When it comes to skiing getaways in the Northeast, we’re used to hearing about the best resorts in New Hampshire and Vermont. From Okemo to Killington, there are certain household names that attract skiers from all over the region. But what about the folks a little farther south in, say, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Baltimore or Washington D.C.? A trip up to New Hampshire or Vermont is a haul and for most, far too much to ask even for a long weekend.
Luckily, there’s plenty of top-notch skiing options within striking distance. The heart of it all is the Pocono Mountain Range running North to South through northeastern Pennsylvania. Just a short drive from Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York City, the region’s resorts are much more conveniently located. The resorts in the Poconos are great for weekend getaways that provide plenty of powder but cut the hassle that comes with loading up the car and driving all the way to New Hampshire or Vermont. According to our calculations, more time on the slopes and less time on the road is a winning ratio. So for those looking for an easier way to hit the slopes, here are our picks for the top ski resorts in Pennsylvania.
1. Blue Mountain
Blue Mountain is the hands-down champion of Pennsylvania skiing and is probably the only mountain that can compete with the likes of Loon and Killington in terms of elite skiing. With a 1,082-foot vertical drop, 39 different runs and 16 lifts, there’s plenty of ground to cover. The level of difficulty varies so groups that want to split up to cover easier or harder runs won’t have any issues. Just an hour and a half from Philly and just over two hours from New York City, you can easily make Blue Mountain a day trip. If you don’t feel like getting up early you can always ski a half day and get a pass for night skiing.
2. Elk Mountain
Elk Mountain is for skiers and snowboarders looking to get away from the crowds. Located further north than many of the other popular resorts in the Poconos, Elk Mountain feels more remote and offers a more authentic experience. With 27 runs, a vertical drop almost as big as Blue Mountain’s, and a slight tilt in favor of more challenging runs, we love Elk Mountain’s formula. The two terrain parks and night skiing options are nice bonuses as well.
3. Montage Mountain
Home to the second-steepest run on the entire East coast, Montage Mountain might have the widest range of difficulty of any mountain on our list. While the highest percentage of runs are for beginners, 15 percent of the mountain is devoted to double blacks, so expert skiers will have plenty to keep them on their toes. For those looking to learn to ski to the veterans looking for a little challenge, everyone will be entertained. And for those looking for other unique experiences outside of hitting the slopes, Montage is home to the fastest snow tubing lanes in the state. It’s also the only mountain offering air boarding, which is essentially tackling a ski run on an inflatable board, not unlike those used for boogie boarding.
4. Jack Frost Big Boulder
Jack Frost and Big Boulder are actually two separate mountains under the same ownership and both are accessible with one lift ticket. The two-for-one combination alone is reason enough for JFBB to earn a spot on our list. Jack Frost offers more traditional runs for those focused on speed and downhill skiing. Big Boulder is a little more of a twist in that it’s designed to cater to snowboarders and those interested in terrain parks. Over half the mountain is terrain parks, so crowds can be entertained all day. JFBB is perfect for families who always have arguments about what mountain to hit — here everyone can go their separate ways and choose their runs.
5. Blue Knob
Blue Knob is an exception on our list as it’s located farther west closer to Pittsburgh. It’s also the highest skiable mountain in the state and offers 34 runs that cover a vertical drop almost as large as Blue Mountain’s. For those in the greater Pittsburgh area, or for students at nearby Penn State, Blue Knob is ideal. Forty-four percent of all runs are either black or double black diamonds, meaning those looking for a challenge won’t be disappointed. Another 41 percent are blues for people not quite up for the mountain’s toughest challenges. Lift tickets are extremely affordable, costing around $40.
If your family wants to invest in a season pass but dreads the frequent trips up north to New Hampshire and Vermont, Pennsylvania ski resorts are the perfect in between. They’re conveniently located, family-friendly, and an easy way to get out of the city and spend a weekend on the slopes. Sounds ideal to us.