Editor’s Note: DCSki Columnist Jim Kenney and his daughter, Colleen, just returned from a trip to Blue Knob. They both provide their thoughts on the trip below.
In addition to being slightly less crowded than some other ski areas closer to DC (Blue Knob is about a three hour drive), I have found that the no-frills Blue Knob also represents a bit of a bargain. We were permitted to buy our lift tickets for the 1-5 p.m. session about 30 minutes early and were also able to continue to ski about 30 minutes extra at the end of the session. They cost $34 for adults and $25 for juniors 12 and under. (Incidentally, with a little more foresight I could have prepurchased full day weekend/holiday tickets for Blue Knob at any area Ski Chalet store for $32/adults, $24/juniors. Check www.skichalet.com for more details and other discounted lift ticket offers.)
It was partly sunny, but pretty cold at Blue Knob on Monday. Someone told my daughter that it was 9 degrees Fahrenheit. It felt closer to 20 degrees to me, but nonetheless, it was one of those days when a neck gaiter or scarf came in very handy. Fortunately, the wind was light. This is a good thing at Blue Knob, a very good thing. I correctly figured 4 or 5 hours of skiing would be enough for my gang of young beginner and intermediate skiers.
Blue Knob was busy, but not outrageously so. I rode all four chair lifts and never waited more than 10 minutes. All systems were a go on this day. Later in the afternoon the lift lines decreased nicely. I spent some time on the beginner triple chairlift with members of my group. It was very lightly used all afternoon, but then this isn’t the best place for beginning skiers. The real forte at Blue Knob is a varied trail/glades layout with some of the longest and toughest runs in the region.
I stayed mostly on a less difficult assortment of those long slopes yesterday so as to better watch over the five children I had with me. While the conditions were generally good, there was a lot of skier/boarder traffic funneling down the two-mile long Mambo Alley (beginner-intermediate). At the height of the day it got a little crazy at certain trail intersections and one had to take care to avoid collisions. At the merge of Mambo Alley and Jack Rabbit my son received an ardent, unsolicited hug from another snowboarder, which resulted in a little back pain, but didn’t keep him off the slopes. The snow on Jack Rabbit and Deer Run (both solid intermediate trails) held up well. Many slopes showed the benefits of Blue Knob’s pole mounted, permanent snowmaking equipment and were in pretty good shape in spite of the holiday weekend traffic.
Although I personally did not explore much of the expert lower portion of the mountain on Sunday, almost all of it appeared to be open. However, many of the glades and more obscure trails relying on natural snow had very thin and/or icy cover. Only a little more than one foot of natural snow lay in the woods around the resort. I talked with one skier who’d explored some of the glades that day and he had fun, but said he trashed his skis somewhat. Is it my imagination or has Blue Knob made a concerted effort to clear a lot of debris from many of their gladed areas this year? They looked more open than in the past and quite inviting.
As some readers have mentioned on the DCSki Message Forum recently, Extrovert (black diamond) contained some really large mounds of manmade snow, but much of it looked glacial and better left for softer snow conditions. The cover on nearby Lower High Hopes (also black diamond) was icy and scraped very thin by 3 p.m. I took a late and quiet run down Stembogen (a slightly easier black) with my 10 year old daughter. By that point in the day some of the steeper, Nascar-like turns of this odd but fun trail were icy too.
I complimented all the kids on the ride home. They had a good time and strongly supported each other, with few complaints about the cool weather. My son’s young friend from across the street made excellent progress for his first day on skis including a well-navigated run down the long descent of Mambo Alley. With more good snowmaking weather in the extended forecast, conditions should only continue to improve at Blue Knob this week.
Colleen: What’s in a name? When people think of the color blue, they often think of cold water faucets with blue lettering and children who have been in the swimming pool for so long their parents are saying, “your lips are turning blue.” Likewise, the “blue” in Blue Knob also represents the cold, often windy, and sometimes snowy weather of the Pennsylvania ski resort.
I rode up the beginner triple chair with a mother and son from Bedford, PA, about 15 miles from the resort. At 1 p.m. the woman said that the temperature read 9 degrees Fahrenheit on her car thermometer. The chairlifts were plastic and my fanny was numb by the end of the day. However, if the skies are clear and the temperature is rising, I would revisit Blue Knob because the slopes were long and there are plenty of trails to choose from. One suggestion I have for Blue Knob’s publicity department is to put a sign on the road before cars begin to climb up to the lodge: Wimps, turn back here!
Husband, father and retired civilian employee of the Department of Navy, Jim Kenney is a D.C. area native and has been skiing recreationally since 1967. Jim's ski reporting garnered the 2009 West Virginia Division of Tourism's Stars of the Industry Award for Best Web/Internet/E-Magazine Article.