BROCKWAY – Okemo is a year-round resort in Ludlow, Vermont, and now the favorite destination for Brockway Area Junior-Senior High School Ski Club members.
But getting everyone there for a successful ski-club trip took a lot of work for club advisor and Brockway science teacher Matt Oknefski.
“My wife and father-in-law told me about Okemo,” Oknefski said of the origin of the trip. “They said it was ‘intermediate heaven,’ which is perfect for high-school students.”
Oknefski has been running the ski club for three years, regularly taking members on trips to Holiday Valley, but this trip was a bit more complicated than a Saturday at the Valley. Okemo is over eight hours away, and 23 students plus chaperones — Brockway history teacher John Hawkins, Bob Hrin, and Dr. Renee Allenbaugh and her husband, Brockway math teacher Donald Allenbaugh — meant that Oknefski would be leading a caravan from Brockway, through a couple of states, and onto the mountain. However, transportation was number two on Oknefski’s list of priorities.
“The first thing was to figure out lodging,” Oknefski said. “We found an 11-bedroom vacation home called ‘The Club House.’ This was much better than a hotel because I knew where all the kids were at night. Plus, we could make our own meals, cutting down on costs.”
Costs were a big deal. Each student and chaperone had to their share of the trip, which worked out to $275 for everything – ski lifts, lodging, food, rentals, and more. Group sales helped keep the ticket costs down, and students brought their own gear.
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“We did a dry run with equipment and packing the vans to make sure everything would fit,” Oknefski said. “This let me know if we needed to find bigger vehicles. When we packed it for real, the kids brought a lot more, but it still fit.”
Okemo was so large that Oknefski described it as hard to ski from top to bottom. It is a mountain resort with almost 700 skiable acres. There are 121 different trails. With the high praise from his family, Oknefski knew he was getting his young skiers to a great place, but a little research confirmed that.
“What drew me is that their snowmaking and grooming is consistently one of the best on the East Coast,” Oknefski said. “When you groom a slope, it looks like white corduroy. This was the first time I skied on fresh corduroy.”
Staying at The Club House meant that the students would have to share chores and help with meals. Oknefski was so impressed with the students that he’s planning ahead for next year.
“They were so mature,” Oknefski said. “They cooked, cleaned, did chores. And they had a great time. I knew they were good skiers. And they were fantastic on the trip. They represented the school well.”
Next year, the ski club will add a charter bus to the trip, but everything else would remain about the same.
“I’ve already started booking for next year and the students can start raising funds,” Oknefski said. “This was a great experience, and I hope we’ll be able to keep doing it for many years to come.”