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GoGirlfriend Getaway at Okemo Mountain Resort, Vermont

Please welcome Michele McIntyre, a freelance writer who covers spas, travel, fitness, wellness and healthy living/eating.

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Lessons, lodging and lunching at our weekend ski haven

At a recent visit to Okemo, I spent my time researching ways that active families can stay active without spending the winter hibernating indoors not-so-patiently waiting for summer to arrive. I set out seeking adventure-filled activities that help us embrace the winter rather than dread it. Skiing and other winter sports are ideal for active families – fresh air and exercise are a surefire prevention for cabin fever.

I haven’t always been so adventurous outdoors during the winter. I started skiing 20 years ago wearing jeans and a cotton jacket. I must have fallen a hundred times that night – it’s a wonder I ever got on skis again.

ski conditions at Okemo MountainBut I did.

I traded in my ill-prepared outerwear for ski pants and a proper ski jacket and became a regular skier. I took a few lessons and pronounced myself "good enough" to get down the mountain. But I never progressed past "good enough" and picked up some bad habits and poor techniques along the way. This past winter at Okemo Mountain Resort under the expert tutelage of ski instructor Sue Gallo, after one group lesson (I was a group of one), pronounced a confident skier of intermediate ability. 

Lodging at Okemo Mountain Resort

Jackson Gore VillageStaying at the Jackson Gore Inn we rolled out of bed and found ourselves on the slopes early each morning. Nearly everything is just a few steps or a lift ride away on the Coleman Brook Express Quad. Once you've experienced the convenience and luxury of a ski in/ski out property it may be hard to go back to off-mountain lodging. If your unit has kitchen facilities, preparing some meals in your condo can save valuable budget dollars. But at Okemo, the on-mountain dining options are just too tempting to pass up.

Our one-bedroom suite has all the comforts of home and then some: a gas fireplace, balcony, jetted tub, two full bathrooms and sleeping space for 8 (although we think it would be a little crowded at maximum occupancy). I appreciated how clean and well-maintained everything was, that the closets were stocked with extra blankets and pillows and that there were plenty of towels.

Okemo Mountain Resort, Vermont

We had everything we needed. 

Early season ski conditions were excellent: short or non-existent lift lines and superior snow coverage with 93 trails/13 lifts open. Pillows of soft bumps formed on some intermediate slopes for a thigh-burning run that challenged even the fittest skiers. Being the solid intermediate skier that I am (thanks to my confidence-building lesson), I was drawn to Okemo's many wide, groomed cruising trails. The aptly named Mountain Road trail – you can drive on it in the summer – winds its way from peak to base for 4 1/2 miles. Although I never made it to Okemo Mountain Peak, I heard that there are a few steep enough black diamond runs up there to satisfy adrenaline junkies.

Activities at Okemo Mountain Resort

snow sliding at Okemo Mountain ResortShould you tire of the skiing, Okemo offers many other ways to stay active that don't involve strapping two boards to your feet and hurtling down a mountain. You could, instead, strap blades to your feet and take a spin around the ice at The Ice House, Okemo's open air covered ice pavilion. The Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, another way to propel yourself down the mountain, is loads of adrenaline-pumping fun for all ages. From our balcony, we spied steam rising off an enormous outdoor swimming pool. It was barely 10°F outside, but we made a pledge to be more active this winter so off we went. We stepped into a steamy, heated room that houses a large indoor whirlpool with indoor access to the outdoor pool. If you're brave enough, there are two outdoor hot tubs just a few steps away from the pool.

Lunching at Okemo Mountain Resort

Coleman Brrok TavernOkemo Mountain Resort is a stellar example of how chefs honor ingredients that come out of their own backyard. Jackson Gore Inn's primary restaurant, Coleman Brook Tavern, serves fare familiar enough for kids and gourmet enough for adults. Gracious staffers serve dishes composed of locally sourced products with unexpected pairings of flavors. I had some of the best cheese of my life – locally produced chocolate stout cheddar – at the Tavern.

Yes, the holy trinity of chocolate, beer and cheese.

If you're used to chefs who hide in the kitchen, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the outgoing nature of the chefs at Okemo Mountain Resort. When I met Executive Chef Scot Emerson, he was assisting misdirected guests in finding their way through the hotel corridors. I asked him what he was cooking that evening and he proudly described his brand-new winter menu: the one-pound strip steak, the yellow fin tuna and perhaps his most prized dish, the short ribs of beef. My vote for best dish was the Baked Lille' with its buttery, cheesy goodness wrapped inside flaky pastry and served with crusty bread. Paired with a roasted beet salad it was a sensational seasonal dinner. 

Okemo's Epic RestaurantJust because you're wearing ski boots doesn't mean you have to settle for lunch in the lodge. Okemo's dining scene is a counterpoint to standard ski lodge cafeteria fare (although you can find some of that too). When noontime hunger struck, we made our way over to Epic Restaurant on Solitude Mountain for a sophisticated, white linen lunch experience. Epic's new Chef Jason Tostrup, also in the outgoing category, has plenty of surprises in store for you in this slope side restaurant that offers a full bar with outstanding wine list and circular fireplace. We feasted on umami-style Kobe beef burgers, orange duck confit salad and a trio of desserts that made us regret that we hadn't saved more room. The star ingredient on Epic's delightful menu, cider, found its way into a rich pie, a tangy vinaigrette and a sweet jelly that glazed the pulled pork. 

Our weekend at Okemo was many things: a relaxing family getaway, challenging skiing, a culinary adventure and a welcome improvement in skills. We'll be back!

If you’d like to learn more about Okemo Mountain Resort, visit them online at okemo.com, Facebook or Twitter and read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.com.

Got a favorite ski resort? Tell us in the comments! Find us on Twitter or Facebook and let's start talking!

About Michele McIntyre

Michele McIntyre ~ @cnyspagirlMichele McIntyre is a freelance writer who covers spas, travel, fitness, wellness and healthy living/eating. She is happiest when lying face up on the treatment table, writing about her spa and travel experiences or testing new products to share with her readers. She lives near Syracuse, NY with her husband and son. Michele is a regular travel contributor to LivingBetterat50+ and has written for Today’s Central New York Woman Magazine and online at Tripology, TripAtlas, and Splash Magazines Worldwide. When she isn’t writing about or visiting spas, Michele loves traveling, hiking, skiing, camping, yoga and reading. If any of these pursuits can be combined with a visit to the spa, even better! Catch up with Michele online on Twitter or LinkedIn.

To comply with the long list of regulating bodies, possibly even Geneva Conventions and in the interest of transparency, Michele’s trip was sponsored. Commentary and perspectives are those of Michele McIntyre.

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