grooming, intermediate crusiers, variety, snow conditions
As primarily a Pocono skier, I relish my one or two opportunities a year to travel to the Green Mountain state and run my snowboard through natural, fresh powder. This year, my 8-man (err… 6-man-and-2-woman) travel team headed to Okemo for a four-day weekend. With a pretty even mix of skiers and snowboarders (5 and 3, respectively) as well as beginners, intermediates, and experts (2, 2, and 4 respectively), we all left the mountain after nearly 15-hours of skiing and riding with the same feelings – Okemo was quite possibly the most well-maintained, exciting mountains we’ve ever traveled to!
Okemo is only half as large as nearby Killington, but at times it is tough to realize that. In two days, I can count on one hand the number of trails I rode twice, and that was only because I loved the terrain! The long, winding set of beginner/intermediate trails that lead from the top of Glades Peak to the Jackson Gore lodge (the top-left to bottom-right of the trail map) covers a surprising 4 miles! The mountain prides itself on grooming and it shows, but we were able to find some glades, moguls, and simply natural trails, including a fun intermediate run with fun patches of powder called “Off The Rim”. Groomed, intermediate and (low) expert crusiers are the trails that made Okemo famous and this was obvious. They are the most numerous and most crowded on the mountain.
Okemo is an excellent mountain for beginners (there are nice beginner runs from the peak, unlike Killington’s partially-uphill trails) and intermediates to sharpen their skills. Well-groomed intermediate crusiers are Okemo’s bread and butter. With the addition of Jackson Gore and Okemo’s effort to cut more trails through this steep area, experts and mogul-lovers can find challenging trails as well. As clichéd as it sounds, Okemo certainly has something for everyone.
The South Face area of the mountain isn’t easily accessible from the main lifts and doesn’t have its own lodge area, which means that it stays less crowded than the main mountain, especially on weekdays. The high speed lift there gets you to the top in less than five minutes and the 10 trails in the area are over a mile long and fun, especially for out-of-state tourists who are looking to run all the trails on the mountain – greens, blues, and blacks.
My group stuck to the wide, groomed crusiers for most of the day, on which the snow conditions were wonderful. In the week leading up to our trip, Vermont received no significant snow, but the snow guns and grooming machines kept the terrain in great shape. Although the mountain began to ice up after a windy, crowded Saturday, I would have been hard-pressed to find any more than a few, scattered icy locations during the majority of our trip.
Plenty of lifts for the number of trails! Only during Saturday afternoon was I forced to wait more than a minute for a lift. The Jackson Gore quad and main, Northstar quad had lines that reached 8-10 minutes, but there were still parts of the mountain that were relatively empty- Glades peak and the aforementioned South Face.
Ski Defiance. Check out the views. Enough said.
The Bad and The Ugly:
Food quality in the “main” restaurants (read: food courts) was average at best, while the prices were exorbitant. I spent about $32 on 2 lunches and my comrades who were against filling up their Gatorade bottles at the (hard to find) water fountain were spending near to $25 per day on food and drinks. Come on, Okemo! You’ve already charged us $140 for a lift ticket, PLEASE don’t rob another $15 for a burger, fries, and a coke! (My favorite food was the clam chowder at the Jackson Gore base, but the lodge was so crowded on Saturday at 1 pm that I at half of it standing.)
Big Bang. Pay attention to the warning on Okemo’s website that calls this trail the most difficult non-gladed trail on the mountain. It’s the steepest trail on Jackson Gore, which is the steepest area of the resort and you’re afforded one of two choices: moguls the size of a small SUV or an “escape route”, a sheet of solid ice to the right. (Escape through the trees to Tuckered Out.)
The Best Trails:
BEGINNER: Dream Weaver. (South Face) A long, winding (possibly intermediate) cruiser evoked a scream of, “This is the best green I’ve ever skied!” from a member of my party. I agree. A few moderately-steep pitches give this trail an intermediate feel. It’s WAY off the beaten path, so getting here early in the day, as I did, will yield you powder and a fun, fast run down the South Face.
BEGINNER: Coleman Brook / Sidewinder / Rising Star. This is the most gradual run down the Solitude area of the mountain, and allows you a quick jaunt through Solitude Village under and over the criss-crossing roads.
INTERMEDIATE: Off The Rim. This was a natural trail when I visited and felt awesome to be kicking up heaps of powder at 9:00 in the morning! If the trail is groomed, it is the intermediate equivalent of Dream Weaver, mentioned above.
TERRAIN: Timberline. The Superpark on Nor’easter can be daunting, even to those who ride parks regularly. Find the hidden Timberline trail, which contains Okemo’s well-maintained progression park. Moderate-sized rails and jumps are perfect for the more timid riders.
EXPERT: Stump Jumper. This is the third trail I’ve mentioned on the South Face. Stump Jumper was the expert equivalent of Dream Weaver and Off The Rim, a decently-wide, impeccably-groomed crusier that runs the entire 1000+-foot South Face vertical. It’s a blast and my personal favorite diamond at Okemo.
EXPERT: Upper/Lower Chief. This felt like the steepest run on the main mountain. A lot of long, steep pitches at the top leveled out towards the bottom into a wide crusier. Looking for a great spot for a photo op? Try under the left about 1/3 of the distance down Upper Chief.
EXPERT: Quantum Leap. Two of my comrades chose this straight shot from the top to the bottom of Jackson Gore as their favorite run. We must have skied/rode it four or five times during our two days on the mountain! Be prepared for a consistently-steep, long run with hundreds of eyes watching you from the lift.