I’ve been a snow snob for half a century, and horror stories about the icy east kept me skiing west of the Rockies until a few weeks ago. Lucky for me, I hit Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort in the midst of a mild snow storm so the conditions were near perfect.
My first day out I stuck to gentle slopes until my ski legs’ muscle memory kicked in. I had so much fun that I really didn’t want to stop for lunch, so the convenience of a ski-in ski-out Waffle Cabin looked really handy. A group that included two little boys stood in front of me dripping chocolate sauce onto their ski parkas while their parents stole bites of their waffles and sipped hot apple cider. Fortified with warm sugar and starch, the little boys started a fencing match with their ski poles while their teen sisters looked on mildly irritated, but happily sated, as skiers and snowboarders raced down the mountain behind them.
Another on-mountain option was a different kind of lunch draw. With a New Orleans-themed menu, Robin’s Roost restaurant on the lower level of the Summit Lodge supplied a tough set of choices – should I try the crispy shrimp and grits with maple chili drizzle? the fried green tomatoes with pimiento cheese, andouille crumble and tomato relish? the warm cornbread salad?…or all three? Dessert was easy – peach compote with candied pecans and whipped cream served on a cinnamon roll – just what was needed to get back out on the slopes with energy (and calories!) to burn.
Even when the snow freezes to rock-hard conditions, Okemo’s solid snowmaking – some of the best in the east – keeps many trails soft and easy to carve. The local skiers I met insisted that if you learn to ski or snowboard in the icy east you can ski anything…and east coast skiers and boarders are more accomplished than those who learn in the Western US. Well, maybe they can’t navigate deep powder as successfully, but they might be right about mastering how to successfully hold an edge on a steep and icy slope.
The lure of Okemo’s mountainside roller coaster helped me quit before the last run of the day, and hopping into my own roller coaster car, I admired the snow-flecked forest on my way up to the top of the run. Then, trying hard not to use the brakes on the curves and steeps for my fast journey down, I sped down the mountain with snowflakes flying past my face as the sun set.