Oh, the places The List has taken me. I will not likely return to any of them. But Okemo is reserved a special honor–a mountain you couldn’t pay me to revisit. A mountain I would even gladly pay to avoid. It is like my childhood feeder hill–Ski Bradford–with ten times the vertical and acreage and five high speed quads. That is Okemo. A royal shit show.
Okemo offers a massive and enjoyable visual on the approach from the east. But any pleasant thoughts regarding the view are quickly displaced by the offending traffic of Ludlow–a municipality that appears particularly devoted to being a ski resort town. The only thing I found enjoyable about Ludlow were slices at the aptly named Wicked Good Pizza.
The upper lot was full so I was directed to a muddy lower lot and forced to take a bus to the lodge. This was a new experience. I stood outside of my car alternating my gaze between the mountain and the buses. I considered getting back in my car and going somewhere else. Anywhere else that didn’t force me to ride a bus to get to the base lodge. I decided that I needed to do this and get it over with. I boarded the bus and was greeted by a grizzled Vermonter whom Okemo forgot to tell he was transporting adults and not kids…
“Shut up! Be quiet and listen up! This is the RED bus! You need to know this! This is important! Remember the RED bus and the time you arrived! You’ll be lost if you don’t remember! This is the RED Bus!”
It was a meat factory. I felt processed. I shuffled up to the ticket window, moo’d, and swapped my voucher for a classic sticky wicket ticket, which surprised me given Okemo’s massive resort status. I pushed through the pens, got dressed, and boarded a waste-of-time beginner quad to get to the action (insiders hint: take the F-10 Magic Carpet to the Sachem Quad instead).
The shit show really began at the Northstar Express Quad. Despite three staff members directing traffic, many boarding issues were frequently occurring. I have never seen a high speed quad stop so many times. I was directed to pair up with a threesome that would not give room.
“On your right.”
“On your RIGHT!”
“ON YOUR RIGHT!!!”
I had two choices: Stand behind the offending mom protecting her two kids from a single rider and allow the chair to ram me into her (stop–visualize that for a moment and appreciate it!) or step aside onto the deck. I wisely side stepped the chair and gave my best incredulous huff. “She wouldn’t let you in?” a liftie inquired.
My impressions of Okemo’s trails matched my preconceptions: wide and flat. I brought out the Volkl Six Stars for a rare ripper day and boy did they ever delight! I played dodgems at Mach Schnell on Upper to Lower Chief. I honestly enjoyed that run, I swear! Over on the South Face, I found a complete Shit Show on Rimrock with relatively empty wide ripping down Stump Jumper (not aptly named) and Punch Line.
Double Diamond and Outrage are “glades” in the true sense of the word: open space with copses of trees. It is sad that there are not more trails like these else where in New England. And the few that do exist seem to loose trees without concern of regeneration. Wide enough in places for a groomer, these short runs were excellent though laughably tame considering the double diamond ratings.
Hoping that Jackson Gore might have upped Okemo’s ante on terrain offerings, I made my way across the mountain to Lower Limelight. This was the Shit Show of the afternoon with mounds of soft pushed around snow causing trouble for the newbs. I played mogul slalom around bodies flying every where. It was a cacophony of face plants, double ejects, and gaping so strong it was audible.
Rolling Thunder was an interesting winder with bumps and obstacles. “Starting to get thin” said one struggling skier. Thin my ass! Go rip some groomers if you can’t ski around a single exposed rock! Despite having my unwieldy stiff Six Stars, I opted to give Jackson Gore’s double diamond–Big Bang–a shot. What makes a double diamond at Okemo? A wide blue square pitched seeded bump slope interrupted by random flats. There were three seeded bump trails on the mountain that I noticed. Surely a nice option for the amateur bump skier looking to improve.
Okemo is what it is: a mountain with something for the entire family that specializes in manicured wide open groomers without much pitch. Even never evers could be skiing Okemo’s double diamond offerings within a few lessons, a developing parallel turn will get you down anything at Okemo. The slopeside development is extensive with condos extending more than halfway up the mountain to the South Face Express Chair. All of those chairlifts and express chairs gobble up skiers and riders excepting the main Northstar Chair where I found the only line. But the lack of difficulty differentiation means the bodies are constantly flying across the trails everywhere on the mountain. There is no escape.
Okemo is a massive wannabe feeder hill of resort proportions. Even for “the right family”, I would easily recommend other areas that do the same thing but without the chaos: Bromley and Pico for starters without even getting off the beaten path or too far from Long Island. But who am I to make such recommendations? I benefit tremendously from places like Okemo that gobble up skier and rider visits. It keeps the places I normally frequent sane and tolerable. I have nothing against developing skiers and families. I was one and part of one in my younger days. But I sure am glad a place like Okemo contains and seemingly delights so many of them.
Okemo: I make the sacrifice to ski it and report on it so you don’t have to.