Reporting Jay Lloyd
By an amazing stroke of geographic luck, Blue Mountain is within a short drive of Philadelphia. But it perches high on a commanding ridge over the Lehigh Valley and is on the Appalachian Trail. The location, in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains, allows this popular ski and snowboard resort both to keep man-made snow piled high and to be graced by frequent snowfall.
This season, Blue Mountain enjoyed one of its earliest opening days. Blue is a versatile mountain which was designed and carved by winter sports pioneer Ray Tuthill, who envisioned an area that would emulate some of the mountain contours and skiing amenities found on the loftier peaks of the American Rockies. Until his recent passing, Ray continued to fine-tune his mountain until it became one of the most skiable in Pennsylvania. – Jay Lloyd
1660 Blue Mountain Drive
Palmerton, PA 18071
WHAT YOU’LL FIND:
In an earlier incarnation you could scan most of the trails and slopes from the high panoramic vista windows of the Summit Lodge. Then Blue Mountain grew by leaps and bounds. Trail and slopes were carved outward and higher, then plunged all the way down to the actual base, creating a vertical drop (you remember – the distance between base and summit) of over a thousand feet, including the runout. The mountain now holds 39 dynamically contoured slopes and trails ranging from learning hills to double diamond bump runs. For long easy cruising, I could spend a whole day just on “Paradise,” a meandering trail around the mountain rim. Intermediate skiers can find their groove on the long and forgiving “Lazy Mile.”
Blue Mountain was the last in eastern Pennsylvania to welcome snowboarders, but it soon soared to the top with six terrain parks and a “Big Air Bag” where high flyers can test their aerial skills and aim for a landing on a massive rubberized pillow. Thirteen lifts handle the upward bound traffic.
Blue Mountain’s tubing center is carved with 21 chutes. Three of the area lifts are dedicated to the tubing center. And here’s something you’ve never seen in Pennsylvania: a snow-packed 2,000 foot luge track, luge instructors and a chance to feel some of the thrills that charge the Olympic luge competitors.
There are two lodges at Blue Mountain, each with their own parking lot, ticket windows and rental shops. The Valley Lodge offers direct access to the tubing chutes and lifts. It also features a beer bar, light food and locker space. The Main Lodge is complete with ski school, a rental shop, a ski shop, a cafeteria, pub dining and a “Cheers”-like bar. Blue Mountain is open for night skiing under the lights seven days a week, too.
WHAT IT COSTS:
Adult all day lift tickets: $60 weekends, $52 midweek
Youth (6 – 21): $45 weekends, $45 midweek
Partial adult day ticket: $53 weekends , $45 midweek
Youth : $45 weekends, $45 midweek
Night Ticket Adult/Youth: $36 weekends, $35 midweek
Rental Equipment: $35 all days
To see all the ski and snowboard rates, slide over to: www.skibluemt.com/the-mountain/tickets-passes-packages, then click on “Winter Sports” to check out prices for the “Big Air Bag,” luge and snow tubing areas.
WHERE TO STAY:
Since Blue is within an hour of home, I generally make it a day trip or continue north for a few more days. But the highly regarded Woodstone Country Club and Lodge is within a few miles of the mountain in nearby Danielsville. The well-appointed lodge offers comfortable rooms in a country club setting along with modern amenities and fine dining. In January, rooms start at $159 a night.
There are also several bed and breakfasts in the area as well as national chain hotels between Lehighton and Allentown, all within 30 minutes of the mountain.
Blue Mountain lodging suggestions can be found here.
WHERE TO EAT:
While day-tripping at Blue, most skiers usually stick to the mountain offerings, which range from snack shops and coffee bars to pub grub and cafeteria service. I always seem to wind up at the Last Run Lounge, located upstairs in the Summit Lodge. There’s great conversation, fun crowd, soups, sandwiches and daily specials.
The Summit Café, with its warming fireplace, serves a well prepared variety of hot dishes along with the customary burgers and pizzas. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve had there – the stews are a favorite.
HOW TO GET THERE:
From Philadelphia, take the Pennsylvania Turnpike Northeast Extension to the Allentown exit. Follow Route 22 East to Route 145 North. Go 8.8 miles and turn right onto Blue Mountain Drive. Go another 6.5 miles to the mountain and the Summit Lodge parking lot.
Just a tip for skiing Blue Mountain: On busy weekends, it’s best to arrive early and buy a four hour morning ticket. Start skiing in the middle of the mountain around “Lazy Mile” and work your way over to the “Comet Quad” chair that accesses some of the most interesting terrain for cruisers, intermediates and advanced skiers. You’ll be staying one step ahead of the crowds and you’ll get the best snow!