Tag Archives | Okemo

Eleven Reasons to Visit Okemo.

One of the perks of being The Ski Diva is that from time to time I get invited to media events at various ski resorts. These are days that the PR people set aside to familiarize members of the press with all the stuff they have going on. You go on mountain tours, sit through presentations, eat at the various restaurants. It’s actually very nice.

Recently I went to one here in Vermont for Okemo Mountain Resort. Okay, you say, isn’t that your home mountain? It is. But it’s good to hear from management about the new stuff that’s going on, their plans for the future, and so on. And with press people coming from all over the place, it’s nice to have the chance to see the mountain through new eyes. Kind of gives me a new slant on things I see all the time.

So with that in mind, I thought I’d devote this week to giving you my perspective about Okemo: the stuff I really like  — I mean, besides the fact that I can be there in about 7 minutes, which is very nice, too.

 

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1) It’s a cruiser’s paradise:  If you love rippin’ the groomers, Okemo is for you. These trails are designed to make you feel positively giddy. If you’re not smiling by the time you reach the bottom, then I’m sorry, there’s no hope for you at all.

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The Sunburst Six Bubble Lift

2) The Bubble Lift: The official name is The Sunburst Six, but everyone just calls it The Bubble. To be honest, when they first put it in a few years ago, my initial reaction was man, how decadent. What do we need this for? But seriously, on a cold day, when the wind is blowing and the wind chill is below zero,  this is the lift that everyone heads for. Not only does it offer protection, but did I mention that the seats are heated? This Can. Not. Be. Beat. Extra Okemo fact: there’s a second bubble lift at the Jackson Gore area. No, the seats aren’t heated, but it’s a godsend on cold days.

3) Friendly employees: I’ve skied at a lot of places, and I have to say the employees at Okemo are the best by far. They always, always act like they’re happy to see you. This can’t be easy, but somehow they manage to pull it off. It may seem like a small thing, but it really makes a difference.

 

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Photo courtesy of Okemo.

4) Food: I’m not talking about food in the cafeteria at the base lodges — though the food at the Jackson Gore base lodge is actually pretty good. And to be honest, I’m cheap; I usually bring my lunch. But if you want a treat, try Epic, the sit-down restaurant at the Solitude base area. I’ve eaten there a few times, and it’s excellent.

 

Okemo's Women's Alpine Adventures. Photo courtesy of Okemo..

Okemo’s Women’s Alpine Adventures. Photo courtesy of Okemo.

5) Women’s Alpine Adventures: Okemo’s women’s ski clinic is very well known. In fact, I wrote a review about it here. If you’re a Mikaela Shiffrin, or aspire to be, the WAA, as it’s known, probably isn’t for you. But if you’re looking to gain confidence, have a terrific time, make new friends, and pick up some pointers, you’re definitely in the right place.

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The Magic Carpet

6) The Magic Carpet: Little known fact: the Magic Carpet conveyor lift at Okemo is FREE. For everyone! Which is great for beginners. Oh, don’t think I don’t know the score: the idea is to get you hooked so you want to pay the big bucks for the lift. But it’s a great way for newbies to learn the basics so they can ski more safely before they go up in the chair.

7) Ice Skating: Okemo installed its skating rink in 2006, and this year they’ve improved it with a new refrigeration system that can make ice at temperatures well above freezing. A lot of fun when you don’t feel like skiing.

8) The Timber Ripper: Okay, you’re there for the skiing. But honestly, how can you resist taking what’s essentially a roller coaster ride down the mountain? It starts with a five-minute, 1,600-foot climb followed by a 375 vertical-foot descent along 3,100 feet of track that follows the contours of the mountain, at speeds of up to 25 mph. And it’s open all year long.

Timber Ripper Coaster. Photo courtesy of Okemo.

Timber Ripper Coaster. Photo courtesy of Okemo.

9) Summer concerts: Okemo has a lot of stuff going on in the summer. But to me, the best thing by far is the free Friday night concerts in the Jackson Gore base area. People pack picnics, bring lawn chairs, and just enjoy being out on a summer evening. Everyone loves it.

