Okemo Mountain Resort is located in Ludlow, Vermont.
High Points: Mid-December is not usually the best time to go skiing in the East—many resorts aren’t even open yet, due to a lack of natural snow (or snow-making abilities.) Not so at Okemo mountain! I spent December 13-15 there, and they had 96 trails open for business, thanks to a combination of a well-timed snow storm and great snow-making abilities. The snow-grooming on the mountain was well-done, and after a big storm Saturday night into Sunday, a few trails were left ungroomed for experienced skiers who like to challenge themselves on untouched powder.
Although I prefer to spend most of my time on a ski vacation actually skiing, I did take a break to try Okemo’s unique and fun Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, an all-seasons roller coaster with a 375 vertical descent. Riders control the speed and can go as fast as 25mph, if they’re brave enough.
The indoor facilities at Okemo are impressive as well. Whereas dining options at most ski resorts conjure up images of overpriced, unhealthy, reheated food served cafeteria-style, Okemo has a number of fine-dining, gourmet options. The food at Epic made for a hearty and delicious lunch (my travel companion deemed the Kobe Burger Sliders the best he’d ever had) served in front of picture windows where diners can watch skiers making their way down the mountain. Dinner at Coleman Brook Tavern was another highlight—I appreciated having a much better vegetarian option (a pappardelle with pan-tossed with wild mushrooms, roasted peppers, white beans, pesto, maplebrook farm baby mozzarella and a tomato fennel broth) than the typical veggie burger served up at most ski resorts. Although the Coleman Brook Tavern is known for its extensive wine selection, I was most impressed by the bourbon and whisky selection maintained by the knowledgeable bartender—they stocked the elusive Pappy Van Winkle, which is near-impossible to find anywhere. And of course, since Okemo is based in Vermont, the cheese selection at both restaurants was local and amazing. My favorite low-brow dining option on the mountain? This caffeine addict very much appreciated that Starbucks coffee was served up at many on-mountain dining spots.
Low Points: The chairlifts at Okemo are all open air—no enclosed gondolas here. That can make for a mighty cold ride up the mountain, especially when temperatures hit 2 degrees (as they did on the Saturday that I visited.)
Savings Strategy: Go for the Ski and Stay packages and get discounted lift tickets and lodging. If you can play hooky from work or school, mid-week packages are dirt-cheap. Be sure to keep an eye on the Lift Ticket Deals page as well, which offers great savings.
Where I Stayed: I stayed in a one-bedroom suite at the Jackson Gore Inn. If you’re skiing at Okemo, the Jackson Gore Inn is definitely your best bet. It’s true ski-in, ski-out accommodation. The Jackson Gore Inn has great amenities like a heated garage (no need to dig out your car!) and a complimentary ski/snowboard check for guests. For apres-ski, there’s a large outdoor heated pool, two outdoor heated hot tubs, indoor pools and hot tubs, a steam room, and an outdoor fire pit. The suites at Jackson Gore Inn have well-equipped kitchens, perfect for people who don’t want to dine out for every meal.
If You Go: Take advantage of the free mountain tours offered daily by the friendly Okemo mountain ambassadors—they will help acquaint you with the massive 655 acres of terrain. Also, if you’re in the market to upgrade your gear, you can try out new equipment before committing—Okemo has a great demo program that lets skiers and snowboarders borrow the newest and best equipment for a trial.
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(Photo: Caroline Morse)