We arrived at Okemo and were delighted by the conditions. The snow was well-groomed and there was good coverage. Okemo had touted the opening of their new Jackson Gore area and I was looking forward to experiencing their newest expansion effort. This ski area has added two new areas since I first started skiing there. The addition of the Solitude area a few years ago and now the opening of Jackson Gore has greatly expanded Okemo’s skiable terrain. Even though there were a sizable number of people skiing that weekend, there are now so many trails and lifts that lift lines were short or non-existent and the trails were virtually empty.
I skied the two black diamond trails, Quantum Leap and Vortex, at Jackson Gore and I was impressed. They were steep and had a double fall line. When these trails get bumped up, they will be gnarly and finally provide the challenging expert terrain that is lacking at Okemo. I really liked the trail under the Jackson Gore high-speed detachable quad chairlift. I hope they let this trail bump up. It would even be better if they let it bump up on one side and groom the other side so if someone gets in over their head, they will be able to bail out. It was well groomed when we skied it and my assistant Regina, who is an advanced intermediate skier was able to ski it, although there were a couple of very steep sections that gave her a little trouble.
The trail that led there, Lower Limelight, was in good shape and fun to ski. Jackson Gore has seven trails and is reminiscent of some of the classic trails at Stowe, with their sweeping turns and undulations combined with a double fall line. When you visit Okemo, put Jackson Gore on your list of must-ski areas.
There have always been a few really difficult trails at Okemo, like Double Diamond and Outrage between the Southface and Glade Peak chairs. They drop off right before you get to the Southface chair, between Fall Line and Wild Thing. These trails are steep with trees and always bumped up but very few skiers even know about them because they are so far off the beaten track. Unless you spend the time exploring Okemo, it’s easy to get the impression that all they have are miles of corduroy. Having spent many days skiing Okemo, I know that there are plenty of trails that can really tax my skiing ability and the ability of any good skier. Wild Thing is steep but it is usually groomed and not too challenging unless it is icy. Forest Bump is challenging but it’s a very short bump run in the trees. Many of the other black diamond trails at Okemo are semi-steep cruisers like Fast Lane that I really like to ski at high speed. Now that Jackson Gore is a reality, hard-core expert skiers can come to Okemo and find a lot more challenging terrain, not only on the far left side of Okemo, between the Southface and Glade Peak chairs but now there is some really good skiing on the fat right at Jackson Gore.
MORE TRAILS LESS LIFT LINES
Because Okemo is now able to spread out their visitors so well on the snow, we had a really good time skiing the easier blacks and the blues that are fed by the Northstar Express Quad. We went over to the Southface chair for a couple of runs only to find absolutely NO lift line at all.
Due to the expansion at Okemo, it is now a large ski resort that has a vast amount of terrain. It has now joined the big boys and has more trails than you can ski in a weekend. Even someone like myself, who has skied there often, finds it hard to do it all.
Now matter where I ski at Okemo, I try to make it to the Sugar House Lodge for some of the fresh grilled burgers or rib-eye steak sandwiches that they cook on their outdoor grill by a mad chef in a sombrero. I had both this weekend and was not disappointed.
On this trip, we stayed at the Grey Bonnet Inn on Rt. 100. This is a moderately priced inn with fabulous breakfast and dinner menus available at their Olivia’s restaurant. Breakfast featured a variety of interesting omelettes and other tempting breakfast delights. The dinner menu included roast duckling, pan seared salmon, filet minion, pecan crusted chicken, rainbow trout, pasta dishes, steak and other interesting entrees. The glasses-in diningroom was bright and cheery with a beautiful view of the woods.
We had a beautiful room and took advantage of the pool, hot tub and sauna. All-in-all, this lovely Vermont inn was a charming place to stay. It is located just north of Rt. 4 less than a mile up Rt. 100. It is a great place to stay if you are skiing Okemo, Pico or Killington.
SUNSHINE THE NEXT DAY
It was sunny the next day and the snow was great. There were a lot more people as evidenced by all the cars in the parking lot but when you got up on the mountain, the lift lines were short and the trails were still uncrowded. We spent the day cruising the mountain. We made a few runs early in the day at Jackson Gore, looking for an old roommate of mine, Phil Salzano who coaches their J3 racing team. We checked out all the trails but could not find him. We were forced to ski on and on, enjoying ourselves on all the excellent snow.
After spending a fun morning skiing Jackson Gore, we again migrated back to the corduroy cruisers Okemo is noted for. We never had to face long lift lines and never waited more than a few minutes at any of the chair lifts. We had some interesting conversations with the friendly people we met on the chairs and had a very enjoyable time.
My hat is off to Okemo for doing a really good job with their newest expansion effort, Jackson Gore. Okemo now has 106 trails on five mountain areas. This includes 39 miles of trails on 562 acres of terrain. They have 16 lifts, including eight quads (four high-speed detachable quads), and three triple chair lifts to whisk you up the mountain. There are also four terrain parks and a beginner terrain park where you can learn to take big air and hard hits.
Beginners to advanced skiers will find something to love at Okemo. Riders will love the terrain parks and half pipe. Okemo is a family mountain even if your family likes to ski down steep trails or bumpin in the glades, not to mention riding on miles of corduroy at any speed that’s within your comfort zone. When you bring your family to Okemo, you may have to equip them with 2-way radios to keep in touch. It has gotten a little big.