I don't know if anyone else caught this but apparently Blue Knob opened to the mid station on weds. It's surprising how quiet that opening was considering they actual beat 7 Springs this year. Also the will be open to the bottom of the triple on Saturday. Maybe this is a sign of a more aggressive snowmaking approach this year. Even if it isn't it still is nice to see the local areas opening up
Blue Knob is NOT taking an aggressive snowmaking approach so far this season. They have been operating at about 50% of their snowmaking capacity. And, at times, they haven't been running any snow-guns at all, even though the temperature was cold enough to make snow. 7-Springs now has 14 trails open, incuding the North Face, yet BK has only 2 trails open to the mid-station. My best guess is that the owners of BK have decided to make snow at only 50% of capacity to keep from running up and having to pay "peak demand" charges to the electric company. I have also heard that their SINGLE operating air compressor is now in marginal condition and the owners don't want to push it too hard.
MM- I suspect if they WERE taking an aggressive snowmaking approach you'd be accusing them of drawing too much water out of the local creeks. Name one thing this mountain has done correctly in your opinion.
Roger Z, yes I DO believe that Blue Knob, under the current ownership, has NOT done anything right. That's probably why the sale fell through, business is down, the environment was harmed and the owners haven't been able to find a buyer so far. Last night, I had dinner with a friend (a BK season pass holder) who skied BK yesterday; he said that of the 2 slopes that were open to the mid-station, Upper Mambo Alley was pretty good, but Upper Route 66 was covered with rocks. And yes, there was a junked school bus parked on Upper High Hopes. One thing that I hope you WILL do, is refrain from (at least to some extent) pre-judging my comments and opinions until you have skied BK this season.
MM- How long has the current ownership been in control? I've not had a chance to ski there YET, friends in the area who skied there in the early 80's say it is (was) a great hill. Do you still ski there? I plan to get there this year and wonder if you or someone else who knows the mountain could give us a bump when conditions are good. I'm ready on almost a moments notice.
...wonder if you or someone else who knows the mountain could give us a bump when conditions are good...
if you are waiting for mr. masher to say something "good" about blue knob, i suggest you dont hold your breath.
I remember pretty well last year that we had another Blue Knob critic who criticized someone for saying that they enjoyed skiing at BK on one particular weekend. Anyway I won't likely be skiing at BK since I'm now seven hours away and between me and there stand Snowshoe, Wintergreen, and Canaan Valley (not to mention Wisp). But I skied it three years ago and have mixed feelings about the terrain, understand that there are some problems there... and am looking forward to reading some other people's experiences there this winter to see how much it's changed.
I plan to get there this year and wonder if you or someone else who knows the mountain could give us a bump when conditions are good. I'm ready on almost a moments notice.
You are about a month early for good condtions at BK. Just to restate the obvious: there really is no point to goign to BK except for their black and double black terrain. If you want cruisers or beginer trails other places will make you and your ski bases much happier.
BK typically opens the majority of its black terrain by mid january. Its best conditions are usually in mid-late January until late-february, and after a nice dump (6"+). That 4-6 weeks is the peak window of opportunity. Snow making at BK is very sparse so you are depending on natural snow. The grooming is also less common than what you would see at most other area resorts. 3 Days after a large dump every black trail will be a bump run. In general, be prepared for steep terrain with ice and bumps. Beware if they groom Extrovert, it makes conditions very unpredictable.
I will do a little recap if I go there this winter (probably won't make it until late January). Others seem to go more often than I and typiclaly also give snow reports, JohnL perhaps. I am sure we will be hearing more about this in about a month or so.
Unless the Mid-Atlantic gets a major dump around New Year's Eve or the first week of January, the soonest I can make it out to Blue Knob is the end of January.
jimmy, the current owners purchased Blue Knob from Dale Stansil (at the time, Dale also owned Massanutten and Sugar Mt.) in the Fall of 1983. For the next 10 years or so, they did a good job of operating Blue Knob. The snowmaking was (nearly) adequate and there was fantastic tree skiing (natural snow depth permitting) in places like "The Ditch", "D-trail", "Cliff-hanger", "Blue Trail" and "The point" to name a few. Also, there was the annual BK "All Night Ski" where the lifts would run all night and skiers would often winter-camp along the Blue Trail and Bunny Hop (now called Jack Rabbit). In my opinion, things started to go down the tube after 1996, when a logging company was given free reign of the the mountain and the owners failed to replace several of their snowmaking compressors that had worn-out. Anyway, if you want to give BK a try, I would suggest 2 things; go right after a major snowfall; and, just to be safe, have an extra pair of skis with you, preferably a pair of "beater skis". I have probably skied BK only about 6 or 7 times over the past 6 years. I usually ski 70 to 80 days a year (counting both full and partial days), mostly at 7-Springs, Massanutten, and the WV and UT ski areas.
