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Timber Ripper Helps Okemo Coast into the 2010-11 Season

Okemo's mountain coaster adds a new element to the Ludlow, VT snowsports resort.

Over the past few years, snowsports resorts have been working to offer not only more year-round activities, but things to do in the winter for those who do not ski or snowboard.

Enter the mountain coaster.

Last week, it was Okemo Mountain Resort's turn to show off its coaster at the snowsports area's annual media weekend. Dubbed the Timber Ripper after a Facebook contest, the coaster rises above the Jackson Gore base area and will treat guests to a 3,100-foot adventure through the woods and on part of the actual ski slope.

The Timber Ripper adds another element to Okemo's vast offerings, which include perhaps the most wearable corduroy and overall snow surface conditions in the snowsports industry. The Vermont resort has swimming pools in all its lodging entities, an ice rink, a health club, and an indoor driving range and putting green and a Nordic center for the winter. It also offers two golf courses in the warmer months. 

"It gives us an added attraction that we think is pretty exciting,'' says Tim Mueller, who owns Okemo with his wife, Diane.

The coaster was scheduled to open Thanksgiving weekend but that date was moved. It is more likely the Timber Blaster will open at the end of the month and maybe even after the holidays because of weather delays and a complicated construction process.

''This is the most labor-intensive project I have ever ben involved with,'' says Barry Tucker, Okemo's vice president of operations. Everyone on Tucker's staff agreed in separate conversations. 

Okemo is working with two companies on the project-California-based Alpine Recreation Ventures and the manufacturer, Germany's Wiegand. Coaster cars are connected on maintenance-free stainless steel tubular rails, and the cars are designed to carry two riders, but can accommodate just one. The drivers are seated in the font and are in control of the speeds.

Tickets to ride Timber Ripper will be priced at $13 a ride for drivers and $9 for passengers. Multi-ride packages will be sold in three-, five-, and 10-ride increments. Group rates will also be available. Height requirements will be 48 inches for drivers and 36 inches for passengers. The coaster will run from 11a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.  A ticket booth will be set up at Okemo's Jackson Gore resort services desk.

Jackson Gore is one of several mountain peaks at Okemo. The Jackson Gore Inn features fractional ownership units and hotel-style accommodations. Rooms and suites range from a basic hotel room to a loft to a multi-bedroom suite to penthouse units fashioned after the traditional railroad roundhouse.

The ride will start and end near the bottom of the Coleman Brook Express lift at the Jackson Gore base area. Following a 1,600-foot climb lasting about five minutes, riders will descend 375 vertical feet along 3,100 feet of track that follows the contours of the mountain. The coaster will feature waves, camel backs and banking loops at a speed of up to 25 mph. The speed is controlled by a braking system in each sled, Tucker says. Once it opens, the Timber Ripper will operate year round in most weather conditions. 

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