You aren’t likely to see elk at Elk Mountain Ski Resort in northeast Pennsylvania, but skiers and boarders will find a respectful amount of snow, easy-to-follow trails, and well-groomed cruising runs.
The single-face mountain’s 27 trails include 40 percent expert, 35 percent intermediate, and 25 percent novice. There are also two snowboard parks, Stomping Grounds and Little Foot. On average, the north-facing, 660-acre mountain receives up to 50 inches of the natural stuff a year, and the resort’s snow guns can cover up to 95 percent of the trails.
Privately owned Elk hosts thousands of day-trip visitors and overnight guests every year, and the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau can help with information on stay-and-ski packages. Readers of SnowEast! magazine ranked Elk fifth among their favorite classic resorts in 2014.
Insider tip: There is lodging as close as 2 miles from the resort, but at least 16 hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and country inns are located within 30 minutes of the resort, which is about 4-1/2 hours from Washington, D.C.
Elk Mountain’s amenities:
For a Mid-Atlantic mountain, Elk has a lot to offer.
“People drive by several Pennsylvania mountains that are closer to home just to ski Tunkhannock, probably the best bump run in the state,” one skier commented. Tunkhannock and a short mogul field, Chippewa, are considered among the tougher challenges at Elk Mountain. The two mogul fields are named for Native American tribes, a practice that extends to most of the other trails.
Built in the early 1960s, Elk Mountain’s lodge shows its age well. It’s still modern, airy and spacious; the cafeteria’s grub is tasty and reasonably priced. Outside, visitors can bring food to a small lodge for indoor picnics, which is a thoughtful touch.
Among my favorite runs was the Mahican, starting from the 2,700-foot summit down to Kickapoo with curve after curve to the bottom of the lift. Another winner was Tecumseh, with a long steep pitch and slightly groomed.
The Seneca heads down from the summit below the towers of the east chair double and, except for a few icy patches, isn’t too tough. To start the day, get your ski or snowboard legs on the Delaware, a mellow intermediate, then tackle Wissahoneck, another long cruising run.
There is no on-mountain real estate, which adds to Elk’s appeal. If isolation is your thing, Elk’s pristine location is far from I-81 and any major commercial development. On the access road to Elk are the Idlewild Ski Shop, Guenthers Ski Haus, an inn, a convenience store, and a gas station, but not much else.
An adult mid-week lift ticket costs $53 to ski from 8:30am to 4:30pm; the half-day rate is $39 to ski until noon. Prices are slightly higher on weekends and holidays. Elk offers night skiing after Dec. 26 through the end of the season.
For the 2014-2015 season, the mountain expects to open Dec. 12, weather permitting.
Elk Mountain: elkskier.com
Endless Mountains Tourism: endlessmountains.org