Reporting Jay Lloyd
Blue Mountain is like a candy store – a tantalizing smorgasbord of snow capped treats. Skiers, riders and tubers want to grab every exhilarating foot of terrain – all at once. The fact that it’s so close to home at just 17 miles north of Allentown makes it an addictive magnet for frequent and impulsive dashes to the slopes. The universal attraction of Blue Mountain is versatility. Trails and slopes are long, and the terrain is carved to provide an ego bump for every level of skier and snow surfer. For free-style seekers, half a dozen terrain parks are studded with rails, tables and jumps to get a novice on the ground floor of terrain riding or give the advanced skier and rider a shot at black diamond challenge. If you want to practice those extreme jumps, there’s a “Big Bag” to cushion the landing, and Blue Mountain boasts a rare luge run. Join me for the tour. – Jay Lloyd
From the Summit Lodge, you can take a meandering warm-up run to the base on the gently graded “Burma Road,” or zip down black diamond “Midway” and “Lower Main Street.” That sets you up for a ride to the summit with easy access to intermediate level skiing or more challenging trails for a long constant-pitch ride back to the base. Then you can grab a high-speed quad that rockets you to the newest trails, offering steep double black diamond terrain including the newly widened, “Razor’s Edge,” and one of the most scenic cruising runs, “Paradise.” Blue Mountain allows experts and novices to find happy zones from every one of the major lifts. Free-style enthusiasts will find terrain parks near the summit in the center of the mountain, and for beginners, close to the runouts.
Now, about that “Big Bag.” Skiers and riders who want to practice aerial antics can take a run at a soft landing into a giant stunt-man air cushion. Take three jumps for $10 from Thursday to Sunday or unlimited jumps for $15 and $25 depending on day and time. Check it out here. And in this Olympic year, the thrill of a luge run will take center stage at Blue Mountain. Take a sled or tube and then take the challenge. At $10 for three runs, it’s definitely a unique experience. Check it out here.
Vertical Feet: 1,000
Slopes and trails: 39 including learning areas
Terrain Parks: 6
Chair Lifts: 9 including a tubing lift, plus 3 conveyors
Tubing: 11 chutes
Degrees of difficulty: Beginner through expert
Fully lighted for night skiing
WHAT IT COSTS
Adult all-day lift tickets clock in at $54 midweek and $63 on weekends. There are youth and active military discounts, or cut the cost with part-day tags. And if, like me, you ski past your 70th birthday, the sliding and riding is on the house.
Meanwhile, if tubing is your game, the tariff is $25 a session which includes a plunge on the luge run. See all the rates here.
SKI AND SNOWBOARD SCHOOL
Dedicated learning slopes near the summit and the base are designed to train beginners in a secure environment. The professionally staffed ski school uses the gradually changing terrain to progressively develop skiing and riding skills. A beginner’s terrain park is the platform for free-style lessons. Group lessons are $35 a session and combination packages are available that include lessons and rental equipment. Blue Mountain Ski School also offers private lessons and children’s programs. If you want to hone a specific skill, check out a variety of workshops including bump skiing, racing, seniors and women’s programs.
The rental shop at Blue Mountain is fully equipped with the latest in skis, boards, boots and helmets. A basic ski or snowboard package costs $36 a day, high performance gear checks out at $50. Find all the rental prices here.
CHOMPS AND SIPS
There are more than a dozen spots on the mountain and in the base and summit lodges to grab a bite or linger over lunch and dinner. Then there are the bars that welcome conversation and offer flat screen viewing of ski flicks or live sports. On sunny days, pick up pizza or a burger and park in the rays at the courtyard of the summit lodge, just steps away from your skis and the slopes. Stop by the “Cornerstone” bar at the “Slopeside Pub” for a pick-me-up and some après ski chatter. Of course, the “Summit Café” and “Last Run Lounge” are still my favorites. The soups, stews and chili here are homemade and robust. The lounge has the feel of a neighborhood pub but with a snow sport tilt. Whether you’re up or down at Blue Mountain, you’re never far from a nosh or a sip.
Blue Mountain Notes: Same advice as last year. Try to arrive early for the best parking at the summit. If you must arrive later, check out the Valley Lodge parking at the base. Weekday mornings are the best time to ski and ride here. Save money with a morning ticket and enjoy non-stop skiing and riding with zero lift lines and only light traffic on the hill.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Philadelphia and most suburbs, head for the northeast extension of the PA Turnpike and navigate north to the Allentown exit. Follow Route 22 East to Route 145 North. Continue on Route 145 about 8 miles to Blue Mountain Drive. Make a right and follow Blue Mountain Drive 7.3 miles to the ski area.