2002 Number 16 Resort in the East: Okemo, Vt.

Resort Guide 1001 Okemo Pic A

Ever felt as though family-operated resorts are an anomaly today? Then visit Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, Vt. Lovingly run by the Mueller family, Okemo continues to wow skiers looking for great conditions, top service and fun. "You can always count on good conditions," one reader points out. "Intermediate terrain is excellent and extensive," remarks another. True. The resort's wide-open trails are impeccably groomed daily, and skiers who love the smooth ride continually come back for more. That's not to say there's no challenge-one can find a bit of steep here and there. But the real draw to Okemo is the opposite of challenge; it's comfortable, dependable, beautiful cruising in a place where the whole family is happy. "Small enough for kids not to get lost when alone, but large enough to offer a variety of trails," one reader says. There could be more challenge in the future, once the area's Jackson Gore development gets off the ground. That will have to wait, since permitting delays have pushed ground-breaking back until spring of 2002. In the meantime, new grooming machines will make the skiing even better this season. Readers' biggest complaints are beyond the hard-working Muellers' control. "Only one access road that creates terrible jams at the end of the day," says one reader. "Route 100 is only two lanes," another laments. "A bit out of the way," notes a third. But all that seems to fade once you get there. "Still the best customer service in the ski world." "Family cruising is Okemo. If that's what you want, you can't beat Okemo." It's also hard to beat the lodging options. While Jackson Gore is still in the future, Solitude Ridge, with spacious condos, lift access, a wonderful outdoor pool and its own small base lodge, is up and running. Sublime. Here's one more bonus: If you're still up for a challenge after skiing, try the winter learn-to-golf program.

WHAT'S NEW Not much; just a couple of new grooming machines and an expanded terrain park.

A GOOD DEAL Toys & Turkey Day and Food-Drive Day: For just $25 and a donation of new toys or food, ski and ride all day; Dec. 2 and April 7.

MEDALS GOLD Grooming, Family Programs, Snow, Service; SILVER Lodging.

HIGH/LOW RANKINGS Grooming (4), Family Programs (5), Snow (13); Terrain (62), Scenery (67), Challenge (69).

DON'T MISS The nordic skiing and snowshoe center. Yeah, we know, you've meant to try nordic; but this is the place. There's a full staff of instructors to help you along on amazing Vermont terrain that parallels a river's edge. It's time to try.