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Catskills v. Snowshoe v Elk/Montage
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Updated one month ago
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one month ago

Hi all! 
My name is Joe and this is my first time posting to DCski, I am very excited to be part of the community! I am relatively new to the DC area and just took skiing back up after a 3 year break. I haven’t been to many places within driving distance and was hoping to get some advice from all of you on where to ski.

Alittle background about my ski history: 

I grew up in Cleveland so I am use to traveling to ski. Normally for a day trip I would have driven 3 hours to holiday valley in New York and annually I would spend a few days either in Stowe VT or take a trip out West. Being the youngest of 3 I benefitted from taking numerous lessons as a child so that the rest of my family could go ski the more advanced terrain. I would consider myself a relatively advanced skier who’s favorite runs are steep groomers.

 

I was planning on taking an overnight trip before the season ends and I am very torn. I have spend countless hours reading about the surrounding area ski resorts, reading this website, and looking at trail maps/mountain stats. I understand that for a 5 hour drive Snowshoe seems to be the consensus best resort in the area but it leaves me somewhat skeptical because of its outrageous prices. I think the western territory looks awesome but with everything else having a smaller vertical than whitetail I was considering other options.

 

For about an extra hour of driving I learned that I could go to Catskill resorts such as Hunter or Windham which both claim a 1600 ft vertical and it appears that more of the mountain actually is that big compared to Snowshoe. Also the prices for stays and lift tickets are much cheaper.

 

I  have also considered a Pocono area (kind of) trip where I would hit Montage and Elk which both claim to have 1,000 ft verticals and I think skiing both would create enough terrain to keep me interested. According to the map it looks like elk has so pretty big runs because they aren’t just straight up and down. Also this trip would be much cheaper than snowshoe.

 

This being said I love skiing so I know that I will have fun anywhere I go. I was just wondering if anyone had important insights on any of these places or have been to multiple and could compare them. Thank you all very much! 
 


 

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one month ago

If you like to ski steep groomed slopes then there is only one slope in the area that fits that description, Laurel Mountain’s Lower Wildcat. It has the longest, tallest, steepest sustained vertical averaging about 30 degrees, steeper near the bottom. A Snowshoe regular thought that it is steeper than Shay’s. My memory agrees and I think the steep pitch on Shay’s is shorter too. The combined Upper and Lower Wildcat drops 685 vertical feet with 500 of that being Lower Wildcat. Upper is a solid intermediate pitch before you get to Lower. When you start down Lower you cannot see the bottom until you hit headwall where the steep begins. It then just gets steeper. For $58 for a single day weekend, open to close lift ticket you can’t beat the price. The rap on Laurel is limited acreage under snowmaking and only one chairlift, a fixed-grip quad installed in 2016. These facts keep the crowds away even on holiday weekends. Laurel even with only snowmaking terrain open is fun for a day. 

If you are looking for a weekend trip and Laurel is limited to snowmaking only trails (this winter it has been) and you would prefer more and greater terrain variety you can opt to get a weekend Highland Ticket which also gives you access to Seven Springs and Hidden Valley. The 3 resorts are within an hour’s drive of each other. You can begin at one resort than travel and ski any or all of the others in the same day. At $169 beginning on Friday at 4 pm until close Sunday that averages about $56 per day. Seven Springs has a hotel at the base and many ski in/out options. A highland Ticket beginning at 9 am Friday is also available for $221. All prices quoted are nonholiday weekends.

Driving to there from the DC area is mostly Interstate and US highways.

one month ago

@Laurel Hill Crazie, 

Thanks for the info! I have skied seven springs before but never laurel. I checked the website out and it looks like a nice little place but for an overnight trip I would be looking for somewhere that offers more terrain and longer terrain. Laurel definitly seems like a great place for me to stop if I am driving back to Cleveland though so thanks again for the info!

one month ago

I have skied all the mountains mentioned.  From the DC area Shoeshoe is about 5 hours, but lots of that being on secondary roads which can make for stressful driving so it can feel like longer.  Any you are right, that other than runs in the western territory, it otherwise skis like a 1000’ mountain.  At least for me, the drive has always made me regret going there.    Elk and Montage are also about 5 hrs and the drive is easier.  However both are more like local resorts, rather than a destination like SnowShoe.  Catskills and Hunter is another hour or so, and yes they ski bigger and more like New England Resorts. My main complaint is that they are typically packed with crowds from NYC. 

