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5 places to hit the slopes

PHOTO PROVIDED Ski Sawmill Resort in Morris offers downhill skiing and snowboarding.

 There are countless places for central Pennsylvania skiers to hit the slopes and many are just a short drive in any direction. Although we’ve touched on only five here, there are many more that offer their own unique experience.

Nina Waskevich, vice president of brand and membership at AAA North Penn in South Williamsport said that there isn’t a particular resort that offers the “best slopes” since the choice is so dependent on the individual. But there is something for everyone in the northeast and central Pennsylvania area, from beginners to the very advanced. When considering a ski resort, she offered the following considerations: proximity to home, total number of slopes, slope length, skill level, ages of participants and amenities offered by the resort. “Of course, making sure there is fresh-packed snow,” Waskevich added.

There are various reasons why so many look forward to this wintertime activity, but either way you look at it, one thing holds true. “It is a great way to stay in shape because it requires your whole body to move,” Waskevich said. “It’s also a great cardiovascular activity.”

Skiing is also a great way to take in the beautiful views on mountain peaks that may not have been experienced otherwise, offering a way to enjoy a different side of nature. In addition, it’s a social activity that opens doors to spending time with friends or family.

“Skiing is a very social experience and very diverse activity,” Waskevich said. “As a couple, you can enjoy the slopes, have a nice dinner in the lodge and maybe stay the night in a cabin. Many also ski in groups in which the activity could become a group challenge, or you can split up into groups based on your proficiency as a skier.” 

No matter the direction you’re looking to travel, we’ve compiled a few of the most important details for popular ski facilities in roughly a two-hour drive or less.

 

 Crystal Lake Ski and Outdoor Center

1716 Crystal Lake, Road, Hughesville

Crystal Lake Ski and Outdoor Center has been in business since 1971 and Linden Jennings, marketing and outreach coordinator, said that although there are no downhill slopes, there are surprises for those seeking a bit of a thrill.

Nestled in the mountains along the edge of Lycoming County, the mission of Crystal Lake is to “promote, protect, and enhance the over half a century tradition of family friendly cross-country skiing and other outdoor recreation opportunities in its unique ‘snow bowl’ of northcentral Pennsylvania.”

Proximity to home – About 45 minutes. 

Total number of slopes – This cross-country ski facility has trails with small drops and steeper ones for more advanced skiers. 

Slope length – There are 25 miles of trails with 15 miles groomed for classic cross-country and a few groomed for skate skiing. There are also snowshoe trails but they are ungroomed. 

Ski level – Trails range from beginner to experienced. 

Recommended age – All ages are welcome from young children to seniors. 

Lodging – Various styles of cabins are available for any size group, as well as, a large lodge with a cozy and rustic aesthetic.  

Amenities – Included are ski and boot rentals, snowshoe rentals, ski lessons, groomed cross-country ski trails, designated snowshoe trails, lake views and ski center to enjoy a bite to eat.

Hours of operations – Opening day is dependent on snow conditions but typically opens in early December. 

Ski Sawmill Resort

383 Oregon Hill Road, Morris

J. Michael Knefley, general manager and part owner, said that Ski Sawmill has been in operation since 1969. As with most businesses, the coronavirus pandemic has created some uncertainties for the ski facility but Knefley said the only anticipated changes would occur within the inside spaces, such as the lodge and eating areas. “The good news is, most of what we do is outside, which has been found to be much safer than in enclosed areas.” he said. 

Proximity to home – About 50 minutes

Total number of slopes – There are13 slopes and trails, along with a terrain park with jumps and rails and a snow tubing park.

Slope length – Slopes vary in length and difficulty with a vertical elevation of 515 feet.

Skill level – The facility offers several black diamond slopes, as well as, a Terrain Park for those wanting to take it to the next level and a dedicated area for beginners to learn how to ski and snowboard.

Recommended age –  All ages are welcome.

Lodging – The Mountain Inn includes 10 rooms and the Group Mountain Lodge can sleep up to 88 people or as little as 15. A small chalet at the base of the slopes offers ski in and ski out service and the resort’s farmhouse can sleep up to 32 people.  

Amenities – There are ski and snowboard rentals, a full-service kitchen, coffee shop and a full staff of ski and snowboard instructors.

Hours of operation – Lodging is open year-round, and the facility looks to start making snow towards the middle to end of November. The resort is open, typically, around the first to third weekend of December.  

Tussey Mountain Ski and Recreation

301 Bear Meadows Road, Boalsburg

Tussey Mountain’s marketing director, Aaron Weynan, said that the facility opened in the 1970s. This year’s ski season will likely operate under some limitations, such as required masks, social distancing and a reduction of people on chair lifts or inside the restaurant. Weynan said though that shouldn’t affect what the facility can offer.  

With State College just about 15 minutes away, Weynan said there is plenty to do off the slopes, as well.

“Our area offers lots of hiking trails, biking trails, downtown State College, movie theaters and plenty of hotels.”

Proximity to home – About 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Total number of slopes – 12 runs

Slope length – 500-foot vertical drop

Skill level – Any.

Recommended age – Any 

Lodging – None, but there is nearby lodging in State College. 

Amenities – There is a bar, restaurant and ski shop. 

Hours of operation – Typically opening in December. Weynan said “It’s all weather dependent.”

 

Blue Knob All Seasons Resort

1424 Overland Pass, Claysburg

Donna Himes, marketing director and brand manager, called Blue Knob “the highest skiable mountain in Pennsylvania, with an elevation of 3,146 feet. Only Mount Davis in Somerset County is higher – by 47 feet – but that mountain is a plateau and not skiable,” Himes said. With a vertical drop of 1,074 feet and an average of 10 to 12 feet of snow in a normal winter, there is plenty of thrill offered here.  

Proximity to home –  About 1 hour, 44 minutes

Total number of slopes – 34

Slope length – The longest is two miles. 

Skill level – Beginner to advanced

Recommended age – 4 and up

Lodging – Blue Knob offers condominium lodging at the resort and private residences are available as rentals.

Amenities – There is an indoor swimming pool and hot tub for lodging guests, a restaurant & sports bar at the Alpine Village and Mueller’s Pub in the Summit Lodge.

Hours of operation – Check tusseymountain.com for details.

 

 Camelback Mountain Resort

193 Resort Drive, Tannersville

This is one of the furthest ski resorts but well worth the trip since this resort even offers a full service spa to soothe those aching muscles after a day on the slopes.

Proximity to home – About 2 hours.

Total number of slopes – Camelback offers 166 acres of skiable acreage, 39 total trails and 16 lifts.

Slope length – 800-foot vertical rise

Skill level – Easy to difficult

Recommended age – Any but height requirements are in place for Camelback snowtubing.

Lodging – Guests can stay at Camelback Lodge, which houses the year-round Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark.

Amenities – In addition to its ski accommodations and waterpark, the resort has 42 tubing lanes, the Indoor Adventure Course and Rock Climbing Wall, spa, Mountain Adventures park and multiple places for a bite to eat.

Hours of operation – Check online for more information at camelbackresort.com.

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