Pennsylvania's Blue Mt. Opened Before Thanksgiving For First Time In 38 Years
The Philadelphia Inquirer, a week before Thanksgiving Day, devoted two pages to a comprehensive story on where to ski in western U.S. and Canada. It merited a “Wish I had said that” note to Bob Ecker, of California and a fellow member of the Society of American Travel Writers.
His story got juices flowing for skiers who will visit glamorous venues of the West. Thousands of members have signed up for trips sponsored by ski clubs.
But here I was in Pennsylvania, jealous of skiers already cavorting on western slopes, while here we had only two places in the state that were open for business.
Big Boulder was operating one lift on one trail; Blue Mountain, a much larger area, welcomed early birds to 11 of its 39 trails and four of 16 lifts.
For Blue Mt. it was the first time in 38 years that it was open before Turkey Day, despite early spewing of man-made snow. Management was eager to trade on its reputation as having the highest vertical drop in the state at 1082 feet.
Other resorts soon chimed in, getting special help from a natural snowfall that dropped five inches of snow a day before the holiday. All Pennsylvanians then had places to play, and Blue would attract a good share of them.
Blue Mt. was originally known as Little Gap, until research told management that it was a self-effacing name.
During its early period I was marketing director of a large dairy and the resort was a major customer. We had a quid pro quo arrangement: we promoted the ski area on side panels of milk cartons.
On a personal basis, it has been one of my favorite playgrounds during four decades. It is only an hour and a half drive from my home in suburban Philadelphia.
Blue was one of the early areas to have electronic ticketing and offer a free season pass for skiers older than 70. It has interesting trails: two black diamond drops, a terrain park, mogul fields, long runs and a marvelous six-passenger detachable chairlift. The chair is 50 yards from the base lodge.
This Challenge chair speeds above the black trails and offers skiers several choices back down, including a wide leisurely run favored by senior citizens. (When at home older guys and gals are encouraged to rise slowly from a chair in the living room in order to avoid getting light-headed).
That’s not easy to do from a moving ski lift, unless it’s a detachable, such as the Challenge. It slows down at the top and doesn’t discharge you with a bang.
This winter Blue Mountain will have cruising seniors, its aggressive schusers and hordes of kids who keep the place hopping in popular after-dark school programs
Its 21 slides in the tubing park will continue to be a major family attraction.
Blue is a year-round resort with enticing activities in other seasons. Management has various plans for a water park and hotel and technical improvements, including a co-generation power plant.
In future stories, I’ll write about other popular Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic areas, such as Seven Springs, Camelback, Elk Mt. and the three Snow Time resorts of Roundtop, Liberty and Whitetail.
Photo: Blue Mt. is Pennsylvania's highest peak (Blue Mt.)