Reporting Jay Lloyd
Years ago, grizzled old Elk Mountain mogul Gus Steppacker told me, “We’ll run out of skiers before we run out of snow.”
Turns out, he was right. The ski slopes of Pennsylvania have more March snow today than they’ve had in decades. Skiers and riders are still out in force. Season ticket holders are getting the biggest bang for their buck in years.
But how long will it last? It’ll depend on when the trails run out of skiers. Most nearby resorts are eyeing events right through March, maybe longer. Here’s what kind of hijinks, from carnivals to St. Pat’s themed ski-a-thons, we can expect. – Jay Lloyd
JACK FROST/BIG BOULDER
The twin snow sport playgrounds right off the Pocono exit of the Pa. Turnpike’s Northeast Extension have full wintertime base depths. This Saturday, Jack Frost will be hosting an Irish themed competition for tricks and style on the rails, with “Pot-O’-Gold” prizes at the end of the run. Then, the popular ski bar, E-2000, rocks with Irish-themed drinks, nibbles and music. In past years, I’ve skied Frost and Boulder into April.
As the days get warmer and longer, the snow gets softer and spring skiing produces a truly euphoric sensation. Bulky clothing is shed and the ride from summit to base is easy cruising. But there’s a bit of looniness mixed in as Camelback Mountain launches a “March Madness” carnival the weekend of March 22nd and 23rd. There’ll be a pond-skimming contest, where a wetsuit becomes more practical than a parka. Costumes are optional on the slopes, but fun, and skiing in t-shirts and shorts is routine. The “Thirsty Camel” lounge will be the hot spot here after the snow surfing is done.
Want a free lift ticket this Sunday? Just show up at Shawnee Mountain in costume and ski free all day. If Shawnee judges tap your rig as “best” in one of a number of categories, you might even win a prize! Click here to get a few ideas. Active military and retired military, along with spouses and kids under 18, score free lift tickets, rental equipment and lessons all weekend. Retired military rates half-price tags.
Blue Mountain is groaning under six feet of snow. As the week dawned, all 39 trails were open and groomed for skiing and riding. March is coming in like a polar bear here. As temperatures warm, the mountain crowd at Blue is pumped for this Sunday’s pond-skimming contest and the bump busting “Mogul Fling” the following weekend. This could be the winter that keeps on giving…as long as the skiers and riders keep skiing and riding!
Elk Mountain has the advantage of higher elevations in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania, plus a more northerly latitude. That means cooler nights and longer lasting snow. At week’s start, Elk was blanketed in up to six feet, and all trails were open. Dynamic bumps are studding the un-groomed, steep and challenging “Tunkhannock” run. Spring Carnival here kicks off on Saturday, with the zany “Cardboard Box Race” on the West slope. Races, contests and music highlight the day.
BEAR CREEK MOUNTAIN RESORT
There’ll be pond-skimming and hijinks on the slopes when Spring Fling gets airborne at Bear Creek in nearby Berks County this weekend. If you’ve never taken part in or seen pond skimming, it’s a blast. Skiers and riders try to get up enough speed on the snow to surf from one side of a pond to the other and land back on the snow. Many try, but few stay dry, and it’s a riot to watch. Bear Creek is also dropping “Stay-and- Ski” rates for the month. March midweek hotel rooms including lift tickets are clocking in at just $79 a person.
Close to five feet of snow covers Spring Mountain in central Montgomery County, and every trail is open. The annual spring bash takes place on Sunday, March 23rd. Take a shot at volleyball on the snow, pond-skimming and prize fetching contests. A live DJ keeps the fun during one of this mountain’s longest seasons.
Spring conditions and temperatures are subject to change. Dress in layers that can be shed as the day warms. And remember, the snow will become wetter as the sun gets higher, so be prepared with waterproof or water resistant pants.
Do not fix lift tickets to a jacket that may wind up in the lodge. It’s best to anchor the tag to your pants.
If you haven’t skied or surfed in spring conditions, it’s a good idea to take a lesson. It will pay off in the years to come.
Early mornings produce the best and most consistent conditions.
Check ski resort websites frequently for changes in operating schedules, and especially for special spring savings.
And, if you want to see the slopes and trails stay open until April, just keep showing up!