10) Ludlow: This is the town that’s at the base of Okemo. I’ll be honest: if you’re looking for a picture-perfect Vermont town, this ain’t it. But Okemo is the only ski area in the state that has a town right there. And that does have some advantages. For example, in addition to the ski shops right on the mountain, there are five in town (plus one shop just for boarders). And, love ’em or hate ’em (I’ll leave that up to you), there are lots of restaurants and places to stay.  Which weighs heavily on the convenience factor.

11) Hey, it’s Vermont! What can I say. There’s something special about the Green Mountain State. The rolling hills, the quaint villages, the lack of suburban sprawl, the state’s no billboard policy…it’s New England at its best. All I know is that when I tell people I live in Vermont, it’s like I’ve told someone I live on a tropical island; I get the same sort of reaction. No, it doesn’t have the gnarly terrain as Utah or Colorado. But it’s pretty unique, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Clinic Review: Okemo’s Women’s Alpine Adventures

Women love Okemo’s Women’s Alpine Adventures.

okemo-logo-e1363449581241How do I know? For two of the past four years, it’s been voted Favorite Women’s Ski Clinic by members of TheSkiDiva.com. But there’s more, too. I personally know women who’ve attended the clinic year after year. They bring their girlfriends, their neighbors, their sisters and daughters-in-law. My neighbor down the road attends with a group of four or five friends every year, and she’s done the clinic eighteen times. You read that right. Eighteen times. And she’s not alone. This happens time after time after time.

Okemo’s women’s program has been around for what seems like forever — which means they recognized the value of women’s-only clinics long before a lot of other mountains put them in place. (I couldn’t get a definite number, but it’s been at least twenty years.) First known as Women’s Ski Spree, the clinic now meets several times a season for varying lengths of time. There’s a five-day at the end of January, a two-day and a three-day in February, and new this year (because of popular demand), a two-day in March. When something inspires this sort of loyalty, you just have to find out why. And that’s how I ended up participating in the WAA (or WAA WAA, as they call it. I guess anything good bears repeating) a couple weeks ago. And here’s what I learned:

It’s fun. Sure, this is ski instruction. That’s why we’re all here. But let me get this up front: This is not training for the US Ski Team. There’s a different kind of vibe here. Playful. Relaxed. As Barb Newton, program coordinator, told me, “You’re here to get some ski tips. But you’re also here to have a great time.” And they do whatever they can to make sure you do.

They understand how women learn. Again from Barb Newton: “There’s a different dynamic with a women’s group — it’s much more supportive. Not that women aren’t competitive; I think we’re more competitive with ourselves, with our own desire to improve. Women want to elevate not just themselves, but everyone in their group. If someone’s struggling, they’re going to offer encouragement. This isn’t necessarily the case with guys. It’s not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just different. I think we create a place where  we embrace that philosophy.  We provide the support that encourages women to do better. Most of our women want to come and get some key tips that are specific to them that are going to make them feel confident going into the rest of the season. I think we really excel at figuring out what people are thinking  and how that thinking is keeping them from trying new things. We’re going to take you to the place where we’re going to invite you to try something new. But we’re not going to push you. We’re going to make you believe you can do a lot more.”

My group gets pointers at  the WAA.

My group gets pointers at the WAA.

It’s not all about the skiing. Okemo does more than get you on the slopes. They provide a killer breakfast and lunch. There’s a welcome party with a lot of dancing. Awards and recognitions (especially for returning alum). During the five day, there are extra activities like a ski fashion show, a banquet, parties, and sometimes even seminars on things like boot fitting.

There’s a great sense of community. Barb Newton, clinic coordinator, stresses this as one of the things that makes the WAA unique. “With so many women coming back, there’s a strong sense of friendship and community that stands out. These women really bond. There’s a Facebook page that was started by clinic alum. It’s just for them — we stay off. And some of them even get together off the slopes.” Case in point: the neighbor I mentioned earlier? The one who’s done the clinic 18 times? She met with members of her clinic group for lunch in New York City this past summer.

