As the New England foliage turns its various golden shades, several of the area ski resorts are getting ready to unveil their latest upgrades for guests to enjoy during this upcoming winter. For visitors to Ludlow, Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort, it should be a smooth ride this winter for resort-goers – whether they ski and snowboard, or not.
Photos Courtesy of: Okemo Mountain Resort
Highlighting the list of new resort additions this winter, Okemo Mountain Resort is unveiling The Okemo Mountain Coaster, a four-season attraction that offers a scenic and exhilarating ride through alpine forests and along the contours of the mountain at Okemo’s Jackson Gore. The roller-coaster ride, manufactured by Wiegand, features maintenance-free stainless steel tubular rails for a smooth run down the mountain. Sled-like cars ar carry two passengers in comfort but can be handled easily by one alone. The riders are in control of the speed and this gives them a unique hands-on experience, encouraging repeat visits. The supporting structure for the snaking track sits directly on the ground without foundations and is held firmly in position with steel stakes. Visitors, age 7 and older, will load and unload The Okemo Mountain Coaster in the Jackson Gore base area, near the bottom of the Coleman Brook Express lift. The ride will start with a five-minute, 1,600-foot climb followed by a 375 vertical-foot descent along 3,100 feet of track that follows the contours of the mountain with added waves, camel backs, banking loops and a “twister” section, at speeds of up to 25 mph. At optimal efficiency, the mountain coaster will accommodate nearly 500 riders per hour and operate year round in most weather conditions. Rates are still to be determined but will be priced per ride with a multi-ride option.
“The Okemo Mountain Coaster will serve as an anchor for other Jackson Gore activities,” said Ted Reeves, VP of Okemo Real Estate and Development. “It will become another fun, alternative, family activity in summer and winter.”
New Grooming Machine
Okemo consistently receives accolades for snow quality and grooming, and for 2010-11 the resort continues its commitment to superlative grooming with the addition of a third Prinoth BR500 grooming machine. Okemo’s first two BR500s are affectionately referred to as “The Beasts” by Resort operations staff. The 500-horsepower dual turbocharged behemoths wider longer than the next largest model, the BR350. With engineered efficiencies, unsurpassed grooming speed and climbing capabilities, the newest additions to Okemo’s grooming fleet help reinforce the resort’s reputation for top-quality surface conditions.
“Several of Okemo’s seasoned, professional operators have been trained to operate the BR500s,” said Okemo VP of Operations Barry Tucker. “I am confident that our guests will notice our efforts this winter.”
In the heyday of surface lifts, Okemo was renowned for its network of Pomalifts. Okemo even boasted the longest Pomalift in North America. The Upper Lift, later renamed the Red Poma, measured 6,207 feet in length. Pomalifts consist of a round rubber disc at the end of a long pole connected to an overhead cable. This winter, Okemo’s final vestige of that era will be dismantled and mothballed to make room for a newer, more user-friendly surface lift for young children learning how to ski. The Snow Star Poma, located in the Galaxy Bowl Learning Area at Okemo’s Clock Tower Base Area, is being replaced with a180-foot, magic-carpet-style surface lift.
“The new carpet lift will help shorten the learning curve for beginning Snow Stars participants,” said Okemo Ski + Ride School Director Dan Bergeron. “When ready, children will transition from the smaller Skywalker Carpet lift without having to learn how to ride a new style of lift. As a result, children will be able to move up to the larger Galaxy Bowl slope sooner than before. The new carpet lift will also have greater capacity, meaning more ski time for Okemo’s youngest new skiers!”
Safety First Park Pass
Safety is paramount at Okemo and this year, the resort is introducing a terrain park pass program that requires skiers and riders to know some basic rules of park safety and etiquette before accessing Okemo’s premier SuperPark on Nor’easter. There is no additional fee for the park pass. The goal of the park pass program is to educate freestyle skiers and riders about the courtesy and common sense of riding park elements and terrain features. To obtain a park pass, skiers and riders can take a short online quiz at okemo.com or in person at Okemo Mountain Resort. Upon successful completion of the ten-question quiz, they will be issued a certificate to present for a laminated pass that they must wear, like a season pass, while riding Okemo’s terrain parks. In the program’s inaugural season, the park pass will be mandatory for accessing the Amp Energy Super Park and recommended for accessing all other parks and Okemo’s Superpipe. Starting next winter, a park pass will be mandatory for all terrain parks. Park rangers will be staffing the Amp Energy Park to enforce the program and to administer the quiz onsite for skiers and riders. Riding terrain park features without a park pass will initially result in a verbal warning and supplemental warnings may result in loss of lift ticket privileges.
“This is a good step for Okemo – a step in the right direction,” says Okemo Mountain Manager Eb Kinney. “Understanding the elements of Smart Style leads to a safer park environment. When people learn it, they live it.”
Ski + Ride School Program Improvements
Okemo’s Ski + Ride School staff understands the demands of a busy schedule and the conflicts that arise among members of active families. That’s why Okemo has made participation in its AmplitudePLUS Freestyle and Mountain Explorer programs more flexible and convenient for participants this winter. The popular AmplitudePLUS season-long program for intermediate and advanced skiers and riders, ages 7-14, has been modified to include a 25-day option for those not able to commit to the season-long program of 40 days. AmplitudePLUS is Okemo’s premiere seasonal program for skiers and riders who want to master advanced groomers, bumps, terrain parks, the superpipe, glades, and Okemo’s boundary-to-boundary trees.
AmplitudePLUS provides coaching and support for those interested in entering Okemo-based halfpipe and slopestyle competitions. AmplitudePLUS provides a 5:1 student to instructor ratio for the ultimate in personal development. Participants are grouped according to interests and skill level and will ski/ride with the same select group of coaches all season long. Okemo is also offering new multi-day options for Mountain Explorers. This fun learning experience for skiers and riders age 7-14 will continue to be offered as a single- or half-day program. However, for families who know they’ll be visiting their favorite mountain resort throughout the winter months, Okemo’s Ski + Ride School will offer 15 day, 25 day and 35 day packages for the popular Mountain Explorers program. The more days purchased in advance, the greater the savings! Mountain Explorers discover Okemo’s varied terrain and improve skills with one of Okemo’s top-notch teaching pros while making friends and having fun at the same time. Mountain Explorers is offered every day for all ability levels.
The Wet Bulb and The Beast
For everything anyone ever wanted to know about snowmaking and grooming, Okemo is introducing a new blog that will offer a behind-the-scenes expertise of Okemo’s operations staff. They will regularly offer insights to the best practices and technologies that go into providing some of the East’s best skiing and snowboarding conditions. Readers may even get a heads-up on trail openings and groomers’ top trail picks. All this and more can be found at okemo.blogspot.com.