Okemo has always occupied a cloudy space in my brain. I knew it was located in southern Vermont, conveniently accessible for New Yorkers. I’m not sure where the opinion came from but I have always thought of it as bland, not worth the trouble somehow. With lots of cool hills in New York and Killington a little further north, I never a reason to visit Okemo. In the back of my mind I wondered if it was unfair dismissing Okemo but I just never found a reason to test my perceptions- until I bought a Max Pass last fall- five days at Okemo included. Junior’s midterm schedule gave him Friday off last week so we decided that would be our day. We pulled into Okemo’s parking lot around 9:30.
I’d heard that Okemo groomed every inch of the mountain every day so I figured I would take the opportunity to get out my 1980s era K2 812 GS skis again. They’re old but they’re still a lot of fun when conditions are fast. The base area was abuzz with activity already but we claimed a spot in the lodge, booted up and made our way out to the lift.
Surveying the hill on our first lift ride didn’t reveal much. Nothing looked very steep and all the visible trails were groomed, wide and more or less uniform. The main detachable sixpack bubble lift had a big line already so I tried pumping a local for some intel on which chair would be the best alternative. He suggested a nearby triple but we would have to ride the bubble lift to get to it. I wasn’t ready for standing on line just yet. We hopped on another, slower quad instead and explored a little.
It was generic intermediate skiing but we had fun. After a couple runs we went ahead and got on line for the bubble lift. This was a big treat for Junior who had already been making 1%er jokes all morning. A while ago he saw a TR with some over-the-top praise of bubble lifts and it really cracked him up. I think he just finds the word “bubble” funny. Anywhere we go he’ll find a way to work a bubble lift joke into the conversation so finally getting to ride it was a big opportunity to work on his routine. We got on quick, due to the lifties efficiently consolidated the crowd into groups of six. I was surprised to find that in addition to the giant transparent plastic wind shield the lift had electric heaters in the seats. It must be awesome on really cold days.
We zipped down to the triple our local source had recommended only to find it closed with no indication that it was going to run any time soon. Oh well. We spent the rest of the morning exploring more, trying to sample everything that was open.
After lunch it was more exploring. One thing I can say in Okemo’s favor is that it’s big, which has a value in itself. I hate to say it but most of my preconceptions about Okemo were pretty accurate. There was a remarkable sameness to the trails. There wasn’t even much difference between the blues and the blacks. It wasn’t 100% open when we were there so I guess it’s possible there’s something more interesting that I missed but I may never find out.
Also, there’s a lot of orange fencing
The coolest thing I discovered there was a fire tower at the highest point of the resort, visible from the top of one of the lifts. Once we saw it we had to check it out of course so we popped out of our bindings and followed the obvious herd path back through the trees to the base of the tower. I warned Junior to be careful of the icy ladder as we went up. The view from the top on such a clear, sunny day was truly breathtaking.
We lingered a bit, trying to identify the numerous ski resorts visible from up there. Just the view from the fire tower would have made the whole day worth it but honestly we had a good time. Okemo might not be our first choice but skiing is skiing. We had a great day.
That answers a lot of questions I've had about Okemo. Know someone who has a season pass there. Tends to prefer to ski really fast on groomed terrain, in spite of working on learning to ski more complex terrain in the last 10-15 years. But avoided even easy bumps during a small gathering at Stowe last March.
I think the new bubble lifts at Big Sky are the same style.
Sno, it might have been you. Hope you’re not offended.
Marz, very similar to Stratton in some ways but I’ve only been there once also. I kind of want to go back to Stratton after a storm to explore the glades a little.
This was a big treat for Junior who had already been making 1%er jokes all morning. A while ago he saw a TR with some over-the-top praise of bubble lifts and it really cracked him up. I think he just finds the word “bubble” funny. Anywhere we go he’ll find a way to work a bubble lift joke into the conversation so finally getting to ride it was a big opportunity to work on his routine.
"I'm all about Clouding Out. I'm a teleskier now!" —tBatt
I think you would've liked Okemo better on a weekend since the Glades Peak Quad would've been open, which is the best lift there for advanced skiers and never has a line since it's sandwiched between two high speed lifts.
Okemo's lift system gives you more options than Stratton's and there's more "good" terrain at Okemo than Stratton. Much of Stratton's terrain is very flat, boring, repetitive lower mountain trails that any advanced skier would avoid like the plague. However, Stratton's good terrain I think is more varied than Okemo's. Stratton has this huge imbalance of lift capacity towards the looker's left side of the mountain. The best lift on the right side of the mountain is the SnowBowl Quad which they hardly ever run. It's always been closed when I've been there. The main lift is a slow gondola that recently got new and very spacious cabins. It always has a huge line because just like at Whiteface, most of their clientele can't tolerate riding a chair and everyone just has to ride the gondola. That lift is the only way to ski the right side of the mountain when the SnowBowl chair is closed unless you want to take two lifts every time (which is often the faster option).
Nice report and pictures. Okemo isn't the most exciting place but I give it credit for some nice long runs and total devotion to providing as much coverage as possible. Great place for a family that wants a big mountain experience. If it ever snowed around here anymore Okemo would be a very interesting place as they have a fair amount of both official and unofficial glades.