An Insider's Guide to the the Best Backcountry Skiing at Okemo Mountain Resort

Get into the backcounrty to find those secret powder stashes and untouched chutes.
Get into the backcounrty to find those secret powder stashes and untouched chutes. Courtesy of Okemo Mountain Resort
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For those in search of the rugged and pristine experience of the backcountry, Okemo Mountain Resort boasts 48 acres of glades—forested, off-piste, skiable terrain. And those are just the ones on the trail map! Visitors are allowed to ski at their own risk anywhere within resort boundaries, where secret powder stashes and unmarked gullies are just waiting for you to jump in and claim first tracks.

Okemo is dedicated to providing all levels of skiers and riders with a wide variety of experience and quality terrain. Whistler is the shortest and easiest glade containing 1,600 feet of evenly spaced trees. The snow inside Whistler is occasionally groomed, so that beginners and kids can enjoy corduroy turns in the woods.

One third of the dozen official gladed runs are designed for intermediate skiers who wish to get a taste for tree skiing and challenge themselves on new terrain. Whispering Pines and Everglade, both high up on the main mountain, feature a moderate slope and a spacious white birch forest. Link up Everglade with the lower section of Mountain Road for a long, sweet descent that is half trees, half wide open trail.

Finding some nice powder in the woods at Okemo.
Finding some nice powder in the woods at Okemo. John Silvester

The other two-thirds of the gladed trails are designated as black or double-black diamond, with steep pitches and dense forest that demand tight turns and precision. Long after first chair, skiers and riders can sink into deep powder stashes hidden inside double-diamonds like Loose Spruce on the South Face, and Jackson Gore's Outrage. There is even a gladed terrain park, Broken Arrow, which combines the beauty of the backcountry with playful features including log slides and pillow lines.

If you want to ski like a local, drop from Okemo’s snow frosted summit into the six acres of Double Diamond Glade. On a bluebird day, this southern-facing birch forest is drenched in sun—a perfect place to escape the crowds and bask in the off-piste pleasures of soft snow and quick turns. Jackson Gore's two double diamond glades, Black Hole and Supernova, are equally rewarding.

The South Face, Main Mountain, and Jackson Gore are knit together with swaths of unmapped, unchartered forest. For die-hard backcountry explorers, these are the true playgrounds of pure wilderness—a treasure chest of silky snow where the aerobic exhilaration of trail blazing and exploration can be found. The deep gully between Jackson Gore and the main mountain is particularly alluring.

As the interest in backcountry skiing and uphill travel soars across the nation, Okemo is strategizing to provide visitors with the opportunity to earn their turns. A selection of Alpine Touring skis, boots, skins, and Telemark gear are available to rent at the Okemo Clock Tower Base Lodge. During operational hours, uphill travel is limited to green and blue trails.

There's magic in a wintery New England forest, and sometimes the best way to fully absorb that rarefied blend of serenity and exhilaration is to leave the lifts and crowds behind, and set out on a cross-country skiing adventure. The Okemo Valley Nordic Center has more than 13 miles of tracked, groomed trails for cross-country and skate-skiing.

Sometimes the best way to fully absorb that rarefied blend of serenity and exhilaration is to leave the lifts and crowds behind.
Sometimes the best way to fully absorb that rarefied blend of serenity and exhilaration is to leave the lifts and crowds behind. Courtesy of Okemo Mountain Resort

One of the greatest aerobic workouts possible, nordic skiing is as athletic as it is meditative. Glide smoothly over the open meadows of the novice Fox Trot trail, or power through forested hills on the challenging six miles of Ridge Runners. The white world is quiet and snow-muffled, and the only sounds you will hear will be the hiss of your skis sliding through powder.

At the Nordic Center, you'll also find about eight miles of snowshoe trails. In the past two decades, snowshoeing has evolved from an age-old technique of snow travel into a full blown winter sport. The shoes lightweight, woven design allows you to float easily over the surface of snow instead of sinking beneath it. The narrow, ungroomed trails weave through the forest and around the frozen pond.

New for the 2015/2016 season, you can experience the new craze in snow sports: fatbiking! These mountain bikes are fitted with wider hubs and super fat tires, designed to maximize stability, floatation, and  traction on snow and sand. Once an obscure novelty, primarily used to travel between slopeside taverns on West Coast ski resorts, fatbikes are coming into their own as an athletic and exhilarating mode of self-powered winter adventure.

Fatbikes are available to rent and demo at Okemo's Mountain Outfitter Shop. Give it a whirl on a network of groomed winter riding trails around Jackson Gore. The big, bouncy feel is addictive, fun, and unlike anything you've experienced before on a bike.

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