It was only fitting that on the first snowfall of the season at home, we were heading up to Vermont for some early winter skiing for Okemo’s annual media weekend. While I have been railing against the coming winter, once its inevitable arrival appears, as a New Englander I have no choice but to accept it and attempt to embrace it.
A short three-hour drive from our home in Rhode Island, Okemo Mountain’s location in southern Vermont makes it a perfect option for families from New Jersey to Massachusetts looking for a fun family ski weekend destination. [See more options for skiing near Boston]
While they opened some trails on the main Okemo Mountain in early November, the Jackson Gore mountain opened on December 8th, our arrival day.
Okemo Mountain Review
Skiing at Okemo
Note: We were guests of Okemo’s Media Weekend and received a complimentary stay. All opinions are my own.
The trails at Okemo are evenly split between beginner, intermediate, and expert trails. For beginners, it may be best to start off at Okemo Mountain. The trails connecting the two mountains can be a bit narrow and busy, especially early in the season.
If you are new to the mountain, I’d highly recommend signing up for a tour with a Mountain Ambassador. Hannah and I hooked up with two Ambassadors at the Jackson Gore fire pit and headed up onto the mountain.
Since it was early in the season and Okemo has snow making capabilities on 98 percent of its trails (#1 in Vermont), it was busy on the mountain with Vermont’s ski racing teams taking full advantage of the man-made snow before Mother Nature started helping out.
We had a bit of a tough time on the early season conditions, but our Mountain Ambassadors were absolute rock stars helping us navigate to easier trails and guiding us down the mountain when needed.
One of the features that really sets Okemo apart are its “bubble” lifts. These two lifts, the quad Quantum Four on Jackson Gore and the Sunburst Six on Okemo, both offer pull down “bubbles” that create a dome over the riders down to the bar.
This is a great feature to protect against the cold and the wind. When you get to the top, the bubble automatically lifts for you to disembark. They have really kicked it up a notch with the Sunburst Six, which actually has heated seats!
Getting on and off the lifts is easy with Okemo’s Real.Easy RFID card. The card serves as your lift ticket but it stays in your pocket. You ski through the RFID sensor gates, which eliminates the need for someone to check everyone’s lift tickets as they are in line.
Another nice thing about families visiting Okemo is that it is free to use the magic carpet — no lift ticket required. So little ones can try out their ski legs on the mini slope before making any big commitments.
Jackson Gore Inn
While there are many accommodations options at Okemo and the nearby town of Ludlow, we were being hosted at the Jackson Gore Inn. Jackson Gore Inn is a full-service hotel, with ski-in and ski-out options — a perfect choice for families.
We stayed in a one-bedroom suite, which combines a standard inn room with two double beds and a studio. The studio includes a full kitchen, full bath, queen pull-down wall bed, pull out sofa and a fireplace. Altogether, the one-bedroom suite has room for up to eight guests with two full bathrooms.
Truly perfect for families, you have room to rest, space to relax, and the option to make your own food. I especially loved how the bath in the bedroom was a deep soaking tub with whirlpool jets — so nice after a day of skiing!
The hotel has a comfortable lobby with plenty of seating areas overlooking the slopes and near the large, wood-burning fire. It is a great place to gather at the Lobby Bar or wait while your family enjoys the outdoors. The hotel also offers indoor and outdoor pools (heated of course) and a game room.
Not only can you ski in and out, but there is also a complimentary ski check for guests so you barely have to carry your skis at all. There is even a rental shop on site at Jackson Gore, so even if you are renting, you don’t need to schlep to Okemo to pick up your gear.
Dining at Okemo
The on-site fine dining at Coleman Brook Tavern features local ingredients and an award-winning wine list with over 800 options. It is perfect for a nicer night out. Of course, in Jackson Gore Village there is also the Roundhouse Cafe for breakfast and lunch options off the slopes. This is a typical cafeteria-style option with a good amount of seating in a cozy environment featuring soup, chili, grill options, sandwiches, salads, and Starbucks coffee.
Upstairs above Roundhouse is the seasonally operated Siena, an Italian option for dinner on Fridays and lunch through dinner on Saturdays and holidays.
Located mid-mountain by the Solitude lift between Jackson Gore and Okemo, Epic at Solitude offers a culinary lunch service. The Chef works with local farmers and artisans to showcase Vermont ingredients. We enjoyed our lunch at Epic, sampling small plates of chicken and waffles, short-rib grilled cheese, and tuna tartare sliders. It was certainly the tastiest on-mountain lunch I’ve experienced.
Activities at Okemo
One of the things that I loved most about Okemo was how much there is to do besides skiing. With families, not everyone always loves to ski so it is good when there is something for everyone. Honestly, we had just as much fun doing everything else as we did skiing!
Ice Skating at the Ice House
Located in Jackson Gore, the covered but open-air Ice House offers ice skating daily from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. There is a warming area with a wood stove and bleachers for spectators. Unlimited skating is available for $7.00 and skate rentals are also $7.00. It was very quiet on Sunday morning and how rare is it to have a rink nearly to yourselves!
Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster
The Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster is open all four seasons. I grew up loving Vermont’s alpine slides, but I’m terrified of roller coasters so I wasn’t sure what I would think of the Timber Ripper. Long story short, I ended up riding it at least five times so that should tell you that it is fun but not scary.
Located in Jackson Gore, you load the sled-like car and sit back for the cable-pulled ride up the mountain. Once you get to the top, you are in control and can use the brake to control the speed. It is a lot of fun with dips and turns reaching up to 25 mph (tip: wear goggles or a face mask against the rush of the wind.)
Each sled can carry a driver and ride. Drivers need to be eight years old and 52″ or taller to operate the sled and riders must be three years old and 36″ or taller to ride. Rides are $15 per driver or $12 per rider, with discount available for multi-ride packages.
Okemo lodging guests have use of the Spring House Pool and Fitness Center. This is a gorgeous facility with a fitness room, exercise studio, racquetball courts, a sauna, locker rooms, a five-person hot tub, and heated indoor pool.
The pool offers room for laps, free swimming, and a slide. There is even a small kiddie pool area with a zero-entry, circular walk in and a mini froggie slide.
The best part…it isn’t very crowded during the day when everyone is on the slopes!
The snow tubing wasn’t open when I was there but should be online by Christmas. Located in Jackson Gore just off the magic carpet area, the multi-lane tubing park is great family fun. (Children must be 42″ to ride and under 18 must have a parental signature.) Tickets are $15 for those seven and older and $10 for six and under.
Despite some mishaps on the slopes, we had a great time at Okemo and found it to be a great ski resort for families. We will have to give the skiing another shot when more snow falls and all trails are open.