Firsthand Report: Belleayre Mountain, April 10, 2008 1
By Brenton Archut, Guest Columnist

I have a tradition, as weird as it may seem, to kiss the snow before my final run down each season. I made this symbolic gesture on Thursday, April 3, 2008 at Camelback. I didn’t write a firsthand report because it wasn’t anything special. There were only 8 trails open with one lift. It couldn’t be beat for free though, and Blue Mountain closed two weeks before. Camelback gave season passholders at other mountains a free pass each time it was presented starting in mid-March. I stayed for 3 hours and snowboarded on excellent coverage and decently fast snow. I thought it was a perfect ending to the year. Little did I know, I would get the itch to snowboard one last time in the spring of 2008.

I began realizing last weekend that I wouldn’t be snowboarding for at least seven more months. I have had a very fulfilling year. I have snowboarded Killington, Sunday River, Blue Mountain, Elk Mountain, Camelback, and Steamboat Springs. I still wanted to get in several more runs. I knew that all the resorts in Pennsylvania had closed and the closest one was in New York. Last year a late season snowstorm dumped several feet of fresh on Belleayre, they were still making snow as of April 15, and they closed in late April. Belleayre offers 1,400 feet of vertical on 47 trails and I had heard good things about the mountain. I checked the report and the weather and realized that Thursday, a day I didn’t have school, was supposed to be sunny. They also anticipated having 34 trails open. I sent emails to my fraternity brothers trying to persuade one of them to go with me, and even went as far to offer food or gas. However, they decided to be good students, and I applaud them for that. This meant that I would be making the trek alone.

A look at the snow from the Overlook Lodge. While some dirt is peaking through, it is well covered. Photo provided by Brenton Archut.

The trip from Bethlehem to Belleayre was estimated by MapQuest to take 3 hours and 20 minutes. Since the mountain opened at 9, and I wanted to get the full value of my lift ticket, I decided to wake up at 5:30 and leave at 5:45. I ended up waking up early and was on I-78 by 6:00. The route mostly consisted of highways I-78, I-287, and I-87. Route 28 west was the final leg of the journey. I arrived at the lower lodge at 8:40, 2 hours and 45 minutes after my departure. It was 50 degrees and my late season ticket cost $32. There are two lifts that run from the lower lodge to the mid-mountain lodge. Connectors can take you from there to the Super Chief High Speed Quad. Since most of the terrain below the lodge is for beginners, I was informed I should head to the mid-mountain lodge to begin my day. I drove there and suited up by 9:00.

A look down Roaring Brook shows smooth granular. Photo provided by Brenton Archut.

I spent my entire day on the upper lift system. All of the terrain below the Overlook Lodge is flat beginner terrain serviced by three surface lifts and two double chairs. The Super Chief High Speed Quad was added by the state (Gore, Whiteface, and Belleayre Mountain are operated by the state of New York) two years ago and has proved to be an excellent addition. The Super Chief services an estimated 1,100 feet of vertical that would take forever on a slower lift. The upper lifts service intermediate and expert terrain only. I covered every trail that did not have moguls several times. Most of the trails are also legitimate trails unlike many of the named connectors in parts of the mid-Atlantic. I began my day traversing the Onondaga, Horseshoe Pass, Roaring Brook, and Ashokan trails. This was followed by Ridge Trail, Roaring Brook, Winnisook, Tongora, and Belleayre Run. Onondaga and Horseshoe Pass are excellent cruisers with wide turns and a good pitch. Most of the other trails were quick straight down runs to build adrenaline. All of the trails had excellent base depths, but some had some significant bare spots. The intersection of the Onondaga and the Wanatuska was a giant bare spot that covered much of the trail. Luckily there were 5 foot paths of snow on each side so the trail could remain open. The Tongora was covered in snow but was more like a river. So much water ran over the entirety of the trail that it felt more like pond skimming. Instead of hearing slush behind my board, I heard rain.

