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Local Betty Fieldtrip: An Okemo Mountain Ski Trip

So we vowed that this year is going to be the year of the un-resolution. We're not going to make a lot of self improvement resolutions only to break them on February 15th and begin a year-long process of self loathing. Not. Going. To. Do. It.

Instead, we're vowing to do a few more of the things we've always wanted to do. Getting outside and active is one. Exploring, taking more short trips and excursions is another. A trip to Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, VT happily combines both un-resolutions. Whether you ski or not, Okemo is a gorgeous spot to visit.

Here are suggestions from Barbie at Gage Girl Press and Dick Ferguson {unofficial mayor of the mountain} on making a few days {or more} of it. 

Ski Notes:
There are always snow trails open at Okemo. It is one of the best-maintained mountains in the area in terms of snow making and grooming. The best time to ski is in the morning when the perfect corduroy-patterned trails first open.  The first lift opens at 8am, and is free until 9am, so rent your ski equipment the night before to be ready in the morning. {Ludlow has plenty of ski rental places, all of them similar in quality and price}.

You can park at the base of the mountain but it is a little easier to park at Jackson Gore. If you’re being dropped off, Epic may be the easiest, but there’s no parking there whatsoever—just a quick drop off.  There’s also a free shuttle bus from the town of Ludlow that goes to the base.

- Pack facemasks!! It can get very cold and windy on top of the mountain and your face will thank you.

- Wear a helmet. Everybody does because Okemo can be icy and fast. Your brain will thank you.

- Hot chocolate at the summit is one of those not-to-be-denied small pleasures, and a way to surreptitiously rest your weary legs {they will thank you}.

- There's a perfect run to ski or ski and snowboard for just about everyone at Okemo, from gently meandering trails and well groomed open faces, to steeper faces and bumps.   Great NE skiing at every level.  Quantum Leap is fast and steep, Dreamweaver if it’s open, it is often not. Village Run and Mountain Home trails give beginniners a chance to log miles on easy tracks.  Jackson Gore and Epic runs often less crowded than the main mountain.  When asked about what runs to suggest, our twenty-something said darkly “nothing under the lifts, there’s a lot of spitting going on.”  You’re now suitably forewarned.

- For those whose favorite Olympic sport is the luge- Okemo mountain has just opened the "The Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster" a four season rollercoaster ride that climbs up the mountain for a 375 vertical foot descent. Makes me want to luge just thinking of it.

Random Notes:
- Do your grocery shopping at Shaw’s early in the day or after 6pm. If you go when people are coming off the mountain between 3:00 and 5:00, not only will it take an hour to check out of the grocery line, you will be stuck in a traffic jam that extends for about 5 miles in both directions. Or better yet, pack up the ingredients for this or this or even this from your local grocery and avoid shopping all together.

- Jackson Gore is very, very family oriented.  A great place for the {many} little ones with a video game arcade, kid friendly food, several restaurants, and caricature artists in the lobby. If that’s not your scene, stay far, far away.

- Do try the “make-your-own” s’mores in one of the Jackson Gore restaurants at least once.  They bring you a little toasting flame and s’more ingredients so you can create your own- a little childlike fun for everyone.   

Stay:

President's Day weekend is by far the busiest and most popular time {with more reliable snow} so advance reservations for everything are necessary. MLK weekend can be busy too- so best to book early to find the best range of choices.  

Okemo Stay and Ski Packages that include lodging in the Okemo Valley and lift tickets at a discount can be found: They make it easy to find accommodations by sorting them by type and giving and overview of each property:  it is by no means the entire list of lodgings available in the valley, but it's a place to start.

For uber-groovy, head to the Brooklyn-expatriate owned Homestyle Hostel. It has really changed the face of a hotel stay in Ludlow. Family suites, adjacent rooms for adults and teens, bunk-house and dorm style rooms accomodate every family formation- from adults with or without kids to a bunch of roadtripping teens. Breakfast is included. Did I mention the restaurant? Thursday - Sunday the kitchen serves a delicious menu of locally grown, seasonal dishes. Monday - Wednesday, feel free to use the communcal kitchen to make your meals. All week the bar serves hand-crafted cocktails, 20+ craft beers, and a much-needed espresso selection. Say. No. More.

