I had marked the day on my calendar months in advance. I had secured the kitchen pass. December 27th, 2001 was going to be my day to ski. All through December I sat and worried -; would there be snow on my day to ski? Luckily the holiday turn in the weather brought colder temps. Colder temps mean one thing: SNOWMAKING! So there would be snow. Now where should I go?
I had packed my gear the night before but was still unsure of what my destination would be. Where was there good snow? I surfed the web the night before but no one had really good conditions. So at 5 a.m. I set off for Pennsylvania planning to stop at the I-70 PA Welcome Center to get a ski report and decide there. The nice lady at the center had a fresh ski report for me and some ski phone numbers. Whitetail was behind me, but open, she said. Laurel Mountain was opening up Wildcat but only had 2 other slopes open. Seven Springs was opening more slopes today but Dick Barren’s voice on the snow phone didn’t sound too sure. Blue Knob reported 2 inches of fresh snow, six trails open, and more snow expected. That sounded good to me so Blue Knob it would be! I was back in the car in a flash. As I pulled back on the interstate it started to snow. I knew I had made the right call.
Blue Knob sits atop the second highest mountain in PA (Mt. Davis near Seven Springs is just barely higher). Blue Knob boasts 1,000 feet of vertical drop and some excellent fall line skiing. The “reverse” set up of the mountain (park on top - ski down - ride lift back up) means the top of the mountain takes the full force of the winds. It also ensures it will be arctic when you pull into the parking lot. It did not disappoint.
The snow increased as I gained elevation. I have been stuck on Blue Knob’s approach road before so I didn’t take any chances; I carefully crawled up the twisty, snow covered road in my car. I was one of the first cars in the lot. I opened my door and felt the arctic blast!
The snow was flying as I gathered my skis from the car and hurried into the Spartan lodge. Don’t expect glitz at Blue Knob. The lodge is as tough as the weather -; concrete block walls and a little carpet are about it. The one saving grace is a nice fireplace. However, Blue Knob is a value. They offer a weekend morning (9-1) ticket for 34 dollars, probably the best terrain for dollar value going. I was into my gear and out of the lodge quickly.
The wind was still howling and the snow blowing as I pushed off. I quickly slipped under the lip of the mountain and out of the wind. The trails are on the leeward side of the mountain, thus spared the gales of the top. It was quite pleasant. The trails had about 2-3 inches of fresh on top of the hard pack. I chose Jack Rabbit for my first run. It is a solid blue with a nice pitch and I scored first tracks on the way down. I surprised the lift operator as I swung into line and caught the first chair back up. There was no line, nor would there be one during my whole morning visit.
The ride back up on the Blue Knob triple chair is slow but steady. Once you near the top and clear the lip of the mountain the winds start again. Blue Knobs chairs all converge in a small area. The triple rides over the double coming from the bottom (not open today). It is little unnerving to have to ride the chair over another chair in the full force of the Blue Knob gales, but I have never heard of anyone falling out -; yet.
I slipped below the lip and sped down Expressway on my second run, scoring first tracks again. I sliced between lift towers enjoying the steep fall line to the chair again. Expressway proved the best trail of the day. I ventured over to Deer Run next. But this west- facing slope was still icy and full of cookies, snowmaking being just completed the day before. I think I scored first tracks on that, too, but it wasn’t fun. Deer Run is a solid pitch but the long run to get there isn’t worth it.
Most of the morning I continued on the open blues (Jack Rabbit and Expressway) for most of the morning, venturing onto the greens on occasion. There were at least 5 distinct ways down to the triple chair. The crowds were light and mostly locals. I had one of the few out of state plates in the lot. The snow continued to fall. The blizzard roared on the top but there was peace below on the trails. It made for a most enjoyable morning.
By noon the slow triple chair had worn me out and I called it a day. It was still snowing and they were still blowing snow on the lower mountain when I left so I expect the lower trails to be opened soon. I brushed a good 2 inches from my car when I left. The drive down Blue Knob’s road was more nerve racking than going up, but I managed to stay on the road. As I drove home just for fun I made the turn at Cool Springs and went to take a peek at Whitetail. The brown grass and long lines at the express quad said it all. I had been on a real mountain in a blizzard. This was just a play land. I had made the right call. I sped back to the interstate smiling.