MM- Would you have been considered a regular back in the Good Ole Days?
Thanks everyone, I guess I'll have to be a storm chaser. Sounds like they need to sell the place.
Yes, I first skied BK in Dec. 1965 when I was just a little fella and was a regular [on and off, depending on where I was living and/or going to school (a ski academy in NH and college in CO and VA)] until 1997.
Blue Knob is CLOSED today, 12/23! It looks like the rain and mild temps have taken their toll as BK is now closed. I believe that BK would have been able to say open (continuously) IF the following things had been done: 1) They had been more aggressive with their snowmaking and had built up a deeper snow base thus far this season. 2) An effort had been made to seed their ski slopes and put water-bars in place after the logging was completed a few years ago (logs were even skidded down BK's conventional (non-gladed) ski slopes, which tore-up the soil allowing it to be washed away). As it stands now, there are few (if any) water-bars on the ski slopes and very little grass. In fact, most of the soil has now washed away; the slope surface is comprised of rock and clay with eroded gashes in many places. I went up to look at the ski slopes today, and sure enough, there were places where the snow surface had washed-out completely, exposing clay and rock, NOT grass. The only way that this huge MESS could be fixed would be for a massive amount of top-soil to be hauled in and spread over most of the ski slopes. Then, the slopes would have to be seeded and water-bars put in place. Of course, such a reclaimation effort would be VERY expensive. As it stands now, BK is going to have major problems keeping a snow base down everytime there is rain and/or mild weather. And, it's also going to be very difficult (if not impossible) to keep most of the snow surface at BK free of exposed rocks.
I enjoy reading the posts on southern PA ski areas, particularly those focused on Blue Knob. A buddy of mine at Johns Hopkins APL, who is a map expert, recently made the following shaded relief map of the Blue Knob area, which I thought some of you might find useful (the map is about 3mb thus I'm just providing the link):
Blue Knob is located at the center of the image.
(Legal: note the copyright and creator, Ray Sterner)
As you can see, the map is in a temp folder, so I'm not sure how long it will be available.
If you want to see similar maps of the states, go to:
Checked DCSki conditions page today, 1/24. BlueKnob 43% open. What's up?
Blue Knob has a limited snowmaking budget and most of this budget has already been expended due to the mild weather of a few weeks ago. For all practical purposes, the only major slopes that BK has open right now are Jack Rabbit, Mambo Alley and Expressway. And, I might add that the cover is quite thin in a number of places with lots of exposed rocks. There are a hand-full of snow-guns running on Lower High-Hopes and Stembogan, so perhaps a few more trails will open before the season ends.
To understand BK you have to realize that it is a NO frills ski area that places an emphasis on skiing natural snow. 2/3 of BKs skiable acreage is in the form of Glades, which DO NOT have ANY snowmaking! Because BK averages only 100 inches of snow per ski season, I think that having around 18 major Gladed ski runs without snowmaking is a ridiculous idea. But, nevertheless, the Gladed ski slopes at BK are a source of great pride to the BK regulars and the people of Central PA. BK is often called the "Mad River Glen of the mid-Atlantic". The BK regulars are laid-back and don't mind skiing over a rock or exposed stump from time to time. And, from what I can tell, they don't take very kindly to environmentalists, who are often referred to as "eco-idiots" or "environmental wackos". Another impact that the Glades (and a lack of snowmaking) have had on BK is the discontinuance of ski/board demo days at BK. To my knowledge, there are few (if ANY) scheduled ski demos at BK; I have been told by a couple of ski reps that their demo equipment was getting damaged on all the rocks at BK.
To understand BK you have to realize that it is a NO frills ski area that places an emphasis on skiing natural snow.
I'll agree with that, but mild winter or not, the snowmaking efforts of Blue Knob seem to be a lot lower this year than in recent years. I've seen them making snow in early January on Extrovert. Extrovert is their signature expert slope, but it relies a lot on man-made snow.
I think you are overemphasizing the importance of the glades. The primary natural snow trails of Lower Shortway, Lower Route 66 and Edgeset/D-Trail require a lot less snow for cover than do the glades. (I believe they'll often point the snow guns on sections of Lower Route 66.) These trails are the reason I go to Blue Knob, not the glades.
