Pocono is the Lenape Indian term for
stream between mountains. Perhaps
the Lenape people had a penchant for understatement because the
stream is the sizeable Delaware River and the Pocono mountains in
winter offer decent-sized ski areas, not big Western ski resorts but
enough skiing to satisfy your family for a day or a weekend ski
trip, and great learn to ski programs.
The skiing in Eastern Pennsylvania, while not as good as New England's best family ski resorts or a Family Ski Trip out West, are worth attention - above and beyond the honeymoon heart shaped tubs that have made this region so famed among brides and grooms.
The Pocono areas have really pumped up their snowmaking in recent yeas, and cater to families learning to ski or snowboard, and kids looking for the latest terrain park features. If your kids are anything like ours, they like their slopes sprinkled with hits, spines, rails and rolls (ask your kids for ski slang terrain lingo translation) – they will find generous portions of halfpipes and parks here.
Moms and Dads may not share the same taste for launching off ski jumps, but tubing is one brainless, silly sliding activity that the entire family can get into, and all these Pocono playgrounds have designated tubing parks, most with multiple chutes to spin, glide and giggle your way down.
Here is your guide to skiing the Poconos:
Big Boulder was the first commercial ski area to open in Pennsylvania in1946. Downhill skiing has evolved dramatically in the 60 years since, and while the Pocono slopes haven’t become any more precipitous, the facilities now include high-speed lifts, grooming and snowmaking, and terrain parks to keep up with the latest slope styles.
And Big Boulder is great for little kids. Its trails are well-manicured trails, the ski schools have experienced instructors and the mascots (Snowball the Snowtiger, Blizzard Babies, etc.) are frequently spotted on the slopes pressing their furry flesh to make kids smile. Big Boulder is now owned by Peak Resorts, sister resort to Jack Frost, Attitash, Wildcat and Crotched in New Hampshire and Mount Snow in Vermont.
In the heart of the Pocono ski region is Shawnee Mountain Ski Area, which has plenty of lifts (a quad, a triple and 6 double chairs) to get you up the 700-foot hill for skiing and riding on 23 trails. A 3,000-foot-long terrain park with music gives teens plenty of room to rock on their boards. Shawnee also offers a six lane-tubing hill.
Nearby is Alpine Mountain, which has a very family-friendly Penguin Play Park for the littlest tykes. Alpine has 21 trails with a 550-foot vertical drop, features a terrain park and half pipe plus a tubing hill open day and night.
Camelback is the largest Pennsylvania ski area with 33 trails and 13 lifts including two high-speed quads. All of Camelback’s 800-foot vertical is lit up and open for night skiing too.
To the west is Jack Frost, an intermediate ski mountain (600’ vertical feet) with pleasant cruising. Like Peak sister resort Big Boulder, which shares its management, its very family oriented. Jack Frost offers three terrain parks loaded with hits and happening events. Jack Frost also offers snowboarding, snow tubing, and features the Snow Monster characters on the slopes.
The highest of the Pocono ski areas is Blue Mountain with 1,082-foot vertical and 30 trails served by 10 lifts, plus two terrain parks. To encourage young families to get started, Blue actually offers free childcare midweek (non-holiday), or a nominal $2/hour on weekends and holidays.
All these ski areas are totally geared to newbie skiers and young families; many are equipped with on-site daycare, rental equipment and ski schools for learning kids and adults. These ski areas all make snow, like churning out ice cream, to provide consistent conditions – since Mother Nature is so darned mercurial these days.
There’s plenty to do if you don’t downhill ski during Pocono winters. You can ice-skate across area lakes and ponds, explore the rolling countryside on snowshoe or cross-country skis, or just sit back and relax during a horse-drawn sleigh ride. This winter playground is a drive to destination for tens of million major metro regions, so you can pack up the car and drive to your week of winter play (read: no airfare required). The scenic snow-covered hills are an easy change of pace from the usual rat race.
Think of it as a second honeymoon - on snow, with the kids in tow!
New Hampshire Ski Directory
Vermont Ski Directory
Maine Ski Directory
Massachusetts Ski Directory