A look at the base lodge from Super Chief. Photo provided by Brenton Archut.

The Super Chief only services about a third of the upper terrain so I decided to head to the triple lift named Lift 7 to try out another portion of the trail system. Lift 7 boasts a mid station that services trails leading to the Tomahawk Quad. Yahoo and Area 51 were in excellent shape all day and provided fast smooth runs down to the lift. Area 51 is usually a terrain park, but they groomed out all of the hits and rails to keep the trail open. There were no terrain features open except for the half pipe. The Utsayantha trail, like 7 other trails, was covered with moguls. It had a bare area across the top of the entire trail. However, if you were willing to walk over the bare spot you would be rewarded with soft bumps and a deep snow base. I saw several people enjoying the moguls, but keeping true to most snowboarders, I do not partake in such festivities. I heard rumors from several of the employees that several of the mogul trails would also be demolished to keep the trail count at its current level for the closing weekend.

When I finally made it to the Tomahawk Quad, which also has a mid station that services the Peekamoose, Pepacton, Seneca, and Dot Nebel trails, I needed a little rest. I took the lift to the top and headed down one of the longer trails. Deer Run was one of my favorite trails there despite several large bare spots. There were two spots that only had a foot-wide path of snow to get over, but like every other trail, the base depth was stunning and the trail was still mostly covered. It was an excellent cruiser boasting a long ride with a good pitch, rollers, and sharp turns. I did this trail a couple times before hitting the aforementioned trails off of the mid station and then heading to the Overlook Lodge for lunch. These trails had some small streams forming in them, but the snow was still pretty fast and these obstacles were easily avoidable.

One of the bare spots on Deer Run. You can see the little path to the right of the middle of the picture. The rest of the trail was covered from side to side. Photo provided by Brenton Archut.

Belleayre is definitely one of the more expensive places I’ve been to in terms of food. I bought a basket of 4 chicken tenders and French fries and two Gatorades for $15. It did serve as a full meal which I happily ate on the outside deck area. Although there were few people at the mountain, every person was outside enjoying a drink from the bar. After eating and making some phone calls, I went to my car and switched out of my sweatshirt into my under armor, t-shirt, and baseball cap (I returned about an hour later to retrieve my helmet). I then headed back to the lift to begin another 3 hour session.

I always get the full value of a purchased lift ticket. I won’t bore you with the same report, but there were some changes to the snow, as is to be expected, after lunch. The majority of the lift areas saw significant puddles which subsequently soaked my pushing foot. Several of the trails also had larger bare spots. Both of the trails leading to the Super Chief had bare spots that would definitely require significant snow pushing. At this point in the season I can’t really complain since I’m still on the snow. Plus, it adds some extra obstacles that only adds to the fun. I kissed the snow and made my last run of the day at 4 down Onondaga and Horseshoe Pass. I left the mountain promptly and was on the road at 4:15. I arrived at school at 7:15. Rush hour traffic slowed me a bit but made the return trip much more relaxing than it had been that morning.

I think it’s a safe bet to say that I have finally ended my season. My parents are visiting this weekend and I’m sending my gear home so that I don’t have to make multiple trips home at the end of the year. It has been a good season. I have gotten the best exposure this season by far and really feel like I made some great strides in technique. This trip was just what I needed to end my season. I feel relaxed and am ready for graduation. Next year promises to be just as good. Hopefully I’ll have more new mountains to write about. The snow may be gone for now, but it, as well as I, will see you next winter.

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About the Author

Brenton Archut lives in the tourist town of Bethany Beach, Delaware. He spends his summers working at Fisher's Popcorn. He enjoys bodyboarding and snowboarding and snowboards mostly in the Poconos, but loves to explore new places. Brenton is currently attending school at Lehigh University, where he is pursuing a business degree.

Reader Comments

johhny bravo
April 22, 2008
Great to hear a tale for someone chasing the last runs of the season. good report on a seldom heard from area!

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