Area skiers and riders are often amazed to learn that the Keystone State actually has slopes and trails west of the Pocono and Allegheny Mountains. With over two-dozen ski and snowboard resorts across the state, all of which brandish an arsenal of powerful snow guns, Pennsylvania trails are no long considered “banana belt” skiing. There are five resorts near locations where Philadelphia skiers and riders frequently travel west of the Susquehanna – Harrisburg, Gettysburg, State College and Seven Springs Conference Center. Take your skis and boards. Here’s what’s new at spots where you can use them. –Jay Lloyd
Fledgling skiers and riders will have a lot more open space to spread their wings at LIBERTY MOUNTAIN near historic Gettysburg this season. The popular First Class Slope has been expanded. That means more terrain at the top of the First Class Quad for ski school classes. A new groomer that looks like it soared out of Star Wars will keep the slope powder puff perfect for those eye-opening first beginner runs. Youngsters are high on the Liberty priority list with a brand new Burton Riglet Park for kids from 3- to 7-years-old. Additional parking has been added along with beefed up shuttle service from lot to lodge. The rental shop goes helmet happy this season with the addition of 500 new protective lids. The hard hats will be included in all of the Liberty Mountain “Learn-to-Ski-and-Snowboard” and “All-Mountain” packages.
Snow, snow and more snow will be blasting out of an upgraded snow-making system at ROUNDTOP MOUNTAIN just 20 miles from Harrisburg this season. Hundreds of feet of new piping will provide the water and air to fuel the brand new high efficiency snow guns for a virtual nightly blizzard on the Discovery Area, and the Powder Horn, Drummer Boy and Upper Gunbarrel slopes. Look for a smoother stroll from parking lot to base lodge with the installation of new paving and decorative lampposts. If you want to stay in touch with what’s going on around the mountain, new digital signage will keep you up to speed. If you rent your boards and boots, there’ll be a shine on your gear this season. The entire snowboard rental fleet has been replaced with new Rossignols. When it’s time to chow down, a renovated food court will be serving up an expanded menu under digital signs that trumpet the choices.
A major snow making overhaul is taking place at TUSSEY MOUNTAIN, home to the Penn State ski and snowboard clubs. Two million dollars is being plowed into a modernized blizzard machine as a part of a five year snow-making improvement plan. Right now, 17 new automated snow guns, a 400 horsepower variable frequency pump, and new water lines are cranking up for enhanced snow making quality and capacity. Over the next two years, look for more upgrades and expansions with additional water lines and snow making machinery.
This season will see more terrain, enhanced snow-making, innovative teaching and unique dining options at SEVEN SPRINGS MOUNTAIN RESORT. Advancing skiers will be feeling some wider turns on the intermediate Wagner slope with improved access at the top, doubling of the width on “Z” and some major re-grading. The 2,150 foot black diamond Avalanche has also been re-graded to enhance fun on the steep. Expect trail covering snow squalls on Upper Phillips Run with the addition of new hydrants and 22 brand new Impulse snowmakers to get the park open, earlier. There’ll be a unique innovation at the Snowsports School this season called Terrain Based Teaching. The approach uses sculpted zones to control a student’s speed and reduce fears and falls. Banks, berms and bumps slow things down and let students focus on skill building.
Nearby sister resort HIDDEN VALLEY has revamped its ski lodge inside and out for more comfort between runs and to put a glow on the après ski experience. On the mountain, glades have been cleared of overgrowth, new chairlift corrals have been planted at all the lifts and there’s a new drop-off stop at the top of the Sunrise – Sunset chair. Look for enhanced snow-making on Voyager that takes beginners and cruisers across the summit and connects with a gently graded descent to the base. Five new automated snow guns have been added to this popular trail. The Terrain Based Teaching program being launched at Seven Springs will also be introduced at Hidden Valley.
As the new season moves ahead, we’ll be profiling these ski and snowboard resorts and those here in the east with pricing, mountain statistics, amenities, snow tubing and tips for getting around the trails and slopes. For an expanded version of this reports, see my “What’s New” article here.