You just know it's going to be a good snow sports season when ski resorts open by Thanksgiving. Blue Mountain Ski Area near Palmerton and Bear Creek Mountain Resort near Macungie both opened well ahead of the mid-December curve this season, and the public has flocked to both mountains with an almost religious fervor.
With snowfalls and frigid temperatures blanketing our region, snow making has produced some great conditions locally and throughout the Poconos, putting Pennsylvania on a par with Colorado and Vermont in terms of opening date and skiable days so far.
A special ad campaign by the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau in the metro New York City and Philadelphia areas has produced an average of 9,500 unique daily visitors to its PoconosMountains.com website as the winter weather has piqued the interest in skiing or vacationing in the Poconos
With all the snowfall, even cross-country skiers and snow-shoe enthusiasts have been hitting the area trails. My wife, Lois, and I had the good fortune to take advantage of the conditions last Saturday.
While Lois cross-country skied on the D&L trail, I kept up along side her by snow-shoeing for the first time. While I wasn't getting the upper body workout of cross-country skiing, I was definitely hitting the aerobic — and at times anaerobic — phase of exercise.
Skiing and snowboarding provide a different kind of workout, one that hits a strange mix of anaerobic power turns and aerobic run lengths. The best thing about those sports, just like with snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing, is that you can go as hard and fast, or as gentle and slow, as you like for maximum enjoyment.
It's an aspect everyone should experience at some time.
Skiers and snowboarders are already converts to snow sports, but they also have a chance to share their love of carving and shredding with newcomers.
The annual Kids Ski Free for 4th & 5th Graders program of the Pennsylvania Ski Association (www.skipa.com) allows students in those grades to ski for free at 21 ski resorts in Pennsylvania, including all of our local mountains from Bear Creek through the Poconos.
The program is pretty simple. Once you register your child, you receive a Snowpass that even allows for a free learn-to-ski lesson complete with rentals.
Children in fourth and fifth grades who are registered and receive the vouchers can then ski for free (with a paying adult who counts for two Snowpass holders) three times at each of the participating mountains, plus the free lesson.
New for this season, if the accompanying adult hasn't been on the slopes before, they will receive a 50 percent discount on a first-time package, which includes beginner lift, lesson and rental equipment.
You must register for the 4th and 5th grade program, and it does cost $30 to register, but for the chance to ski 64 times, it's an incredible value. It's even an incredible value if you only get to go to Bear Creek and Blue Mountain, because that's six potential outings.
Go online to the skipa.com website for registration details.
Learn to ski and board program at Blue: Blue Mountain isn't doing Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month just one better, it's doing it two months better, weather permitting. The Palmerton ski resort is holding Learn to Ski & Snowboard programs every Sunday in January, February, and for the first time, if weather cooperates, in March.
The price of the first- time, one-time learn to ski or board package is $35 and includes all rentals, a lesson and access to three school hills. Lessons are offered in a station format 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Blackout dates for the packages are Jan. 19 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend) and Feb. 16 (Presidents' Day weekend).
Camelback offers terrain-based learning: Camelback Mountain resort is celebrating its 50th season in a variety of ways, including the announcement that it is dedicated to maintaining its status as a four-season resort.
In December, Camelback announced that it will begin construction on a $163-million, eight-story 453-room lodge and indoor water park in the spring of 2015.
This snow sports season, however, it is offering the state's first Terrasin-based learning program, which is designed to help beginning skiers and boarder learn terrain by using its new mini-pipes, rollers, banked turns and perfect pitch slope.
To take advantage of this learn-terrain, Camelback has debuted its Explorer Card, which is good for three group lessons, three all-day lower mountain beginner terrain lift tickets and three all-day ski or snowboard equipment rental packages for $129 through Feb. 9. The price for a single-day individual sessions is $52, so the three-day package offers a $27 savings.
Racing at Shawnee this weekend: NASTAR, the National Recreational Racing Series, gives every day skiers and snowboarders of all ages the thrill of racing. Shawnee Mountain is hosting NASTAR racing this weekend. Call 570-421-7231 ext. 249 for details and the race schedule.
Montage Mountain is back: Montage Mountain, which began as Montage and then changed its name to Sno Mountain, is back to calling itself Montage Mountain. Montage is hosting an American Ski Racing Alliance (ASRA) race on the Switch Trail this Saturday with registration beginning at 8 a.m. and racing at 10 a.m.
Contact Montage at 570-969-7669 or 1-855-754-7946 for details.
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