So, take snowmaking trails of Expressway, Jack Rabbit, Stembogan, Lower High Hopes, Extrovert and Lower Route 66, coupled with enough natural snow to open up Lower Shortway, Edgeset/D-Trail and the intermediate glades, and you have a formidable ski area. IMHO, the expert glades aren't really that relevant to the Blue Knob ski experience.
The main problem is that Blue Knob is not making enough snow on their snow making trails.
No frils, thats for sure. But interestignly I still like the lodge. Its very er um... rustic.
Its not totally clear to me. Are you saying that you have skied BK recently and they aren't snow making on extrovert? Any ski area that hasn't been making snow out the wazooo the past weeks has got some 'splainin to do. You are absolutly correct that extrovert with its their steepest and widest trails on the lower mountain and will require a lot of snow to get proper cover.
I personally think that the ammounts of snow and the quality of cover (lack there of) is being over blown. Most of the other trails on the lower mountian are narrow and dont take much snow to open and there are rarly crowds at BK to tear up the slopes. Given the tree shade, the depth inside the valley and on a northern facing slope they get little sun and hold snow very well.
I have skied BK on "good skis" before with out significant damage. However that was my first and only time. Now when I ski BK I either rent or use my beater boards. But since I am not on good skis I am not "pressed" about the conditions so its not that bad. I have never had a core shot or other bad damage in maybe 7 days over the past 3 seasons.
The expert glades only see good conditions probbably a few days a season. So yea, they aren't that big of a draw. The Blue and Blue/Black glades are open and skiable much more often. And therefore a bigger draw.
I think that BK has the best terrain in the region, when open. So yea, it could be a formidible ski area. It also ranks tops on the DCSki poll for the most underdeveloped potential.
I've been checking the Blue Knob website daily (when not out West), and Extrovert has never been listed as open. The only trail at the bottom half of the mountain that has been listed as open is Lower High Hopes (one of the trails that bisects Extrovert.) I don't know whether they have made any snow on Extrovert, but Mountain Masher's post seems to indicate BK has not.
At this past November's Ski Expo in Dulles, the BK rep indicated that making snow on Extrovert would be a low priority compared to other trails this year. Sadly, that has proven to be true.
Living in DC I am pretty used to dealing with stupidity and blatant inefficiency. This is startig to piss me off. I was hoping that with the current cold snap and the 12"+ they recieved in the past week they would be able to get more than Lower High hopes opened. According to their website there is snow making on Stembogen. After that I believe extrovert would be the next likely target. Right? The forecast on the 10 day
is pretty good.
Info on today's (1/28) condition page: Lower High Hopes is listed as open, snowmaking is in progress on Stembogen. All other lower mountain trails are closed.
I'll be driving by Blue Knob on my way to Laurel Mountain this Saturday. No need to visit BK unless Extrovert is open.
I'm kinda the same as John, but for me the dealbreaker is no Stembogen, as Extrovert is to difficult for my girlfreind to ski. But she loves the way stembogen twists and turns. By the way if lower shortway is ever open when your there make sure you ski it, there is nothing else like it the mid atlantic, you can add edgeset and the d trail to that list as well.
I have always loved BK and it is sad to hear the things being said about it now. I have gone there a lot less in the past 5-10 years mostly because I have gotten into backcountry so most of my mid-Atlantic skiing is now done with Whitegrass as a base.
For many years I did not consider a season complete without a couple of Extrovert days. I would wait for early spring and go there any Sat. or Sun. when the temp in DC was predicted to be 55+ with bright sun. Even so there were many days when Extrovert didn't soften up until mid to late afternoon. It faces north and is always the last thing on the mountain to soften and by then all the rest of the trails are mush. I used to call the mtn's main operator and ask for the patrol shack to find out if Extrovert was open or in good shape. They would give honest answers. Recorded tapes and published snow reports do not. I knew patrollers there for many years. One is now retired in Colo and the others now ski and patrol nordic areas only. Back in the 70s and early 80s patrol would open E even when it was icy. That stopped quite a while ago. I believe they have had 2 deaths there, the saddest being when a teen age girl beginner was goaded by her brother and boyfriend to ski it, slid into the woods and hit a tree.
