There’s something euphoric about riding a chair lift into a cloud. There’s silence in the mist, and ascending through clouds is a rare experience. But if it’s going to happen in Pennsylvania, it’s going to happen at Elk, the northernmost ski and snowboard mountain in the eastern part of state. It’s a big, lofty mountain in a range known as the “Endless Mountains.” You’ll find some of the longest runs over the region’s steepest terrain. Let’s take the tour. – Jay Lloyd
Elk Mountain’s imposing size gives skiers and riders a rare chance to find some solitude on the mountain over cruising trails or bumped-up steeps. Working the trail map, you can put together nearly two mile runs by linking select sections of 27 trails and slopes. On many weekdays, it’s possible to ski or ride an entire run without seeing another soul.
Vertical Feet: 1,000
Slopes and Trails: 27
Chair Lifts: 6
Terrain Parks: 2
Night Skiing: About 30%
Cruisers will revel in long scenic runs over the Delaware trail that skirts the eastern side of the mountain, and a combination of Schuylkill and Lenape on the northern fringe. Advanced skiers who enjoy a constant pitch steep terrain head for Susquehanna, located directly over the lodge. When they want their steep with a bumped up headwall, Tunkhannock is the ticket. But for a bit of privacy in the steep, Slalom fits the bill — when it’s not being used for racing. For advancing intermediate skiers and riders, follow the long meandering Tioga trail to steeper terrain on Lower Tunkhannock.
WHAT IT COSTS
Midweek All-Day Lift Tickets: Adult $53, Children & Seniors $42
Weekend All-Day Lift Tickets: Adult $65, Children & Seniors $49
Elk Mountain offers morning, afternoon, twilight and night tickets. There are also military and group discounts. See all the prices here.
Note: Children’s tickets are sold to those 6 to 12. Youngsters 5 and under ski and ride free if accompanied by a ticket purchasing adult. Senior rates apply to skiers 65 and older.
SKI AND SNOWBOARD SCHOOL
Elk Mountain has a well-earned reputation for getting youngsters comfortably into advancing terrain. My daughter took lessons to go from beginner to blue square skier here. The Elk ski school is also known for working with advanced skiers to heighten skill levels before tackling the Rocky Mountain highs and the summits at European Alpine destinations.
Group lessons are $35. Private lessons start at $94. Check out all the lesson programs and prices here.
The Elk Mountain rental shop is stocked with name-brand skis, snowboards, boots and helmets. The inventory includes high performance gear. The shop gets busy on weekends, so plan to arrive early if you’re renting. Day and twilight rentals are $40, while night rentals clock in at $30.
EATS AND SIPS
The bi-level Winter Garden Restaurant with its cathedral ceiling and picture window panoramic view of the slopes is one of the best designed ski area restaurants in Pennsylvania. Its menu is a blend of new cuisine and traditional favorites. For the skier who wants to warm up and fill up, the chili in a bread bowl is the go-to staple. You’ll find a lively gathering of regulars at the bar, accented by weekend entertainment.
The main lodge also features a large cafeteria with all the usual suspects, from burgers and dogs to soups and specials. For families that like to bring their own, Elk has a rare “Picnic Lodge.” It’s actually the original main lodge that sits above the runout alongside the west slope and has been there for over half-a-century. Leave your cooler there while you ski and ride, then cruise right up to the door for lunch.
WHERE TO STAY
I have a trio of favorites. Two are 8 miles from the mountain on Crystal Lake:
The Crystal Lake Hotel offers comfortable motel room accommodations, a great Italian kitchen and fireside lounge.
The Fern Rock Inn is a splendid early 20th century retreat, built by the Johnson and Johnson family. A gourmet menu and a small bar compliment unique period furnished rooms.
Nichols Village in nearby Clark Summit has a resort atmosphere, a spa and fine dining room.
All three offer ski and stay packages.
Take the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike to I-81 North at Clark Summit (exit 131). Then follow I-81 North to exit 206. Make a right onto Route 374 East and follow the signs to the mountain.