PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There was a time in Pennsylvania when winters were cold. Natural and man-made snow piled up on slopes and trails. Skiers and then snowboarders went to the mountains to slide, ride and have drinks in a fireplace warmed lodge. That was it. But winters got warmer, snowfall less frequent. Some of the ski areas began looking at a future that involved other activities to draw winter getaway seekers. Skiing and riding would still be a thing – just not the only thing. Three have become full-scale “Resorts” and 2 others a hub for resort activities. Here’s a rundown from the Poconos to the Alleghenies.
Camelback has come off a robust summer season of outdoor water park action. Now it’s looking for an equally dynamic season on a combination of 34 trails, slopes, terrain parks and a racing hill. But winter visitors have an added attraction at the largest Snowtubing park in the country. The 42 lightning fast lanes of ”Galactic Tubing” boasts an “out-of-this-world” light extravaganza. Camelback Lodge, a 163 million dollar “Ski-In-Ski-Out” hotel has been crafted around the largest indoor water park in the Northeast. It begins its third winter season at the base of Camelback Mountain. Visitors will find over 450 suites for destination accommodations, 7 pools and 13 water slides in the naturally lit “Aquatopia” plus an array of restaurants, bars and an arcade. If the snow disappoints, the resort won’t.
The 4-season complex at Bear Creek was once a learning hill for local skiers known as Doe Mountain. But a change of ownership nearly 2 decades ago launched a conversion to 4-season resort status. The ski area with its 21 trails, terrain parks and tubing runs is still the heart of the complex. The ski school and easy to navigate rental shop have grown. But a resort has blossomed around the mountain. A full service spa, high end restaurant, bars, casual eateries and weekend entertainment have been blended into a rustic themed 116 room hotel with indoor and outdoor pools. If the weather goes south, the getaway doesn’t stop.
From beginner terrain to black diamond skiing, Seven Springs in the rugged Alleghenies of Western Pennsylvania began as a ski resort and still holds winter sports as a prime attraction. Thirty-three runs and 7 terrain parks, supported by equipment rentals and a bustling ski school fuel winter getaways. But the resort has grown to become its own municipality revolving around a major hotel, golf course, spa, multi-restaurant, bar and entertainment complex. It is the largest of Pennsylvania resorts. Getaway seekers arrive here to also visit the nearby flight 93Memorial and Frank Lloyd Wright’s stunning Fallingwater home. So, whatever your winter passion, you’ll find consistent snow accumulations and a bundle of activity for non skiers in your crowd.
It was a popular winter getaway stop for a group of KYW reporters and significant others. We’d arrive on a Friday evening after work, at the classic Shawnee Inn https://www.shawneeinn.com/ on the banks of the Delaware River. There was an evening of dining, drinking and shmoozing at the early 20th century resort and then skiing Saturday and Sunday at the resort’s Shawnee Mountain Ski Area. Ownership changes have separated the two, but a combination getaway is still the way to go. Most of the mountains 23 trails, slopes and terrain park are intermediate friendly. The hill is totally lighted for night skiing and the ski school even offers instruction in Spanish. But if the weather turns to the warm and melting side, the Inn provides the entertainment, a spa, hearty comfy-food dining, even a local craft brew oriented pub.
The only nod to snow sports alternatives at sister areas, Jack Frost and Big Boulder is a separately owned golf course on the Jack Frost access road. But the twin ski and snowboard playgrounds bracket a dynamic and long-established resort area on Lake Harmony. The two mountains combine 35 slopes and trails, powered by 22 lifts. They’re distinguished by attitude. Frost is a skiers mountain with dramatically steep terrain, plunging toward a scenic river. Racers are at home here. Big Boulder thumps to the pulsing sound of high energy music as riders get air and challenge in 5 versatile terrain parks. But off the slopes, visitors have a wide choice of lodging at the full resort facilities of the venerable Split Rock Lodge and the Galleria Hotel including indoor water parks and an array of restaurants and bars. Long established and popular eateries and drinking spots cling to the banks of Lake Harmony. Rental condo apartments and cottages round out the mix. Ski by day at Frost. Ride by night and day at Boulder. But when the weather chucks you a wipe out, there’s no lack of excitement.