Okemo projects aiming to run a bug free system | business

LUDLOW — During the off-season, several maintenance projects at Okemo Mountain Resort were removed from a list of deficiencies.

The snowmaking system has been improved, Summit Lodge has had a new deck, and some carpeting and lift cabins have been replaced, said Bruce Schmidt, general manager of Okemo Mountain Resort. As of Thursday, the mountain had 22 trails and five lifts operational after opening on Nov. 19.

“It’s always the behind-the-scenes maintenance that’s so important to keep our systems running properly,” Schmidt said. “I’m really proud of our lift maintenance team and our snowmaking team. They do a lot of work here and in the summer to prepare for the winter.”

Okemo added a new chairlift last year, Schmidt said, “so this year is a bit slower in terms of big projects.”

Schmidt has been Managing Director at Okemo for around 20 years. Raised in Ludlow, he attended Lyndon State College, where he received a degree in ski resort management. He said he’s worked at Okemo virtually every winter season since 1978.

After Vail Resorts purchased Peak Resorts in 2019, he spent about 10 months at Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire. Then he came back to Okemo.

With COVID-19 restrictions ending, Schmidt said his team is looking forward to a return to the “Okemo difference.”

“We anticipate that all of our food and beverage businesses will be open, including our Summit Lodge and 43 North restaurant, the Taphouse in Jackson Gore,” he said. “So we’re really looking forward to [and] Added to this are our additional activities, such as our mountain coaster and snow tubing and ice skating. … We look forward to the ski season.”

Schmidt called the Epic Pass “a great option.”

“It gets people trying out so many different resorts and makes it affordable for people to ski,” he said.

Schmidt said he’s looking forward to departments “being fully staffed and able to show up without the fear that we had in some departments last year.”

“The full cast will allow us to provide a better guest experience,” he said. “And let’s be honest, we had some challenges in the departments last year. I think everyone has worked really hard to overcome these challenges, but I’m really looking forward to the whole team coming together.”

Vail Resorts now offers a minimum starting wage of $20 per hour, which can be increased based on experience.

Schmidt also expressed his excitement at teaching guests how to get around the mountain. People tend to go straight for the bubble chairlifts, he said, “so we’re going to try to explain that there are other ways.”

Okemo has about 600 hectares of drivable land, Schmidt noted. “There’s a lot to do here, and it can be a lot of fun,” he said.

Schmidt spoke of what he calls “the Okemo difference”.

“We care deeply about the experience and hey, there are times when things don’t always go right, but we will work to improve it whenever we can,” he said. “We’re really selling an experience, not a product, and in and of itself it’s so much fun to see people really enjoying their time on the slopes.”

Given the right amount of snow and snowmaking weather, Schmidt expects Okemo to offer guests “an excellent time” this season.