|Jackson Gore Inn is steps from the lift and the learn-to-ski programs at Okemo Mountain Resort (pictured). (Lisa Leavitt for The Boston Globe)|
It’s all downhill from here
Family-friendly resort town has something for everyone
LUDLOW, Vt. - New England skiers know Ludlow as the home to Okemo Mountain Resort, the family-friendly ski area with impeccably groomed runs. Even when Mother Nature fails to deliver the fluffy white stuff, Okemo is busy making snow all night, so much in fact that it often feels like the upper ridges of this 3,344-foot peak are a wonderland of snowed-over pines and ridge walls covered with ice. The energetic owners of the resort, Diane and Tim Mueller, are continually upgrading the facility to ensure that Okemo offers something for everyone, adding a skating rink, and new this season, the Timber Ripper mountain coaster, the latest version of an alpine slide.
For the ski in/ski out contingent, there is Jackson Gore Inn (Okemo Ridge Road, www.okemo.com, 800-786-5366, from $222), steps from the lift and the learn-to-ski programs at the adjacent bunny hill. The après-ski scene is lively, with parents warming up around the roaring fire or grabbing a pint at the cozy bar, while the children order an indoor version of s’mores. Other skiers are massaging those weary legs in the indoor and outdoor hot tubs and pool. There are two restaurants on site, including the Italian fare at Siena’s, a fitness center with indoor pool and racquetball courts, skating rink, and new coaster ride. Skis are conveniently placed in a room just outside the lobby so you can walk up to your room unencumbered. The 11 rooms at The Inn at Water’s Edge (45 Kingdom Road, www.innatwatersedge.com, 888-706-9736, from $175 MAP) come with a Jacuzzi, full breakfast, four-course dinner, and, on occasion, lift tickets to Okemo. The 150-year-old Victorian home is a short drive from the mountain.
When it is flurrying outside and that sharp Vermont chill is in the air, saddle up to the bar at the popular local venue DJ’s (146 Main St., 802-228-5374, entrees $10.95-$23.95) and warm up with some hot peppermint schnapps or a personal favorite, a glass of Switchback Ale. Then grab one of those high booths and order entrees of grilled salmon, chicken masala doused in a sweet sauce, or shells stuffed with ricotta cheese and paired with tasty meatballs. All entrees come with the salad bar. A block away, The Hatchery (164 Main St., www.thehatcheryvt.com, 802-228-2311, $3.25-$11.25) serves the best breakfast in town, offering cinnamon-raisin French toast, blueberry and/or chocolate pancakes, and omelets stuffed with spinach, feta cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes. For a romantic interlude on Saturday nights during winter, Okemo Mountain Resort will pick couples up by Snowcat and drop them off at Epic Restaurant (www.okemo.com, 802-228-1641, $125 per person) on the mountain for a five-course dinner.
DURING THE DAY
I like to ski Okemo (77 Okemo Ridge Road, www.okemo.com, 802-228-5222, full-day lift tickets $50-$81) from left to right, starting with an easy green on the outer edge, Dream Weaver. Once I have my ski legs, I mosey on to Off the Rim and Rimrock. The mountain is known for its intermediate terrain, with wide blue cruisers, like Timberline and Jolly Green Giant. Sapphire is a favorite for teenagers who can try their freestyle skiing and boarding skills on the many table tops and rails. After lunch at Epic, skiers leave Heaven’s Gate to the people in the know. Then it’s on to Jackson Gore Peak, finishing the day at the aptly named Tuckered Out. Toward town, yet nestled deep in a forest is the Okemo Valley Nordic Center (Fox Lane, www.okemo.com/okemowinter/ourmountain/nordic.asp, $18-$24). Try the 22 kilometers of groomed cross-country terrain or 13 kilometers of trails dedicated to snowshoers. On nasty winter days, when they forecast a mix of sleet and rain, head to the skating rink and practice your double axel. While it takes a good five to six minutes to arrive at the top of the Timber Ripper mountain coaster, you can shoot back down in less than a minute, reaching speeds of up to 25 miles per hour whipping through the turns. Those who savor a leisurely trip down the mountain (riders control the speed of their sled) will enjoy the views of Coleman Brook, the tall trees, and the railroad tunnel.
“Home of warm beer and lousy food and grouchy owner,’’ reads the sign outside Tom’s Loft Tavern (300 Mountain Road, 802-228-5638). Located on Mountain Road, this red barn is home to a quintessential après-ski scene. Choose from one of the many Long Trail Ale selections and other Vermont hand-crafted brews on tap, grab a seat at the crowded bar under all those university pennants, or head upstairs to try some of that food, which is actually pretty good. On weekend nights, you can often find live music at the Pot Belly Pub (130 Main St., 802-228-8989) in town.
Stephen Jermanok can be reached at www.activetravels.com.