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Ski Resort Life

Life in an Orange Bubble

Okemo's new Sunburst enclosed sixpack has heated seats. Sign of the Apocalypse? Or just a sensible way to beat the Vermont winter cold?

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Is this really how pampered we’ve become? Eastern skiers, after all, always prided themselves on being a little hardier than the rest. Rain, wind, frigid temps, and brutally cold lift rides—always just part of the experience.

Now Okemo and Leitner-Poma have teamed up to bring us…what…the ultimate high-speed sixpack for wussies, with heated seats to warm our buns and an orange-tinted bubble enclosure to keep out the wind, rain, and good old New England sleet.

Surely it’s an abomination—an outrage to any proud Eastern hardcore skier, right? Why devote yourself to an outdoor sport and then insist on enjoying it from the warm confines of a $6.9-million, bubble-enclosed flying couch?

Well, we finally got a chance to ride the thing. And dammit, it’s hard to hate.

Right off the bat, it’s the orange tint that gets you. Lower that bubble, and suddenly even the gloomiest December day takes on a cheerful glow. Take that, seasonal affective disorder.  (And talk about hot-box potential.)

Then the heated seat start to work its magic. It was a cold day, and hell, we would have braved the elements and made the best of it. But as that subtle warmth worked its way into our toned tushes, our hardcore ski-or-die resolve began to melt.

The new lift also offers great views of what we think is Okemo’s best trail, Chief, with its rolling terrain and banked turns. If it gets you to the top in warmth and comfort, maybe even keeps your kids happy for a few more runs—and Okemo is, after all, a family mountain—then what’s not to like?

Maybe it’s like the proverbial scooter: fun to ride, even if you wouldn’t want your friends to catch you doing it.

Anyway, we dug out the press release Okemo sent out last summer:


LUDLOW, Vt. – Skiers and snowboarders visiting Okemo Mountain Resort this winter will be viewing the snowy landscape through the bright orange tint of a retractable, transparent dome when they ride in the comfort of a new, high-speed, six-pack bubble chairlift with heated seats – the first of its kind in North America.

The new detachable lift, with chairs that seat six people, will be outfitted with heated seating pads and retractable acrylic domes to protect passengers from wind and weather. The new lift, built by Leitner-Poma, will replace Okemo’s Northstar Express lift and is scheduled to begin operation in December.

“There is excitement in the air on the mountain and a buzz around town and among our loyal Okemo skiers, as our Mountain Operation crew dives into the installation of this state-of-the-art lift,” said Executive Vice President and Co-owner of Okemo Mountain Resort Diane Mueller. ‘Over the years Okemo has had many “firsts,” beginning with construction of Vermont’s largest snowmaking pond.  This lift adds another “first” to the list.

The length of the new lift will be 6,430 feet with a vertical rise of 1,670 feet. The new six-pack bubble chair will carry 113 chairs at a speed of 1,000 feet per minute and deliver skiers and riders to the summit of Okemo Mountain in 6.4 minutes. The cost of the lift, including installation is $6.9 million.

Plans include the construction of a heated barn at the base of the new lift. Six-pack chairs will be removed from the cable at the end of each day and stored in the barn overnight; preventing a need for snow removal after an overnight snowstorm. In the event of unfavorable nighttime weather, it will also allow the lift cable to be de-iced more efficiently, minimizing lift-opening delays and potential inconvenience to skiing and riding guests.

“We listen to what our guests have to say,” said Vice President and General Manager Bruce Schmidt. “They have been telling us that they want a lift with some protection from the elements so they can have a better experience on the mountain and spend more time on the snow. Unlike a gondola that requires skiers and riders to remove their equipment each time they ascend the mountain, this new lift will offer speed, comfort and convenience.”