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Okemo Mountain Resort

Okemo

thirty years with the muellers


Winter 2011/2012

Contact: Bonnie MacPherson, director of public relations
Okemo Mountain Resort | 77 Okemo Ridge Road | Ludlow, VT 05149
802-228-1947 | pr@okemo.com


OKEMO CELEBRATES 30 SEASONS OF MUELLER MANAGEMENT

LUDLOW, Vt. – As Okemo Mountain Resort celebrates its 30th winter season under the management of Tim and Diane Mueller, it is a statement made in 1985, by Okemo President Tim Mueller, that best reflects the resort’s success over the past 30 years and still rings true today.

“Okemo is a mountain on the move that fully understands the importance of you, the skier. We have a new look, a new attitude, new equipment, and have compromised nothing to assure you the best skiing experience possible. We’ve assembled a management team of solid professionals who have set a standard of excellence inspiring each and every employee. Since employees are the essence of every first-class resort operation, it is their competence, friendliness and caring that set the pace, the attitude, and spell the difference between Okemo and the other big eastern ski areas.”

It is “The Okemo Difference” that skiers and snowboarders have come to experience since the Muellers took the helm in August 1982.

The decade prior to the Muellers’ purchase of Okemo saw great strides in expansion as well as some financially challenging times for the community-owned ski area. Okemo was making yearly improvements and, by the early 1970s, the ski area boasted a modern base lodge and new trails and lifts – including three double chairs. Then, the 1973 flood damaged the resort, recession hit and gas shortages negatively affected travel. By 1976, business was starting to rebound, but a cautious board of directors was ousted by ambitious stockholders who wanted to see more rapid capital improvement.  The “Friends of Okemo” garnered enough support to replace the board and began plans for a $600,000 snowmaking upgrade, the largest in the country at the time. At the turn of the decade, two snow drought winters brought financial despair to Okemo and all New England ski areas. In spite of snowmaking improvements, the resort experienced a shortened 1980/81 season and a net loss of $340,000. The following year was a better snow winter for Vermont ski areas, but it was too little, too late for Okemo. Despite a successful season, Okemo was $1.4 million in debt, the lift system had become antiquated, a fire flattened the maintenance garage, and in the spring of 1982, the bank pulled Okemo’s line of credit.

The board of directors knew they had a good mountain on their hands, but they also knew that times had changed for the ski industry. Skiers wanted chairlifts and gondolas instead of surface lifts – especially ones that were constantly breaking down. Okemo’s Master Plan detailed deficiencies in the area and offered recommendations estimated at $8 million. With their resources exhausted, the directors went in search of an appropriate new owner.

In 1982, the Muellers were managing a resort on Saint Thomas they had helped Diane’s parents develop. With two children, ages 5 and 1, the Muellers were eager to return to Vermont, where they had built a house in 1977. In their search for a business opportunity, they hoped to find a lodge or inn, but found Okemo to be a diamond-in-the-rough that offered tremendous potential. With the dreams of youth (they were just 32 at the time) and an entrepreneurial spirit supported by their own practical resort experience, and that of the well-seasoned Okemo staff, the couple began their new adventure.

“We liked the challenge that the mountain presented,” says Diane Mueller. “We believed in it and in ourselves.”

From the start, the Muellers wanted to provide their guests with a great mountain and a superlative skiing experience.

“When we took over, we knew we were a disadvantaged physical complex, said Tim Mueller. “We didn’t have time in 1982 to make any major changes so we had to operate within that framework for an entire year. We had to concentrate on what we could do to make a difference, like add some paint and spruce things up and hire good employees. We had to instill in the staff that they could make a difference – it was the only thing that the skiers were going to notice as a change with new management. So we explained to staff that we were going to be different by offering the kind of service that we knew people on vacation, or spending top money on skiing wanted.”

Okemo has grown from a small, rough-hewn ski area to a world-class resort destination encompassing five distinct mountain areas. A mountain with three double chairlifts, six antiquated Poma surface lifts and a handful of trails has evolved into one of the East’s most popular winter resorts with 119 trails, 19 lifts (including five high-speed detachable quads), and the northeast’s greatest inventory of trail accessed mountainside lodging. Okemo consistently wins awards and accolades for its snow quality, grooming, terrain parks, children’s programming and guest service. Skier visits have soared from 95,000 during the winter of 1982/83, to more than 600,000 last winter.

The Muellers have taken their model for success across state lines to Mount Sunapee Resort, in Newbury, N.H. and to the Rocky Mountains of Crested Butte, Colo.

“We’re looking forward to the next 30 years,” says Diane Mueller. With our son, Ethan and daughter, Erica working with us at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, it’s clear that this business is in our blood.”

For more information about Okemo Mountain Resort, please call (802) 228-1600 or visit Okemo.com.


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