Laurel Hill Crazie is a great promoter of the Laurel Highlands and Laurel Mtn in peticular. In 3 to 3.5 hrs of easy interstate driving you can be there from DC, with 3 resorts within a half hour, and when you add them up thats lots of acreage and variety.   Seven Springs gives you destination resort feel with the large lodge,  Laurel gives plenty of challenge, while and Hidden Valley has lots blue and short lines.   Everyone has a personal preference.    

one month ago

From purely an advanced skiing standpoint, Windham or Elk would be top on my list—a variety of decent fall line runs and probably good snow.  The two Western Territory runs at Snowshoe are good, and I’ll do 20 or so laps a day on those runs when I go, but that’s all the mountain has to offer—the rest of it skis like a 500’ vertical ski area. Montage is a good day area, but you’d probably be happier skiing the fall line runs at Elk.

If you have a family of different types of skiers, or are looking for destination-style amenities, the equation might change. I’m approaching this from an advanced skiing standpoint only.

If Timberline were open, I’d say go there. It has the best advanced skiing south of I-90. Maybe next season!

one month ago

The19thHole wrote:

From purely an advanced skiing standpoint, Windham or Elk would be top on my list—a variety of decent fall line runs and probably good snow.  The two Western Territory runs at Snowshoe are good, and I’ll do 20 or so laps a day on those runs when I go, but that’s all the mountain has to offer—the rest of it skis like a 500’ vertical ski area. Montage is a good day area, but you’d probably be happier skiing the fall line runs at Elk.

If you have a family of different types of skiers, or are looking for destination-style amenities, the equation might change. I’m approaching this from an advanced skiing standpoint only.

If Timberline were open, I’d say go there. It has the best advanced skiing south of I-90. Maybe next season!

Thanks you! This is kind of what I was thinking. I am excited to give Timberline a try next season, I really think that Perfect North will do a good job with Timberline. If they ever make enough money to expand it could really be a great place. 

one month ago

I agree with Laurel Hill Crazy, the resorts in the Laurel Highlands make for a great weekend trip. Actually, Laurel Mtn is a 35 min scenic drive from my home at Hidden Valley and perhaps slightly longer from Seven Springs. Additionally, Blue Knob and Wisp Resort are about an hours drive away. Thus you can easily ski 5 resorts. And there are plenty of other activities. Seven Springs/Hidden Valley/Laurel is about a 3:15 drive from DC and Baltimore mostly on interstate highways. Seven Springs can get crowded on weekends thus I only ski there on weekdays. The crowds at Snoshoe on weekends can be very large. As you can imagine, Catskills ski areas like Windham and Hunter can be heavily populated with New Yorkers on weekends. I have only skied at Windham on a weekday and the place was empty. Snoshoe knickname of “the island in the sky” is well deserved. It’s high elevation(for the mid-Atlantic) and it’s in the middle of nowhere. The Western Territory trails (2 trails) are some of the best in the area. But it’s a 5.5 hour brutal drive for me. 

Welcome to DCSKI! Let us know how it goes.

one month ago

jpetraiuolo wrote:

@Laurel Hill Crazie, 

Thanks for the info! I have skied seven springs before but never laurel. I checked the website out and it looks like a nice little place but for an overnight trip I would be looking for somewhere that offers more terrain and longer terrain. Laurel definitly seems like a great place for me to stop if I am driving back to Cleveland though so thanks again for the info!

Just to provide some more insight into little Laurel Mountain let’s look at the length of the trails. All lengths I’m citing are from the top of the lift to the bottom of the lift but since you must ski the connecting trails to get to the other trails I think it is a fair measurement. I’m doing a quick measurement using Google Earth’s tool to measure linear distance. All trails drop 760 vertical feet. So let’s begin with the snowmaking trails: Wildcat measures 2,600 feet. Broadway is 5,500 feet. Innsbruck is 5,900 feet. Now for the natural snow terrain: Dream Highway is 3,900 feet. The liftline (unnamed on the trail map) is 2,300 feet. Laurel Run is just under 4000 feet if you exit via The Slot and just under 2,600 feet and if you exit via Lower Wildcat about and the same if you exit via lower liftline. Lincoln Highway is 5,750 feet. I almost forgot Easy Way if you follow its entirety as it switchbacks the skier’s right side of the upper mountain until it reaches The Slot 4,750 feet.

edited for correction  

one month ago

I wouldn’t eliminate either Blue Knob or Blue Mountain from consideration. Both are over 1000 feet of vert. These two have the most vert in Pennsylvania. Both are closer than all of the above.

 

Blue Knob at the moment has the same bad snow condtions that other Mid Atlantic areas do. Not worth going to.

 

Right now Blue is over 90% open

one month ago

bob wrote:

I wouldn’t eliminate either Blue Knob or Blue Mountain from consideration. Both are over 1000 feet of vert. These two have the most vert in Pennsylvania. Both are closer than all of the above.

