If you’re looking for an East coast ski hill north of DC and south of New England, Elk Mountain offers just about the most vertical (1000’, second in PA only to Blue Knob’s 1072’) and varied and challenging terrain you’ll find in the region. Most importantly, it consistently offers the best snow in the area. Elk is a throwback mountain in character and style, with an authenticity worn in from having been around since 1959. Where Killington often bills itself as Aspen East, Elk mountain has the warm, carefree, wood-paneled 70’s style that makes it something of a Jay Peak south.
Located about 2 hours north of Philadelphia and 2.5 hours from New York City, Elk is accessible to the region’s major metropolitan centers, but seems to be just far enough away to avoid getting overrun by Philly and New York daytrippers. Elk is nestled in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, and holds 27 trails on 140 acres, and a grand new Stompin’ Grounds terrain park. Elk runs five double chairs, and one fixed grip quad; four of these, including the quad, take you from the base to the summit, allowing for continuous top to bottom runs across the mountain’s entire terrain. The mix of trails at Elk allows all levels of expertise to be entertained, from novice greenies to those looking for some steep thrills.
Eleven of the 27 trails are expert, 10 are intermediate cruisers, 6 are for beginners, and seven trails are lit for night skiing, including the terrain park. This abundance of variety for advanced skiers and riders is superior in the eastern Pennsylvania region, and is complimented by multiple longer, winding routes which are the appeal of Elk for many regulars. Beginners can explore green top to bottom runs on their own, or enlist in Elk’s certified learn to ski and ride programs. Throw in the Stompin’ Grounds park, with multiple kickers, rails, and boxes, and you’ve got a complete mountain.
Elk has sufficient off-mountain amenities; the base complex features a large day lodge, all guest services, the ski school center, the Winter Garden Restaurant and Bar, rentals, and a ski and board shop. As a resort, however, Elk is limited by a lack of après ski offerings and mountain-accessible lodging. There’s no lodging on the mountain itself, and limited offerings within ten miles. The best options are Oliveri’s Crystal Lake Hotel, the Stonebridge Inn and Restaurant, both within 10 miles, and several smaller B&Bs that can be sifted through on Elk’s website.
What ultimately separates Elk, however, is the snow. As any skier knows, the snow makes the experience. Without sufficient snow cover, the best mountains are little more than frustration, while enough soft whiteness can make a steep back hill a great run. Elk’s snow quality and grooming have been ranked the best in PA by Ski Magazine readers for two years running, and ranked in the top 10 in all the East. And while they get 5 feet of natural snow annually, at Elk’s latitude these days, the rave reviews frankly mean that they know how to make the stuff. Elk cover’s 100% of its terrain with snowmaking, and makes the most of it with excellent grooming. The result is that if it’s cold enough, they’re skiing. If you’re in the neighborhood and looking for the place to carve some satisfying turns, Elk is the place to get your fix.