A testimonial
I wasn’t the only member of TheSkiDiva.com community who showed up for the clinic. Another member who was  there posted her own review on the forum:

I just got back from the Okemo Women’s Alpine Adventure program, and I wanted to put down my thoughts while they were still fresh. I highly recommend this program to anyone interested in taking their skiing to the next level, whether you are at the beginner or advanced level. My teacher and fellow group members taught me more in two days than I could have learned on my own in a year. I’m in the advanced intermediate range, but I was put in a group of skiers with much more experience than me. I went down trails I never would have had the confidence to try on my own. I’m a confident blue/black skier on groomed runs but was able to conquer bumps on black runs, ungroomed glades, and even the half-pipe in the terrain park! The best part was being surrounded by supportive women who all had the same goals: to improve their skiing. Also invaluable was the video analysis, which gave me a great visual of my strengths and weaknesses. I highly recommend this program. I had a great time, learned a ton, and even got to meet the SkiDiva herself! I’ll definitely be going back next year. They have a March session, if you’re interested in signing up.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?
The WAA is a clinic that will inspire you to improve your skiing and make you a more confident skier. If you’re a Mikaela Shiffrin, or aspire to be, this probably isn’t for you. But if you’re looking to gain confidence, have a terrific time, make new friends, and pick up some pointers, you’re definitely in the right place.

Ski Diva Rating: Two ski poles up!

 

 



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And so it begins: My two first days.

At long last.

Like all of you, I’ve been waiting, waiting, and waiting some more for ski season to begin. After all, my last ski day was April 17. It’s been far, far too long.

This week I finally got my turn with not one, but two first days at my two local mountains, here in Vermont: Okemo and Killington. Okemo opened November 15, Killington, Nov 5. And this week, I was ready. This week, I was there.

Getting Ready For The Big Day

You’d think this would be a snap. After all, I’ve been skiing for — let’s just say lots and lots of years. Nonetheless, I think anyone’s first day skiing should be called “National You’re Going To Forget To Bring Something Critical Day.” Because invariably, no matter how much I plan, no matter how many times I fill up and empty my ski bag to make sure everything’s there — I manage to leave something behind. This year was no exception. Yes, I had my boots, goggles, gloves, socks, and helmet. But somehow I managed to leave out my gaiter. Not too big a deal, but still, will I ever learn?

First Day #1: Okemo

The ideal first day is sunny, cold, with great snow and blue, blue skies.

Mine was not like that at all.

Although we had a bit of snow Sunday night, Monday — the day I chose to ski — started out with an icy, sleety mix. No matter, I thought. Maybe it’s snowing on the mountain.

If only. Instead, it was sleeting there, too. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I mean, what’s bad weather? We’re skiers, aren’t we? We laugh at the stuff Mother Nature dishes out. We can take it.

Sort of. To be honest, visibility sucked. I took five runs, then quit. It was just too unpleasant; I looked like a popsicle and felt this side of pneumonia. But on the upside: the snow was soft and there was no one out there (big surprise). Okemo’s been blowing snow like crazy, and it shows. There’s top to bottom coverage, and it looks more like February than November. The mountain says it has 14 runs open, and I guess there probably are. In reality, however, there were essentially three ways down. But they were fun ways, so who’s counting?

It was cool to ski by the construction for the Sunburst Six, the new lift that Okemo’s putting in to replace the old Northstar Quad. It’s a bubble lift! With heated seats! The only one like it in North America, too. Things seem to be progressing nicely — the lift may be ready to spin in early December. I can hardly wait.

Construction continues on  The Sunburst Six, Okemo's new bubble lift.

Construction continues on The Sunburst Six,
Okemo’snew bubble lift.

 

In the meantime, however, if you want top to bottom skiing, you have to rely on two fairly slow lifts to get to the summit. But this isn’t unusual for early season skiing at Okemo, and really, early-December — if they make their goal — is only a couple weeks away (incredible, huh?). So I can suck it up.

Besides the lift, Okemo has a few new things in store this season. The mountain put in 100 new, energy-efficient HKD tower guns and snowmaking pipeline upgrades. This follows a $1 million snowmaking investment they made last winter, so they’ve made great strides in this department. They’re also re-doing their terrain park, in partnership with Snow Park Technologies. So for those of you who are into that, you’re in for a treat.

