After 50 Years: Camelback, Roundtop Resorts Look Ahead And Back
You’re never too old to enjoy birthday parties. It was great fun this winter to help celebrate the 50th anniversaries of two prominent ski resorts in Pennsylvania, Camelback in the Pocono Mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania and Roundtop below the state capital Harrisburg.
Fun-filled with bonus memories because I have followed their growth during five decades. I joined 350 employees, officials and friends in Camelback Lodge for a gala evening saluting the past and heralding a dramatic future.
Camelback is a year-round resort that attracts a million visitors. They ski and snowboard in winter and swim and ride or slide in summer when the area is magically transformed into “Camelbeach” waterpark.
The beat goes on. In the Spring of 2015, the owners expect to become the most interactive resort in the country. They are building an eight-story, 453-suite lodge and indoor waterpark. It’s a capital improvement projected to cost $163 million.
The audience at the party, when they weren’t dancing or munching, heard details and aspirations from co-owners Art Berry III and Ken Ellis. They called former president Sam Newman to the podium to dip into the past and salute employees for their contributions to Camelback’s growth.
Sam had spent 40 years with the resort, initially as its attorney, and 20 years as president before he and his board sold it to Berry and Ellis seven years ago.
As I listened to Sam I mentally skied down memory lane. I had been an observer for all 50 years, watching changes and enjoying the ski area as it got bigger and better. For some of those years I was on the board of the Pennsylvania Winter Sports Museum, which is headquartered at Camelback.
Sam always provided interesting copy for a reporter. I remember his help when I was doing a piece for a trade magazine about a then new attraction called “snow tubing.” He felt strongly that every ski resort had to consider having a tubing park. Today Camelback’s tubing park is one of the largest in the country.
The Saturday night anniversary party included exciting fireworks with many oohs, ahs and bangs. I left early so that I could beat the huge crowd of skiers and riders Sunday morning. I spent a couple of hours in bright sun on groomed trails, before driving around the construction site and envisioning how it will look next year.
The Roundtop anniversary party was also an exciting event. Connie and I went to the 50th birthday celebration at Roundtop in Lewisberry earlier in the season. It was snowing, but not on the roads. Snow guns were coating trails, with the staff working for an early start to the season.
It was an ideal background for a elaborate dinner in the main lodge, with more than 230 in attendance. Half of them were long-term employees who had contributed to the growth of the Snow Time Company, which also own Liberty and Whitetail resorts.
Tributes flowed like wine. Many individuals were saluted, including: past mangers and volunteer patrollers. Some of them I knew personally. Officers and board members made presentations. Highlight of the evening was a 17-minute video of company history, with exciting shots of skiers and comments from legendary Roundtop personalities.
Star of the video -- and the evening -- was Irvin Naylor, the visionary who founded the company in 1963 and led it ever since. The video has much about skiing, but it calls attention to summer activities that make Roundtop a year-round resort.
This was a pleasure for me; I was present at the 25th birthday party of the resort and also saw Irv occasionally. I wrote a profile of him for a skiing magazine, cruised with him when Snow Time owned Windham resort in the Catskills. I was the emcee when Irv was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Pennsylvania Winter Sports Museum.
It was heartwarming to see how the audience responded after the video and Irv’s live comments.
A disk of the video was included in a parting gift to all attendees. I have viewed it several times. On our cocktail table at home is another gift: a hardcover book of color photographs that chronicle many milestones.
The cover has a gold circle: Roundtop Mountain Resort, 50 Seasons of Excellence, 1964 – 2014. Inside is a quote by Irvin S. Naylor: “We’re probably the only ski area in America that’s 50 years old, that’s still owned by its founder and still operated by its founder and his family.”
A proud statement with an inherent tribute to all his employees along the way.
Photo: Roundtop in Pennsylvania on snowy day (Roundtop/Facebook)