What can I say, the start of this season has been a tremendous disappointment for those of us in the Mid-Atlantic. In fact, my home mountain, Camelback, currently has only 8 trails open. However, following my last exam on December 17, 2006, I was able to head north for five days from the 18th to the 22nd. And what a five days it was! The decision between mountains was a difficult one, but trail selections coupled with the tremendous ski and stay package I found, made my mind up. While Killington had 43 trails open when we left, and Sunday River had 34, Okemo boasted a modest 31. However, the trails were spread out well over their three mountain areas, and Okemo boasted more skiable acreage than the other two mountains. The trip was sure to be a good one.
First of all, let me explain the incredible deal I found. The trip was one of the most affordable I have ever or most likely will ever take. While looking online at area lodging selections, I came across the Happy Trails Hotel. I looked at their deals and found a ski and stay package totaling $1082 for 3 adults in a two double bed non smoking room with lift tickets for five days. Upon calling the hotel however, I was pleased to hear that due to early season prices and conditions, the stay would only be $921. The rooms were small and comfortable, and the hotel also had a hot tub. Since there were very few people staying at the hotel, we had the tub to ourselves, and being in a hot tub after a days worth of snowboarding, is indescribable. Enough of that you say, tell us about the snow.
The day after my exam I picked up my two friends and began the drive to Vermont. From the Lehigh Valley, the trip was about five and a half hours. The driving was fantastic and the traffic was light. We arrived at the hotel around midnight, and slept until around 8 a.m. After showering and packing the Jeep, we had breakfast at a little establishment known as the Bagel Basement. A sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich on a bagel only cost me $3. We arrived at the mountain at about nine and redeemed our five-day lift ticket vouchers we received at the hotel. We then proceeded to hop on the fixed grip quad that serviced the high speed quad. It was busier on Thursday and Friday, but we never had to wait in a lift line the entire trip. If you have a chance to look at their lift layout, you will see that it is unique and that every lift must be serviced by another lift from one of the two base areas.
Okemo has been top-ranked for its grooming the past ten years in the state of Vermont. However, that doesn’t matter unless there is snow. On Monday the high was about 40, and there were many visible bare areas on all sections of the mountain. Bare spots, thin areas, and rocks peeked through on the majority of the trails. Luckily, none of us suffered lasting damage to our snowboards. Based on the conditions and the reported base depth of 8-24 inches, it was apparent that Okemo was intent on expanding the trail count. However, by Monday night our luck was changing. Temperatures dropped into the 20s and the snowguns roared to life. They began blowing on several of the thinning trails, including the base area, and several new trails at the peak. Temperatures would stay below freezing until midday Friday at the peak, and Okemo was able to run the guns around the clock. This allowed them to open three more trails Wednesday and three more on Friday, thus increasing the open trail total to 37 by Friday when we left. Their trail selection was excellent. The mountain opened trails spanning all three of their mountain areas, which immensely helped to spread out the very sparse crowds, and opened trails for all ability levels. Although it is not optimal, this should help provide holiday skiers and snowboarders with copious amounts of fun. For all of you park goers out there, Okemo had limited freestyle features. By the last day of our trip, Friday, Okemo had established a rail park consisting of five or so rails on Sapphire, but no jumps had been established. When snowmaking temperatures return, the park should continue to grow.
I must give Okemo credit where credit is due, and their terrain is the most challenging terrain I have ever encountered. Almost every trail intermediate and up boasts rollers and steeps many other resorts label as expert. They have many trails considered cruisers, but you will get a good workout on all of them. Furthermore, many of their closed trails looked even more challenging than those open. I would love to have the chance to ride the mountain when it is completely open. Unfortunately, that may not be for years to come. If you have the chance to travel to Okemo, I would highly recommend the trails World Cup, Jolly Green Giant, Rimrock, Limelight, and Mountain Road. World Cup, Jolly Green Giant, Rimrock, and Limelight are all intermediate trails that are fast, smooth, and fairly long. If you’re lucky enough to ski or ride them when they are covered in fresh corduroy, then you are truly in for a special treat. Mountain Road is a fantastic cruiser, and may be one of my favorite trails at any resort. It begins at the intersection of two mountain areas, and winds all the way down to the base. The trail winds through the woods and is truly a scenic site. Overall, nothing beats looking behind you on a ride up the mountain and seeing the endless Green Mountains. The sight is breathtaking.
After averaging five hours a day for five days on the snow, you would think that we were ready to head home. However, I wish I could stay forever. Unfortunately, we did have to head home, and at about 1:30 on Friday we packed the car and returned to Delaware. The weather was nasty and the traveling slow, but we eventually made it home safely. I wish I had pictures to show, but I don’t have a digital camera. If you’re all lucky, maybe I can acquire one over the summer. Until then, I hope words can at least begin to describe to you all the trip I undertook. There is nothing better than spending five days on the snow and relaxing with your good friends. I know it is depressing, but hopefully it will cool down soon and we can all be skiing and riding locally with decent conditions. However, as the adage goes, a day on the snow is better than a day without it.
Brenton Archut lives in the tourist town of Bethany Beach, Delaware. He spends his summers working at Fisher's Popcorn. He enjoys bodyboarding and snowboarding and snowboards mostly in the Poconos, but loves to explore new places. Brenton is currently attending school at Lehigh University, where he is pursuing a business degree.