Blue Knob Was NOT Sold
November 16, 2004
Just got back from the National Ski and Snowboard Expo in Chantilly. I talked to the Blue Knob reps and they confirmed that the sale of BK did not go through. (http://www.dcski.com/ubbthreads22/showflat.php?Cat=0&Board=UBB1&Number=8261&page=6&fpart=all) Further, the new British manager will not be managing BK this winter; he apparently was part of the new ownership initiative.
I believe this update may already have been posted on DCSki, but I'm providing confirmation. Since no recent news about the sale has been made public, this prolly comes as no surprise.
On a side note, I did talk a bit with one of the Blue Knob reps at the expo. Apparently the snow base at the Knob was pretty decent last February. Found out he cut one of the trails at the Knob. It turns out one of his favorite loops on the mountain is one of mine. He did give me an addition to the loop and let me know about one more hidden treasure. To be shared at a DCSki BK gathering?
The non-sale of Blue Knob was featured on the front page of the Nov. 12 edition of the Altoona Mirror. This IS EXACTLY what I had predicted in some of my previous posts on DCSki. The British guy, Ian Burt, who was to manage BK, left BK for England about a month ago. At that point, I knew that my earlier suspicions about the "sale" were correct! Furthermore, BK is now in terrible shape! The infastructure is nearly shot and many of the ski slopes are all eroded. If anyone knows of a more environmentally destructive ski area in North America than BK, then please tell me where it is because I've never seen another ski area that even approaches the level of environmental destruction at BK. It's real shame, because some of the damage is now far too great to be corrected. When all the crazy logging at BK started about 6 years ago, I feared for the future of BK. Unfortunately, my worst fears may be coming true!
Anyone have any recent pics of BK they could post?
I have over 500 of pictures of the environmental damage at BK that were taken over the past 5 years by myself and members of a PA Sierra Club chapter (Headwaters Group from Johnstown, PA). All of the pictures are hard-copy; and, although I could have some of the pictures scanned, I'm not sure that posting them would fall within the objectives of DCSki. The topic of the environment, as it relates to BK, was initially brought up on this forum for the following reasons: 1) I felt that the environmental damage has had a very negative impact on the skiing at BK. 2) I believe that the "Gladed" ski slopes at BK were improperly formed and merely the result of a highly destructive logging operation that left large stumps and piles of logging waste. 3) Many of the DC area skiers and snowboarders enjoy the Chesapeake Bay in the off-season. BK sets within the Bay watershed and some environmental groups believe that the environmental damage at BK has had a very negative impact on the Bay watershed. 4) The summit of BK (uncluding part of the ski slopes) is situated on land that was originally DONATED from the US Park Service (the area was a US Air Force radar station before that) to the Commonwealth of PA for the "purpose of preservation and recreation (so long as the goal of preservation is not infringed upon)". In allowing commercial logging and clear-cut activity on PA State Park land, several environmentalists believe that PA (under Gov. Ridge) violated this agreement and, in the process, betrayed the US taxpayer (which, of course, includes people in the DC area).
Scott has the final say-so as to what is "within the objectives of DCSki." I would propose that any pictures showing damage to trails and glades would certainly be in the scope of DCSki postings. Realize that many of us on DCSki will probably be more concerned with how the damage may affect the skiing/boarding at Blue Knob and also realize that many of us may not agree with your assessment of the damage. However, many DCSki readers and posters may agree with you. That is for each of us to chose.
Personally, I think that more documentation of enviromental damage at Blue Knob (via pictures or links to other sites or links to reports) would be more convincing than rehashing the same old arguments. But remember that I would probably ski a toxic waste site if it was a powder day. With a smile on my face. I think there may be one or two others on this site that share the same affliction.
This is a skiing web site, but issues which directly affect the quality of skiing and boarding in the DC area are certainly relevant. I'd advise to not venture too far from the skiing and snowboarding topics.
Again, Scott has the final decision on what is relevant to this site, and what is not.
Another point to add to my previous post. No matter how sincere someone may be about expressing their opinions on a particular topic, if the topic doesn't fall within the immediate subject of the original post in a thread, a new thread should be started. I.e., don't hijack a thread. One of the fundamental rules of order on the Internet.
Those who are interested in the new thread will seek it out. Those who aren't, won't.
I agree that we should try not to stray off topic on a particular thread. However, I do believe that the current poor condition of BK ski area, which includes environmental issues as well as the infastructure, may pertain to the Sale (or Non-Sale) of BK. Perhaps the existing situation at BK is making it difficult for the current owners to find a buyer.
Interesting topic. How does the enviromental impact of erosion at Blue Knob compare to the impact of extensive snowmaking at places like 7springs and Whitetail? I know BK blows a lot of snow, but much less than other ski areas in our region. Why are big stumps and piles of logging waste bad? It seems to me that stumps and their roots would help prevent erosion and piles of logging waste might provide habitat for little furry things.
When large trees are cut in a commercial logging operation (as was done at BK) leaving stumps, the ground loses much of it's ability to absorb water. And, when large trees are cut on steep mountain sides, the rain water runs off (rather than being adsorbed), which often creates erosion. It should be noted that steep ravines (ie: "The Ditch" and "Boneyard" Glades at BK) and areas next to streams (ie: the clear-cut area below the loading areas of the #1 and #2 chairlifts) shouldn't be logged at all because these areas are particularly vulnerable to erosion. Furthermore, after the trees are felled, they must be dragged down the mountain via "skid trails", which always creates major gashes. If these gashes aren't repaired by putting waterbars in place and planting grass or trees, major erosion also results. It is the opinion of the PA Sierra Club that erosion control measures were NOT put in place after BK was commercially logged. And, after several heavy rain storms and hurricanes hit BK, the Sierra Club believes that significant erosion has occured, which includes much of the skiable terrain.
