UNION DALE, Pa. — Following four hours on the slopes at Montage the previous night, my friend the Videographer and I skied a full day at Elk Mountain (official site). It was our third trip to Elk in 4 winters, the northeastern-most ski area in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Skiing recap

We arrived before 9 o’clock, visited the RFID kiosk walked to the North Chair quad lift. It was a blue bird day and we got started on Tioga, curvy cruiser that feeds into East Slope and West Slope. We wound up on the latter. A good opening run, but unfortunately, the only lift on West slope is the Middle Chair which only gets about 40% of the way up. We were able to et to Lackawana Spur though which fed into Lower Tunkhannock, one of the widest blues at Elk, and back to the Quad Lift.

Back up to the summit, it was time for the long way down the mountain, Mahican and Lenape. This combination was the most crowded during the day which made for some defensive skiing. The middle-third could was a bit icy which led to inevitable congestion. Still, it’s a good ride that’s a little more than a cruiser with some distinct fall lines. Oh to have it all to ourselves on a good snow day. Come to think of it, we kind of had that in 2020 with snow falling. That day is a big part of why we have come back.

Parallel to Mahican and Lenape are Schuykill and Wissahickon and we alternated between the slopes for a bit. Unfortunately, Kickapoo, a fun run full of switchbacks wasn’t open this time. The minimal snow this winter has taken its toll.

Curious about crowds and conditions, we headed back down Tioga to get to the far side of the mountain. It was up one of the East Chair doubles (no ski rest, just a cross bar) to the other side. We were hoping for Lehigh, but that was closed too, so instead it was Delaware. Whoa, we’re in on Delaware. It’s fun, but a bit narrow at the top so, we the skiing is very defensive. A run or two there and we started back over to the west side of the hill.

After a run down Lenape, we tried the Tioga – Tioga Spur combination. The Spur is a little cutoff trail into Lower Tunkhannock. The several snow whales on it made for an interesting trip. It was ungroomed and generally unskied upon, so some of it was icy and some of it was sticky. The Videographer enjoyed it more than me.

Thanks to convient, slope-side parking, we were able to have a quick tailgate for lunch. Then, it was back up the Quad Lift, down Lenape. Stretched out again, we skied our only expert slope of the day, ♦Tecumseh. The snow was softening up in the bright sun, but there was a little ice. We got down cleanly. Another trip down Tioga Spur was undertaken and conditions hadn’t really improved.

Once again, it was over to the East Side for a ride or two down Delaware, a quick stop at the lodge for a moment of personal privilege and complimentary cups of water. We wrapped up with another Schuykill-Lenape run. While the lifts were still spinning long enough to get one more ride, we called it a day rather than risk getting to the top with the West Side slopes closed. That happened to me last year. We headed to the car, got our boots off and reflected on the 12 hours of skiing we had down over the last 24 hours.

Rentals and incidentals

  • As always, we rented off the mountain. Ski Shack Sports on Montage Mountain Road was convenient and efficient.
    • On my rental form, I list myself as a Type II skier and Ski Shack rented me some 169 Atomic Savor 3 skis. They were good shape and served me well.
    • My friend had some Nordica 158s – I don’t recall the name. He skied better than he had in years. He also rented rear-entry boots. Rental set us back $70 for two days. I would use them again.
  • The surrounding area around Elk still had snow cover from earlier in the week which is always reassuring.
  • There are parking lots that are right next to the Quad Lift slopes. It makes it very easy to get on and off. We really like that about Elk.
  • We ordered our lift tickets on our phones before leaving our motel. Though we forgot last year’s RFID cards it was very efficient. Time from car to Quad Lift line was less than 10 minutes.
  • Another bluebird day, though above freezing. After lunch we took our parkas off for 2 or 3 runs. While we looked stylish in Penn State hockey sweaters, the wind cut right through the layers.
  • The lifts run fairly well, despite not being high-speed. The lack footrests on most of them though is a bummer. Our legs don’t need any extra stress – we’re not in college anymore!
  • We were reminded more about our…maturity than previous trips. Perhaps a new approach to conditioning is in order, but then again, time is undefeated.
  • Tunkhannock is directly under the Quad Lift, so we got a great view of brave souls attacking those moguls. I think the 2020 trip might be the only time I try them out.
  • This was the first time I can recall skiing in back to back days ever. The Videographer hadn’t done it for a very long time either. It was fun, but I may re-evaluate it. Maybe if it wasn’t my first time out this season, I would have held up better.
  • The morning after was a little rough, windburn/sunburn and several muscle groups feeling the burn.
  • So worth it though.
  • I didn’t get many photos. It’s too hard to see my screen through my goggles.
  • The Videographer was king of the mountain again, though I kept up better. This is a reversal of previous years.
Penn State dadcore on the slopes

Rating and final thoughts

As mentioned earlier, I’ve been to Elk several times in recent years. It’s a good, skiers mountain.

I’m giving a lower rating than last time though – fewer open slopes and maybe a little less grooming, has me giving them a (blue square) on my typical green circle to double-black diamond rating system. Last time, it was a double-blue.

What would it take to be a ♦?

  • high-speed quad, footrests on the doubles
  • more snowmaking/more trails open

Getting there

As mentioned previously, at 257 miles from the Capital Beltway, Elk Mountain is probably too far away for a daytrip for most Washingtonians.

A skier looks out upon Timberline mountain on a foggy, frigid day in 2013.

Mid-Atlantic Commuter Skier Guide

My Mid-Atlantic Commuter Skier Guide is a resource for anyone looking to take a daytrip. I have compiled ski reports over the last decade from resorts throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

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