First Day #2: Killington

Weather-wise, a much better first day than my day at Okemo. Yes, it was colder than one would expect for November (in the teens without the wind, when I started), but it was snowing. And it kept snowing pretty much all morning. Now that’s a ski day.

Lookin' good at Killington

Lookin’ good at Killington

Killington’s been open since November 5, but I’m glad I waited. Until recently, skiers had to download when they wanted to return to the base lodge. That’s all over now. There’s top to bottom skiing, with more set to open by Thanksgiving (they’re making snow pretty aggressively).

How were conditions? Really, quite good. Lots of snow on the trails, no visible rocks, and very good coverage. It was actually a very fine day.

Killington has a number of  things this season you’ll probably appreciate. They’ve added 400 new, energy efficient snow guns this year and are working to improve snow coverage on high traffic intersections. And this is pretty cool: Killington is instituting Terrain Based Instruction in their ski school. In TBI, students are coached on a series of sculpted terrain features before moving on to the larger slopes or up the chairlift. The features help skiers learn to control speed and  promote balance. Killington says their system will be the largest in the country, and second in North America only to Whistler. I plan to check it out for a later blog post. They also tell me they’re improving their signage, which is a big plus. I’ve always had difficulty with Killington’s trail signs, so I like this a lot.

SO — my season is off to a great start. Last season I made 84 days. Will I equal or beat that record? Stay tuned.

 

 



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Getting to the top.

I live not too far from Suicide Six, a small mountain in Vermont that prides itself on being the first lift-served ski area in the US. The mountain installed a rope tow in 1934, a couple years before the country’s first chair lift went into service at Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1936.

Ski lifts have come a long way since then. Today you can ride a tram, gondola, high-speed quad, double, triple, rope tow, J-bar, T-bar, and Magic Carpet, to name a few. And oh, the places you’ll go. The Peak-To-Peak Tram at Whistler-Blackcomb, for example, spans 4.4 km in just 11 minutes. The Aerial Tram at Jackson Hole takes you 4,139 vertical feet in 15 minutes. And the Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky brings you up to 11,166 feet, climbing 1,450 ft over a distance of 2,828 ft. Lifts open up terrain that would otherwise be inaccessible to the majority of skiers, and substantially expand a resort’s skiable acreage. Skiing wouldn’t be the same without them.

Single Chair, Mad River Glen

Single Chair, Mad River Glen

People get incredibly attached to lifts. Here in Vermont, it’s not unusual to see a house with an old lift chair or gondola cabin in the yard. And then there’s the historic single chair at Mad River Glen, which has a mystique all its own. When the mountain refurbished its lift in 2007, the old chairs were auctioned off to raise funds, with a minimum starting bid of $1,000. They sold.

Every now and then you hear a crazy ski lift story in the news. In 2010, five chairs fell 25-30 feet from a lift at Sugarloaf, Maine, injuring six people. In 2009, a nearly 40-year-old lift at Devil’s Head, Wisconsin, ran backwards at an out-of-control rate of speed, overriding the safety brakes and injuring 14 people. Luckily, these are exceptions rather than the rule. Statistics compiled by the National Ski Areas Association show only 12 chairlift fatalities in North America between 1973, when data collection started, and 2011 (the date of the source I found), making chairlifts safer than cars, escalators, or elevators.

Ski resorts do a lot of lift maintenance, refurbishment, and installation during the summer. This year my local mountain, Okemo, is installing a six-person bubble chair, complete with heated seats, to replace a high-speed detachable quad. It’s the first one like it in North America, and it’s been interesting to read people’s reactions on the internet. Some see it as an absolute travesty, more evidence of the corporatization and sanitation of the ski experience — which I think  is pretty silly. Unless you’re hiking, you have to rely on some sort of automatic conveyance to get to the top, and I see little difference between the new lift and riding a tram or a gondola. All offer wind protection and a larger group of passengers than a typical chair — except with the bubble lift, you don’t have to remove your skis, which to me is a big plus. Yes, the heated seats may be a bit over the top. But ask me about this again on a day when the temps dip below zero, and I may give you a completely different answer. After all, no one gets a medal for being uncomfortable.

