Okemo Mountain Resort 0/19/2003: Ludlow, VT

For those of you who haven’t been to Okemo, it is an intermediate’s paradise. Overrating trails here is the norm but don’t let that spoil your fun. There is plenty to do here and if you catch it at the right time, Okemo can really be a blast.

Although it ultimately may create a faster ride, a primary issue I have with Okemo is that they just love to groom. A storm can blow through with 10 inches of fresh, and they’ll be out all night pounding it into their base. That’s not to say they don’t have good snow. Year after year Okemo wins awards for their snowmaking, and I have to admit early and late season they do a terrific job of preparing the mountain each day, but the meticulous grooming patterns tend to remove the natural element to some degree.

Regarding their trails, their rating system is a bit skewed. Okemo’s black diamonds are tough blues at most other Vermont resorts. Instead of steep pitches, their “diamonds” are usually rollers with one or two brief declines. Most of their trails are long whales, where they have a staircase like feel alternating between more and less pitch from start to finish. Although it can be a bit repetitive for the experienced, this is great for beginners and intermediate skiers and riders. There are plenty of trails that can generate some speed, though they lack the kind that can scare the crap out of you; so more than one day here tends to get a little stale. The good news is that if you are just learning how to ski or ride, you can really explore a lot of the mountain.

If it’s tree skiing you are looking for, your options are few. “Outrage” and “Double Diamond” have been here for years. Me and my buds have been riding them since our college days when we could go midweek for $20. Ah, those were the days. They’ve also added a trail called “Loose Spruce” over at South Face where you can usually mix it up a bit amongst the trees. All three of these runs lack the punch and length that I like to see, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had.

One new discovery I made on this day was the new mountain area called Jackson Gore. Okemo has expanded the resort to include a small peak further north than their previous boundary and so far I like what I see. There is a high speed quad operating over here and for our first experience we were pretty happy with the results. We rode some diamonds called “Quantum Leap” and “Vortex” over at Jackson, and often times it seemed we were the only people on the trail. This was true until at least 10:30am, and by that time we had gotten in about 15 runs already. With the lack of morning traffic, we could go top to bottom and ride right onto the lift. If you know anything about eastern resorts, this is unheard of on the weekend. Yet it was true and because of the amount of runs we got in at Jackson, we were tapped by 12:45.

Since we arrived shortly after 8:00am, we took advantage of one of the best deals in the east, the Sunday Solution. This is a pass that is good on Sundays from 8:00am to 1:30pm. I guess they did it for those of us who have to get in the car and drive home on Sunday but I sure am glad they did. For the past couple of years I either went all day on Sunday, or bolted in the morning so I could arrive home in time for the second half of the 1:00 NFL game. Not any more. The Sunday Solution allows you to ride at a time when seemingly nobody is on the mountain and get as many runs as your legs can handle. You can even make it home in time for most of the 4:00 game. If you happen to be at Killington and/or Ludlow, you owe it to yourself to try the Sunday Solution. You save about $15 bucks off the regular one-day rate and if you skip lunch, you will get more than your money’s worth.

If you are looking to bring some first timers out, or those with less aggressive skiing habits, I strongly recommend Okemo. They have one of the best, if not the best, beginner hills I’ve seen. OK, it is the best. Like their main trails, this hill also has a staircase like effect, which takes away the intimidation factor from learning. While the beginner starts to get crusty about the fact that they are starting to pick up some speed, they look ahead and see that the pitch eases before dropping off again. It’s a really nice hill to learn on. In fact, I learned how to snowboard here.

Nightlife in Ludlow is pretty slow. We usually hit the Pot Belly after a day on the hill before going back to shower. You can get decent grub and plenty of tap beer at the Belly. When it comes to going out we often end up at Characters, which usually offers some type of live music. There was also a place called Christopher’s which was good for pool and darts at the Old Mill Inn across from the Hatchery (great breakfast spot), but I believe it is under new ownership and has a new name so I can’t tell you much about it.

Overall Okemo is a nice mountain where you can have fun for a day or perhaps two. If you happen to be cruising by on a Sunday morning, do take advantage of the Sunday Solution ticket. You will make the most out of a fun little mountain that continues to grow.

To find out more check out: www.okemo.com

Until next time, the powder is where you find it.

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