KUDOS TO OKEMO

IThis west coast transplant has only great things to say about Okemo Mountain Ski Resort in Ludlow, Vermont. They have made the skiing and boarding experience easy, fun and stress free. We arrived on the first day and we guided into the Blue lot to park. There is a bus to take you to the main lodge. Cheerful, helpful employees are there to take your skis on and off the bus. This is a huge plus for those of us who remember lugging skis, boots and poles for miles! On the ride to the lodge, we had an entertaining guide to tell us all the highlights of Okemo and the weather and snow conditions. Everything in Okemo is within a very short distance so lugging is not an issue, which for me, at least, makes the skiing experience most enjoyable.

The rental staff is friendly and knowledgeable. On the advice of Paul Maraschiello, the Editor of the Ski Bum News, I rented the performance package and was happy with the choice. It made a huge difference in my skiing. I enjoyed the runs from easy to difficult. I hadn’t skied in awhile and the shorter skis were wonderful! After the first day, I did an upgrade and was even happier the next day with the Solomon X-Scream skis they gave me. There is a package for all levels of skier, and they are happy to accommodate all.

The other issue that made skiing less than fun was lines! Once again, Okemo has conquered the problem. I went skiing the New Year’s weekend and the lines were almost non-existent. That is not to say there were no people. They were there. The 14 lifts, half of which are quads chairs, move people in a speedy way up the mountain where you can find many chairs with no lines. I never waited more than 10 minutes anywhere. Mostly one could ski right onto the chair. Once again from previous skiing experience, this is amazing. I was used to standing in lines of over 45 minutes. This lack of lines allows for many runs in an hour.

The trails vary in length and difficulty. One plus is that even beginners can enjoy the views and trails at the top. Ah yes, the views………it is worth taking a break on the way down to enjoy the spectacular view. I enjoyed skiing expert and intermediate runs. There are many choices of ways down the mountain, which gives you a great day or many days of skiing. If you enjoy the bumps, Nor’easter is the run for you. This ends at the Terrain Park, enjoyed by both boarders and skiers alike.

Okemo also boasts the only Super Pipe in the East. It measures a whopping 440’L X 55’W X 17’H and promises wild and high-flying action for skiers and riders. Okemo’s massive Super Pipe opened on New Year’s Day — the first, and only Super Pipe to open in the East. Okemo’s Super Pipe is 30% larger than a traditional halfpipe with larger walls, a greater transition and seemingly never-ending length. Best of all, Okemo will have two Super Pipes this season.

The enormous size of a Super Pipe requires a specialized piece of grooming equipment called a Super Pipe Dragon manufactured by Pipedragon. The Super Dragon grooms the massive structure to perfection with a uniform shape and smooth transitions. It was interesting to watch.

Mother Nature has been less than cooperative this winter but that was not a problem, there was plenty of snow for skiing. Okemo has terrific snow making ability and it had been cold enough to keep the guns going.

Okemo also wants to make sure you are not going to go hungry! There are four places to eat and each one of them has a variety of offerings to please all tastes. There is the Sugar House Lodge. There are four choices in this lodge: Carver’s Deli, Smokey Jo’s Grill, O-Zone Pizza Pub and Café. On the first day, we enjoyed a light offering of a fruit salad, which included mango, and I had the old stand-by of America’s favorite hot dog.

The second day we found ourselves back at the Sugar House but indulged in the char grilling of Smokey Jo’s Grill. We had a delicious steak with a huge bowl of baked beans on the side Very satisfying, and a rib-sticker for an afternoon of skiing. When the weather is good, you can enjoy these meals on the deck. If you are at the top and need to warm up, there is the Summit Lodge. I was very grateful for this on the third day when the wind was kicking up. The Café offers up hearty soups, which earned rave reviews from our tablemates. I had a satisfying lunch and once warmed up, went out for more skiing, sated and toasty. They do encourage you to ski during lunchtime and eat before or after. Again, there was always room to sit and short lines to get food, if any at all.

One other key ingredient for pleasurable ski is the other skiers. I encountered only friendly, cheerful people. Boarders and skiers share the runs without problems. I never heard yelling or rude comments. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and both parents and children were turning off their walkie- talkies to enjoy a little solo skiing.

Okemo also offers a Ski and Snowboard Shop, Demo Center, and rental and repair shop. If need be, after a hard day of skiing you can leave your skis to be tuned for the next day.

For those with small children there is a licensed day care, so you can enjoy skiing knowing your child is safe and having fun too!

For those who want to enjoy the offerings of Ludlow, there is a free shuttle service to take you into town. There you will find many and varied restaurants, and shops to browse. The town is Vermont quaint and down the road a few miles is the charming village of Chester, noted for its stone houses. If you tire of skiing, it is worth a side trip.

It seems Okemo has thought of everything to make your experience there fun, exciting, and stress free. Okemo is a wonderful place to ski and I, for one, will return, since they have all but eliminated all the things I didn’t like about skiing……

……….I arrived and left with a smile on my face and wonderful memories of New Year 2001!