Bubble Lift to be installed at Okemo Mountain Resort

Artist rendition of Bubble Lift.

A lift being demolished or installed doesn’t happen every day, and I’m hoping to see some of this at Okemo this summer. It’s a massive undertaking that relies on incredible logistics and lots and lots of money; the lift at Okemo is clocking in at $6.9 million and is slated to start rolling in mid-December. I’ve been told they’ll be using helicopters to install the footings for the new towers in a few weeks, and I may go over to watch. If I do, I’ll take some pics so you can see, too.

In the meantime, enjoy this video of a chairlift installation at Vail in 2011:

 

 

 

 

 



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What does it take to be PR Director at one of the East’s biggest ski resorts?

When I got out of college a zillion years ago, one of the things I considered doing was PR at a ski resort.

This never happened. Instead, I took a job in communications at a large, eastern corporation and spent my time in a windowless cubicle writing press releases on such exciting topics as wastewater treatment, cryogenic freezing, industrial gases, and all sorts of chemicals you really don’t want to know about (trust me on this).

I quit after four years. But I still didn’t do the PR/ski resort thing. By then I was too entrenched in life in suburban Philadelphia, and it took a long time for me to get out of the advertising rat race and move up to Vermont.

But enough about me. What I really want to talk to you about today is what it’s like to be a PR Director at a major eastern ski resort. Which is why I interviewed Bonnie MacPherson, PR Director for Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vermont.

For those of you who don’t know, some fast facts about Okemo:

655 acres of terrain
96% of trails covered by snowmaking
120 trails and glades
Vertical Drop: 2,200 feet
Base Elevation: 1,144 feet
Summit Elevation: 3,344 feet
Lifts: 19, including 9 quad chairs (5 highspeed quads), 3 triple chairs and 7 surface lifts

And now, heeeeeeere’s Bonnie:

Bonnie MacPherson

Q: How’d you get into Public Relations? And how’d you end up at Okemo?
A: I actually got into PR on a lark. I did a lot of different things – worked for a newspaper, managed a restaurant — but I never had a solid career.  This was something I promised I’d change when I was 40. So around that time I saw an ad in the newspaper for a PR coordinator at Bretton Woods [NH]. It seemed to require a lot of my skill sets, so I polished up my resume and decided to go for it. Well, I ended up getting the job, and it was terrific. The owners were local with a lot of money to spend. Plus we also represented the Cog Railway and the Mount Washington Hotel, too, so it was like we were this little agency within the resort representing an attraction, a hotel, and a ski resort. It was a great learning experience, and I loved it. When my boss and mentor left for Booth Creek Resorts, I followed him there. Booth Creek ran Loon, Waterville Valley, and Cranmore. I was there for a few years when I got a phone call from the PR Director at Okemo. She was leaving and said she was recommending me as her replacement. I’d always been interested in Okemo, so I was very excited. I had a couple of interviews, they offered me the position, and now I’ve been here nearly 8 years. The Muellers [the couple who manages Okemo] are amazing people. They’ve always had this reputation as very hands on. And they are, though their responsibilities have grown to include Crested Butte [Colorado] and Mount Sunapee [New Hampshire]. We don’t see them as much as we used to, but they’re still around quite a bit. It suits my style much better than a big corporate culture.

Q: So what are your responsibilities?
A: I’m primarily a liason between Okemo and the media, so I have to be available 24/7. Much of my job involves writing press releases, and I’m the editor for Okemo Magazine, which comes out twice a year.  But I also work with the rest of the marketing team, doing whatever’s needed for that. In the winter I have two coordinators: a snow reporter and a videographer, who both report to me. So  I have to  manage staff , as well. If the snow reporter oversleeps or doesn’t make it in, you miss your competitive edge for that day. So it’s important to stay on top of that.

Q: Do you ski a lot?
A: I try. It’s funny, once you get into the ski industry, you don’t ski as much as you’d like to.  I get out a few times a week. This year I raced in our local race series, too.

Q: What do you like most about the job, and what do you like least?
A: I like that it’s all about relationships. The lines blur between professional and personal, and I really like that. Some of my best friends are writers. I like how you get to know a lot of people. The ski industry is somewhat incestuous. It’s small, and people tend to move around. It’s hard, though, too, because you get to know people and then they leave.

