Expert Terrain, Decent Snowmaking
The Staff, Ice, Bad Food
I’ll start out by giving some trivia which should set the stage. SnoMountian is located on a road named Montage Mountain Road (the resort used to be called Montage, but I refuse to call it Sno least it be confused with Mount Snow in Vermont.) and Montage Mountain Road is actually on Moosic Mountain, but I suppose “Moosic Mountain Ski Area” wasn’t flashy enough in the early ‘80s when the resort opened. These facts support my belief that no matter who runs the place, or what they choose to call it, one should beware of the marketing department.
I was a regular skier here from 1992-1999. This was essentially my home mountain and I skied there 2-3 times a week because of it’s proximity to my home and the ridiculously low lift ticket prices there when the resort was run by Lackawanna County. (You truly do get what you pay for.) A few years ago, around 2006, the county sold the resort to a private company and every skier in the area quietly rejoiced in the hope that someone with actual experience would now be running the place. In the past, lift attendants were rumored to be minor offenders serving community service time and it was widely alleged that the managers got their jobs due to who they know in the country courthouse. Things have not gotten much better.
On my last trip there in January 2010, lift attendants were smoking while loading, and were seen texting on their phones while loading as well. I voiced my concern about that to one of their on-snow “Skier Awareness Team” members (basically wanna-be patrollers who probably can’t pass the NSP medical tests) and they said they would look into it. Not more than 30 seconds later one of the “Safety Team” members flew by me on a snowboard so quickly and so close, I could have easily slammed the buffoon with my arm. “Safety Team” my sweet $%&*##!
The new management team did install a bunch of new snowmaking machinery and to their credit, has put it to good use. In the ‘90s, at least 3-4 slopes would regularly go without snowmaking the entire season. Since I moved back to the area and started skiing there 2-3 times a year I have to say that trails I hadn’t seen snow in since the Blizzard of ’93 were once again open and groomed. Likewise, additional connectors and a gladed area had been added to terrain that had a reputation for being bare.
Unfortunately, the overall conditions at Sno have not changed. The top portions of the mountain tend to be icy at night and can range from icy to slushy during the day. The western facing mountain takes a lot of sun during the day and can get really sloppy until sunset, then the temperature drop and skier use turns it to boilerplate by 6:30pm. The lower portion of the resort, where the expert runs are, will tend to stay soft and ice free most of the day and into the evening as well.
Two or three hours are all any expert skier needs to spend at Sno. The lower trails, Cannonball, Smoke, and Boomer are all excellent runs and Lower Fast Track and Lower Runaway can also be fun excursions. The coup-de-gras is White Lightning. It is a short, but steep run almost always bumped up and it can tend to be icy because lots of people who shouldn’t be on bumps still try to ride it. To its credit, if it were longer, it would be more difficult than Killington’s Outer Limits.
The cafeteria is overpriced, the gift shop is under stocked and overpriced, and the staff is less than professional. A friend of mine went to inquire at Skier Services about an upcoming deal Sno was offering. He had a copy of the flyer with some information and the girl at the counter stated she had no idea about what he was asking about and no one there had any other information. Another similarly Hollister-clad teen-queen was working the cafeteria register and had difficulty ringing up my chicken fingers and fries. I attempted to give her the odd change needed so she could give me back two quarters in change. This perplexed her, but she giggled at her poor mathematical skills. Awww…how cute.
The ski school is either inept or my buddy’s girlfriend really is the moron he claims she is because she’s taken at least five lessons over the past two years and still can’t get down the easy slopes in under 40 minutes.
Overall, if you are driving to SnoMountain from the south, just stay on I-81 North for a few more miles and take the exit for Elk Mountain. Save yourself some grief and skip on Sno. If you are a local, it’s an OK place for a few hours, every couple of weeks, but becomes old-hat very quickly. Of course, if there is a blinding snow storm all bets are off and the terrain can be really great, so you won’t mind the second-hand smoke from the liftie as you wait to get on the chair.