Reporting Jay Lloyd
For high octane skiing and social hijinx, Camelback Mountain Resort in the Poconos has been the “in” place for generations of young high-energy winter enthusiasts. Super-steep headwalls, rapid-fire lifts, a blizzard of snowmaking, music-pumped bars and a dazzling variety of eateries make Camelback a magnet for the weekend crowd, busting the bonds of offices from Philadelphia to the Big Apple. Here’s a firsthand rundown. – Jay Lloyd
WHAT YOU’LL FIND:
For variety, linked trails and lift placement, it’s hard to find a more comprehensive ski and snowboard playground. From the challenging headwalls of “Cliffhanger,” “Margie’s Delight” and the aptly named “Rocket” to the scenic and easy cruising, “Nile Mile,” skiers and riders of all ability levels can find their own comfort zone. Camelback’s interconnecting network of 34 trails and slopes laced together with 14 lifts allow a slider to put together long runs that span the mountain. Two of the lifts are high speed quads. The terrain park here is studded with jumps, rails and tables and sprawls over five varying trails. It features a “Take Flight Air Bag” that lets a skier or rider go airborne before a soft landing on a stunt man’s safety pad. New this season is a vastly expanded Snow Tubing Center. The popular tubing hill has exploded to become one of the largest in the country, with 38 groomed chutes for solo or buddy blasts. Two Magic Carpet conveyers keep the uphill traffic breezing along. The action here goes day and night under the latest of lighting systems. Two dedicated beginner slopes nudge new skiers and riders into a lifetime sport. There are racing programs and a professional ski school that pioneered children’s learning programs in Pennsylvania.
In the lodge, you’ll find two loaded cafeterias with mountain views, the high energy “Thirsty Camel Lounge,” and snack bars and a deck bar on sunny days. But two separate lodges steal the lunchtime show. The “Summit Lodge” offers a spectacular view of the mountain and countryside. My favorite is the “Glen Lodge,” located at the base of the east mountain, which boasts its own smokehouse and turns out dynamite ribs and chicken. There’s weekend entertainment at the Thirsty Camel and Glen Lodge, too.
WHAT IT COSTS:
Open to Close Adult Lift Ticket : $61 Weekend, $51 Weekdays
Juniors 6-18/Seniors 65+: $45 Weekend, $38 Weekdays
Terrain Park Pass: $10
Equipment Rental Open to Close: $37
Ski or Snowboard Group Lesson: $35, Private $90
Camelback offers military and on-line discounts. To see all ticket rates, visit: www.skicamelback.com/Tickets-and-Passes.aspx
WHERE TO STAY:
When I’m in the mood for hotel amenities like a pool with a view of the mountain, a lively ski bar scene and a good American-geared restaurant with an Italian spin, it’s the Chateau. This full service resort is on the Camelback access road and within strolling distance of the mountain. For non-holiday weekends in December, rooms start at $129 a night. Check out the hotel, the amenities and price range at: www.chateauresort.com
For a family weekend (including grown kids) at Camelback, the Northridge homes overlooking the slopes fills the bill. All of these modern, well-furnished homes have fireplaces, full kitchens and spacious dining areas. On moonlit nights, it’s a rush just to step out on the private patio and look down at the lighted Camelback trails. Homes that sleep as many as 8 with two bathrooms, three bedrooms and a living room pull-out sofa start at $750 for a two night weekend this December. Look them over at: www.skicamelback.com/Tickets-and-Passes.aspx
The region is also rich in resorts, budget motels, inns and small B&B’s.
WHERE TO EAT:
Two eateries top my list. Both have lively ski-oriented bars and varied menus.
Smugglers Cove on Route 611 in Tannersville is heavy on seafood, including live lobsters straight from the tank. But this nautical-themed culinary castle also serves up a commendable prime rib. The bar turns out generous drinks and a Manhattan that sets the tone for the meal to follow.
Directly across the street, you’ll find the Tannersville Inn. It’s a classic Pocono Mountain structure with nearly two centuries worth of stories. My memory of it goes back to when trains still brought weekenders from New York and Philadelphia. Today, it’s one of the mountain’s most popular dining stops. A full-range menu meanders between fin food and wonderfully done steaks, but I still can’t get past the slow braised lamb shank.
WHAT TO DO:
Besides ski or snowboard, of course.
The Tannersville/Camelback area is also home to the Great Wolf Lodge and its indoor water park, the Mt. Airy Casino Resort and shopping at the Crossings Premium Outlets. There’s something to keep the whole family active both day and night.
Just one tip for skiing Camelback Mountain: On weekends, arrive early and ski the eastern side of the mountain. You’ll catch the morning sun and avoid the crowds. Later, swing over to the extreme western side for easy cruising on “King Tut” and the “Birches,” where traffic thins out as the crowd heads east.