Ludlow, VT – The Quantum Four orange-tinted bubble high-speed chair lift began turning for public consumption Monday at Okemo Mountain Resort in central Vermont, ten days after unseasonably warm East Coast weather put the kibosh on the official grand opening.
The Quantum Four is the new way to the summit of the Jackson Gore area that connects to other Okemo areas. Without it spinning, guests staying in the high-end lodging at the base of Jackson Gore must drive or take a not-so-luxurious shuttle bus ride to Okemo’s other base areas.
I was at the resort a couple of weekends ago for the Quantum Four inaugural spin, but instead of a ribbon cutting, I witnessed management sweating with concern that Mother Nature would not come through for the holiday crowds.
Three inches of natural snow and a dip in the thermometer to snowmaking levels this past weekend meant Okemo offered 153 acres of skiing Monday, which they claim is the most in New England. The new snow allowed the Jackson Gore area to open for the season. Okemo’s main base area opened for the season two days before Thanksgiving.
The Quantum Four is Okemo’s second orange-tinted bubble lift, but it’s not a totally new uphill option; the new chairs were retrofitted into the 13-year-old Jackson Gore Express quad and the old detachable chairs are in storage, waiting to be repurposed.
Bubble chairs have retractable translucent plastic domes to protect riders from the elements. Passengers have the option of lowering the bubble around them or keeping it up. The makers of Okemo’s bubble lift, Leitner-Poma offer the domes in four colors: orange, blue, gray and yellow.
Okemo got into the orange bubble lift business last season when they opened their heated six-passenger Sunburst Six on their main mountain, accompanied by excellent snow conditions. The opening was also accompanied by me shooting not-so-excellent video explaining how the seats got heated. I’ve repurposed it here.
The Quantum Four is not heated and since it’s a four passenger deal just like the perfectly good lift it replaced, I wondered what Okemo management was thinking when they decided to double the bubble experience.
Okemo spokesperson Bonnie MacPherson explained that the Sunburst Six was extremely popular with guests, so much so that long lines were the norm at the loading area. By adding a bubble lift on another section of the mountain, management hopes to entice skiers and riders to spread out into the underused Jackson Gore area. MacPherson added that being the only resort in the United States with two bubble lifts was also a great selling point for the marketing department.
Iseult Devlin, ski columnist at The Record of Bergen County, New Jersey, and I were not going to let snowless trails spoil our chance to experience the new bubble lift when we hiked up to the Quantum Four on the afternoon of its canceled debut. The lift stretches from about a third of the way up the mountain to the summit and must be accessed by riding other lifts or trails.
Checking out the new stationary lift up-close was amusing; I’m guessing but not as satisfying as it was on Monday for both guests and relieved management.
Author Martin Griff is a three time winner of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association Harold S. Hirsch Award for column writing. He lives in New Jersey with Ski Widow, a cat he pretends not to like and sometimes with a daughter who is in college. Both his skiing style and video skills are not easy on the eyes.