Elk Mountain – Pennsylvania's Hidden Ski Gem

By Jeff and Stephanie Sylva

New York Metropolitan area families looking for a close-by family-friendly ski experience may find just what they want in northeastern Pennsylvania. Just over a two-hour drive from New York City and a half hour north of Scranton, PA, Elk Mountain Ski Resort is perfect for family skiing because of its moderate size and diverse terrain. The resort offers a taste of New England skiing – without the long commute.

With just 27 trails, Elk Mountain is a comfortable ski resort that won't overwhelm young skiers or parents who like to have the kids nearby and not scattered all over the mountain. Yet Elk's terrain has plenty of challenging trails and a slamming terrain park, the Stompin' Grounds, that will keep even the family's best skiers and riders excited. For more than 50 years Elk Mountain has been a hidden gem in Pennsylvania's "Endless Mountains," but they would love to have more families discover the friendly, inviting atmosphere that characterizes this wonderful little ski area.

A Taste of New England Skiing

One thing we noticed immediately when we skied Elk was the numerous evergreen trees that lined the trails. We got a distinct feeling that we were skiing some classic New England trails. (As a matter of fact, Elk's motto is "It's like skiing in Vermont without the drive.") We learned that Elk has an ongoing (over 25 years) evergreen tree restoration program that brings over 1000 new evergreen trees to the slopes each year.

Elk Mountain has a respectable 1000-foot vertical drop and 140 acres of skiing. Many of Elk's regular skiers like the top-to-bottom blue (intermediate) and black (expert) cruising trails. Beginners will also love the two green (easy) trails that run from the summit. The mountain has 6 lifts, four of which run from the base to the summit, including a fixed quad lift. Night skiing is available as well. Elk groomers do an outstanding job of trail preparation; and the mountain's aggressive snowmaking, which is often augmented by a yearly average natural snowfall of five feet, keeps the trails blanketed in snow. A testament to Elk's snowmaking and grooming is its selection to Ski Magazine's Readers' Survey of Top 10 in the East for snowmaking and grooming.

Where to Stay

Elk Mountain has no slopeside accommodations, but families have a variety of places to choose when picking places to stay. A number of chain hotels are located within 12 to 25 miles from the mountain. Even closer to Elk are a number of B&B's and inns that welcome skiing families. We have experienced two such places. Just 8 miles from Elk, the historic Fern Hall Inn & Restaurant has 10 elegant guest rooms and a wonderful restaurant serving fine cuisine. Families looking for upscale accommodations offering a winter stay of elegance, comfort and style will love this inn. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating are available on the inn's picturesque 117 acres. For more information on Fern Hall call 570-222-3676 or visit www.FernHallInn.com.

For a more affordable choice, but one that offers European charm and a casual atmosphere, the Stone Bridge Inn, just 2 miles from Elk, has a fine restaurant (dinners served Wednesday through Sunday), cozy tavern, and an indoor pool and hot tub. Several of their 13 rooms have fireplaces. For more on the Stone Bridge Inn call 570-679-9200 or visit www.stone-bridge-inn.com. A unique option for families is the King's Barn, a restored 1900's hay barn which can accommodate from 2 to 34 guests. Each unit has a fully equipped kitchen. For more information on King's Barn call 570-727-3070 or visit www.kingsbarn.com.

Families might also want to consider a rental property for their ski vacation to Elk Mountain. A number of ski lodges and vacation homes are located just minutes from the mountain. For a listing of rental property options, as well as all of the hotels, motels, inns and B&B's, visit the Elk Mountain website at www.elkskier.com. This site will also have all of the information you will need about lift tickets, ski school offerings, ski and snowboard rentals, and Elk's very affordable Learn-to-Ski and Learn-to-Ride packages.

No Frills – Just Great Skiing

A family ski vacation at Elk Mountain doesn't offer all the bells and whistles offered at many of the "big" ski resorts in the Northeast like mountain coasters and zipline tours. What it does offer is an affordable ski vacation where families can ski together on classic-style trails without crowds. Certainly a great part of this ski resort's attraction is that it's an easy two-hour drive from the New York Metro area – "like skiing in Vermont without the drive." That's like music to any driving parent's ears.

Jeff and Stephanie are retired English and Social Studies high school teachers who have been professional travel writers for over 21 years.

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