Firsthand Report: DCSki Gathering at Blue Knob, Pennsylvania 2
By Jim Kenney and Rob Davis

Eight DCSkiers met with five Epicskiers and stayed in a slopeside house for a hardy weekend at Blue Knob ski area in western Pennsylvania from Feb 20-23, 2009. It was very much a comingling of these two online communities known as great resources for skiing information and for stoking the passions of avid snowriders in the Eastern US and beyond. Another ten or more participants stayed in separate accommodations or day-tripped to join us during the weekend. Given the size and make-up of this group the camaraderie and love for all things skiing was off the charts.

Two on-line communities merge at Blue Knob. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

As you know www.DCSki.com has a mid-Atlantic focus, while www.Epicski.com has a nationwide (even international) following. Most of the participants came from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, but several were from as far as Michigan, Kentucky, North Carolina and New York. Conditions ranged from soft, fresh manmade surfaces on many of the groomers to bony hardpack on black diamond runs like Extrovert, Stembogen, Lower High Hopes, and a few unmentionables. Saturday was a bluebird day with a high temperature around 25 degrees. Sunday was a little cooler with intermittent snow showers. A lucky handful of the group stayed for bonus action in eight inches of fresh snow on Monday morning.

JohnL and his Posse. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

Considering Blue Knob is located in the relatively benign Allegheny Mountains it comes as a surprise to first time visitors that it takes no prisoners under harsh conditions. You either bring your A-game or you sit by a fire in the lodge. We ran with a posse of 15 or 20 A-gamers for much of the weekend and it was exceptionally invigorating. Some of us had never skied with that many fast movers at one time before. It was wild, but we had no collisions and all enjoyed a classic dose of Blue Knob gnar.

An early February thaw-rain-freeze cycle had burnished Blue Knob’s premier black diamond run “Extrovert” to bullet proof bumps and rocky patches. You had to pick your line carefully to avoid the hazards, but that’s the charm and challenge. Those that skied Extrovert over the weekend would agree she wears her diamond honestly. The corkscrew-like Stembogen trail had a mostly groomed-out surface, but the presence of thin spots and a few death cookies kept it exciting. The only access to Lower High Hopes was via Extrovert. This left it with a nice sprinkling of loose snow laced around occasional thin spots.

The Colonel on Deer Run. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

Intermediate trails such as Deer Run, Jack Rabbit, Expressway, and Mambo Alley all had good to excellent coverage. Some were receiving active snowmaking during the weekend. Mountain manager Andy Himes was observed personally working with snowmaking equipment on Sunday afternoon in the middle of a snow squall (in late February). That seems like a commitment to further good skiing this season at Blue Knob.

The esprit de corps developed on and off the slopes was awesome. This was a BIG, fun, diverse group of really strong skiers. A few participants brought wives and children, but everyone in the main pack was of voting age with a spread of 50 years from youngest to oldest. Some of the veterans had an amazing breadth of ski experience ranging from PSIA level III examiners to Lowell Thomas-like travelers. It was a special treat to ski and hang out with these guys and all of us were inspired to kick it to the next level.

Laurel Hill Crazie on Stembogen Trail. Photo provided by David Wray.

The weekend crowds were very manageable, ski-on most of the time. It was great for us and the group left with great respect for the mountain, but that was tempered with a sincere hope that Blue Knob continues to receive adequate support from the more dedicated mid-Atlantic skiers and riders. It’s a place that will humble the aspirant and cause the true expert to pay close attention. All mid-Atlantic ski areas offer up groomed cruisers or a few dedicated bump runs, but only Blue Knob gives a visitor the kind of steeps, glades, and narrow gnar usually found in the East only in northern New England.

Jimmy skis down the mountain. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

The ski industry needs challenging hills like Blue Knob (and nearby, shuttered Laurel Mountain) and not just because they are feeder areas. Any little flat hill will get folks on skis. Hardcore local areas like Blue Knob and Laurel Mountain allow the budding intermediate, full of enthusiasm, to satisfy a taste for what’s out there beyond the groomers, beyond their skill set. They are a higher standard to aspire toward. Places like the Knob and Laurel feed the soul of our sport and keep a large economic base involved and spending what they can afford just to touch the limits of their skill and continue to beckon their improvement.

RodSmith telemarks. Photo provided by Jim Kenney.

The success of the weekend gave reason to reflect on the power of internet connectivity. Many of the participants had never met before, but within minutes felt a skiing kinship with compadres from around the Eastern half of the US. There is no doubt that dedicated websites like www.epicski.com and www.dcski.com have stirred the interest of skiers and riders in a marvelous new way. As the sport faces economic, demographic, and environmental challenges in the 21st century these types of internet forums may play a significant role in developing a committed new clientele for ski areas everywhere.

Notes:

  • We stayed in the Daley House overlooking Stembogen Bowl, details here: http://www.beach-n-mountain.com/
  • Blue Knob is offering some great March discounts including, “show us your season pass from any other ski area and ski Blue Knob for just $5 Monday-Friday and $20 on weekends. Offer good March 2 through March 22.” Details here: http://www.blueknob.com/

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    Reader Comments

    kwill
    March 3, 2009
    Gotta do this next year if the group assembles again. Looked to be a good time and the Knob is definetly a gem.
    TetonTerrorist
    March 6, 2009
    Telling your parents your are a pederass. Really Skin it to win it, tele no good

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