Since its opening in 1956, Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, Vermont has been an increasingly popular Green Mountain destination for skiers and eventually of course snowboarders too. Okemo was initially known for its traditional Poma surface lifts rather than chairlifts but they now have the only magic-carpet style chairlift (to load/unload) that this writer has ever been on. It felt a bit weird to be moving as the chair scoops you up and drops you off, but you get used to it after a couple tries. Surface lift lovers can still get dragged uphill by Okemo’s “The Pull” T-Bar lift next to their Progression Terrain Park. The history goes that Okemo’s first actual chairlift, the Sachem double, was introduced in 1965. My son Nick and I figured that was as good a lift to start with as any and so we took it (though now it’s a quad) and thus began a frigid day of turn cutting.
It was a whopping two degrees and way below zero with the hammering wind at the summit but we bought some hand and foot warmers and stuck it out. Another huge help in staying warm were Okemo’s two bubble chairlifts. (pictured) that protect you from the elements and even have heated seats! On a day like this, that was such a pleasure. Trivia note: Okemo was the first resort in America to feature multiple bubble chair lifts.
The conditions were very good overall thanks to aggressive snowmaking (Okemo’s system can cover 98% of their trails) plus some natural snow fall the night before. But a recent warm-weather thaw had cursed some runs with large sections of ice. It caused us to rename the green trail Easy Rider “Icy Rider”. However, if you paid attention to your tracks, you could dodge most of the ice.
Nick and I had a blast on blue runs like Rim Rock, Tuckered Out, Sapphire, and Lower Limelight which were nice and wide with very little traffic and plenty of good snow to dig your edges into. Okemo has 121 trails and glades serviced by 20 lifts and a summit elevation of 3,344 feet, with some 2,200 feet of vertical. We did not get to explore all of that vast terrain but that just means we have some great reasons to return!
What else, besides Okemo’s bubble and carpet-style chair lifts makes them stand out? For sure their RFID lift access cards are one big thing. Okemo was the third Vermont ski area to use these radio-frequency-identification-enabled cards which are scanned through special gates at eight of the resort’s lifts. These cards can be reloaded online so you’ll never have to wait at a ticket window line again! You simply keep the card inside jacket or pant pockets and that’s it. It literally eliminates the visual checking of lift tickets and season passes. That’s pretty huge.
As the 2016/17 skiing and riding season starts to come to a close, Okemo will be focused on expanding their lift serviced mountain bike park, (now in its third year). They will also be opening new bike trails from the summit and operating the Sunburst Six lift for access and for visitors who would like to simply enjoy a scenic chairlift ride. I encourage you to take a ride to Okemo this year be it for summer adventure or to carve some turns when the cold returns.