Elk Mountain Trip Report (2/12)
February 14, 2005
I used to go to Elk Mountain with my church group when I was in middle school. I used to really love the place as I had my first shot at fresh snow there (about 8 inches). While I was just a piglet then, my infatuation with fluff has continued some 15 years later, so I thought I would make a pilgrimage to the birthplace of my obsession.
We drove up to Scranton on Friday afternoon before the Baltimore rush began. I opted for the I83 to I81 route against the advice of mapquest, I was glad I did. The drive turned out to be complete gravy, no traffic and lots of speeders for me to follow. It took about 3.5 hours.
In the morning we woke early and headed north, the mountain is located about 25 miles north of Scranton via interstate 81. The sky was grey until we hit the mountains, then the flakes started to fall. It pretty much snowed all day (much to the chagrin of the weatherman who was calling for mostly sunny) and built a soft layer on top of the ice that made for variable, yet nice conditions. Most of the mountain was open although the early-week rain required a few closures and 100% grooming. Not a bump to be found. We spent the entire day alternating blues and blacks. We found some nice twisty blues that have switchback turns and allow for deep, high speed edging all the way to the bottom. The blacks to skiers left feature a double headwall but the contours don't change much between the trails. The blacks to skiers right of the two double chairs have only one continuous headwall but its a bit longer than the others. Between the race and the snowmaking only one of these three trails was ski able so we didn't spend a lot of time on that side of the mountain. According to the locals it was a pretty busy day but even with the slow lifts I never spent more than about 5 minutes in line.
Overall it was a great trip. While Elk wasn't the monster I remembered it to be it was just as fun. The mountain skies big as most of the trails are continuous summit to base and there are very few flat spots or run outs. The one gripe I have is with the parking situation which requires a shuttle ride from lot to base area. It's a pain but the mountain and the friendly locals more than make up for it. If you're looking for a new place to slide don't be afraid to make the drive to NE Pennsylvania. This is the best of the Pocono area mountains and one that just may surprise you.
I realized the advanced terrain @ Elk was groomed, but how would you compare it (steepness, length, etc.) to the advanced terrain at the Snowtime resorts?
Nice write up. In winters like this one we really have to expand the horizons. It sounds liek you ahd a good experience especially with the people. Thats good.
How far in real terms is this from the catskills? Do they get alot of the same weather as the Cats do? I was just curious about that in terms of driving. All things being equal, woudl you say it is worth it to drive past elk for Southern NY?
According to the locals there are usually a lot of bumps at Elk. Unfortunately for me they all had to be groomed because of last weeks rain event. One of the guys I talked to said the troughs were really rutted and you could see some grass starting to peek through. I can imagine what runoff would do in a situation like that so I guess I can forgive them for the grooming. As for steepness I would say its probably steeper than the blacks at Whitetail (havent been to Liberty or Roundtop) and maybe a bit longer. The mountain definitely skies bigger than Whitetail does. Although Im kinda anti-Whitetail (familiarity sometimes breeds contempt) so there could be some bias there.
I have never skied up in the Catskills (went to Gore once) so I cant really compare them with the weather at Elk. I would imagine they receive similar weather patterns though. The big drawback for me in the Catskills is the thought of skiing on a hill jammed with 212s (no offense to anyone here). Elk doesnt get huge crowds even on busy days. I did check mapquest and it said Hunter > Elk was about 2:30 using mostly back roads.
pig, nice coverage of one of my favorite mountains in PA. The wife and I used to take a late february trip to the poconos, Elk, Hunter each year but got out of doing that when we bought realestate at t-line. The drive time estimation between Elk and Hunter is close. It took us about 3 hrs the last time we did it, but that was with 55mph speed limits. Sort of date me, huh? Another nice area is Jack Frost. We used to love to go there and ski the east mountain where there were some good black runs.
That is a part of the country where you could ski 5-6 areas in one day and not break a sweat.