Carving Capital: Okemo, Vermont

You know that new toilet paper, the stuff with the ridges? I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I often find myself sitting there, staring at the white roll and fantasizing that it’s made of snow. If it were a roll of corduroy and I were small enough to snowboard on it, it would possibly be the longest and sweetest ride of my life. There’s something about carving on corduroy that generates such pleasurable sensations. The edges of my board consume each and every furrow in a ravenous attempt to disturb the symmetry. Something so pure just begs to be ruined.

Okemo, in Southern Vermont, is famous for producing acres upon acres of just such ridged perfection. It’s as if someone stole their way to the top of the mountain packing a load of giant toilet-paper rolls, held them at the end, and let them go, unfurling their way down the trails.

For your first run of the day, head over to World Cup. The Northstar Express Quad takes you straight to the top. World Cup is wide and rolled, long and winding-almost a spiritual experience. Just you and your board, hauling freight, hugging every curve of the slope, yielding to the mountain. You can feel the board take your power then retaliate with some of its own-that sweet release as the loaded core springs back and catapults you into the next turn. No one is around to witness this; no one is around to interfere with your spontaneous line.

Sure enough, gravity inevitably takes you to the bottom. You need to get back to the top as quickly as possible because corduroy is fickle and fleeting, it doesn’t stick around all day.

If you’re forced to show up at Okemo on the weekend, the best bet is to head to the Solitude Express Quad after your first few runs. Okemo’s weekend patrons are a zealous crowd, and the lines can back up quickly, but it always takes them a while to find their way to the Solitude lift. Heaven’s Gate is my favorite run.

Perhaps Okemo’s most fundamental attribute is the mountain’s exposure. Most of Okemo’s trails are facing southeast, which, as anyone familiar with Vermont’s average January temperatures knows, is a blessing. With the sun on your face, it’s much easier to pretend you’re warm.

There’s a very strong sense of New England at independently owned Okemo and the neighboring town of Ludlow. The resort’s owners, Tim and Diane Mueller, are on-site every day and determined to preserve Okemo’s character.

The Mueller’s daughter Erica is an up-and-coming racer who hones her skills on the mountain daily. Get to know Erica, and maybe you can finagle an early morning snowmobile ride to the top for first dibs. Or maybe not. Regardless of how you get to the top, Okemo and carving go well together.

-Betsy Shaw-Mackenzie

Tip it: Get a head start on the weekend by staying in one of Okemo’s slopeside condos to avoid the parking-lot and ticket-line cluster. Ride from your condo to the Sugar House lodge, where you can purchase a lift ticket without going all the way down to the base area.

Also: Okemo’s snowboard school offers carving clinics, and the Okemo Race Department has weekend and holiday programs for gate training with video analysis.


Location: Ludlow, Southern Vermont, Route 103/100.

Easy Access From: Interstate Highways I-89 and I-91 as well as Amtrak service to nearby Rutland, Vermont.

Vertical Drop: Highest in Southern Vermont, 2150 feet.

Accommodation Reservations: 1-800-78-OKEMO

24-Hour Snow Report: (802) 228-5222