by: Jeff Graham - 16th February 2011

  • 3
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Expert
  • 4All-Mtn. Terrain
  • 5Family Friendly
  • 1Aprés Ski
  • 3Terrain Park
  • Overall Value
Interesting terrain, Plenty of lifts, Nice facilities
Size, Run length

Full review

Roundtop is a member of the Liberty/Whitetail/Roundtop consortium. Like Liberty, it is a very small mountain, with only a roughly 600ft vertical that severly limits the length and number of runs. Despite these limitations, however, Roundtop actually does offer a fairly diverse range of skiing for such a small mountain, including some interesting and challenging trails not found in most small, local resorts. The beginner area to the far right is standard open slope fare, serviced by a magic carpet and a dedicated lift. We never rode this lift, but the lines on it seemed to get fairly long pretty quickly. The beginner area did offer a small beginner mogul area and a few terrain features for novices. There are no beginner slopes off the peak, leaving few options for those who progress off the bunny slope but are not yet ready to face the crowds on the blues. First or second timers will probably be better served at Liberty or Whitetail. The intermediate terrain is very limited, consisting of five "trails" that really amount to fewer than that. The main lift line trail, "Minuteman", is a straight-shot open slope under the lift that seemed to get crowded quickly. "Lower Lafayette's Leap" is little more than a crescent spur off of this slope that's most notable reason for existance is access to the halfpipe. Toward the midpoint, the main trail splits off to form the "Recruit" slope, which is a wide slope half covered with moguls that made a nice training ground for skiers looking to improve their form. "Susquehana" is a non-discript slope that is basically just an access to the expert lifts. "Exhibition" is the racing trail under the double lift, that was actually kind of a fun little run to hit at high speed. NASTAR racing is offered at times on this trail, giving casual skiers and riders a chance to run some gates for a small fee. Where Roundtop really gets interesting though is in the diversity of its advanced terrain. "Upper Lafayette's Leap" has a fairly good pitch to it and was half covered with moguls when we were there, providing essentially two different skis in one, depending on which side you chose. Feeding along the ridge from the peak to the beginners area is the unusual and interesting "Barett's Trail", which is a narrow, winding New England style chute. Slightly icy with a couple of trees in the middle of it, Barrett's offers a few different options that enable you to ski it several times and find something different each run down. It's not overly challenging, but it is something different for this area. Look for the narrow, icy drop to the inside of the tree toward the bottom for a fun little plunge into the final turn. The mainstay of the advanced terrain at Roundtop, though is found to the far left, in "Gunbarrel" and "Ramrod". Both are served by a remote, dedicated triple chair that never seemed to have any line at all, despite it being a peak weekend. The lower parts of both trails are wide-open, rolling screamers with a couple of nice drops that can generate some good speed. Occasionally, parts of these trails are allowed to go to moguls, providing an even wider range of options. "Upper Ramrod" is a short, fairly steep drop that is usually groomed. Wide, with a couple of dips and rolls, the trail skis quite differently depending on the line you choose. And then there is "Upper Gunbarrel". It is not long, perhaps 100 feet or so, but it is 100 feet of the steepest, most challenging slope you will find at any of the three mountains and probably south of Vermont. Ungroomed and bumpy, the slope immediately plunges away from the peak at a nerve-rattling angle. Skiers standing on the top moguls puzzling over how to attack the beast are a common sight. Stay to the left side and you will be hard pressed to find anything steeper for hundreds of miles around. Sadly, try not to fall, because you will likely slide to the bottom and the excitement will be over before you know it. It only takes four or five solid jump turns to clear the steepest part before you move into the flatter lower section, which will seem like a tremendous letdown as you look back up at what you just crossed. But finding even a few seconds of terrain of this calibre within day-trip range of DC, Baltimore or Philly is a rare thing. Right in the center of the mountain is the moderately sized "Fife and Drum" terrain park. It offers the usual range of jibs and jumps, with a few large features in the center that invite the more accomplished skiers and riders to entertain the folks on the dedicated chair lift (that also has access to the beginner area). There is a good sized halfpipe on the left side serviced by a J-bar and cross-access from "Lower Lafayette's Leap". Toward the top of "Minuteman", you will find the relatively uncrowded "Bunker Hill" area that features a couple of jibs, as well as a small and medium-sized jump. The lift arrangement is very good at Roundtop. The base is very wide and distributed, which spreads the crowds out across the mountain and minimizes logjams. The terrain park is accessable from the base area, which frees up a lot of capacity. Some of the lifts are older, such as the double and triple chairs serving the expert terrain, but with few lines to speak of, it just didn't matter that much. Snowmaking coverage was quite good, but there were some icy areas, particularly at the high traffic areas off the peak. Snow quality was not as good as Liberty, but much better than Whitetail. The lodge is bright, airy, modern and clean. A standard food court with a large cafeteria-style table arrangement is housed on the main floor. A somewhat darker and stuffier picnic area can be found downstairs. Upstairs, you will find the "Fireside Pub and Grill" offering sit-down service, pub fare and adult beverages. The pub is an uncommonly nice facility for a PA ski mountain. Food was above average for ski lodge pub fare. Like it's sisters, food prices are quite high. There is an outdoor concession with a firepit on the patio, that made for a nice place for an afternoon snack and beer. Like Liberty and Whitetail, there is a complimentary ski and board check, lines for which were longer than Liberty, but much shorter than Whitetail. There are very few lockers available, so you'll either have to use the box check downstairs or leave your valuables in the car. Access to the facility was quite good. There is no hotel on site, but plenty not far from the mountain, as well as a number of interesting B&Bs. Like it's sister mountains, Roundtop does not claim to be anything more than a small, local mountain that is close enough for an easy day-trip. It is not going to challenge the expert skier and cannot hold a candle to the bigger mountains found in New England or out west. It would be absurd to contend such a thing. However, if you keep your expectations within reason, there is a lot to like about Roundtop. It won't hold your interest for more than a day or two, but within that time, there are a few unusual things to explore and challenges to be had.
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