The hardest part of my job is just how all-consuming it is. It doesn’t matter what the time of year, I’m on 24/7. People think I have summers off because I work in the ski industry.  No. It’s year ‘round. And crisis management can be tough, too. We’ve had ski collisions, even deaths, and these are difficult.  One of the most memorable crises I had to deal with was when I worked at the Mount Washington Hotel. I was scheduled to be on an RSN [Resort Sports Network] TV show. I was home, and right before I left to go on, I called the Hotel to make sure everything was okay. The receptionist said, ‘Everything’s fine, except the roof blew off today.’ Because it really had. We had a full house, every room was packed, but it was a really old hotel built in 1902, and the wind had just lifted the roof off the front of the hotel; people on the top floor could see the light of day out of their ceilings. So we had to deal with that. The ski area was still running, though.

Q: What are your biggest challenges?
A: Uncontrollable things, like weather. And the sport is inherently dangerous, so accidents happen. You have to be prepared and have a plan in place in case something catastrophic happens so people know what they’re supposed to do.

What’s your busiest season, and what do you do during the summer?
A: Summer is actually my busiest time, since it’s the lead-in for the season. For me, August 1 is the tipping point. Suddenly I have long-lead publications that are looking for information about winter – what are you doing, what are your capital investments, new programs and things – so those are all rolling out. We work pretty closely with Ski Vermont, because they’re working on all their media materials at that point, updating our winter press kit, and just trying to get the information. And I’m busy putting together the winter magazine.  I try to go on vacation before then.  I’ve never used all my vacation time. Even when I’m on vacation, I’m still checking my email. I’d rather be on top of something than miss it. I make myself available to people whenever they need me.

Once the season starts, it’s easier. Things begin to run like a well-oiled machine. Everyone knows what to do, so it sort of takes the pressure off.  You just go along for the ride and try to do your job.

Q: It seems that many PR people in the ski industry are women. What’s your take on that?
A: I don’t know why that is. I think women are better communicators. We’re emotional people,  and I think you need to be passionate about what you’re representing. I also think it’s an entry position to the ski industry for a lot of women.

Q: Here’s your chance to do some PR, Bonnie.  What can we expect to see at Okemo this year?
A: We’re really excited about our new pass for college students. It’s called 4.0, and it’s $369. [plus tax] through December 15. It allows unlimited skiing and riding at Okemo, Killington, Pico, and Mount Sunapee [NH]. A great deal.

Then there’s Operation Snowburst, our big snowmaking improvement project. We’ve installed new 225 HKD SV tower guns that’ll allow us to maximize water flow and snowmaking from the very start of the season. During the early season, temperatures fluctuate so much that we had to put a lot of air in the system, which kept us from maximizing pumping capacity. The new system changes that, so it brings our snowmaking up to an entirely new level. With the new technology, we’re hoping to to eliminate early season shuttling and even open several top-to-bottom routes.

We’re also cutting a new intermediate glade. This will be about 2,200 feet long. It’s mostly evergreens in there, so it’s going to have a very different feel from the rest of our glades.

And it’s the tenth year that our Jackson Gore Inn has been open, so we’ve been doing a lot of upgrades there, too.  We’ve replaced all the upholstered furniture, as well as the linens and the carpets. It’s getting a whole fresh look.

 

Thanks, Bonnie! Anyone who wants to know more about Okemo, go here.



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Five Days After.

It’s a beautiful day here in The Green Mountain State. I’m sitting out on my deck enjoying perfect weather. I have power, internet, water, and food. Truly, life is good.

That’s not the case for a lot of Vermonters. As I’m sure you heard, people all over the state have lost their homes. They’re stranded on “mountain islands,” with no access to the outside world. Businesses are destroyed. Road and bridges,completely gone.

Here’s a road where I used to ride my bike. I guess I won’t be doing that for a while:

If you read my last post, then you know I was afraid I’d  be stranded, too. We parked our car on the other side of a deteriorating roadway, so  we were able to walk to it and drive away. And now that they’ve repaired the dirt road that’s our other means of access, we’re fine. The road’s pretty bumpy and adds a bit of time to any trip out, but that’s minor.

