Okemo needs another snowcat like Microsoft needs more market-share. So the resort went out and bought three more this year. That won't bother survey respondents, who rate Okemo No. 3 in North America in Grooming. They count on it for acres of mellow corduroy (no matter what the New England weather throws at it), from Dream Weaver to Mountain Road, South Face to Beginner Basin. All that velvety snow goes hand in hand with another Okemo strength: catering to families. What matters to parents? Ask one who has endured shabby treatment while vacationing with the kids. It's about friendly service, cleanliness, safety, convenience and fun, which might as well be Okemo's mantra. "Okemo feels like home," says one mom. "Friendliest workers in the East," says another. Among other strengths, Okemo counts not only its wealth of modern slopeside condos but its proximity to the vintage Vermont village of Ludlow, an emerging beauty with many lovely Victorian-era homes. Among Okemo's weaknesses: high prices and crowds, both on the hill and at the base. "The access road is too congested," says one reader, for whom the planned Jackson Gore trail pod, with its base facilities, can't come soon enough. "As for the base lodge," says another, "get in, get out and don't go back till it's time to go!" There was the usual chorus of "too flat, lacks challenge." But that means even novices can enjoy trips to the summit-and the Green Mountain Views-on the Glades Peak Quad. So the faithful like gentle Okemo just the way it is. And one reader has this advice: "Experts should go somewhere else. No need for hot shots here."
WHAT'S NEW More snowmaking firepower; three new groomers; new beginner-area conveyor lift; 400-foot Super Pipe and Pipe Dragon.
A GOOD DEAL Looong Weekend Getaways: Three-day weekend packages, starting at $92 per person, lifts and lodging. Call (800) 786-5366.
MEDALS GOLD Grooming, Family Programs; SILVER Snow, Lifts, Service, Lodging.
HIGH/LOW RANK Grooming (3), Family Programs (10), Service (16); Terrain (67), Value (70), Challenge (74).
DON'T MISS Hitting balls at the Okemo Valley Winter Indoor Golf Academy. Call (802) 228-1396.
READER REMARKS (+) "Excellent kids' programs and grooming." (-) "Too expensive to stay on the mountain." "The sidewalks roll up at 8 pm."