Learning to ski or snowboard at an early age is the perfect way to help young children instill a love for winter. Exploring the slopes helps kids build self-confidence, meet new friends and develop a lifelong affinity for the outdoors.
Ski resorts are no longer closing up shop at the end of the season when the snow melts. Most, like Okemo Mountain Resort, now stay open year round. Vacationing at ski resort during the summer or fall is becoming an increasingly popular choice for families who enjoy outdoor adventures. Despite being known for its big-mountain skiing and snowboarding, Okemo is also home to some of Vermont’s best off-mountain activities. From Memorial Day through Columbus Day their Adventure Center will keep active families happy.
This Labor Day weekend, my family of four checked into a two bedroom unit at Okemo’s Jackson Gore Village. Our condo in the Adams house had a King in the master and 2 Queen beds in the second bedroom. There was also a Queen Sleeper Sofa in the living room, plus two bathrooms, a full kitchen, cable TV, stereo, DVD player and WiFi. Our family had plenty of room to spread out.
We were up early on the first day and after a hearty breakfast on the beautiful terrace of the Colman Brook Tavern, we were ready let our Okemo adventures begin.
The adventure center is home to many activities. If you are interested in experiencing the majority of them, the most economical option would be to purchase an adventure zone wrist band. This includes the bungee jump, disc golf, mini golf, the climbing wall, the air bag, 3 Timber Ripper rides, the mining adventuere, a scenic chairlift ride and access to the Spring House pool. Pro Tip: Okemo offers the option to buy your bands online before your visit ($5 discount) or if you are a VT/NH resident, and visiting on a Sunday afternoons between 2 – 5pm, bands are only $25 (only 1 Timber Ripper ride included).
My kids wanted to ride the Timber Ripper all day! Not a surprise because who wouldn’t? This roller coaster has a sled-like car that holds one or two people. Kids under 48″ will have to ride with a taller buddy. After you load in at the base of the mountain you are taken up a 5 minute, 1600-foot climb. Once you get to the top you control the speed as you twist and wind back down the mountain on over 3,000 feet of track. Pro Tip: If you want to get up to the maximum speed of 25mph, my teens suggest sizing up the people in front of you. You can usually tell the first timers or those who are planning to take it slow.
Coleman Brook Mining Company
If you have ever wanted to pan for gold, now is your chance. Actually you will be sifting for minerals and gems, and perhaps a little fool’s gold. Once you get your bag of mining rough head over to the sluice to see what shakes out.
Our kids found fossils, amber, quartz, garnets and other baubles. There is a cool table with photos that will help your children identify their what they have found and all the treasures they find are theirs to keep.
Grab a putter for 18 holes of fun. This Lumberjack themed mini-golf course lets you learn a bit about Ludlow’s local history while you play. The course is designed so that everyone is on fair playing ground. Some holes enable kids, who might be less skilled, to score just as well as the adults.
Have your kids ever dreaming of becoming a stuntman? If so, they can see what it is like at Okemo because kids 8+ can hurl themselves off of a platform 30 feet off the ground and land in a gigantic air bag just like the ones used for stunts in the movies. You are required to complete a jump from the first level with proper technique, which is harder then seems, before the staff will let you have a go from the top level which is 3 stories up. Despite the fact that it is counter intuitive for your brain to let you jump off something that high, my kids assured me that hitting the airbag doesn’t hurt, “it is just like a big pillow.”
Guests 6+ are welcome try the new Challenge Course at Okemo. The first two levels are definitely geared to smaller kids. Once you get to the third, and highest level, you will find the elements more challenging. While you canvas the tree tops you will cross bridges and seesaws, hang from a rope swing and zoom down zip lines. Pro Tip: Purchase an Early Bird ticket and save $8. Also the 4-loop ticket allows you to go back and repeat the loop you liked best.
Not wanting to leave out their youngest guests, Okemo added a few inflatables to the adventure zone this summer. Kids will love jumping around in the barn yard and stage coach themed bouncy houses. Pro Tip: The Waffle Cabin, which is right next door, offers a summer menu. Not only can you get waffles, but you can purchase burgers, hot dogs, chips and drinks.
If you’ve got teens you are going to want to try the off-road segway tour. The minimum age is 14 and you need to weigh 100 – 250 lbs to ride. Your tour starts with a 30 minute hands-on demo, safety instructions and an opportunity to test your segway skills on a small obstacle course. Once you have mastered starting, stopping and turning, your guide will move you from the pavement to the trails. We loved our instructor, not only did he take us through meadows, forests and fields, he provided great historical tidbits about Okemo and the area while we were driving around.
Now I know why the Okemo Valley Golf Club was voted by Golfweek as the #2 in Vermont. The views are spectacular. I will admit it was a little hard to focus against the backdrop of the mountains though! This mountain course isn’t too hilly but I’d recommend taking cart with kids. Pro Tip: If you aren’t up for 9 or 18 holes, check out the new Family Four Course. With only four holes, each 60-100 yards long, beginners can get acquainted with the game of golf without the pressure to play.
Summer may be coming to an end but the warm days and cool nights of fall make it a great time to plan a visit. Staying at Okemo during the off-season was a great opportunity for our family to do stuff we wouldn’t normally have a chance to do.