TANNERSVILLE, Pa. — Presidents Day 2018 at Camelback (trail map) in the Poconos was a bluebird day. For the third time this season I hollered “YAAAAH-HOO-HOO-HOO-HOOEY!” throughout the day as I coasted down the slopes with friends under bright sunshine and spring-like snow. If long-term forecast holds, this was likely the last great day of the Mid-Atlantic season.
Renting skis, parking, buying lift tickets
Located some 235 miles from the Capital Beltway, I broke up the trip to Camelback by staying with my friend, “The Videographer” at his home outside of Harrisburg. I rented my skis from Alpine Ski Shop, one of several options along Camelback Road. For a little less than $28, I saved time and money by choosing them instead of the ski area. My friend saved the $28 by using his skis that dated back to the 1980s.
Despite the arrival in the 8 o’clock hour, Camelback was packed and our parking was down the hill from the base, about 15 minutes to the end of the lift ticket line. Another 15 or so minutes, we had purchased our $67 lift tickets and made our way over to the snow.
Reading about the late skiing filmmaker Warren Miller, I came across a great quote of his:
If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do
In the case of The Videographer, it was more like ten years older and eleven since we last skied together. Another philosopher said “life’s what happens when you are making other plans” and it certainly had over the last few years but at last the weather and schedules were in alignment after several years of trying.
Despite snow the day before, the mountain wasn’t quite the powerdy fest we had dreamed of, but was respectable for the Mid-Atlantic. Snowmmakers – natural and otherwise, provided sufficient coverage after a late week rain storm. Ice was only a few inches below the snow, but mostly a non-factor. Our start to the mountain was naturally on the greens and The Videographer was shaking off rust figuratively and literally off his skis that debuted during the Reagan era.
As expected, lift lines were long with the crowds. Sullivan Express lift took us up to the top for our first ride down of the day on ●Upper Marc Anthony and ●Lower March Anthony. We accidentally got on The Glen lift which only goes about halfway up. We went down ■Rhododendron. and headed over to Stevenson Express lift. Historically ■The Nile Mile was my favorite slope, but I’ve improved as a skier since I was a Camelback regular 10 years ago. It’s still a good crusier wtih two big turns of course.
We moved over to the middle of the mountain and took several runs down ■King Tut which was probably my favorite run on this trip. The sunny skies and wind was taking its toll though, so we moved over the middle of the mountain and then over to Trailside Pub for a refreshment. Service was understandably slow and getting a seat inside was going to be a long wait, so after getting my Barley Creek Pale Ale (a brewery we passed on the way in; I was hoping to try their black lager) and The Videographer’s Fat Tire, we found a seat outside. A big breakfast and snacks bought earlier in the day provided lunch. Another friend, a snowboarder I’ll call The Auditor joined us we headed back up for a few Nile Mile runs and then over to King Tut. That was enough for the Auditor, who called it a day having arrived earlier than we did.
The Videographer and decided we needed to hit at least one black diamond before the day was over. If I recall correctly, we jumped on ♦Rocket down the mountain and headed back up. Next up, we were deciding between ♦Asp and ♦The Hump. The steepness of Asp could only be determined from partially down the hill and rather than get in over our heads, we choose The Hump, a steep trail with moderate moguls, lots of soft snow and few takers. The Videographer, a superior mogul skier back in the day led the way and had his challenges. With about ⅔ of the mogul portion behind me, a bump caught me and I was down for the only time of the day. Not bad, but a pole stayed while I slid another 20 feet on my right side. We finished the run and then completed our day on King Tut and then, by accident, the ●Meadows, a short one. He called it a day, I took one more run down King Tut.
Getting there: DC to Camelback
Camelback is a bit of a hike from the DC area and I broke up the drive up over two parts by staying at my friends house. There are a few ways to go, but going via Harrisburg is probably the best bet. Going via Wilmington includes tolls, though I’ve done it that way several times as well. The I-78 route is not recommended and The Auditor noted that the worst snow drive she ever had to do was from Wilmington to the Poconos the night before.
Final thoughts on Camelback
Camelback was my favorite Pennsylvania ski area for years and nostalgia is partially why we choose it. It’s fairly well run, the snow is good and the runs are interesting. It’s also very popular which means big crowds. Frankly, given the distance from the D.C. area, at this point, the biggest draw is if I’m going with friends. The travel is fairly far and getting in and out can take a while. I can wait in long lines closer to home with more vertical.
The Videographer will probably rent skis next time and found few fellow travelers with straight, pointed tipped skis.
There were not too many snowboarders, probably the least I have seen on a crowded day in a long time. Perhaps they go to Big Boulder now.
On the scale of green circle to black diamond, the ski I give the day a ■. Part of me wants to make it a double-blue since I had friends with me, but that’s not necessarily helpful to a Washingtonian commuter skier. I’m not sure I’ll get back any time soon; if I do, I’ll have a great time, but I’m not going to lament it if I don’t.