Okemo must be doing something right. Despite the usual complaints of weekend crowds and lousy parking, this resort jumped seven spots. Everybody applauds Okemo's impeccable corduroy, rating the resort No. 2 in North America in Grooming. Hell, the resort even grooms the bumps! Okemo is the kind of place where you can carve textbook arcs the whole way down. "Hero trails," one reader calls them, but then laments they're "not very challenging." The much-anticipated Jackson Gore expansion-part of which opens this year-promises to quell these complaints. This winter, skiers can wind their way down six new trails, all intermediate and advanced. Narrower and more New England-esque than Okemo's standard wide-open terrain, these slopes shouldn't let skiers settle into cruise control. Skiing Okemo is about more than just terrain, though. Tim and Diane Mueller are hands-on owners who have instilled a caring, decidedly uncorporate feel to the place, even loading lifts and busing trays on busy weekends. Their employees care about the customers, leading one reader to note, "Like Deer Valley, they get the finer points of service." The Muellers are constantly looking for ways to improve. Bringing in the New England Culinary Institute to help spruce up dining and service, for instance. If this trend continues, Okemo might just keep working its way up the resort food chain. -Peggy Shinn
WHAT'S NEW Phase One of the Jackson Gore expansion: 40 acres of intermediate and advanced trails served by a high-speed quad.
A GOOD DEAL Early Warm-Up: two nights' lodging, two days' skiing, Dec. 6-15, starting at $85 per person (800-786-5366).
MEDALS GOLD Snow, Grooming, Service, Family Programs; SILVER Lifts, Access, Lodging, Dining, Terrain Parks.
HIGH/LOW RANK Grooming (2), Service (11), Family Programs (14); Terrain (49), Challenge (50), Scenery (51).
DON'T MISS Lunch at The Gables in the Solitude Lodge. A portobello mushroom sandwich for $10 beats a base-lodge burger any day.
READER REMARKS (+) "If the weather is bad, this resort will recover faster than any in Vermont." "Excellent grooming."
(-) "Access road is always jammed." "Not much challenging terrain."