I will try to give an unbiased review of Elk Mountain in Union Dale, PA
It may seem negative, but it’s really just unbiased.
I will say that Elk's location is great for the weather, it is considerably colder at Elk than other PA resorts.
Elk's terrain is fairly diverse, not much steep stuff, and not a lot of true beginner slopes either, I feel most fits into the intermediate category, but it is PA, so that is to be expected as far as nothing very steep.
I do not eat in the cafeteria or bar regularly, but the cafeteria is fairly reasonably priced, not cheap, but reasonable. Bar is ok, I have had some food there, was not overly impressed.
There is no nightlife at Elk, and no larger hotels very close that I am aware of.
Parking is okay, but most of the time, you must ride a shuttle up with all of your gear, other mountains are the same way, so that’s really not a pro or con. with a season pass, you may walk onto a slope, which is nice, saved us a lot of time this year.
I think Elk generally has a more laid back feel than some of the other resorts, but I have also found that to be slightly annoying regarding lift lines. On busy weekends, the lift attendants do not really do a whole lot as far as directing people, it is a free for all, for 10 or so people at a time at the main lifts near the lodge. And the quad, is not too bad, but they have also asked doubles to wait and let a party of 4 go up, which is not right, they should pair doubles up with another double or singles, or if there is none, they just go to keep it moving.
Another thing about the lift lines, more so than any other resort I have ever been to, mainly children, but adults also, a lot of people have no concept of their surroundings in lift lines, and regularly run into or slide into or stand on other people's equipment, which we politely ask that they stop, usually they do not get it after the first request though. I only mention this as I have never experienced this as much at other resorts. Some people like me, care about their equipment and do not want it scratched or beat up in a lift line.
The trails we found to be the best consistently this year were: Mohawk, Iroquois and Tuscarora, I think because the sun does not get to them as much, and they do not get skied all that much.
Grooming is okay at best, usually you can see and tell where each cat made a pass, and there are small ridges between each track, but again its PA, to be expected somewhat.
Snowmaking system… most powerful in MidAtlantic? Maybe it pumps the most water, but the snowmaking guns are outdated. Also, I have called different times this past season (11/12) to check to see what they made snow on, to see if it was worth it to go up or not, and the lady in the office said: “well they can only make so much snow at one time” when asked why they only made snow on the beginner trails near lodge, and one other trail. Sno Mtn and Camelback routinely turn on nearly every snow gun on their mountains.
Lifts, old doubles for looker’s left of mountain and a quad and double for looker’s right, all are slow. Cushions/seats are in good condition.
Generally there are not lift lines, but on the average weekend there is a short line, and on president’s weekend, lines were quite lengthy at times.
Management/Money, I was pretty frustrated with the management this year, they seemed to only care about money. I realize they are a business and making profit is their goal, but a ski resort is also not a 1 year business plan, you take the good with the bad, last year was a great year, and the years previous were pretty good years around here for winter/skiing, last year, I felt they closed a little early, given weather and conditions. Anyway, this year, in January they had already pretty much given up on trying to keep conditions good. I realize we had a very bad and warm winter. And if every week/weekend was the same, I would not be complaining, but:
Our average weather this year was during the week was: some normal winter weather, some rain,(one day a week for a bunch of weeks), and back to normal or cold weather on a lot of weekends. It was strange how almost regular the winter was, that each week had almost the same weather. Colder weekends for the most part, with warmer weeks and a good amount of rain during the week. I realize that rain and warm temps are terrible for a ski area, however, they would also usually have a night or 2 of good cold temps to make more snow. On most weeks/weekends they did not do that, and just let it be frozen granular or loose granular. However, the week leading up to president’s weekend was almost the same as any other week, some normal winter weather, then we got some snow, followed up by rain with warmer temps, but somehow, they were able to make conditions great that weekend. They did what they said they couldn’t for the whole year before that. That just shows that they were neglecting it, and only wanted to do that for a money making weekend.
Also, at the end of the year, conditions starting the Saturday before they closed were bad, they had to pile snow just to get you to a lift, but they stayed open, even though the base area was pretty much bare, and slopes had bare spots and holes, I would *assume* to make 100 days so they met their quote. I would just have had more respect if they closed when conditions deteriorated, again money…
The commercials, like skiing in Vermont without the drive? Not even close, I assume most people know that already, but, again nothing is very steep, nowhere near as long as Vermont either. Elk has some *long* runs, but that’s because the top half of the run is pretty much flat, and really just a traverse to get to the steeper headwall.
On a good winter, Elk seems to be great, on a bad year, they do not try, Sno Mtn for example, although did not have as much snow or as good of a base, mainly due to location (weather), but they tried way harder, they made snow every chance they got to keep conditions as good as possible.