Steep Terrain & Narrow Chutes for Good Skiers
Never Opens the Good Stuff
I've been waiting all Winter for this place to open up some of the Mid-Atlantic's steepest and most skier savvy terrain. I waited and waited watching the weather like a hawk until I finally picked my weekend. Friday, February 6th. I had done all my research and chose Blue Knob because they had gotten 3 solid days of snow earlier in the week and saw a picture showing someone crashing through about a foot of powder. Everything I had read so far indicated that the resort had not had this good of conditions in years. They also appeared to have most of their advanced terrain open. So I committed and drove the 2.75 hours from DC on that Friday morning to see for myself.
Right when I walked into the place, all the reviews I had read were confirmed. The lodge is very very outdated. I could probably build something better with 6 buddies over a summer. But I won't dwell too much on this because I don't mind a crappy lodge, I came here to ski advanced terrain. If you're looking for alternative activities (family-style)to do over a multi-day escape, then this not the place I would recommend.
My first run down I passed over the groomers to head straight for the blacks. I went straight to Stembogan Bowl. I must admit, I was very disappointed when I stopped on the edge of the bowl to find lots of dirt, rocks, and produce sticking out of the ground. I wondered where all that snow they just got went? It hadn't gotten above 20 degrees all week! Also the "bowl" is only a bowl in that it has the concave shape of about a third of a bowl. It is in no way representative of a real bowl. It is very very short. In other words, you're at the bottom in 6-7 turns. I was really looking forward to moguls all over the bowl but there were very few widely spaces mounds with ice in between instead. The bowl empties into a long twisting run which is still labeled as a black diamond but I think it's only a black because it's kind of narrow. Nothing really challenging about it. On my next trip down I got off at mid-station because I saw some bumps at the top of Extrovert that looked like they might be fun. And they were, all 9 moguls of them. Very very icy in between but the bumps themselves were cushy. After the top segment, however, there was nothing below the lift but icy flats and a few big mounds of hard icy pack. I was a little disappointed that the bumps only last a few short turns. The next time up I was going to try some of their glades or other adanced terrain. Only, there wasn't any other advanced terrain open. So I skied Stembogan once more and hit mostly Extrovert for the rest of the day. Well, needless to say, I was a little disappointed with the conditions. I had waited all winter for a dump of fresh snow and I showed up with their "best conditions in years" and got a load of icy hard pack. And no real bumps to speak of. At the bottom of my runs I would look up at some of their closed trails and wonder how in the heck they would ever be open in any winter if they weren't open now. They looked like fun runs, glades, narrow chutes. But they hadn't been open all year and even after the rare three day snow storm/bitter cold weather, they still weren't open. This tells me that for this place to be really fun, they need a 10 year storm to blow through and even then, you'll probably get 3 days of great skiing in on great terrain. However, for 80% of the winter it seems that Blue Knob will likely be icy and mostly closed.
I was fortunate to share a chair with Blue Knob's new General Manager. He is an extremely friendly guy. And let me tell you, he is a real skier! It's been a long time since I had to work hard to keep up with someone. This guy could really ski! He took me on a little tour of Blue Knob as he'd been skiing there for 40 years. He showed me some of the fun stuff that most intermediate skiers might miss or skimp out on. I could see how, given the right conditions, Blue Knob would likely be the best place to go within one-days driving distance from DC. The GM was a very enthusiastic guy and I could tell that he wants everyone to know what he knows about Blue Knob. That it's a fantastic place to ski. Hopefully he'll be able to ramp up their snowmaking capacity to keep some of the their good terrain open all year. Overall, I was very impressed with his attitude towards the ski area, and I think he'll do a great job in the coming seasons.
This place has the best steeps in the region. Their terrain features narrow chutes and glades. However, they never seem to open any of their more challenging terrain, even during peak season. I can see how this place would be a great skier's mountain given the right conditions. But apparently the right conditions is asking a lot. I think it's cool that this place can say they rely on more natural snowfall, and they generally get more of it than most places, but it's disappointing that 75% of the fun stuff never opens during prime season. Unless there is a ridiculous amount of snowfall and you've had a friend head up there to confirm it, I would suggest driving elsewhere. Two advanced runs are not worth the drive. Maybe next year...I am ever hopeful.