snow quality, lodge food
slow lifts, boring trails, small lodge, expensive, smaller than advertised vertical
“Best in Pennsylvania…” “Vermont-like snow and terrain…” “Worth the extra drive…”
Those are all quotes from previous skiers who reviewed Elk Mountain here on OnTheSnow.Com and they’re all sadly mistaken. Overall, Elk is a middle-of-the-road Pocono resort at best and considering it is the furthest north (two-and-a-half hours or more from Philadelphia and more than three hours from Manhattan), the mountain needs many more improvements before it is truly worth the extra travel time. Friendly skiers and good snow conditions are important, but a larger lodge, faster lifts, and new trails are three alterations that would have to be made before I go out of my way to ski Elk again.
Elk’s snow is very good. The commercials and online Elk aficionados certainly got that part right! Good grooming, a decent amount of natural snow, and scattered icy areas make skiing and snowboarding very enjoyable. Beginner and intermediate trails towards the sides of the mountain that were less wide open than others had somewhat Vermont-ish conditions, but icy spots towards the top of the mountain and on many of the steeps will jar you back to Pennsylvania reality.
Food prices were very reasonable. That’s important to me.
The Bad and The Ugly:
The lodge is fairly small and cramped. Like many other Pennsylvania resorts, Elk has the issue of skiers forgetting that their lockers and turning the floor into an obstacle course. Table space was at a premium, even on a Saturday that was moderately crowded at most.
It has been well documented here, but Elk’s lifts are horrendous. The three double chairs and a quad that traverse the mountain’s entire vertical face are mind-numbingly slow. More at Elk than at any other resort I’ve ever rode, I felt like I had traveled two-and-a-half hours to ride lifts all day (with just a little skiing in-between). I was tempted to hike back up at times!
I might have been able to stomach the lifts a little better if I didn’t pay such a premium to ride them. For a Saturday day pass, Elk charged $53, $53 that is obviously not going towards improving the lifts or lodge. I paid less than $100 to ride for two days at Okemo this year. After a college discount, nearby Blue Mountain charges $22 for a 6-hour night ticket and (even closer) Sno Mountain charges only $40 for an all-day Saturday pass. Money is tight across the country and Elk is going to be run out of business once skiers find the better values closer to home.
Finally, and most importantly, I found Elk incredibly BORING! The trails, with very few exceptions, run straight down the mountain, from top to bottom, with no turns and nothing interesting to look at. Even the view leaves a lot to be desired! For most of the day I had no idea which trail I was on… nothing distinguished them from one another! To me, trail variety is the most essential attribute of a resort. In this respect, Elk FAILS!
Often hard to believe that Elk really has a 100-foot vertical. Blue Mountain’s 1082-foot vertical looks huge compared to Elk’s, which seems closer to Jack Frost’s 600-foot drop.
Beginners/Intermediates: Lenape and Delaware. These two long crusiers run the east and west ends of the mountain, looping back to the lodge and covering the longest distance. Delaware also allows you to visit the (tiny) terrain park.
Experts: Tuscarora. Because it’s a little more tree-covered than the mid-mountain steeps, the snow cover was significantly better. Overall, skiers right black diamonds were more enjoyable.