With springtime temps reigning this past week, it’s hard to believe some of our Mid-atlantic mountains received 8 inches of powder just a little over a week ago. Fortunately, I was able to get in some turns on Sunday, January 19 at Pennsylvania’s Bear Creek while the getting was still good. While it wasn’t easy getting there from Baltimore (Routes 30 and 222 had not yet been plowed, and my windshield wipers had inexplicably given up on me), the day would turn out just right.
I met my brother-in-law, Carlos, early Sunday morning and sought out fresh tracks. Bear Creek, formerly known as Doe Mountain, is a modest mountain just miles from Allentown and not far from Reading. With 500 feet of vertical on its 15 runs, Bear’s trails won’t strike fear in too many downhillers. The area is, however, a great place to learn the sport, or practice some turns with plenty of elbow room. It’s also priced right, with lift, rental, and lesson rates lower than its Pocono Mountain competition to the north. Those who can get out to Bear during the week will find rates downright cheap.
Carlos, a fellow one-planker, brought along his camcorder so we could capture some footage in Bear’s terrain park and halfpipe. We started off the day on Bear’s easygoing green and blue runs, eager to tear up the great powder stashes leftover from the day before. We soon made our way over to Extreme - the only true black diamond on the mountain. Extreme features a couple of small headwalls that force some hard turning. Otherwise, the rest of the mountain is perfectly suited for beginners and intermediates on well-groomed, lightly pitched terrain.
By noon, a solid crowd had formed, with several learning programs in progress and some guests hitting the snow tubing park. But the real action was over at the terrain park and halfpipe. The park begins on the far-left side of the mountain and runs down a narrow swath of tabletops, gap jumps, four or five rail slides, and a berm or two. Good air is afforded on most of these hits, and overall the park gets respectable marks.
As the park ends, Bear’s 350-foot long halfpipe picks up. The drop-in has a decent grade, and the extra-wide pipe allows plenty of room for maneuvering. The pitch slips a little towards the end of the pipe, but there’s ample room and grade for airtime. All in all, a nice terrain park and halfpipe, with boarders, skiers, and bladers all welcome. There’s no dedicated lift for the park and pipe, but two double lifts effectively serve this side of the mountain.
We soon hit the pub to grab a sandwich and watch Pittsburgh manhandle the Ravens on the tube. The Out of Bounds tap room serves up a variety of brews and a menu of appetizers and entrees. You can also cap off a day of skiing or boarding with a drink and a massage - just $15 for $15 minutes. We nixed the massage idea after prolonged debate, and decided to catch up with Carlos’ friend, Alex, and his group. We finished off the day making turns on some of the best conditions I can remember in some time.
John Phillips is author of Ski & Snowboard America: Mid-atlantic, now in its second edition. He can be found snowboarding the local slopes on most winter weekends.