Reporting Jay Lloyd
More than once I rode a lift at Elk Mountain straight into a cloud. It’s not unusual to find the base lodge obscured from the summit by a welcome snow blitz and then gaze from the 1,000 vertical foot peak as it passes over the valley below. The air at the top of Elk is as crisp as the snow on long trails and steep slopes — you could get a nosebleed up here! Here’s what you’ll find at Elk. – Jay Lloyd
The rugged Endless Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania shelter Elk Mountain in one of the state’s most pristine settings. The mountain is big and carved with steep slopes that are both long and wide while meandering trails and lower mountain slopes are ideal for cruisers and upwardly mobile intermediate skiers. A dedicated and protected beginner slope is just a short slide from the base lodge. For skiers and riders kicking off at the summit, the two most popular steep runs are straight down “Susquehanna” or “Tunkhannock.” Both feature steep headwalls, but “Tunkhannock” is often dressed in bumps while “Susquehanna” is groomed to ballroom conditions. For cruising, I’ve always enjoyed the long meandering “Delaware” trail with a mile-and-a-half of scenic skiing or an equally long run on “Tioga” to the intersection of “Tunkhannock.” Then jump off on “Lower Tunkhannock” for a steeper dash to the back lifts. Many more combinations can be threaded together for extended skiing at one of Pennsylvania’s most versatile and challenging mountains.
Vertical Height (difference straight down from summit to base): 1,000 feet
Slopes and Trails: 27
Terrain Parks: 2
Night Skiing: About 1/3rd of slopes and trails lighted for night skiing
WHAT IT COSTS
An Adult all-day lift ticket carries a price tag of $63 on weekends and $51 midweek. Morning or afternoon tags go for $46 on weekends and $38 midweek. There are discounts for seniors and youngsters, along with multi-day packages and plans that include rental equipment and lessons. All prices are posted here. Click on the link for “Rates.”
Thanks to challenging terrain, the Elk Mountain Ski School is geared to take advanced skiers to the highest levels. For decades, the professionally staffed school has run an impressive racing program that draws competitive skiers from across the state. Private lessons are a key to Elk’s success, with skiers and riders who are preparing for destination trips to Rocky Mountain highs or alpine adventures. Group lessons bring beginners into the fold and take intermediate skiers to advanced levels. For kids, Elk is among the pioneers in guiding children as young as five to find their comfort levels on the mountain. Group lessons check in at $33, while private sessions are $92. Beginner packages and multi lesson plans are also available. See all the prices here.
Elk Mountain offers a range of ski and snowboard gear including high performance equipment. Rental costs are $34 on weekends and $30 midweek with discounts for seniors, night skiing and in multi-day packages.
DINING AND SIPPING
At Elk Mountain, you “dine.” The Winter Garden Restaurant here is a bright and airy two-story affair with a cathedral ceiling and high, wide picture windows that offer spectacular views of the slopes. The menu is varied and ranges from steaks, chops and a tart shrimp scampi to traditional lunch fare. A full bar and cocktail lounge with weekend entertainment fuels the après ski hours, while a roomy cafeteria in the lodge serves up standard ski resort fare including burgers and wraps as well as homemade soups and stews. Prices in both the cafeteria and the Winter Garden are ski resort reasonable, and both are open for lunch and dinner. The cafeteria serves breakfast.
There are no slopeside condos or hotels at the mountain, and most Elk-goers find homes for rent or choose nearby B&Bs or motels. Spots that I’ve enjoyed over the years include the antique furnished Wiffy Bog B&B, about four miles from the mountain (try the creative breakfasts!). A longtime favorite is the Crystal Lake Hotel, located eight miles from the mountain, where the Italian kitchen and fireside lounge create the ideal environment after a day on the slopes. Try the lamb chops or shrimp scampi — amazing. Also on Crystal Lake, you’ll find the Fern Hall Inn, a picturesque stone structure with a nine hole golf course that was the summer retreat of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical family. The rooms are period furnished, the dining is elegant and a nook bar is the epitome of “cozy.”
For a look at a wide range of accommodations including rental agents, click on the accommodations/attractions link here.