It catapulted me off at the top. I knew it was going to be tricky. It’s hard to make your body unlearn the mechanics of lift loading and unloading. You start wondering: will the chair catch up with me before the loading platform ends? And while I can understand wanting to help newbies to get on the lift, I can’t believe it helps anyone disembark. Only the gentleness of the slope saved me from being turned into a projectile barreling down at full speed. For a brief moment I knew how groceries feel at the checkout register.
My day at Okemo began with the encounter with its famous loading conveyor. And it went downhill from there. Literally and figuratively. As Damian summed it up: I’ve got in touch with my inner cruising self. And I found it didn’t really appreciate cruising on an icy gravel that so often in New England passes for snow. The screech alone made me cringe. But I paid for a day ticket, at a discount to be honest, so I squelched my inner self and persevered.
Okemo advertises itself as a family playground. That day I’ve mostly seen families with a decisively sado-masochistic streak. Like authoritative father pushing his early teen son to ski faster down the icy corduroy. Why go through the trouble associated with replicating your DNA only to smear it on the random tree?
It was a nice sunny day. Snow had been falling down for two days - first real snow of this season. But there was little of it on the ground. Powder doesn’t last long if it’s windy. Most of it wasn’t even natural: the resort wouldn’t be open at all yet, if not for an extensive snow making. We spent most of the day trying to find something a bit more challenging than wide, over-groomed, gently rolling ski trails. Killington massif was visibly taunting us on the horizon. It’s not like it was not fun; packed, icy surfaces notwithstanding, I simply expected more challenge and variety.
On the plus side the mountain was virtually empty. Weekday early in the season doesn’t attract much interest. Is it even profitable for the resort to be spending all that money to create a surface barely fit to ski on?
Every season I have couple of amazing days on the slopes. But on many occasions I wonder what attracts people to this sport. So many things have to work to make it worthwhile. If you are not skiing or snowboarding regularly, if you don’t know your limits, your equipment and the trails, it must feel like one of the craziest thing a human can do. Getting up at a crack of dawn, driving for hundred miles, getting stuck in traffic, spending time deciphering ticketing rules, waiting in line for the lift, getting cold on the lift, getting annoyed by the skiers if you are snowboarder (or the other way around). And to get good at it you have to do it over and over for at least couple of seasons. I know that there is fun to be had once you negotiate it all, but how the rest of the huddled masses knows that is beyond me. Must be yet another triumph of marketing campaigns. The same people who managed to convince us that shopping is fun and suburbs are excellent alternative to cities are in the winter sports business as well.
So be warned that going to Okemo in early December has a real potential of turning you off skiing and snowboarding. Which is ironic as the mountain seems suitable for learning and practicing: gentle slopes, long trails, and, yes, even the conveyor. Not to mention extensive ski-in/ski-out accommodations. My advice: wait till after Christmas. Unless you are addicted to it and have to be on the slopes every chance you’ve got. But if that’s the case you don’t want to go to Okemo at all.