OKEMO, AN EARLY SEASON TREAT

By Paul Maraschiello

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I decided to make a pre-Christmas visit to Okemo and start the 2004-2005 ski season. I caught a plane to Manchester and picked up a rental car. I had booked a room at the 1830 Shire Town Inn, a small B&B in Woodstock, just a half hour from Okemo.



I was heading up the Okemo access road and trying to decide wether to unpack my skis when it occurred to me that I'd be riding the shuttle bus from the satellite parking lot and needed to take them out of my ski bag. I drove up road and no one directed me into the lower parking lots, so I kept on going. Even though it was 9:30, I was able to park in the lot nearest the base lodge and the lot wasn't even half full. There were about 15 parking attendants in the parking lot standing around watching me park. These ski bums would be a lot busier as the season progresses, I knew, but for now, there was nothing for them to do.



I had a very short walk to pick up my ticket and was pleasantly surprised by how empty the base lodge was this morning. When I got to the ski lift, the lift-line was non-existent I was delighted. I skied over to another list and rode up to the top of the mountain with some young racers who knew Phil Sansone, an old roommate of mine, who was a coach at Okemo. They told me he was still coaching at Okemo and I made a mental note to look him up.



Okemo was really an excellent choice for my first day on the snow. They do an excellent job grooming the trails and miles of manicured snow was just what I needed. I was not in very good shape and I needed something relatively easy for my first day on the snow. I got off the chair and decided to follow these young racers down the hill and see if I could find Phil. It was not their first day on the snow and they blasted down the hill. I followed them at a more leisurely pace. Although it had been a year, I was still skiing fairly well. I only made one stop before I was back at the chair. I made a few runs down the groomed trails and was pleased with the way I was skiing. High-speed, non-stop was the way I skied most of the trails that day.



I found Phil on the hill and made plans to meet up with him for a beer after skiing. I went over to Sunnyside for a run and then went in for lunch. Joe's Smoke House is what they call the outdoor grill at the mid-mountain lodge. I like eating there because the food is always better than the regular ski lodge fare. They have great burgers, Italian sausage and a great ribeye sandwich that can't be beat. They have up-graded their buns and now rap their meat in gourmet buns that look like French baguettes and taste great.



After stuffing my face, I was back on the slopes. I visited the new Jackson-Gore area and was pleases with what they had done. The addition of some more challenging terrain was an obvious plus at Okemo. What was more important was the fact that all the new trails have really spread out the skiers and snowboarders a Okemo. The Roundhouse is a 390-seat food court, located on the first floor of the base lodge, lift ticket windows, Day Care Center, Snow Stars, Learning Center lessons, Rental/Repair Shop and Snowsport Shop. Visitors can park at the new area base to start their day and hop on the Coleman Brook Express and Jackson Gore Express Quads to access the new trails and main mountain.

The Jackson Gore access road is conveniently located two miles north of Okemo just past the junction of Route 103 North and Route 100 North. Okemo skiers and riders can now choose between two base areas.

I had a really great day skiing at Okemo. I got in a lot of high-speed non-stop runs in that day. I was able to meet Phil for a beer at the Loft and relax with an old friend.

Accommodations

Staying at the 1830 Shire Town Inn was more like staying at a friends home than staying at a commercial establishment. The rooms are clean and nice. The beds have beautiful quilts and I felt right at home. Breakfast was tasty (sausage, eggs, toast, muffins, coffee and juice) and the owner, Arlene Gibson was friendly and nice. The B&B is located around the corner from the Woodstock Inn and the prices are very reasonable. Just a short walk (less than one block) from the Woodstock Village Green, it is an easy walk to fine restaurants, shopping and other attractions. With weekend rates ranging from $100-150 per room per night (regular season) to $135-165 (peak season), this place is a bargain for a couple or small family. They only have three rooms: The Woodstock Room, Quechee Room and Hanover Room plus a private guest room the Arlene keeps for her personal visitors. Convenient to Okemo, Killington Suicide Six and miles of cross country skiing, this B&B is ideal for people who like a homey atmosphere in the center of one of the most picturesque towns in Vermont. You can save big bucks by staying at this little gem. Give Arlene a call (802) 457-1830.

Parks & Pipes

Okemo's Parks and Pipes crew had a vision for the 04/05 season that began by revamping the existing boxes and rails to give everything a fresh new look. Next, they created new jibs (25 existing and 11 new!), added even more features and constructed a huge Vert Wall at the bottom of the Nor'Easter Super Park. Finally, they assembled a strong Park & Pipe Ranger crew with loads of experience. The result is lots of high-flying action and fun!

Okemo's Parks:
* Nor'Easter Super Park: The longest park containing four table tops varying from 20 ft to 40 ft in length, 2 rails, a step-up table and 1 box. A 20 ft by 20 ft The Vert Wall stands at the base of the park.
* The Dew Zone: Located next to the SoBe Superpipe, features various sized rails, boxes, tabletops and a picnic table.
* Blind Faith Terrain Park: Located in the South Face area, is a park with 20 to 50 ft. tabletops, has rollers, various boxes and rails and is used for slopeside competitions.
* Hot Dog Hill Mini Park: Located just below the mid-mountain Sugar House Lodge, is a great beginner park containing smaller rails & boxes and smaller air features.
* Jackson Gore Snowskate Park (coming soon!): Located in the Jackson Gore base will feature smaller air features and mini rails & boxes. The park is walk-up accessible, but guests using it must have a lift pass. Snowskate rentals are available in the Atomic Demo Center in the Jackson Gore base.

Okemo's Pipes:

* SoBe Superpipe: Located in the Dew Zone, measures 500 feet in length, with walls extending 19 feet high and is maintained by a Zaugg Pipe Monster. The Superpipe is serviced by its own lift, The Pull.
* Hot Dog Hill Mini Pipe: Located in the Hot Dog Hill Mini Park, is ideal for kids and beginners just starting out.

Tree Skiing
There has always been an unexplainable phenomenon that draws advanced skiers and riders of all ages (especially kids) to the trees. At Okemo, gladed trails like Outrage, Double Diamond, Forest Bump and Supernova provide a sense of freedom, thrill and adventure for advanced skiers and riders. Whistler and The Narrows offer adventure for intermediate skiers and riders. But, at Okemo kids rule!

Kids' Trail Map & Guide to Kids' Glades:
Okemo has taken gladed skiing one step further exclusively for kids with the addition of a new Kids' Trail Map & Guide to Kids' Glades. Several areas within the Okemo boundary have natural features and glades and Okemo's Cutting Edge Learning Center instructors have identified these areas. They worked with the natural features to create several gladed areas and have marked the entrances with a Snowmonsters sign. Kids can follow the map, look for the Snowmonsters sign and explore. There are no names attached to these glades, the Snowmonsters signs serve as their guide. Each gladed trail ends up off of Okemo's trail network, so there is no fear of getting lost. (For example some of the kids' gladed areas fall between Heaven's Gate, Exhibition and Coleman Brook; Ledges and World Cup, or Upper Arrow, Lower Arrow and Sapphire). The Kids Gladed Map is available at the Cutting Edge Learning Center. There is a special reminder for adults on each map, "Remember, these glades were created to be skied and ridden by kids. Adults and their equipment may not fit!"

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