There was a time when the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania weren’t respected as a ski destination. But with improvements in snowmaking, new trails, night skiing, lots of outside activities and a major highway to get you there, the Pocono Mountains are one of the top ski areas in the East for all types of skiers. Six resorts service the area — Big Boulder, Jack Frost, Camelback, Alpine, Shawnee and Blue Mountain.
Camelback Ski Area near Tannersville, Pa., is the biggest resort in the Poconos with 33 trails and 13 lifts, including two quad chair lifts.
The Poconos also can be more than a one-day ski adventure. With most of the slopes within a few miles of each other along Route 80, visitors can stay in a reasonably priced, centrally located motel and try a different mountain everyday. Or they could plan a luxury weekend or multi-day stay at one of the many slope-side accommodations available — some with pools and fireplaces.
Here’s a summary of each of the ski areas.
Big Boulder/Jack Frost
Big Boulder and Jack Front ski resorts are located at exit 284 on Rt. 80 in Blakeslee, Pa. They are about 10 minutes apart and both are under the same management called “The Big Two.” Lift tickets for one resort is honored at the other.
Big Boulder is the older of the two and was the first commercial ski resort in Pennsylvania, opening in the mid-1940s. It’s the smallest of the Poconos ski slopes with just 14 trails (seven lifts), but offers night skiing. Big Boulder’s base lodge resembles a Swiss Village and the slopes have names such as Edelweiss, Draufanger (Daredevil) and Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum has a single tree right in the middle of the slope for skiers to negotiate.
Jack Frost is geared more to the intermediate skier because of its narrower trails. It has 25 trails (seven lifts) and the base lodge is at the top of the mountain, so you ski down to the lifts. Both have a program called “Kid C’n Ski” for children ages 3-8. Another lesson program allows guests to schedule their own start and stop times. The Big Two offers slope-slide accommodations with shuttle bus service on weekends between the two resorts. These two resorts, as do all the others mentioned here, have snowboarding and special hills for snowtubing. Jack Frost also offers snowmobiling.
Located at exit 299 in Tannersville, it is the biggest resort with 33 trails and 13 lifts, including two quads. Camelback has snowmaking on all trails and was one of the first in the Poconos to offer night skiing. There are lots of lesson plans for families, with full-day and half-day programs available seven days a week for kids. Children shorter than 46 inches ski for free.
Camelback caters to the intermediate and beginner, as only 15 percent are black diamond trails. But some of the beginner trails pack some punch. Kids enjoy Bactrian with its side trails through the trees. The moguls on intermediate Big Pocono Run can be tough after some new snow. There are several hotels near the slopes as well as Camelback’s own townhouses.
Alpine and Shawnee are both off exit 309, near the Delaware Water Gap.
Alpine in Analomink is the smaller of the two resorts with 21 trails (three lifts), but that’s its charm. You almost can’t lose anyone as all trails eventually pass by the base lodge.
Alpine offers four-week ski and board programs on weekends for kids 4-12, which includes lift ticket, lunch and instructions. Most middle-intermediate skiers probably could traverse all of Alpine’s trails, including four of the five black diamonds. Alpine’s biggest challenge is getting off the lift. They’re quite steep and many novices find themselves tangled at the bottom, but Alpine’s ski patrol is quick to the scene of spills. There’s also ski/stay packages at local lodges.
Most middle-intermediate skiers probably could traverse all of Alpine Ski Resort’s trails.
Shawnee in Shawnee-on-Delaware has 23 trails (nine lifts), night skiing and makes snow on all its trails. Skiers will find a little younger crowd at Shawnee for it’s one of the closest resorts from the metro areas. Just watch for those over-enthusiastic downhillers and snowboarders. One of the nicer trails is an intermediate called Delaware, which runs along the left side of the mountain. Most skiers can take the lifts to Shawnee’s top, but be careful, which trail you take halfway down. Four black diamonds — Arrowhead, Tomahawk, Tecumseh and Lenape — complete some blue and green runs.
Shawnee offers early-season ticket books for ski and boarding lessons, equipment and others for snowtubing. Kids lessons start at age 4 and progress to Mountain Cruisers (skiers) and Young Riders (boarders) at age 15. The Northslope townhouse/chateau is located across from the mountain, and Shawnee Village is a short shuttle ride away. Other accommodations are within an easy drive.
Blue Mountain in Palmerton is probably the least known ski area in the Poconos for it’s about 30 miles south of Rt. 80, off exit 302A. However, Blue Mountain has the steepest vertical in Pennsylvania at 1,053 feet. It offers 27 trails and seven lifts. The main lodge sits near the top of the Vista trail, so skiers can warm up before hopping the lifts. Or they can continue on the intersecting and twisty Burma Road for an opening run of more than 5,500 feet.
At the center of the mountain is an intermediate trail, Lazy Mile, which is almost that, at 5,000 feet long. Both Lazy Mile and Burma Road are designated “slow skiing trails,” so no racing is allowed. Blue Mountain’s toughest runs are double diamond Challenge, and a double diamond mogul field appropriately called, “Falls.” There’s free babysitting during the week. Lodging is just a short drive away.
For more information, on these ski areas contact:
P.O. Box 702
Blakeslee, PA 18610-0702
P.O. Box 703
Blakeslee, PA 18610-0703