Handful of snowflakes herald the coming ski season


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Photo by Bob & Sandy Nesoff
Photo by Bob & Sandy Nesoff

Sam Champion and Lee Goldberg could be having nervous breakdowns trying to predict the weather. In the morning it’s dark and gloomy and in the afternoon the sun shines, warming the air. And in the midst of all this snowflakes begin to fall and then disappear.

While the weather is still changeable and somewhat crazy, the fact that we’ve had some snow, slight as it may have been, means the signals of a coming ski season are highly visible.

A quick check of metropolitan area ski resorts indicates that none of them are even close to opening…even the venerable Killington in Vermont that always seems to close around Memorial Day and reopen after Labor Day.

OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not much.

Southern tier ski resorts in Pennsylvania and New York that make convenient day trips or weekenders are still tightly shuttered and will not open until at least post-Thanksgiving if the weather gods cooperate. But it’s not too late to start planning for those mountain adventures. Let’s look at Pennsylvania this week and then New York next.

The closest in ski resort is Shawnee just outside of East Stroudsburg, PA. As with most of the other resorts in the area, Shawnee is a short hop off Route 80 that runs from the George Washington Bridge through ski territory. For weekenders Shawnee has accommodations at the base of the slopes and numerous other possibilities nearby. A popular summer resort, it converts very easily to winter sports.

With a vertical rise of 700 feet and a base elevation of 600 feet, Shawnee has trails for everyone at every ability. The summit elevation tops out at 1,351 feet. Its 23 trails cover some 125 skiable acres with the longest run just short of one mile.

There are 10 lifts with an uphill capacity of 12,600 per hour, cutting down on time standing in a line. There is a program for everyone with emphasis on children.

Adding to the fun as many areas have done, Shawnee offers snow tubing, night skiing, cross-country and snowshoe trails. For information, visit http://skicentral.com/shawneemountain.html.

Just over a half hour from Shawnee in Tannersville (and a hop, skip down the road from the huge Crossings Outlet Center), Camelback Mountain is arguably the most popular of the Eastern Pennsylvania ski resorts. Its vertical rise is 800 feet but the base elevation is 1,240 feet and the summit tops out at 2,133, making t one of the tallest in the state.

There are 34 trails over 160 skiable acres and its longest run is about one mile. It also offers night skiing, snow tubing, Nordic skiing and snow shoe trails. As an added adventure and thrill Camelback has one of the better zip line complexes in the Northeast.
Camelback’s wide variety of trails range from a major bunny slope outside the main lodge with a real lift (not an arm breaking tow rope) that gives beginners a terrific opportunity to learn and become accustomed to the down hill run.

As with many other resorts, Camelback offers programs geared to children, women and adaptive skiers. Lessons for all are available. Here is modern and comfortable base side lodging and a wide variety of options within minutes of the resort ranging from upscale opportunities such as Mr. Airy Resort and Casino to smaller hotels.

Camelback is located minutes from the Tannersville exit off Route 80. Just follow the signs. For information, visit http://skicentral.com/camelback.html.

Blue Mountain, near Palmerton, lays claim to being one of the most popular Pennsylvania ski resorts as well as the highest vertical rise at 1,082 feet. It offers five terrain parks and a BigAirBag for practicing aerial maneuvers.

Blue Mountain has 39 trails over 164 skiable acres with the longest run clocking in at 1.2 miles. Whereas most of the other ski areas provide a greater percentage of trails for beginner and intermediate skiers, Blue Mountain aims for the advanced skier. It offers 41 percent of its trails listed as black and an equal number of greens. Blue trails come in with only 18 percent.

It offers the usual night skiing, tubing, etc. There is no base lodging but a number of choices nearby with some offering ski and stay packages. For information, visit http://skicentral.com/bluemountainskiarea.html.

Near Blakeslee is the combined Big Boulder and Jack Frost area. Big Boulder caters more to snowboarders with its terrain parks and features an outdoor grill and live music; definitely for the younger set. Trail percentages are 3 percent advanced, 8 percent expert, 3 percent intermediate and 4 percent beginner. Oddly enough that only tallies up to 18 percent and there is no explanation for the missing 22 percent.

Jack Frost offers 21 slopes for all levels of ability. The resorts combined 18 lifts have an uphill hourly capacity of 1,100. There is no base lodging but a number of area accommodations.

Next week will feature New York State close-in mountains.

Hang in there…snow is on the way.