By Karen D. Lorentz
It’s summer, and in a sign of life getting back to normal, Okemo Mountain Resort has resumed summer operations and construction on two lift projects.
The mountain opened its adventure zone and mountain bike park on June 17 with 2021 operating hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays until Sept. 6.
“Business has been good to date, and we’re looking forward to a great summer/fall season,” Communications Manager Bonnie MacPherson said. Early activity at the mountain bodes well for a return to Okemo’s busy summers. Chairlift rides, miniature golf, mountain biking, mountain coaster, disc golf, mining sluice and challenge courses are all operating, she noted.
The Evolution Bike Park is offering lift-served downhill biking and camps, operating out of the mid-mountain Sugarhouse Lodge, where rentals are available. A variety of progressive biking terrain is served by the South Ridge Quad A lift on the lower mountain. But due to lift construction on the upper mountain, the summit mountain biking trails Scrambler and Shake and Bake are closed, and lift service to the summit for mountain biking is not offered.
The Mountain Road is open for hiking (as are most trails) or for driving up to the summit parking area from which one can hike to the fire tower. The 55-foot tall steel tower offers an exciting top-cab perch for spectacular 360-degree views on a clear day.
Various trails in the tower and summit areas can also be walked to the Summit Lodge, where views of the valley are visible. Restrooms, maple creemees, grab-and-go lunches and beverages are available there. The lodge is also directly accessible by riding the Sunburst Six chairlift.
Other mountain food options include: a new taqueria offering burritos, tacos, baja bowls and beverages at the Jackson Gore Adventure Zone; the Coleman Brook Tavern for outdoor and indoor dinners at the Jackson Gore Inn; and sandwiches, snacks and beverages at the Sugarhouse.
The Jackson Gore summer music series returns with free concerts scheduled every Friday in August from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Jackson Gore courtyard (bring lawn chairs or picnic blankets; concerts move under cover if it rains).
On Aug. 6, Studio Two, a Beatles tribute band, performs with songs from the pre-Sgt. Pepper’s era. Cold Chocolate, a genre-bending Americana band that fuses folk, funk, and bluegrass follows on Aug. 13. The string band Deadgrass meanders through Jerry Garcia’s music, drawing from Old & In The Way, JGB, Jerry’s Jug Band and The Grateful Dead on Aug. 20. Singer/Songwriter Myra Flynn closes out the series on Aug. 27 with original indie/soul songs.
New lift construction update
Installations of the new Quantum Six and the Evergreen Summit Express lifts are on schedule for Okemo’s 2021-22 winter opening, MacPherson said. Both lifts follow existing lift footprints and load lines where guests get on the chairs. Leitner-Poma crews are handling the projects from lift removals to site work to the installations of the new lifts.
A new Leitner-Poma detachable six-pack will replace the Quantum Four lift at Jackson Gore and will provide greater and quicker access to the upper Jackson Gore ski trails with a lift capacity rated at 2,900 rides per hour.
The Quantum Four bubble lift becomes the Evergreen Summit Express and replaces the Green Ridge Triple. It will give quicker and easier access to Okemo’s main Summit area with its capacity of 2180 rides per hour.
Work on the replacement lifts began in April and to date all the former lift towers have been flown out and concrete footings for the top terminal and some blasting in the lower terminal area have been done for the Evergreen lift. “It’s a massive project that involves cement trucks dumping concrete into a vehicle that has a boom on it to reach the pour sites; some concrete will be flown in by helicopter as well,” MacPherson said.
At the time of the interview, footing forms for the tower bases had been built and were awaiting placement at the tower sites with concrete pours for flying in and anchoring the towers to follow. The relocation of the Evergreen terminals, construction of brand new terminals for the Quantum Six, and installing the cable and chairs will complete the projects.
Additionally, Okemo crews have cut and graded a new, short connector trail off Mountain Road to the Evergreen Quad’s loading station. Snowmaking will be installed soon, MacPherson said, explaining that some trails in the area are being reconfigured or closed to ensure good skier flow.
The as-yet unnamed trail and Evergreen lift will reduce the time it takes to access the main Summit and South Face areas for those coming from Jackson Gore, and the replacement lift will provide faster and warmer rides for those skiing the summit area trails it services, MacPherson added.