Blue Mountain Ski Area in Pennsylvania is a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders. As part of a series on ski resorts, Huffington Post Travel offers our guide to Blue Mountain, featuring all the key information snow lovers need to know before they hit the slopes.
The BasicsJust 1 1/2 hours from Philadelphia, Blue Mountain, formerly known as Little Gap Ski Area, is a favorite ski destination for eastern Pennsylvanians -- and the crowd size will reflect that on weekends and holidays. Located in the southern part of the Pocono Mountains, Blue Mountain is commonly reached by car or bus, but it is also served by the Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport. With the highest vertical in Pennsylvania, multiple terrain parks and the only public, natural USA Luge track on the East Coast, Blue Mountain draws snowboarders, athletes and thrill-seekers, as well as families with kids and experienced skiers.
The MountainWhile Blue Mountain is considered a midsized ski area, it's one of the largest in the Pocono area, with 163 acres of skiable terrain on two mountain faces and 39 trails, including three that are more than a mile long. The mountain is 1,600 feet high, with an impressive -- at least for Pennsylvania -- vertical drop of 1,082 feet. While the average annual snowfall in the Pocono Mountains is 50 inches, Blue Mountain has snowmaking machines capable of keeping 100 percent of the trails covered in snow. The ski season starts in mid-December and ends around the first week of March.
Trails And LiftsThe 39 trails at Blue Mountain offer something for every skill level, with plenty of trails for novice, intermediate and advanced skiers, plus a training air bag for jumps. Five expert trails, including the double-black-diamond-challenge trail, are for only the most experienced skiers. Thirteen lifts keep the lines moving, including the region's only detachable high-speed six-person lift, a quad lift and a magic carpet lift for kids. For snowboarders, there are five terrain parks and a half-pipe. The tubing park features 21 slides, two tow lifts and a conveyor lift. And don't forget the luge track, where guests can reach speeds of up to 25 miles an hour.
In The NewsBlue Mountain's luge track, next to the tubing park, brings the "fastest sport on ice" to Pennsylvania, and with it, official U.S. luge team coaches looking to recruit the best of the best for the U.S. luge team. Guests don't have to be team hopefuls to participate at the USA Luge Track and Recruitment Center at Blue Mountain, however. For $10 and an orientation, guests can take three luge runs to find out if the popular Olympic sport is as easy as it looks.
CostBasic lift tickets start at $40 for adults and $30 for youth, or $30 for night skiing. Expect to pay $8 to $10 more per ticket for weekends and holidays. Children younger than 5 and seniors older than 70 ski free; a $10 discount on lift tickets applies to active-duty U.S. military. There are various packages and passes available. Rent your ski or snowboard equipment at one of three rental shops for $35 a day, $27 for night-only or $50 a day for high-performance gear. Tubing is $24 during the week, $25 to $29 on weekends and holidays and $10 with a lift ticket. Three luge runs or air-bag jumps are $10. Classes start at $35 for a 90-minute group ski or snowboarding lesson; private lessons and packages are available.
Apres-SkiBlue Mountain Ski Area offers several dining options right on the mountain. The Summit Lodge has a lounge, a pub, a bistro and a cafe. Valley Lodge offers an outdoor Victorian courtyard, coffee shops and a bar and grill featuring Philly cheesesteaks and other favorites. Outside of the Blue Mountain Ski Area in The Poconos, guests will find more nearby dining options, shopping, romantic bed-and-breakfasts and family-friendly hotels.
WATCH: Blue Mountain Ski area
Here's a glimpse at what Blue Mountain Ski Area has to offer.