Early Season Weekend at Okemo

Early Season Weekend at Okemo

by Peter Hines, published in snowsportsna.com

I ski a fair amount, usually over 30 times a year. My wife, on the other hand, had not skied in over 30 years. The last time she skied was in Vail in the early 80’s. While I took a multi year hiatus after our marriage and children, I got back on the slopes in the late 1990’s when our kids were old enough to ski. My wife though, stayed home.

Our kids are grown now and I can still get out with, and can keep up with our son on the hill. Our daughter lives and works in New York City, and only gets out once or twice a year.

In an effort to possibly make skiing a family experience, my wife and I decided on an early season getaway at Okemo Mountain Resort, in Ludlow Vermont. We live in Upstate New York and Okemo was an easy two-hour drive.

Situated in the lovely town of Ludlow, Okemo (Jackson Gore????) is a beautifully designed complex that is surprisingly easy to get around.

We stayed at the Jackson Gore Inn that is decorated warmly. It has inviting colors throughout the building and has every amenity you can think of, including pools, spas, laundry, childcare, and an arcade. Complimentary fresh muffins and coffee were available to guests who want to hit the slopes early.

Upon arrival, the courteous and knowledgeable greeted and assisted us with quick check-in. The staff anticipated many of our questions and were able to direct us how to park close to our room.

Our room was nicely decorated, comfortable and functional.

We enjoyed a very nice meal at the Coleman Brook Tavern at the Jackson Gore Inn on the evening of our arrival.  The atmosphere, service and food were very good. Mary had the Farmhouse Burger and I the Veal Pasta Bolognese.  Portions were substantial.

After a filling breakfast the next morning, Mary needed skis.  The ski rental process at the rental shop was very quick and thorough. It goes without saying that there have been changes and improvements in the past 30 years. The helpful staff demonstrated the equipment, its function, and how it is best used.  All Mary’s questions were answered, including how to properly install orthotics in the ski boots.

Okemo has best in class snowmaking and grooming. The snowmaking team started on November 7th, taking a very aggressive approach to covering the trails when the weather cooperated. According to owner, Diane Mueller, they learned a long time ago how to make snow in the beginning of the season by laying down a good base before moving on. This process ensures open terrain and faster recovery should warm weather occur.

By the time we arrived, during the second week in December, Okemo was half way to last season’s overall natural snowfall total and was operating eight lifts servicing 40 trails, which is about a third of all terrain. The combination of natural and made snow made for very good conditions.

After the 30 year hiatus we thought is would be best to start Mary off with a lesson to refresh some of the basics and build confidence. She was lucky enough to be paired up with Jinx Pittman, from the Okemo Ski School, who was encouraging and cheerful.

Jinx put Mary on the F-10 Carpet, for a few runs. These learning carpets were certainly not around 30 years ago so a little instruction was needed about how to get on, stay on, and ease off. The female attendant on the F-10 Carpet was perfectly assigned because she was very encouraging and instructive at the same time. She greeted Mary like a good friend each time she took the Carpet.

According to Mary, the attendants at the Carpet where very cheerful, encouraging and helpful. It is my belief that encouragement and confidence building are the hallmarks of successful lessons.  Jinx and the Carpet aided toward that end.

After about four carpet runs, Jinx took Mary up on the A Quad Lift. Attendants for the chair lift were also friendly, patient and helpful.  Mary found the instructions relating to the lifts and trails were readily available and easy to understand.

Everywhere we went we found the Okemo staff to be very cheerful, helpful and informative.

We had a ski in, slope side lunch at the EPIC restaurant at Solitude.  EPIC has a modern and eclectic feel with a wall of windows which provide great natural light. We dined on the Nicoise Salad with Rare Grilled Tuna which was very good. Sitting next to the fireplace while looking out on the slopes on a sunny day was a joy.

After lunch it was back on the mountain for more skiing.  The conditions held up as the temperature remained below freezing.  In the late afternoon the low December sun was casting long shadows over the trails and lighting was getting flat so it was time to call it a day.

We went back to the Coleman Brook for dinner. The simple green salad with apples, candy pecans, goat cheese and heirloom cider vinaigrette was a nice start.  Mary had the Roasted 1/2 Chicken “Under a Brick” served with mashed potatoes and wild grape, balsamic, shallot jus and I had the Short Ribs with Vermont Farmstead Cheese Co. cheddar polenta, farmers market vegetables and natural braising jus.  Both dinners were substantial and well presented.  The wait staff was attentive and personable.

The temperature dropped over night and the snowmaking picked up on Jackson Gore for a planned opening on Sunday.  Mary went back to the Clock Tower base to practice more in the beginner area while I took several runs on the Sunburst Six, the Solitude Express Quad and the Quantum Four.  Conditions were very good for early December.

All in all it was a great weekend. Mary got back on skis, accomplishing this without hurting herself or others, and had fun. Throughout the weekend the trail conditions were good, meals were filling and tasty, and the staff everywhere were helpful and knowledgeable.

We can wait until it’s #OkemoTime again!

For more information visit http://www.okemo.com

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