Someone mentioned that Extrovert was occasionally groomed. I have never seen that. In fact the locations of the guns are generally obvious, particularly so for the huge whale just after High Hopes crosses it. I believe they would require a winch cat to groom E and I don't see the management ever being able to afford that. That big whale remains in place all season and it is quite a challenge to make turns on its downslope; something I would not try except on a warm and soft day. I love Lower Shortway, Edgeset, and lower Rt. 66 too. They can be as big a challenge as Extrovert because they are narrow, but they are only worth doing when there is a lot of natural snow. Extrovert is really my favorite because it is so big bold and in your face. You can take the leftmost chair and get off at midstation, ski E on every run and have almost no wasted vertical on run in and run out. When legs are too tired for another go up top for a break and then resume. In my younger days I once did 28 Extrovert telemark runs in one day. Local patroller Andy and I are the only people I have ever seen telemark it. I haven't skied the glades much. With the exception of the occasional big storm the cutting of the glades seemed to mark the end of good natural snow winters for the area. Here is a BK ski story for you.
As others have said there is enormous potential at BK.
Great post Denis. I'm probably one of the few people who have skied a completely groomed Extrovert at BK. For a brief period in the early 1980s (shortly after the current owners purchased BK) Extrovert was groomed. And, believe it or not, the grooming was done without the safety and aid of a cable/winch system. The grooming was done while driving the snow-cat downhill only. Unfortunately, during one of the grooming operations, the snow-cat, which was being driven by Emory (a former BK manager), slid and flipped onto it's side. And, although Emory wasn't hurt, that incident marked the end of grooming on Extrovert. Anyway, I'm glad to have skied Extrovert when it was groomed; there's nothing quite like making high-speed GS turns on a slope that steep (I can only imagine how it would feel to fly down a groomed Extrovert on today's shaped race skis). I might add that a couple of college slalom races were held on lower Extrovert when it was groomed.
The "First Tracks" link to an article on BK was interesting, although it appears to be a number of years old. However, at this point, I beg to differ with the author's assessment of the Glades. First of all, "The Ditch" Glade is now so eroded and washed-out that it has not been skiable over the past few years. The "Bone Yard" and "Mine Shaft" Glades are in really bad shape also. The so-called "Glades" at BK are glades in name only as they are simply the result of a highly destructive, commercial logging operation. The process of forming genuine gladed ski slopes is entirely different from for-profit logging because it DOESN'T involve removing the large, economically valuable trees. Forming genuine glades actually COSTS money (and causes little or NO erosion) whereas money is made when a commercial logging operation is conducted and there is often extensive environmental damage such as erosion. The sad thing is that the tree skiing at BK was fantastic BEFORE the logging took place. Now, much of the wind-block is gone and the mountain is filled with large stumps, piles of logging waste, and erosion. I have wonderful (pre-logging) memories of skiing in places like The Ditch, Blue Trail, D-trail and Cliff-hanger. For the most part, the massive logging operation signalled the end of epic tree skiing at Blue Knob!
The author of that story is me, and I did think the glades were good on that day in 1998, soon after they were cut and with abundant natural snow. I too used to ski those areas before they were cut and probably enjoyed them more in their natural state. When BK and Timberline started cutting glades I took it as a great sign of things to come. Maybe we would have Mad River like skiing in the mid Atlantic. What an exciting prospect! I guess I was not inclined to look deeper. Timberline's Cherry Bowl was also cut for logging purposes for the very valuable wild cherry from which it takes its name. This helped Timberline over a financial rough spot at the time. That area too used to ski better before it was cut.
Contrast this with the woods skiing culture and methods of northern VT. At Mad River folks have been thinning woods for years. They use hand tools only, no chain saws allowed and no cutting of trees over ~ 1" diameter. Entrances are hidden. You can ski right past an entrance (often called a "keyhole") at a distance of 5 feet and not know it is there. There is typically an entrance exam. Within 100 feet of leaving an on-the-map trail there will be a 5-8 foot ledge drop. This serves 2 purposes; it turns away the unprepared who don't belong there, and it is the implicit promise of the trail cutters that there is nothing worse deep in the woods - if you can negotiate the entrance exam you will be OK for the entire trail. It is understood that you enter and leave these runs when there is nobody looking. It is particularly bad form to enter or leave with youthful observers. If they are good enough to do this stuff they already know about it and if they are not one must not entice or entrap them. If you are a good skier who follows the rules the patrol will never bother you, in fact they may ski with you and share knowledge with you. If you break the rules you can get a ticket pulled and worse, people will not share their knowledge with you. The heart of this culture is found from Sugarbush northward; SB, MRG, Stowe, Smugg's, Jay, all have at least as many hidden named runs in the woods as there are on the trail map. This is in a sense a parallel world of skiing that most tourists never know about. Powder in the woods, ice and hardpack on the trails.
