"My new favorite state is Vermont," said my 6 year old. Not hard to understand why after three days at Okemo Mountain in Ludlow Vermont.
I admit to a bias against East Coast skiing. My first trip was to Camelback (age 12) followed by Hunter Mountain (age 14). I remember crowds, ice, loud music and bad equipment. I quit skiing altogether for 20+ years, until I fell in love with a devoted skier. His passion for the snow and mountains wore me down, and I tried it again out West. Loved it! Powder, sun, long trails, open spaces. This is skiing!
Once the little people arrived, we made skiing an even bigger part of our lives. Since we are based in NYC, it makes sense to see what there is available within driving distance. We took off on a snowy day to get to Vermont. Much of the drive is scenic (passing by lovely Williams College was a highlight)--expect about 5 hours from NYC--and on smaller roads.
We got a warm welcome at the lodging reception center AND an escort by Brian from the bell staff, we followed Brian in his car as he led the way to the Solitude condos from the Welcome Center (we surely would have gotten lost without him). Brian helped settle us in and even started a fire in our hearth. Warm welcome indeed. What a treat that all the Solitude condos have real wood-burning fireplaces. Here I am out by the wood shed getting reinforcements after skiing.
Our room was nestled into the Solitude Condo complex. A true ski-in, ski-out condo, we were minutes away from lessons and lifts. No point in wasting time in a car! The one-bedroom apartment comfortably fit the four of us--but we really didn't spend too much time indoors with all the delicious snow.
Okemo had fresh snow and got even more on our visit. They were at full lodging capacity on our stay, yet the lift lines were never long and many of the trails felt expansive. In addition to the powder god provided, Okemo made a $1 million investment in snow-making equipment--guaranteeing great trail availability even when the snow gods aren't kind.
Owners Diane and Tim Mueller have done an excellent job of infusing Vermont charm into all aspects of the resort. We encountered earnest, competent, engaging staff everywhere we went. Here's an example. I went to by the requisite helmet stickers at a little shop in Jackson Gore. My daughter opted to get a key ring instead. As I chatted with my girl about NOT wanting to put stickers on a race helmet, the ladies working at the store overheard us. They started asking my daughter all about ski racing and her practices. They were so sweet and interested to hear my 8 year-old chat about the ups and downs of slalom racing.
"A resort is only as strong as the ski school"--said every skiing mom. We were pleased how the children's programs were run. MLK weekend is one of the busiest around for resorts. But no one seemed flustered by the 100+ kids descending (many for the first time) on the school. Why? The energy of the instructors is awesome. From Iggy & Ben the sweet Snow Stars ski instructors to Nancy and Charlie who led our advanced skier out on the expert terrain--the ski school was impressive. My one ski school criticism is that our advanced skier wasn't able to find a group that challenged her enough--but on the busiest weekend in January, you have to be flexible.
The terrain rocked and kept us very challenged. We loved it all the quiet of the South Face and the long, satisfying runs off of the Northstar Express Quad--there's a ton for experienced skiers to do. For novices, this mountain is equally appealing. Long greens are plentiful, giving even beginners the chance to get up the mountain and really embrace the joy of skiing. If I had to pick, my favorite runs were off of the Jackson Gore lift--Vortex to Quantum Leap. When skiing with my 6 year old, we liked the Jack-a-lope trail that went by the roller coaster.
Don't forget about the s'mores. These were a hit in the Jackson Gore Inn's lobby area. When it comes to food, many families opt to do a combination of dining out and cooking at home. I will say I have NEVER seen a kitchen as well-equipped as the Solitude condos. Our kitchen had everything you could ever need to cook a gourmet meal. The kitchen was modest, but extremely efficient. Perfect for whipping up a hearty breakfast or casual chili-fest at night. For on-mountain dining, try the new Epic sit-down restaurant in Solitude's base area or the Coleman Brook Tavern at the Jackson Gore Inn (families should request a table in the tavern's wine room). Off-mountain, our friends swear by the atmosphere at Tom's Loft Tavern.
What to do besides skiing:
Skating in the Ice House--Okemo's regulation-sized hockey rink and recreational ice skating facility
Timber Ripper--For kids ages 3-99, this alpine roller coaster is mounds of fun. A smooth, fast ride with twists and turns to excite the adrenaline junkies in your family. If you are more of a nervous Nellie, no worries, you control the speed!
Snow Tubing--Get an hour-long pass for this tubing track--ride the magic carpet up and then zoom down the groomed trails.
Swim--there are many pools located in the lodging areas.
Expect to pay
- Lift tickets: $82/day for adults and $56/day for kids 7-12* NOTE: kids 6 & under ride free!
- Equipment rental rate: $45/day for adults and $34/day for kids 12 & under
- Ski School: Snow Stars ages 4-7 all day (with lunch) $122 Mountain Explorers ages 7-14 all day $102
All pricing 2014. There are student & senior specials. Purchasing a package is usually delivers the biggest savings.
Book your holiday and get more information: www.okemo.com
This is not a sponsored post. Like most of our travel coverage, we are given complementary lodging and services to facilitate our reviews. Nothing is scripted.