Navigating the roller coaster trails of Okemo

Courtesy Photo/Dave SartwellRockport resident River Bolcome taking his first ski run with his mother, K.C. Bolcome.

We stood at the top of Timberline and stared out over the beautiful Vermont countryside. The lift that normally serves this trail was not open, so the run was relatively skier free. I tipped over the edge and made a quick cutting turn just to feel my edges.

The newly sharpened skis responded by digging deep into the smooth surface. The more I pressured my downhill knee underneath my centered weight, the more the edge carved the perfect snow.

The Volkl 175 Supersports almost drove by themselves. Shaped skis have made the art of turning so much easier, saving old knees like mine from having to work too hard. I stood up a bit to transition the ski and then applied a little pressure to the tip to initiate another turn. Again, the wide tip dug into the snow and I increased the pressure a bit to get the edge really set into its new carve.

The reason I love this trail we were on is that it is like riding on a roller coaster. It has a series of steep drops punctuated with regular plateaus. You drop, flatten out, drop, flatten out over and over again all the way to the bottom. It is one of those black diamond trails that is easy to ski if you want to, but it can turn into a wild ride if you really pick up the pace.

We wanted to pick up the pace. Nate and K.C. both can ski like the wind, so they went flying by as I pulled up on one of the small shelves. (Yes, we let Nate ride with us even if he is ...a boarder!). I reached down and tightened my boots one more notch, made sure there was no one immediately behind, and eased on over the top. In a matter of moments I was flying. Concentrating on a little six-foot wide area along the edge of the trail. I kept turning like I was in a set of gates and just pounded my thighs.

Quick turn, edge, turn, edge; over and over again I jabbed my pole into the snow and made this tiny part of the larger trail my own little playground. I got so lost into my own tiny world that I didn’t realize I had skied the whole trail until I arrived at the lift. Everyone was grinning as we caught the chair and headed back to the top.

Ski Magazine has over and over again ranked Okemo one of the top three mountains in the East for snow quality. It continually ranks them #1 in the East for grooming. What this means for the average skier is that no matter what the conditions, Okemo will have the best snow on which to ski.

It is a big mountain. With 2,200 vertical feet, it offers some great long runs for almost every level of skier. Although not noted for gnarly expert terrain, there is enough of the steeps available to test the best of skiers. However, if you are looking for some wonderful single diamond and intermediate terrain, this is your mountain. Boarders will be pleased with their expansive terrain park and an incredible half-pipe that are both lift served.

Skiers and snowboarders visiting this winter will ride in the comfort of another new, high-speed bubble chairlift. Okemo’s upgrade includes the replacement of chairs with comfortable four-passenger bubble chairs that protect skiers and riders from wind and weather as they ascend Okemo’s Jackson Gore summit. It joins the recently-installed Sunburst Six, a heated six-passenger bubble chair that that rises from the base.

“We have always put the guest experience first,” said Okemo Mountain Resort Owner Tim Mueller. “State-of-the-art lifts and snowmaking are the heart of the skiing experience, so this is one more example of maintaining that standard and keeping Okemo as the gold standard in the industry.”

Okemo understands they are in the snow entertainment business. In addition to skiing, they offer a whole array of fun options for the whole family. For example, they have a slope side tubing park that makes a perfect apres ski activity for everyone. This multi-lane facility is located just off the magic carpet in the courtyard at Jackson Gore.

FAT bikes can be rented from the Mountain Outfitters at Jackson Gore. Demo bikes are available to rent for $45 (helmet included). You can ride for an hour or the whole day. Just have your bike back before 4 p.m.

The Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster offers a scenic and exhilarating ride through alpine forests and along the contours of the mountain. The roller coaster ride 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 with added waves, camel backs, banking loops and a "twister" section, at speeds of up to 25 mph.

The Okemo Valley Nordic Center invites winter enthusiasts to discover the joy of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The well-marked trail network that is groomed daily using state-of-the-art grooming machines, features 22 km of tracked and skate-groomed terrain for skiers, and 13 km of trails dedicated to snowshoers.

For parents who want a quiet night out there is a place where your kids will be well looked after. Kids' Night Out is a fully state-licensed child care facility where children are cared for by professionals in a safe and nurturing environment. The night includes movies, pizza and tons of fun activities. Kids Night Out X takes that care to a new level, with even more age appropriate activities both indoors and out - including swimming, skating and more!

This licensed daycare facility is a place where children six months and older can be looked after by trained professionals. We put my grandson River in there for a day and he loved it.

In the winter months, there is a regulation-sized hockey rink and recreational ice skating pavilion. The connected building features skate rentals and a warming area with a gas-fueled fireplace.

The resort also features a two-level, 18,000-square-foot fitness and aquatic center with a recreational swimming pool equipped to accommodate family water fun. There is a children’s pool with a whimsical frog slide and numerous splash and water fountain features and a five-person hot tub.

If you get bored at Okemo It’s your fault! 

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