It was neither a well-organized Vermont ski trip, nor a good time to take one when we visited Okemo Mountain during the Christmas week – one of the busiest and most expensive periods for a ski vacation in Vermont. Although it was five years ago, I can still remember the huge crowds clearly, and the pain I experienced on that dreadful, icy bunny slope. After spending a couple of days polishing ski slopes with my rear, I was convinced that snowboarding was not my cup of tea. It was not until the last day that I changed my mind.
On that day, we caught the last lift ride to the middle of a Okemo mountain. There was no one behind us, it was almost 4pm, and the beginner’s trail was empty, silent, and tranquil. For the first time during the whole vacation, I found myself riding a snowboard without being hassled by speeding yahoo’s or afraid to crash into other sloppy rookies. I savoured the colours of the afternoon sky, the shadows of the trees, and the sweet, smoky smell of barbeques from Okemo slope side condominiums. When I finally returned to the base lodge, I knew one thing – I wanted to book my next ski vacation in Vermont.
Okemo mountain was my ticket into the world of skiing and snowboarding, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who learned to appreciate this sport there. It is a huge mountain – there are 119 trails – so it’s almost guaranteed that you will find trails suitable for your skill level.
If it is your first time on the slopes, lift C is a slow magic carpet that will take you up a bunny hill. The next, more challenging, though very gentle and flat, beginners terrain is served by ski lifts B and C. There is a good progression system and I have to give Okemo resort a credit for installing rubber carpets at Lift B to help beginners handle the sometimes challenging ski lifts.
However, if you plan to take a ski trip as a rookie, do yourself a favour, and begin learning midweek. As mentioned above, Okemo Mountain is a very popular ski resort in Vermont, and attracts huge crowds on the weekends and holidays. I know that there are only so many quiet days, but it pays to learn skiing at your own pace without feeling pressured by a crowd of other snowboarders and skiers.
Once you can handle and control your skis or snowboard, Okemo ski resort offers multiple trail choices, with many trails for intermediate skiers and snowboarders. My personal favourite is the “Tuckered Out” trail on the Jackson Gore while some might find the “Mountain Road” a perfect cruiser for intermediates.
In terms of advanced terrain, there are plenty of choices but don’t expect an extreme challenge. If you are an expert craving dense glades or very steep and narrow runs, look elsewhere. Okemo’s black diamond is not a cakewalk but there are different types of advanced skier. Those happy to take a couple of challenging runs a day will have a good time; those looking for more will be bored after a half day.
There are many terrain parks and half pipes for freestylers: the Sobe Superpark on Nor’easter is an enormous terrain park with multiple flat rails, jibs, and boxes. Not enough? Try the ski and boarder cross-terrain park and test bank turns, rollers, and mounds. Alternatively, head to the Ross Powers Superpipe and see how well you can handle 500ft by 17ft walls. Transworld Snowboarding magazine ranked Okemo Mountain #2 for pipes, and #4 for parks in the East. You will surely test your skills and luck, just make sure that your health insurance is up and running.
My first ski trip and visit to Okemo Mountain was many years ago. It was not the perfect vacation, but had it not been for Okemo, the Sachem trail, and that fateful ride, I would probably be writing about sandcastles rather than ski resorts. Okemo mountain has plenty of memorable trails. You just need to find the right one for you.