[R304R, Okemo Mountain Resort] in Ludlow, Vt., has added a second Prinoth BR500 machine to its fleet of groomers. Okemo's Bonnie MacPherson says the grooming crews calls the existing BR500 "The Beast" because of its size and capabilities. The Beast has a 500-hp engine that drives a 24-foot-wide tiller, and a 20-foot-wide blade, and can move the machine uphill and down at the same speed.

MacPherson says Okemo is adding 30 new HKD Ranger snow guns to its arsenal and reconfiguring its entire HKD tower gun snowmaking system to focus on enhanced resurfacing response time. Although skiers and riders will take little notice, these behind-the-scenes operational improvements will be realized in greater productivity and energy efficiency, she says.

Meanwhile the Ross Powers Super Pipe, longest in the East, will be getting a makeover for the 2009-10 season. Powers recommended a 12-foot increase in the pipe's vertical pitch, which means the steepness will become 16 degrees - allowing the resort to attract high-caliber pipe events and top athletes. The Super Pipe is 450 feet long, with decks spaced 50 feet apart and walls measuring 18 feet high.

MacPherson says Okemo is traditionally one of the first Eastern areas to open its super pipe each season, which she attributes to the resort's commitment to terrain variety and renowned snowmaking and grooming proficiency.

Okemo's super pipe is named to honor Ross Powers, the resort's snowboard ambassador. Powers is a legend in the world of parks and pipes, holding numerous halfpipe titles that include a gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and a bronze medal at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Powers is in the hunt for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Okemo operations crews also have been busy during the summer months with trail maintenance. New growth on trail edges has been trimmed back to make trails feel more open. Some highly traveled routes like Mountain Road have been widened in places to accommodate the increase in their popularity.

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