 

Blue Knob at the moment has the same bad snow condtions that other Mid Atlantic areas do. Not worth going to.

 

Right now Blue is over 90% open

I agree! I have been looking at Blue knob and hoping that they could get more terrain open but I’m not feeling too confident right now. I also think blue looks like a great place too. With the distance of both of those places I would definitely try to do a day trip because I think I’d ski everything I want in just a few hours. I think that any of the PA mountains you said or ELK/Montage look about the same to me if they have similar open trails. I just picked montage/elk cause they are close together and both are at 100 percent open right now. It’d be an easy Saturday ski one, stay in Scranton, Sunday ski the other. 

one month ago

Some good advice on this thread. I live about 3 hours from Snowshoe so I have skied there a fair amount. While it is true that without Cupp and Shays the rest of the resort skis like a 600-700 ft hill, the fact remains that those 2 runs are there. A legit 1500 vert for those 2 runs in an area south of NY is nothing to sneeze at. Having said, that, if you have the chance to go north then do it. Elk/Montage do not have a “resort” feel but they are much less crowded. Skiing at Snowshoe on a weekend during peak season can be an adventure and requires some planning and strategy to maximize ski time. Not something you need to worry about as much with Elk and Montage.

As for terrain - of the 3, the steepest single run is probably White Lightening at Montage. The pod of black runs on the lower mountain is fun. The blues on the upper mountain are pretty flat but can be fun to rip GS turns on. Elk has more black runs with a pretty solid pitch, although I don’t think any are as steep at WL (disclosure: I have not been there when it is fully open). Another strength of Elk is the fact that it makes full use of its 900+ feet of vert and there is very little runout in the runs. At snowshoe, Lower Shays is probably steeper than the steepest run at Elk (anyone else want to comment on this) and I think is more sustained that White Lightening.

I have not been to the Catskills, so I cannot comment on the skiing there. I have heard good things about Plattekill and Belleayre so you may want to check those out.

 

 

one month ago

Hey Joe,  your right about the drive to snoe shoe long and winding road, the west side is worth the trip sometimes but finding a place to stay is limited making it more expensive. Top thing is go where the snow is, if theirs some local that would really add to your options this season, 

 Hunter is an easier drive these days with higher speed limits etc. West side is sweet and they added high speed so lines not so bad. Front side Hellgate to Crossover to Racers Edge is a classic way down, head over to the double chair that goes above the beginner area at top you can hike up to some snow fields.  For some back country from the top you can head toward the fire tower then enter the ravine on left about half way to the tower you will see the tracks and you come to a bowl area and ski the run out past Zekes cabin and out to Mossy Brook tail, you can also enter the ravine off K-28 .

places to stay if you want amenities try Villa Vosilla Lee jr runs the place these days I taught him at Hunter about 30 years ago he was a great kid and fun to ski with, his dad Lee was always very nice to me, let them know I recommend there.

other places Road Haven in Haines Falls Kelly makes the best breakfast around “as per Joe De Cunta” owner of Rough Riders ranch a place for horse back riding year round up there.  Plattekill might be an option for one day if theirs natural coverage   

get out when they open have fun! Mike

 

one month ago

I would give Elk a strong suggestion. It’s often overlooked. I’ve been in the area for 18 seasons and spend quite a bit of it wearing a name tag at one of the closer DC dayhills, but I’ve yet felt compelled to go to Snowshoe. I see those throngs enough at home.

Elk is an easy drive, a bit more of a Northeastern feel and enjoys the natural. Hit Chet’s for some Apres. If you feel a bit more exploratory, find your way to Plattekill in the Catskills. Still a hidden gem.

one month ago

Blue Knob is a disaster and to be avoided.  Blue Mtn is a great weekday spot.  If you like Disney World at spring break then head to Blue on a weekend.  Laurel is awesome with snow that falls from the sky, otherwise pretty boring.  Windham, Hunter and Plattekill are legit skiing, but far.  I will echo the above, Snowshoe is like a 500’ ski hill with two trails transplanted from Vermont.  But snowshoe gets bonus points because it actually snows there.  It also snows at seven Springs, and they have a few pockets of nice skiing, and they have a million people on the weekend.  Ahhhh the life of a mid-atlantic skier.  There is a reason people are looking forward to Tline coming back, it is like an accesible Elk.  Mix and match and you’ll eventually find something that works for you.

one month ago

Worth noting that the Catskills areas are similar to the MidA “resorts” in terms of emptiness on weekdays.  True weekender hills despite the infrastructure for ski weekers at Hunter etc.  We skied Hunter the Friday of Presidents Day weekend last year and it was zero liftlines all day.

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