Other suggestions:  The Andrie Rose Inn, is a comfortable and reasonably priced bed and breakfast.The Fullerton Inn and The Chester House Inn in Chester, and The Weathersfield Inn in Perkinsville are all good choices for "one person skis, one doesn't" couples.

Foodie Notes:

The Vermont Fresh Network partnership of chefs, farmers and food producers is dedicated to the Vermont working landscape and agricultural heritage. Spotting their green and white logo outside shops and restaurants is a very good sign. Here are a few of their best in the Okemo area:

In Ludlow, The Hatchery restaurant serves breakfast and lunch until 2:00pm. And just around the corner on Depot Street is the Wine and Cheese Depot—a terrific selection of Vermont cheese, pate, freshly baked baguettes, and wine.   Try their Tunisian fig jam + Vermont Tomme cheese, or a selection of chutneys to top local goat cheese or serve with pate.   Along with a nice selection of wines from around the world, they also carry Eden ice cider made from Vermont apples, a delicate, dry hard cider to serve with cheese or rich desserts.

Proctorsville is about a ten-minute drive away and home to Singleton’s {365 Main Street, Cavendish} an old fashioned country store with a great butcher {ask for their local lamb or the Canadian smoked salmon}, liquor, guns, ammo, and great socks. Their take away sandwiches are delicious and big, they'll last you the whole ride home – and then some.  

Up the street and to the right is Crows Corner Bakery with outstanding freshly baked pies and other baked goods. It’s a sunny and comfortable spot to have a cup of coffee or get a little something something to go.  When you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Six Loose Ladies to find beautiful yarn {much of it locally produced} and knitted items.  If you have time, they offer classes in knitting and workshops in fiber arts.

A destination restaurant in a beautiful old country inn and well worth the extra ten minutes on the road, is the Inn at Weathersfield in Perkinsville.   Start with one of their specialty cocktails, “The Slammer” made with bourbon and locally produced cider syrup from nearby Woods Sugar House and Cider Mill  Everything is so much better after one {or two or three} of those. Make sure bring an appetite for their exquisite 5-course sampler menu. Or you can choose from the tavern or regular menus, they're filled with inventive, locally sourced, delicious dishes.  I went for the comfort food: chicken cooked under a brick with mashed potatoes—the most tender and flavorful I’ve ever had.  The fresh passion fruit and raspberry sorbets were the perfect way to finish the meal--that and warming up in front of the huge fireplace that they use to cook a fabulous slow-cooked veal dish. Did we mention the extensive wine list, excellent service, and guitarist playing expertly in the background? Go. It's an unforgettable experience. Make sure to call in advance for reservations.

You can also take some “food tours” depending on your time and inclination. Cheese lovers can try the Vermont Cheese Trail , or visit Crowley Cheese . There’s also the Vermont Farm Trail and a tour of the beer brewery, Harpoon Brewery.

Other things to do:

The Okemo area is mostly dedicated to skiing in the winter, {Jackson Gore also offers ice skating and snow shoeing} but there are other things to do in the area. There are several spas nearby, and scattered shopping, but for something a little different, try taking an arts and crafts class at the Fletcher Farm School in Ludlow, classes in fiber arts at Six Loose Ladies in Proctorsville, or classes in painting canvas floorcloths at Canvasworks in Weathersfield.

King Arthur Flour, about an hour from the mountain in Norwich, VT offers baking classes.  Learn the fine art of bagel and bialy baking while the rest of the crew goes skiing. Go here for a calendar of classes.

For a quick scenic drive, go to Calvin Coolidge’s birthplace in Plymouth—a beautiful, serene spot--and stop by the Hawk Inn and Mountain Resort on the way back for a drink in their tavern. On Saturdays, the Hawk Inn has sleigh rides. And for those who like their snow time to be a little faster, try a snow mobile tour.

Finally:
There you have it- Can you pass up paying homage to Calvin Coolidge, delicioius apple pie, and a 375ft vertical drop rollercoaster ride?  We think not.