The AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge was designed to provide a method for our forum members to get official answers to skiing-related questions directly from a ski area representative. Lori Cayouette, Online Marketing Manager of Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, Vermont took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 6/16/2004:
Joshua B: Okemo is known to me as an area that is superior in terms of snowmaking and trail conditions, yet a friend of mine who bought his first Okemo season pass last winter complained about the lack of snowmaking. Was this a down year for snowmaking?
Lori Cayouette: There is no question that the weather this past season (03-04) was difficult with frigid cold temps combined with strong winds along with lack of natural snowfall. With that being said, we definitely did not cut back on snowmaking. Actually, our snowmaking budget was over by 18% and we pumped 23% more water through our system than in past years. Also, our grooming hours and costs had similar increases. We spent numerous hours resurfacing trails with snowmaking and building our base depths before moving on to cover and expand terrain. Overall, it was a challenging season, but isn’t that what drives us to the “thrill of downhill” in the first place…the challenge?
Joshua B: How often do people reminisce about Okemo’s awesome high speed pomas and the narrow, twisting, classic New England trail setup of the ’70s and early ’80s?
Lori Cayouette: We love to reminisce and talk about the old Okemo days, especially the old poma lifts like the red, green and black and the classic trails like Chief, Wardance, Tomahawk and Arrow. Many of our full-time staff grew up on Okemo “back in the day”. If you visit Okemo, you can see the memorabilia and history displayed on the walls in the Sitting Bull Restaurant and Bar and also inside Gables Restaurant at Solitude. It’s definitely a trip down memory lane and a valuable part of our heritage.
Joshua B: The terrain at Jackson Gore includes long trails without many intersections. Is this a sign of the general character of Jackson Gore, specifically in terms of further expansion plans on that side?
Lori Cayouette: When we planned the trail network at Jackson Gore, we had the luxury of starting anew, which we did not have on the main mountain. That’s why you will find few run offs and intersections in this mountain area. Many of the trails are longer in length and have steeper pitches. Two new trails are to come (and to be named) and will be undulating, narrow and challenging!
salida: I have heard from many people, that Okemo hires graduates of the Lyndon State College ski area management program. How has the graduates of this program affected the Okemo and its operations?
Lori Cayouette: We work very closely with our local public school systems and colleges with school-to-work programs, internships and on the job work experience. Lyndon State has an excellent ski area management program and we enjoy a wonderful working relationship with them. Many of our managers are graduates from Lyndon State and first came to Okemo when they were interns.
jimme: Are there any plans for a gondola, or other lift that could take skiers/riders to the upper mountain without having to take either of the South Ridge chairs?
Lori Cayouette: Unfortunately, due to the trail and lift network that is already in place, it isn’t possible to install a base-to-summit lift in the Okemo base area. But, over the next several years we plan replace some of our quad chairs in the base and upgrade to high-speed quads for more efficiency. Phase II of the Jackson Gore Plan (currently in the permit process) will have a Gondola that will leave from the Jackson Gore base area and go directly to the summit of the main mountain.
Starter Jackets Rule!: Has Okemo ever considered offering lift-serviced downhill mountain biking in the summer?
Lori Cayouette: Yes. We are hoping to have hiking and mountain biking with lift service once the Gondola at Jackson Gore is installed.
thetrailboss: My girlfriend and I visited Sunapee this past March on some gift certificates and we enjoyed it very much. We have considered visiting Okemo, but I will admit that as recent poor college grads, we are deterred by the rates (though not as much as Stratton’s ridiculous rates). Are you planning any good promotions for 2004/2005 that would attract skiers like us?
Lori Cayouette: Our “Steals and Deals” section on okemo.com has some great ways to save including the Okemo Flex Card, the Okemo 8-Pack, Online Coupon Specials, Okemo Appreciation Days, Food Drive Days and more. If you would like to stay overnight, there are Ski & Stay Packages available. And, in the fall we attend Snowsports Shows throughout the East (Boston, Albany, CT, NY, Toronto, etc) and giveaway coupons. The specials are there…..be sure to stay in touch with okemo.com.
Greg: Are there any terrain expansion plans for the 2004/2005 ski season? Are there any infrastructure improvements/upgrades in the works, e.g. lifts, facilities, etc.?
Lori Cayouette: We are working on additional trails in the Jackson Gore Peak area and are finishing the underground parking, exterior and interior of the Jackson Gore Inn and base area. The new trails have been cut, but they need to be stumped and graded, then we can add snowmaking. We are also working on our snowmaking pipes and pumphouses to upgrade the system. Right now, our entire facility is receiving a face-lift with new paint to freshen it up. We are always doing something!
Greg: Now that Jackson Gore’s first season is behind us, please share examples of the most common positive as well as negative feedback you’ve received in regards to the expansion.
Lori Cayouette: The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with very few (if any) negatives. Guests really like the new terrain and the services and amenities at the new Jackson Gore area. The additional terrain and lifts has made a tremendous difference in our ability to move people around the mountain quickly and efficiently. We have also noted a decrease in traffic flowing south at the end of the day due to the new base area. Skiers and riders coming from the north (Route 103 and 100) can start their day at Jackson Gore and avoid the afternoon traffic. We can accommodate more children in our Day Care and Snow Stars because of the new Jackson Gore area. Now families can choose between two locations. New food locations allow for a variety of options with sit-down service, fast food and healthy choices.
The negatives — Legs are tired at the end of the day due to the incredible uphill capacity of the lift system and it is hard to decide which entrée to have at the Coleman Brook Tavern because they are all so appetizing!
Greg: The Muellers purchased Crested Butte in Southwest Colorado this season. Do they have any interest in purchasing additional Northeast ski areas to add to the Okemo/Sunapee family?
Lori Cayouette: Tim and Diane are happy with the operations and ownership of Okemo, Mount Sunapee and Crested Butte. Is it possible that they may purchase another mountain? Maybe, but unlikely. Each mountain (Okemo, Sunapee, and Crested Butte) has an incredible management team in place that operates independent of one another. We work closely, but function separately to retain the individual character and personality. Tim and Diane divide their time the three resorts, but are always in constant contact with everyone.