lack of crowds, long cruisers, White Lightning
often not 100% open, slow lifts
I supposed it holds a special place in my heart since it was the mountain on which I first strapped skis to my now-well-traveled feet, but I still love Sno Mountain. Renamed just a few years back – it was called Montage Mountain before the county sold it in the early 2000s – Sno Mountain can be considered the Pocono’s “alternative” ski resort for the following reasons. While Blue Mountain and Camelback now boast an equal clientele of skiers and snowboarders, Sno still features a majority of skiers. Jack Frost and similar Pocono resorts contain a deceptively large numbers of trails, however they are generally short and one must ski four or five of them to reach the bottom of the mountains. Sno’s trails are fewer in number, but wide, and long, and solitary. If you begin on Sno’s Upper Fast Track, you will end your run 1000 feet closer to sea level at the end of Lower Fast Track (and you won’t have people cutting across the trail to get to the terrain park or the lodge). Most importantly, however, when Camelback is filled to capacity and 30-minute lift lines (or worse) are exceeded only by 45-minute lift ticket lines, Sno will be, at worst, moderately crowded. It may even be mostly empty, as it was during my last 3 visits. It is the forgotten mountain of Eastern PA.
Sno has an equal amount of beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert trails, and all are decently lengthy. The beginner and blue-square runs are gentle and rolling while the bottom of the mountain features some of the steepest terrain on the east coast. Sno boasts that White Lightning is the steepest trail in Pennsylvania and I don’t doubt them! Even though one has already been travelling down a double-black trail, there is still a sign at the top of White Lightning, asking if you’re “really, really, absolutely sure” you are ready to take the risk. Snowboarders beware – the moguls are daunting!
First and foremost: if you are looking to avoid the crowds common at Jack Frost, Blue, and especially Camelback, come to Sno Mountain! You will not be disappointed. Lack of crowds is a key feature of the mountain.
Using the longest lift on the mountain, Long Haul, you can ski/snowboard for well over a mile, covering the mountain’s entire vertical by using Upper Fast Track or Upper Runaway (intermediate), then cruising onto Lower Fast Track or Lower Runaway (advanced).
Sno’s layout accomplishes two things. First, by placing the lodge mid-mountain (at the start of the advanced trails and the bottom of the beginner trails, tubing, and terrain park), skiers and boarders are constantly separated by ability. There is a significantly lower chance of finding a novice skier inching his way down a steep. Second, it allows a gradual progression from greens to blues to blacks, as the trails are in exact order of the ability required to navigate them. Master one trail? Move 30 yards over to the next one.
The Bad and the Ugly:
Although snow conditions are generally adequate, the snowmaking capacity of the mountain is very limited. Snowguns must constantly be moved to cover bare patches and many of the intermediate trails are often closed in order for the guns to concentrate on the beginner runs, terrain park, and the steeps. Unfortunately, two lifts travel across the tops of the intermediate runs, so mid-season, when Sno is blowing on these runs, you are in for a frosty ride up the hill.
Finally, Sno is desperately in need of a high-speed quad lift. Long Haul, the only lift that covers the entire mountain, is dreadfully slow. A 15-minute ride up the hill becomes quite a chore after a few rides. Don’t get me wrong – the long, cruising trails are certainly worth the ride, but a detachable lift would be a relatively inexpensive improvement that would push Sno Mountain into the “elite” range.
The Best Trails:
BEGINNER: Mainline. Found off to the side of the wider, more-traveled Highball, Mainline has similar terrain, but often small terrain features for beginners – small jumps, short rails, etc. More resorts need such a trail!
INTERMEDIATE: Upper/Lower Fast Track. Because it’s virtually unreachable from the lodge without riding Long Haul from the bottom of the mountain back to the top, it is often the least crowded trail on the mountain, meaning the snow conditions are generally the best.
ADVANCED: White Lightning. How can I deny this award to the steepest trail in the state. It’s just as nasty looking up from the bottom as looking down from the top. The moguls simply serve to increase its difficulty. (Honorable mention: Rattler. It’s not too long, but steep and only about six feet wide.)