MountainMasher- one quick question and a minor point about logging. First, the question: did anyone monitor sediment in the streams below Blue Knob after the logging? If the logging increased runoff, there would be a significant increase in silt content in the stream after storms, and it should be very easily documentable. However, unless there was a complete denuding of the land, the runoff from rain and subsequent erosion is going to be more of a function of the soil type than the amount of deforestation. As a matter of fact, if Blue Knob had cleared the trees and reseeded the area with grass (like a traditional slope), there is a good chance they would have reduced runoff rather than increased it. If they did nothing, erosion would have increased, but it may not have increased dramatically.
Second, the point regarding logging and skid trails. I know from a recent conversation with an EIS specialist that there are logging techniques that don't involve utilizing skid trails. I'm not saying those techniques were used at BK- 99% certain they weren't- but they do exist and are a lot more environmentally sensitive than traditional "cut and skid" approaches.
The logging contractor who did the logging for BK was fined by the PA Fish and Boat Commission for damaging the stream below the ski slopes (South Poplar Run) by creating a siltation problem. In fact, the same logging contractor has been cited numerous times for environmental violations within the area that surrounds BK. As far as the way that the logging at Blue Knob was conducted, NO waterbars, tree planting or grass seeding took place. And some of the skid trails were cut VERTICAL down the mountain (skid trails are nearly always cut horizontal to the fall line to prevent erosion and flooding), which has caused a massive flooding and siltation problem down stream. Before the logging at BK, there was NOT a siltation or property damage problem downstream during times of heavy rain; after the logging, there are problems everytime the area gets hit with a significant rain. I might add that these issues were covered a few times during the month of Sept., 2004 by WJAC TV 6, Johnstown PA. Environmental groups like the Sierra Club warned the Commonwealth of PA about environmental problems and flooding risks (associated with the logging) as early as 1999. Also, the Sierra Club complained about the large clear-cut on State Park land to ostensibly build a lake just above the BK ski area Tubing Park (to this day the lake was never built by BK ski area and the land remains unreclaimed). Granted, the PA authorities have not not very pro-active about all of this. It should be noted that, out of all the States that fall within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, PA has the lowest environmental standards and enforcement, this according to a recent article on the Bay in the Washington Post.
I would love to see what is really going on at BK. If anyone has 500 PICS of the place I would like to see it. I have not ever been there when it wasn't snow covered and I think it would be interesting to see what levels of erosion we are talking about on / off piste.
It is interesting that every thread in which BK is mentioned even tangentially seems to devolve into a discussion of BKs environmental problems as a result of logging. The reason I say that is it seems that BKs problems are almost entirely business related.
First I think BK is a great place on paper / in theory. It has a great location, in fact it is probabbly the best location of any ski area in the Mid-Atl. It is the clossest to the largesst #s of people (2.5 hrs from DC and B-More). It has a great mountain with 1000' vertical and a wide variety of challenging terrain. It is better by far in that respect than any mountain within 3.5 hours from DC. And I think that there is even room for more terrain if they wanted to expand.
The problems w/ BK are serious and are all business related. And all go back to not being able to provide service at a competative level. And the whole thing goes back to snow, they don't get enough, and they don't make enough. This has put a strangle hold on their cash flow because people don't ski when the mountain isn't open. If extrovert and at least one other lower mountian black trial aren't open I don't go to BK pure and simple And it seems those trails trails are hardly ever open before January. I think I am typical of the skiing enthusiasts that BK is targeting with its ski it if you can motto. If I am not going I am sure not many others are either. I have never been to BK at a time when they are fully open, that was ammong 6 trips over 2 years (I wan't there afte rthe big dump in '03 as I was on travel abroad
). Contrast this with any other MidATL resort that is (nearly)fully open a week before christmas.
And this lack of snow making hurts them if there is a warm up because the lack of base they have to close trails more often during the season. In addition I think grooming is especially important and also over looked at the knob. Frequent above 32 Days cause the icy conditions, good groming can minimize that effect to a certain degree, but this requires equipment and man power. Snow making, grooming, and trail maintainence are all areas where BK lags significantly behind most other MidATL resorts. They bill themselves as a skiiers mountain however it is hard to ski when half the trials are closed. I really question the management at BK. You cannot runa great ski area with such a large number of natural snow trails given they only recieve on average 100" natural snow per year in an area that recieves so many thawing days per ski season.
The ecological criticisim is over blown IMO but probbaly justified. The poor physical condition of the trials with respect to being so rocky (from erosion) is also a problem and is only worsened by the fact there is so little base on most trails. But this is a minor issue for skiing purposes on piste. Off piste, the conditions are very poor and this is doccumented well in other threads. I would love to see the PICs though if you ahve them. Most of their marked Glades are unskiable so that is somehtign else to look at. However, any off poiste considerations are secondary to those of snow making, grooming, and trail opening. I think it would be a good idea to actually go through those glades and clean them out of big rocks and logs / stumps, but that is the final step not the first step.