Early winter brings skiers to the slopes

Times Shamrock Writer

One regional ski facility opens the season with extensive renovations as another plans an ambitious development to become an all-inclusive resort.

Ski activity got underway widely through the area recently, following Thanksgiving-week temperatures enabling large volumes of snowmaking.

At Montage in Scranton, a new ownership group invested about $2.5 million to overhaul the lodge, construct a 6,000-square-foot structure for rentals and retail sales and make other improvements. The owners also invested $800,000 to install 280 energy-efficient light-emitting diode fixtures along the complex’s 26 trails.

“I’m really proud of what we are putting together here,” said Charles Jefferson, who led a partnership’s acquisition of the skiing and water park complex in April through a bankruptcy court sale. “In the past, this place felt like a municipal building. Now, it looks like a special place.”

Officials at Camelback Mountain Resort in Monroe County, meanwhile, plan to break ground Tuesday for development of a $163 million lodge and indoor water park. The eight-story lodge will include four restaurants, a spa, conference center and a 125,000-square-foot indoor water park. It is scheduled to open in 2015.

“It’s a very exciting time,” said Brian Czarnecki, spokesman for the Tannersville complex, which also includes an outdoor water park.

Despite recent moderate weather, ski areas started operations with hopes of better results than the last two seasons. The 2011 season was especially poor, with little snowfall and seasonably warm temperatures.

Jack Frost Big Boulder, a complex in Carbon County near Blakeslee, emerged as the earliest regional opener on Nov. 14 at its Big Boulder facility.

Five slopes are open at Big Boulder, and Jack Frost opened nine slopes and four lifts on Saturday.

“Whenever you get to open early, it gets into people’s minds that ski season is here,” said Heather Schiffbauer, spokeswoman for the complex. “Sales are up and it is looking promising.”

Ten slopes and three lifts began operating on Wednesday (Dec. 4) at Elk Mountain near Union Dale, about 12 days before the Susquehanna County attraction’s 2012 opening, general manager Gregg Confer said.

“This is an early start for us,” Confer said. “We have a ton of snow up here.”

Camelback and Montage both opened on Friday.

Camelback opened 12 trails and six lifts and Montage opened six trails.
“Everything is going really well to hopefully set us up for a spectacular season,” Czarnecki said.

During the offseason, Camelback invested about $400,000 to construct a new terrain base learning area for skiing and snowboarding, including two new carpet-type lifts. The area includes a minipipe terrain training area for children.

Advance season pass sales topped 600 by the start of December at Montage, Jefferson, up 20 percent over the entire 2011-12 season.

“We have surpassed every metric by what was sold last year and two years ago,” he said. “This is a brand new place.”