My wife and I went up to the Poconos last week and stayed at a timeshare property at Shawnee. I wanted to get three days of skiing in while we were up there, but also needed to make sure I didn't leave my wife stranded too long since she doesn't ski. I also like variety, so I wanted to ski at a different place everyday I skied.
On Tuesday, our first full day in the Poconos, my wife told me she had enough stuff to keep her well occupied for the day, so if I wanted to go some where far away, this was the day to do it. So with permission to be away for awhile I jumped in the car and headed off to Elk.
From Shawnee, Elk is about an hour and 20 minute drive, and well worth it for a day of skiing. Elk is a big mountain for Pa, with 1000ft of vertical and a good number of ways down the hill. It is the only place I skied at during the week where it felt like I could keep finding great new ways to get down the mountain.
The snow conditions at Elk were the best I encountered, with a little layer of powder on the top of the trails and with one exception, no ice to be found on the trails. It also felt like I had the mountain to myself. There was never a line at the lifts and I'd usually only see one or two other skiers on the trails as I went down. The only problems at Elk that day was that it was really cold and windy. The wind made the two feeder blue runs on the west side of the mountain almost unbearable to be on and you could see the wind blowing the powder off the trail as you skied. Still, one of my favorite runs was Wyalusing, which is a black diamond that is the first trail down the mountain off the one feeder blue.
A couple pictures from Elk:
The next day I needed to stay a little bit closer to Shawnee so I could get back in time to do somethings with my wife in the late afternoon. With that in mind, I decided to hit Jack Frost, which was about 45 minutes away.
At first Jack Frost was a bit of a disappointment, but then I guess any place with only 600ft of vertical would be after skiing at Elk the day before. I started off on some of the blue runs to warm up and they seemed a bit easy to be blues and the runs felt very short. However, I then discovered the east side of the mountain and the story really changed. Jack Frost is set up with the easiest terrain on the west side and it get's progressively harder as you move to the east. Once you get to the last couple of trails to the east, you find some really nice, hard trails with some very steep, (but short) sections to them. Once I got on these trails, I was glad I made the trip to Jack Frost.
The conditions at Jack Frost were also excellent. All the trails were hardpack and groomed nicely. No ice was to be found. The area was a little more crowded than Elk, but there still was never any real wait at the lifts and only a few people sharing any trail with you. Jack Frost is also one of the only places to have glade skiing in the area and also the only in the Poconos with a ski anywhere policy. While I didn't leave the named trails, I saw several people skiing through the woods and some following a very narrow path where the expert ski lift was. The best run was to take Telstar or White lighting to River shot. One of the photos below is a shot from near the top of River shot.
Jack Frost photos:
On our last full day in the Poconos, I decided to try Camelback. The main reasons for trying it was that it was close to Shawnee, only a half hour away, and the outlets and Mt Airy casino were close by so my wife would have something to do while I was skiing.
Camelback surprised me. When I first looked at there trail map and saw all the green circles on it, I thought it would be a boring mountain. However, they've got some really steep trails and the greens provide a nice run off from the steeper trails above. Marjie's Delight was a really nice black run and the blue next to it, Big Pocono Run, was steep enough to be a single diamond at some of the local hills. The place ski's bigger than it's 830ft vertical and you have a fair number of ways down the mountain.
The conditions at Camelback were good, but there was significant ice on a couple of the intermediate trails. It seemed that conditions were a bit different on almost every trail I went down, with the harder trails having the best conditions. Also, while I was there on a Thursday, the place started to feel a little crowded. The only had two lifts running to the top of the mountain, so there was always a line at the lifts, however the lines moved very fast as both lifts where high speed detachable quads. Once you got off the lift, there would be a little bit of congestion along the top of the mountain feeder runs, but it wasn't bad once you started down the mountain. The black runs were pretty empty and the blues had some people on them, but never enough to feel crowded. Still, with it having as many skiers on a weekday as they did, I'd never go there on a weekend or holiday. I'm sure Camelback is a madhouse during peak skiing times.
And that's it for the trip report. I wish I had a chance to hit Sno Mountain when I was up there, but I was going to have to miss somewhere with only three days to go. It also feels a little strange to not have tried Shawnee since it was where we were staying, but it seemed like a mountain geared more for beginners. Perhaps I'll hit these two places on my next trip up.