Skiers and riders will see dynamic innovations on the eastern Pennsylvania snow scene this season. Millions of dollars have been poured into resort improvements from parking lots to lodges, accommodations, lifts and summits. Web-based technology will make buying discounted lift tickets as easy as clicking a mouse. Scanners will be checking lift tickets in your pocket instead of flapping against your nose. Miles of hidden pipelines will fuel new automated snowmaking systems, and the latest in steep-climbing groomers will put your skis and boards on ballroom conditions or challenging bumps — take your pick. Now, let’s take the tour! – Jay Lloyd
Close to home, SPRING MOUNTAIN in central Montgomery County cranks up an arsenal of snow guns this week to get some early powder on the slopes. The big news here is that the mountain will launch its own eatery and bar, dubbed “Powder Pig Pub.” Related to the locally acclaimed Woodside Lodge, the new pub has a head start in the pub grub game. Look for a kids’ learning program on Saturday nights and a restocked rental shop.
BEAR CREEK MOUNTAIN RESORT is putting an economic incentive into the stay and ski experience. Visitors who book overnight, mid-week lodging at the full-service hotel will score a 40% discount on accommodations, ski and snowboard rental gear, Discovery lessons and lift tickets. Meanwhile, the BC Ironworks Terrain Park will have a new name. It’s now called, The Parks at Bear Creek. For the kids, Bear Creek has created the “Snow Zone.” The new children- dedicated area will let the youngsters practice on skis and boards or just romp in the snow. That snow will be enhanced over the entire mountain with the substantial addition of new snow guns.
If you’ve ever been annoyed by flapping tickets and passes, JACK FROST and BIG BOULDER MOUNTAINS have solved the problem for season pass holders. Scanners at the lifts will detect the pass wherever it’s stowed. Ski and ride flap-free. And, skiing on the popular racing trail DeMatte’s Demise will be enhanced by extended snow making. There’ll be new sit-down dining in the Cantina, and the rental shop has beefed up its fleet of Rossignol and Head equipment.
Sister mountain BIG BOULDER, a favorite with the surfing crowd, has planted new state-of-the-art snow guns on some of the most popular cruising trails and terrain parks including Tannenbaum, Bunny Schuss and Love Park. The Tannenbaum lift has been replaced. The lodge has gotten an off-season facelift and traffic at the ticket windows will speed up with the addition of a new computerized lift tag system.
New management at ALPINE MOUNTAIN will be cutting the ribbon on the only ski area ice rink in the Poconos this winter. Also look for the first ever Yuengling Bar and Grill, as Pennsylvania’s best known export caters to a home state crowd. There’s a brand new cafeteria. A kitchen has been added to the bar for pub grub treats, and three private lounges have been added to a completely transformed main lodge.
If all goes as planned, before the last runs of the new season, skiers and riders at CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN near Tannersville in the Poconos will have a brand new hotel to stay and play at after a day on the slopes. With 453 rooms and easy access to the lifts, the luxury hotel will feature a world class indoor water park, an array of restaurants, a bar and spa. The opening is expected in early March. Meanwhile, as the season begins, a new grooming leviathan will appear on the Camelback trails. It has the ability to scale steeper slopes and bring the art of snow grooming to a new level.
SHAWNEE MOUNTAIN has pumped millions into high-tech snowmaking wizardry to smooth some of the most popular trails and slopes. While you sleep, over a mile of new piping is pulsing with the water and compressed air to create an automated blizzard. The computerized snow-making system boosts the ability of Shawnee snow farmers to make more snow faster than ever. For gear to get on the mountain, the rental fleet has been dramatically expanded, with over 1,200 new sets of high performance boots, boards and skis. This winter, the rental shop will be able to outfit over 4,000 skiers and riders.
Lift ticket angst goes into the shredder at BLUE MOUNTAIN this winter. Only two types of lift tags are on the menu, so there’s no more rushing to get to this popular Pocono Mountain area. Show up on your schedule. Then, a new six-hour ticket lets you get every second you pay for. The clock doesn’t start ticking until your first chair ride. Or, ski and ride under the lights with a “night” tag. For visitors who are new to the sport, The Children’s Learning Center and the Valley Learning Center (for first timers over 13) have both been expanded this season with new carpet lifts, the easiest way to get from bottom to top. Fine dining has been added to Blue’s constantly advancing sipping and supping options.
High in the Endless Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania ELK MOUNTAIN has taken another step in its environmentally-sound mountain beautification program. Another 1,000 White and Norway spruce trees have been transplanted to the slopes. A new software system in the eateries, lounge and bar will provide a heightened level of food service throughout the lodge. There will be more parking spaces this season, with the addition of a new base lot, and the lifts will have a brighter look after a colorful summer paint job.
The hot news at MONTAGE MOUNTAIN near Scranton is the addition of Airboarding. Montage is the first and only Pennsylvania snowsports area to introduce these lightweight plastic and textile covered sleds to the slopes. Airboarding sessions this season will be limited to Tuesdays and Sundays between 4 and 9 p.m. Since airboarders do not share the slopes with skiers and riders, three slopes will be dedicated to airboard action during session hours: Easy Street, Highball and Mainline. Each session is two hours, and the airboards are provided along with helmets and knee pads. Goggles are recommended, too.
Note: Most Pennsylvania ski resorts are offering advance, online ticket sales this season with discount pricing and the ability to avoid ticket window crawl.