Okemo Mountain Resort sprawls across two mountains, with 119 trails, 19 lifts including five high-speed detachable quads, four fixed-grip quads, three triples, and seven surface lifts, a vertical drop of 2,200 feet off the 3,344-foot-high summit of Okemo Mountain, 96 percent snowmaking, and two main base areas.
It is a surprisingly big resort, seen to be so through new eyes last weekend as one frequent visitor showed a newcomer around.
Saturday night was the Light the Night Rail Jam for snowboarders and freestyle skiers just outside the Clocktower Base Lodge. The event was a fund raiser for the Ludlow Fire Department, which provided the lights. Ross Powers, Olympic gold medal snowboarder, judged the 70 participants, who rode one of three side-by-side features over and over.
Plans next day called for an early start. Okemo's lifts begin spinning at 7:45 a.m. The strategy: Ride the quad out of the base area, ski down to the Northstar Express Quad and ride up, ski down to the Glades Peak Quad and ride up, then ski down Rimrock to Dream Weaver to the South Face Express Quad and ride that for awhile.
The South Face Quad serves a very nice complex of trails at the far left side of Okemo, as one faces the hill. It is remote, and the lift was not running on Saturday, so on Sunday the snow was groomed powder, crisp from sitting untouched for more than a day.
Okemo and southern Vermont in general got hammered the last week of February with a multi-day snowstorm that left more than 5 feet in some places, and more than 2.5 feet everywhere. Mount Snow was ground zero for the storm, with diminishing amounts north and south, but still lots.
The region is set up for a fabulous March.
After exploring the terrain of South Face for a few runs, cocoa at Jackson Gore beckoned.
Jackson Gore is at the extreme right side of Okemo, as one faces the hill, reached by following Upper Mountain Road to Blue Moon to Limelight. It took awhile, and involved some low-angle terrain that prompted the newcomer to say, "This is like cross country skiing." Views off Mountain Road showed a landscape swathed in snow, with low clouds, and rays of sunlight breaking through.
Jackson Gore was quiet even at 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday.
Had Okemo's Bonnie MacPherson not said 6,000 skiers and riders were on the hill that day, one would have guessed a far smaller number.
Empty tables were available in The Roundhouse at the Jackson Gore base, as were cocoa and various breakfast foods.
The journey back to the Clocktower Base was up two high-speed quads: the Coleman Brook Express and the Jackson Gore Express, to the top of Jackson Gore Peak, 2,275 feet high, then over on Sunset Strip, Mountain Road, and Lower Arrow.
A tour of the terrain parks followed, then barbecue for lunch at the Sugar House, then home, James.