Find out why Okemo Mountain Resort is one of Vermont’s favorite family destinations.
Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vermont, is consistently ranked as one of New England’s favorite family mountains. Its diverse terrain offers 120 trails on 667 acres, a peak of 3,400 feet, and a vertical drop of 2,200 feet, the highest in southern Vermont. Its trail system includes 39 beginner runs, 44 intermediate runs, and 37 expert runs along with 6 terrain parks and plenty of glade skiing, if you look for it.
Not a skier? Don’t worry. Okemo has tons of activities to keep your family busy. There’s the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, snowmobile tours complete with junior options, snow tubing at Jackson Gore, and more. After a great day of skiing, adults can enjoy some après ski beverages at the Jackson Gore fire pit, while the kids play to their hearts’ content.
What to do on the slopes?
With 20 lifts (including three high-speed quads and a high-speed six-pack with a protective wind bubble and heated seats), Okemo moves skiers uphill quickly. And since the mountain is so broad, it can absorb the many skiers that it attracts. A typical wait time on the Sunburst 6 (a main lift from base area to peak) is generally less than 15 minutes, even during peak periods. The mountain has two main base lodges: the original Mountain Lodge at Okemo and the newer Jackson Gore Base Lodge which is a village unto itself.
The ski and boarding school at Jackson Gore is wonderful. My kids are great skiers but wanted to give snowboarding a try. One 2-hour lesson later and they were up and boarding for the remainder of the day. The learning area at Jackson Gore is perfect for beginners, and the check-in and rental was quick-moving with friendly helpers. 2-hour lesson cost: $70/person; includes rental.
KidTripster Tip: Learn to zig when others zag to maximize your Okemo experience. In the morning, the South Face offers great skiing and no crowds. Start early, grab lunch early, and then ski during typical lunch breaks. If you need a break, but the kids want to keep jumping and doing tricks, head to the AMP Energy Superpipe. They can keep going up and down the J bar, while you kick back and relax.
If your kids aren’t old enough to hit the slopes, Okemo has a full-service day care facility (up to age 4). In addition, Okemo offers Kids' Night Out (up to age 12) for evening care; swimming, skating, movies, and pizza are all part of the package. Although my kids didn't utilize this option, the feedback that I heard from other parents was very positive. Cost: $54/child.
What to do off the slopes?
Okemo’s Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster is a favorite with thrill-seeking kids and adults. The ride starts with a 1,600-foot climb up 375 vertical feet and then twists and turns down the mountain. The coaster’s individual braking system allows the driver to control the speed. Pricing varies based on the number of rides. A single driver ticket cost: $15/person; $60/5 rides. Rider ticket cost: $10/person; $40/5 rides.
Also at the Jackson Gore Village near the magic carpet, you'll find a multi-lane tubing park. Whether you race your spouse, kids or friends, it promises to be a fun time. 1-hour session: Youth (6 and under) $9; Other $13.
If the kids haven’t had enough outdoor activities between the skiing, the coaster, and tubing, they can take a 20-minute guided snowmobile tour on their own junior snowmobiles. Kids love the independence of riding an Indy 120 XC, which is safe and only runs at a maximum speed of 8 miles per hour. Kids must be 5 to 12 years old and under 120 pounds. Cost: $39/person.
The Okemo Valley Nordic Center is about one mile from the Okemo base area and offers over 13 miles of marked and groomed cross-country trails and eight miles of snowshoeing trails to see the beautiful and pristine Okemo Valley. Cross-country cost: Youth $16; Adult $20. Snowshoeing is free. Rentals are available.
The Studio at the Spring House at Jackson Gore hosts yoga classes, pilates, Zumba, cardio kickboxing, and tabata classes for $10 per class. In addition, it has a full-service fitness center with numerous elliptical machines, treadmills, bicycles, and a weight room. The Spring House also houses an indoor-outdoor, heated pool and racquetball courts. For Jackson Gore guests, the pool is free; racquetball cost: $6/person. Day passes for those not staying at the Jackson Gore Hotel/Condos can be purchased. Cost: $14/person.
Adjacent to the Jackson Gore Inn, the Ice House boasts a full-size skating rink with hot chocolate and a gas fireplace. Skating cost: $5; rentals are available.
Where to stay?
Okemo Valley has a number of options for family lodging. The most convenient is the Jackson Gore Inn at the Village which offers traditional hotel rooms, suites, and condominiums. There, you can check yourself and skis in and leave the car in the garage for the remainder of your stay. Everything that you could want is in Jackson Gore Village including restaurants, bars, and all the activities previously. But that convenience comes with a price. Rates start at $350/night and go up on weekends and holidays.
Okemo has an abundance of independently-owned, slopeside condos, too.
Where to eat?
On the mountain, you’ll find typical resort pricing for food and plenty of options. Since we were staying at the Jackson Gore Inn, we always started our day early at the Roundhouse Cafe at Jackson Gore Village. For lunch, it offers a variety of options from freshly-made salads, pizza, sandwiches, and other grilled favorites. The gumbo soup was really good.
If you find yourself over at the South Face near lunchtime, definitely check out Squeels on Wheels for some authentic BBQ. If you're in need of a cup of hot chocolate or dessert, the Sugar House Cafe (located near the Sunburst Six lift ) or the Summit Cafe (located at the Okemo Peak) offer that and more.
Okemo’s on-mountain dining options also include a variety of higher-priced, upscale restaurants. We chose to save a few dollars and go off-mountain for dinner. The Killarney is an Irish pub that focuses on Irish fare, live music, and fun. Another cozy place that’s kid-friendly but maintains adults’ interest is Mr. Darcy’s Bar and Grill which offers a selection of gourmet burgers. The Pearl Jam with caramelized onion jam and crumbled cheese was my favorite and not merely because Pearl Jam is one America’s last great rock bands!
Okemo is located in southern Vermont about a 3-hour drive from Boston and a 4-1/2-hour drive from New York City. Take Interstate 91 to exit 6 and follow signs to Ludlow.
Bill Claffey lives in Colchester, Connecticut, and loves taking his family on spontaneous outdoor adventures. He’s the proud father of three boys, who all race for the Catamount Ski Team in Hillsdale, New York.