Mid-Atlantic skiing daytrips from DC

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

I love to ski, but I don’t get out as much as I’d like. Over the last decade or so, I have written about my experiences as a “commuter skier” in the Mid-Atlantic. I typically get in 1 or 2 daytrips a season and the intention here is to help others in situations make that one trip count.

We’re probably as past the pandemic as we’re going to get, so it’ll be interesting to see what that means for skiing. Fewer crowds? I doubt it. Stay up to date on you vaccinations though.

Since 2007, I have been writing firsthand reports of my ski trips on my blog. I have also been posting ski news of interest

Mid-Atlantic Skiing map

I have skied many of these places and profiled a number of them as well.

Remember, don’t hate winter, use it!

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Pow(d)er rankings

Updated for 2023-2024 Ski Season

While I encourage you to read all of my recaps of skiing in the Mid-Atlantic or visiting the map page, the TL;DR format is provided too:

Ski area Rating Visits TL;DR
Big Boulder, Poconos, Pa. 17 Now owned by Vail, the snowboard features have apparently been cut back. That’s too bad, I thought there was a market for it. This was where I took two-semesters of PhysEd at Penn State Hazleton, so I have a soft spot for it. If I had a month of ski days in a season, I’d take a day there since the bordercross runs are fun. SkiTheEast was there a while back.
Blue Knob, Claysburg, Pa. 1 Rustic, prone to ice and not as big as they claim, but get a little bit of fresh snow and it’s a really fun mountain that I really want to visit again. It’s also an inverted lodge (on top of the mountain) despite being the highest skiable elevation in Pennsylvania. They are on the Indy Pass now, but badly need some new snow-making infrastructure or big storms.
Blue Mountain, Palmerton, Pa. 1 My grade is a bit incomplete since it was a spontaneous trip in March one year, but I think it’s worth a second look. The vertical drop is amongst the best in Pennsylvania. They were an early adopter of touchscreens and RFID. Probably a Philly crowd.
Camelback, Poconos, Pa.   5 The biggest ski area in the Poconos has over 30 trails and is very popular, perhaps too popular. I have lots of great memories here, but its a bit far for over 800 feet of vertical and huge crowds on holiday weekends. It’s all interstate highways to get there though.
Canaan Valley Ski Resort, Davis, WV   1 I have spent two half-days there in 2022 and 2024. The terrain is good, it skis bigger than the vertical drop but really needs a lot of natural snow.
Elk Mountain, Poconos, Pa. ■ ■  3 It’s a bit far — past Scranton, but I-81 corridor has lots of cheap hotels to break up the trip. I had a fantastic time in 2020, 2022 and 2023 there – well-run and pretty scenic. It’s a skier’s mountain. Perhaps I have talked it up too much; it was more crowded each time.
Jack Frost, Poconos, Pa. 1 Inverted, small and probably a good choice for younger skiers, but again, kind of far from DC. Biggest plus — shared passed with Big Boulder, so you can ski two hills in one day.
Massanutten, Harrisonburg, Va. ■■ 2 It’s small but several new trails are coming in the next few years; we may have to retire the old “Massa-nothin'” line. The black diamond runs are really fun and the scenery is stunning. The Poconos, it ain’t. I had my best day of skiing here, right after the Pitchers and Catchers Day Storm in 2014. I returned in March 2022. I think I’ll be back soon.
Montage Mountain, Scranton, Va. 2 One thousand feet of vertical on a hill in the city of Scran-ton, Penn-syl-van-ia. Just off of I-81 with a more “metropolitan” view than other places in the Poconos. Plenty of lodging nearby. My two trips have been on Friday nights a few years apart. The black diamonds are steeper than average.
Timberline, Davis, W.V. ? 1 In 2013, it was in decline and eventually closed. New ownership reopened it for the 2021 winter and by all accounts it’s a remarkable turnaround.
Whitetail, Mercersburg, Pa. 9 The elevation is under 2,000 feet, but is over 900 feet of vertical drop. At only 90 minutes from the Capital Beltway, it’s an excellent option for D.C. commuter skiers. It’s been well-run, but there are grumblings that it’s not the value it was under previous ownership.

Other notes

I skied a few other places a looong time ago, well before I had web site, so no full reviews…

Liberty, Fairfield, Pa.
The closest ski area to D.C. has 600+ feet of vertical and if I-270 isn’t bad, you can get some runs in after work.

Roundtop, Lewisberry, Pa.
Closer to the Harrisburg, Pa. this ski area has 600+ feet of vertical as well. It’s 30-45 minutes further than Liberty. Given a choice, Whitetail is probably a better bet for the D.C. commuter skier.

Wisp, McHenry, Md.
Maryland’s only ski area is on the other side of the Eastern Continental Divide off of I-68. It gets more natural snow than closer areas, but is long drive for less than 1,000 feet of vertical.

William’s Mid-Atlantic skiing coverage