive to the mountain, walk to the lodge, get your ski gear on and head out on to the slopes without really knowing what to expect.  Hopefully the entire Okemo team has proven to you that you can trust us and we will continue to provide the best possible mountain experience each and every time. I also hope that if we do stumble, that we do what we can to make it right for you and show you that we want you to return.

 
Okemo is not just winter and our summer operation opens soon.  The Okemo Valley Golf Club and Tater Hill Country Clubs will be open the links soon for all you golfers out there and the Okemo Adventure Zone will be opening on Memorial Day.

 
Thank you so much for your support this season. We know you have choices and really are thankful and appreciative that you choose Okemo!

 

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Snowmaking in March





Greetings,

If you weren’t on the mountain this past week, you missed some great skiing and riding. Yes, I know you are going to say it was warm, but that made it even better! The weekend was much better than was forecasted, with no inclement weather until after the lifts closed on Saturday. Sunday's snow was firm, but the surface was edgeable and guests shared some positive comments on their experience.

Did I tell you that we will be making SNOW IN MARCH???? Cold weather is arriving ... we are expecting sunny skies and temps in the teens to low 20’s during the day. In an effort to extend spring skiing, SNOWMAKING has started again this week. Sunday night our snowmakers were very busy and are scheduled to come back Thursday afternoon. We plan to focus our snowmaking efforts on the main line trails and up around the summit area. We are also heading into the Clock Tower base area to build some depth. Snowmaking in March is a serious commitment to a long spring season! 

The efforts of our Snowmaking Team, along with almost 100 inches of natural snow, has given the distinction of the most acreage, most miles and most open terrain in Vermont to Okemo!  We are skiing and riding on 612 acres and over 40 miles of trails. That, along with snowmaking in March, means a long season. 

We plan to monitor midweek lift usage as well as our other operations. We may make some adjustments, but we will keep everyone up to speed through updates to the Snow Reports page of Okemo.com. My goal is to be up front;  everyday I try to make decisions before the resort opens, in the hopes of making it easier for our guests to make decisions. Without a doubt though, the best laid plans don’t always come together. Sometimes we end up making adjustments on the fly. We will always let you know through the web site, Facebook and Twitter.

March is here, snowmaking is going to happen as temperatures permit and we have the most snow!  It doesn’t get any better than that! Enjoy and thanks for your support this season.

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Late February Update





Greetings,

The month of February has brought plenty of snow, sunshine and warm weather. Okemo guests have been treated to great ski & ride conditions and we expect it to continue into March. 

This past holiday weekend was a good one at Okemo. While there were no records set, skier visits were very strong and I can’t thank all of our loyal skiers and riders enough. There were some operational challenges, including longer lift lines, slower than normal food service, and some muddy parking lots, but Okemo continues to work on all aspects of our operation and we strive to provide the best experience possible for our guests.

I have been asked about how this past week's weather pattern has affected the skiing conditions and snow. There's no doubt that the snow has been more edgeable and carveable. Grooming has been happening every night and the groomers have been changing their patterns to mix things up. The grooming begins in Solitude each night, since it is closest to the Maintenance Shop. As soon as ski patrol finishes their nightly sweep, the groomers head to either Jackson Gore or the South Face area. Switching things up allows for each area to set up differently. The area which is groomed first is always firmer and on sunny days, can be the best place to start your day of skiing or riding.

Snowmaking will continue, even as spring approaches, whenever temperatures permit and we will remain aggressive in keeping our trails open and lifts operating. The snowmakers have been cleaning up some of their hoses and guns, but are poised and ready to go as needed. We are increasing snow depth for high traffic areas and working on some of our main line trails. Heading into March, we are expecting some great spring skiing and riding!

Okemo is stoked to host the Volvo Sponsored Sugar Daze concert in the Jackson Gore Courtyard. This free concert is scheduled for Saturday March 11th and goes from 3:30 – 8:30pm. A local warm-up act will take the stage at 3:30. MAGIC! will dazzle the crowd with their catchy fusion of reggae, pop and R&B, starting at 5:45. Then at 7:15, two-time Grammy and World Music Award nominee Paul Oakenfold will perform. Sugar Daze is always a great time for everyone!

This week, Vail Resorts purchased Stowe Mountain. Okemo has congratulated Vail on their purchase and we welcome them to Vermont. Stowe is a great resort and we are sure that Vail will continue the great skiing and riding experience that Stowe is known for. Having Vail in Vermont may result in Okemo adjusting some of the ski experience offerings available, but that will come with time.  Presently, we are in wait-and-see mode and we'll continue to concentrate on the positive energy Okemo has going, as well as focus on what we can offer for our guests.

Here is to a long winter and a great spring skiing experience. Thank you for your continued support and for a great February vacation week!

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM



Friday, January 13, 2017

MLK Weekend Update




Greetings,

Okemo has just surpassed Day #50 for the ski season and we are in full mid-winter mode.  The ski season has been going along well and we are looking forward to a strong Martin Luther King 3-day weekend.

The weather has been challenging off and on this winter and that is true this week.  There has been some wet weather, some sunny weather and some cold weather. The great news is that this weekend we are looking at the sunny and cold.  The January temperatures are welcome and will make for a great ski weekend.  There is no doubt that the skiing surface will be variable…we can’t prevent that. But I can tell you that Okemo groomers will be diligently working the snow with mountain tilling, blading and power tilling the best we can.  We will also have the winch cat out on the steeper terrain each night pulling snow up from the bottom and moving things around.  Also helping out will be the snowmaking team.  Snowmakers will be doing their part with an aggressive push on existing terrain.  This will mostly focus on the main line trails in the center of the mountain and head out towards Jackson Gore and Glades peak into South Face.  While we won’t be able to tackle every trail, the plan will be to run and gun, lay out some manmade snow and then move. We are hoping to cover a large percentage of the trails over the weekend both during the day and night.

Work on the Amp Energy Superpipe has begun and between the snowmaking and grooming we are coming along well.  If you haven’t seen the photos, check out the picture above or on our Facebook page.  Lots of snow has been made and now we will push the snow down the superpipe and onto the walls. After that comes more snowmaking and then more shaping. It is a long process but worth it in the end.  I can assure you that the work on the Amp Energy Superpipe is not impacting the snowmaking effort and grooming we are doing on the mountain at all.  We always work on the ski terrain and then go to the Superpipe.

There are times when our business levels are strong on the slopes and around the resorts and I know that there is no doubt some frustration with lines, crowded buildings, full parking lots and lots of skiers and riders. I want to assure you that all of us here at Okemo are committed each day to do our best to keep lines moving, lodges cleaned up, cars moving and doing what is possible to have a great day on the slopes.  I know that we won’t always reach the mark, but the Okemo Team will try and provide the Okemo Difference every day.  Thanks in advance for your support and patience.

Bruce Schmidt

Okemo GM