Mad River regularly closes gladed areas so that reforestation work can be done. Everybody respects these roped off areas. Here's a link that will tell you more.
I have the great good fortune of having a daughter and son-in-law living in northern VT as a source of local tree skiing knowledge.
I did an early day trip to BK on sat 1/29. I'd say average conditions - mostly (very) hard pack and some ice, a bit chilly but not bad (with the typical summit brutal winds), and uncrowded early in the day.
I really enjoy BK's intermediate terrain - which is more challenging than anything at Canaan in my opinion.
They opened the expert terrain later around lunch. I was disappointed with it - while BK's expert area is *quite* challenging it isn't very well maintained. Looked like Stembogan bowl had not been cut - brush was poking up from the middle of the bowl, and lower Stembogan has worn down into a 5 foot wide line.
Cut the weeds in the bowl to preserve a unique east coast terrain feature, and bite the bullet by grooming LS even. While I am not a fan of grooming expert areas in this case it should be done.
All in all I'd say it was a great trip tho - all griping aside. I had forgotten how SLOW the Rt 66 lift is! HOwever it was still a blast, and quite a peaceful ride back up (until the hellish winds kick in near the top!)
I remember Emory well. I held a season pass to BK from 72 until about 85. Never though Emory had much in the way of brain cells, but apparently he had mucho cojones to take a groomer down Extrovert; repeatedly. I never heard that accident story, but know of many others including big problems on the Rt 66 Chair. I can only picture Extrovert with ice, bumps and dirt, but in the haze of my memory I do seem to recall it tamed at some time by grooming.
Please excuse the ramble.
I am intrigued by the post from Denis on this subject. I've long known of the parallel universe of backcountry skiing. It's been touted in the ski media for decades and I've seen clear signs of it over the years at some places I've visited like Wildcat & Cannon in NH, and Jay Peak & Smuggs in VT, but I only admired it from afar. I never had the time or opportunity to get into it, as my thing for the last 15 yrs has been in-bounds family oriented recreational skiing. Before that I was rather jumpy and probably would have been a park rat if they'd of had those back in the '70s and '80s, when we had to build hits on the sly off to the edges of trails. Did some exploring in the woods at Blue Knob during my days as a pass holder there, but normally drew my advanced entertainment from recognized runs like lower shortway, lower 66, edgeset and extrovert. I was no longer a regular there when their "glades" become popularized.
The references to the cultural protocols of backcountry skiing also tickle me. I'm sure finsoutoc could provide plenty on pipe and park etiquette. I was looking at a new trail map of Jay Peak last night and noticed they have now labeled a lot of their formerly secretive parallel world of skiing. I totally missed that aspect of the mtn in my visit there long ago.
Are there publications or websites devoted to the backcountry thing? I wonder how the numbers of adherents compare to conventional in-bounds skiers/boarders? Because of the high base elevations in Canaan Valley I can appreciate why it, specifically White Grass, is one of the few places in the mid-Atlantic where backcountry is viable. Considering there was only about 8" of natural on the ground in Canaan during my visit at end of Jan, I'm amazed there is much backcountry skiing to be had there this season.
BTW, Feb issue of SKI has major story on MRG.
You should probably distinguish between backcountry skiers and the in-bounds tree skiing culture. Often, the two groups overlap, but not always. Denis may have slightly different thoughts, but one reason there is a localized hard-core tree skiing culture in the Northeast is that to be skiable, many tree runs need active black-market maintenance. There is often a sense of ownership of the run. Out West, this maintenance is generally not needed due to the greater amount of snow. You are often skiing above the brush and trees, instead of through them. Plus, there is a lot more public land out West.
Most of the glades at Jay Peak are so cleared out that you don't need a trail map to find them.
... one reason there is a localized hard-core tree skiing culture in the Northeast is that to be skiable, many tree runs need active black-market maintenance. There is often a sense of ownership of the run. Out West, this maintenance is generally not needed due to the greater amount of snow.
John, what is black market maintainence? Skiers sneaking in to clear out the rocks and logs off season? I have done some trail clearing before. Its hard work to be doing on the sly. And it usally takes time and at least basice equipment to be done right. Wheel barrows, shovels, pick axe, etc...
This sounds like the kind of thing an active skiers or condo owners association could do on a weekend durring a summer.
This sounds like the kind of thing an active skiers or condo owners association could do on a weekend durring a summer.
...And probably find lots of willing volunteers!