AlpineZone Challenge 2011 – Bruce Schmidt of Okemo Mountain

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. Bruce SchmidtGeneral Manager of Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, Vermont took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 10/12/2011:

steamboat1: In the original Jackson Gore plans there was a top to bottom gondola envisioned. Are there any plans to install such a lift in the future?

Bruce Schmidt: The plans to install a state-of-the-art gondola at Jackson Gore are still in play. Ski areas across the country have had to delay plans for large improvements, such as new gondolas due to a slowed economy, and Okemo Mountain is not an exception. We intend to move forward with the plans as soon as we can as we are aware that in order to continue to compete as a world-class resort we must provide the highest level of convenience.

mediamogul: I didn’t visit Okemo last year but heard that the mountain showed a commitment to seediing moguls on a number of trails. Is there any plan for expansion of dedicated mogul runs or designated ungroomed runs left natural? Also does the mountain have any plans for expanded glades or expert terrain?

Bruce Schmidt: We don’t currently have any plans for expanding our gladed terrain, or establishing more trails as dedicated mogul runs. We are however exploring the option of leaving more trails un-groomed, thus adding another level of difficulty to our already diverse terrain.

bobbutts: Any plans to improve the intersection of Rimrock and Catnap?

Due to the skier traffic and angle of that turn, I find it almost impossible to carry enough speed to reach the South Face chair without walking.

Bruce Schmidt: Unfortunately there is no way for us to redesign it. Okemo, like most ski areas, is located in a heavily wooded area, and in order to preserve the delicate balance of the natural surroundings there are state regulations that help guide us in protecting those areas. The regulations that pertain to stream crossings in that area required us to place the bridge at the angle that it is. We do agree it is not a good set up.

deadheadskier: Has Okemo reached full build out in terms of trail expansion or does the mountain have development rights to increase it’s terrain acreage beyond the current ski area boundaries.

Bruce Schmidt: Okemo has fully developed the land that it currently holds, but that is not to say that we do not have intentions of seeking future expansions. At the current time we feel that our area is of adequate size to serve our customers.

deadheadskier: I’ve enjoyed live music at Jackson Gore on Friday evenings several times over the past few summers. I’ve always been curious why have the music on Friday instead of Saturday? For folks visiting from, many people don’t arrive until after the music is done for the night. I would think the turn out would be better on Saturdays.

Bruce Schmidt: We see the Friday Night Concert Series at Jackson Gore as a great event for guests to enjoy as they arrive for their weekend. While the turnout may be larger on Saturday nights, we feel that the concert series serves as a great tradition to kick-off the weekend. With so much to do in the Okemo Valley, we see Saturday night as the guests night to explore the surrounding area.

morewood: Have you considered moving the annual slush cup back to the main base area? It seems to be a better vibe with the Sitting Bull and The Loft right there? Also, any plans to continue updating the main base area?

Bruce Schmidt: In regards to moving the Slush Cup, we feel that the larger space at Jackson Gore is more beneficial to the event. When it comes to updating the base area, we have done much work over the summer this year, from work on the plaza to residing and stone work on the Clock Tower.

deadheadskier: Ludlow got hit pretty hard by Hurricane Irene. Can you outline the damages from the storm at Okemo and was any the damage significant enough to affect operations for the upcoming season?

Bruce Schmidt: It is true that Hurricane Irene did significant damage to Okemo, Ludlow, and much of Vermont. At the mountain we had damage to our marketing and lodging offices in the main Clock Tower building. We also had some damage to a couple of our carpet lifts and maintenance roads. However, much of the work is near completion and we will be fully ready for the winter season by our intended opening date.

Nick: Are there any other capital expansion plans in the future coming up? What is the long-term vision of Okemo, the types of skiers it wants to cater to, and the steps between here and there?

Bruce Schmidt: There are always more projects on the horizon. At Okemo we are continuously exploring ways in which we can upgrade our snowmaking, lifts, grooming, and various other resort services. The scale of upgrades each season is dictated by the success of our previous season.

In the long run, Okemo’s vision is to provide an enjoyable skiing and riding experience for our guests, we seek to cater to all types of skiers and riders from young to old. With our variety of terrain we are a great family area with excellent learning areas and terrain to our large variety of intermediate and expert terrain. These goals and future plans are constantly evolving and growing with Okemo and our customers needs.

Nick: Can you speak a bit to Okemo’s non-Winter operations? What types of activities does Okemo offer in the spring / summer / fall, and are there any plans to expand their reach? I have gone mountain biking at several resorts in Vermont, but Okemo hadn’t previously been on my hit list.

Bruce Schmidt: Okemo Mountain has grown its summer offerings a great deal in recent years. We currently offer Vermont’s first roller coaster, the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, at Jackson Gore. We also have two 18-hole golf courses, the Okemo Valley Golf Club, Vermont’s first Heathland-Style Course, and Tater Hill Golf Club, a lovely New England course. We offer mini-golf, a bungee trampoline, disc golf, and our indoor/outdoor pool at the Spring House. The list of other activities on the mountain, and in the surrounding area is endless. In regards to mountain biking, Okemo is looking into the possibility of opening certain areas to mountain biking in the summer of 2012.

Nick: I’ve read that every morning from 8 – 9AM the mountain is completely free to ride the lifts and ski. How is this program working out for you? Any other unique promotions, partnerships, or deals you will be offering this season?

Bruce Schmidt: Nick, there are many deals and promotions that we will be offering this season, but the first hour of skiing and riding free will be discontinued. While Okemo continues to stand behind our conditions, we can no longer make that a free offering. In terms of other deals, there will be many available… from our custom built app to online ticket deals, and our brand-new Super 7 Savings Card. Be sure to stay close to for all the details.

To view forum comments on this Challenge and the Challenge Results, please visit the following page: