In 1994 Okemo built a water-storage pond to satisfy concerns regarding water withdrawals from the Black River for snowmaking. The $1.5 million project came on the heels of the 1990 recession and at a time when costs were rising and the cost of the environmental permit process and mitigation had more than doubled for Okemo. Plans for a second base village with a lift-and-trail complex at South Face were developed in 1994, but ran into problems. Attention was turned to Jackson Gore in 1996. The Act 250 process, Vermont’s Land Use and Development Act designed to mitigate the effects of development through an application process that addresses the environmental and community impacts, saw permits delayed, with one opponent reprimanded by the review board for wasting everyone’s time. “Bumps in the road were to be expected,” Diane said on the day the Jackson Gore Express chair debuted eight years after land had been purchased there. Careful planning coupled with a willingness to listen to objections and work toward solutions were only exceeded by the Muellers’ patience and perseverance! Envisioning how they might improve, Okemo was a challenge they clearly enjoyed, although Tim did acknowledge that the planning process was requiring “even more flexibility, patience, and resources.” Creating the Okemo Difference The Muellers’ work ethic, energy, enthusiasm, and ability to communicate to employees the importance of providing good customer-service — something learned from their beach-resort experience — quickly distinguished the Okemo guest experience. Leading by example, delegating, and working along- side their staff engendered an understanding of teamwork which furthered the resort’s family focus and earned the respect of staff as the Muellers exemplified a together-each-accomplishes-more spirit. The Muellers also empowered staff by soliciting their input. Listening to their ideas and suggestions, Okemo participated in the snowboarding and shaped-ski revolutions earlier than most areas. Taking pride in their contributions to the mountain, workers developed topnotch daycare, ski school, and race programs and created great trail conditions through the use of expensive snowmaking and grooming technologies. Another difference, which made Okemo increasingly successful, was the continuing development of trailside homes and condos with profits poured back into mountain improvements and expansion. While leasing the upper mountain from the state for skiing, Okemo’s founders had purchased surrounding private land for more trails but also so as to develop vacation homes and condos. It was part of a vision to engender family loyalty and increase skier visits and profits and eventually create a year-round family resort. The Muellers similarly purchased private parcels so Okemo could continue to provide convenient on-mountain housing while expanding the ski area. - continued on page 69 - > 802-228-1600 > page 65