There’s work going on everywhere.  As I sit here, I can hear the sound of heavy equipment half a mile away. The National Guard is around, as are FEMA and the Salvation army, and there are tons of volunteers. And though the grocery store in Ludlow will be closed for months, they’re putting up a large tent in the parking lot, from which they plan to sell staples. People are coming together to do what needs to be done. It’s the human spirit at its very best. Vermonters are a hardy lot, and the generosity and ingenuity they’ve displayed through this is amazing. I’m proud of my friends and neighbors.

All the same, there is much heartbreak. An artist in Wilmington loses her life’s work. A young couple I know lose their entire farm. Three people in the state lose their lives. These are only a few examples. It seems petty to think about skiing. But skiing is an important part of life around here, and a major player in the state’s economy. So here’s what’s going on, in that department:

In my neck of the woods, Killington was the hardest hit. The biggest problem is Route 4, the main artery leading to the resort. In many areas, the road was entirely washed away, leaving 20-foot drops. Here’s an example:

How this can be repaired before ski season, I have no idea. It goes on and on, too. I know the road is a top priority, but jeez louise, look at it. Makes my heart hurt.

Until just a couple days ago, about 400 people were stranded at Killington, and helicopters were used to bring in supplies. That’s improved with the recent opening of a temporary road that’s allowed people to leave. Even better, I just learned that Killington is making temporary housing available for those in need. Kudos to the resort.

Killington says their infrastructure received only minimal damage, so they’ll be open for the 2011/2012 ski season. This is good news for skiers — provided they can get there.

Okemo fared a bit better. According to FirstTracks Online Ski Magazine, the resort’s Snowstars conveyor lift and F-10 conveyor were buried under four feet of mud and silt. The parking lot, a sewer line, numerous driveways and offices were also damaged, and there was a landslide above the resort’s Sachem chairlift. And though the resort’s primary access was damaged, it’s now being repaired. The resort is hosting  a benefit concert for local hurricane relief tonight. Kudos to them, too!

Many people have asked how they can help the people here in Vermont. Here are a few ways you can do that. There is much to be done here and people are in need, so please don’t hesitate to give.

 

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WOOOO-HOOOOO!!!!


My ski season has started!!!!

Today was my very first day of the season. And even though it wasn’t a full day (I was only out there for a few hours), it was great to be finally skiing.

My home mountain is Okemo, Vermont, and they always do a great job making snow. Not too much terrain was open, but the conditions were good and it snowed early in the day, which made it extra nice. Okemo is blasting its snowmaking guns like crazy, so more trails will be opening each day.

Interesting, though — every year I have the same crazy, irrational thought: What if I’ve forgotten how to ski? I know it makes no sense, but there it is. Usually it’s gone after just a few turns. But I wonder — does anyone else feel this way, or is it just me?????

Here’s wishing all of us a great ’08/’09 season!




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From the Fire Tower.

Yesterday I hiked up the back of Okemo Mountain. It was a beautiful day — clear sunny skies, not hot, humid, or windy. At the top of the mountain there’s an old fire tower that was used years ago by the fire service. During the winter, you can see this tower when you off load at the top of Okemo’s South Peak chair. Then it looks frozen and forbidding. But yesterday, on a picture perfect Saturday in July, it was exactly the opposite — inviting and ready to be climbed.

From the top, you get an unmatched 360 degree view of the beautiful Green Mountains. To the north, Killington. To the south, Magic and Stratton. To the east Ascutney, Sunapee, even Mount Washington. And at your feet, the South Peak chair at Okemo. I felt like Maria von Trappe in the “Sound of Music,” when the camera pans down on her singing at the top of a mountain and she’s surrounded by a breath-taking, panoramic view of the Alps.

As usual, I left my camera behind (seems I never have it when I need it!), but it reminded me that in skiing, it’s not just the ride down that I love so dearly, but the view from the top, as well. And with six areas spread out around me, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “HOW AM I EVER GOING TO MAKE IT TIL SKI SEASON STARTS?”




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