The Unofficial Guide to Montage Mountain
By Tyler Wenzel (aka tylrwnzl)
Montage Mountain is one of the most accessible mountains in Pennsylvania. Right off of I-81 outside of Scranton it does tend to attract crowds, but in general is not too bad considering its location.
Update for 2013: Montage is now Montage once more. After a failed business venture as Montage Mountain, a new investor bought it during summer 2013 and restored the Montage name.
The mountain is quite interesting in how it is divided. Most mountains have a mixture of level trails throughout, but Montage can be divided up like a square. Looking at the trail map the top right is all the beginner trails, the top left is all the intermediate trails, the bottom left is the advanced trails, and the bottom right is the expert trails.
There is not a ton of excitement to be had on the top half of the mountain. The difference between the intermediate and the beginner trails has as much to do with sustained pitch as difficulty. The beginner trails are mostly flat with a few drops to get enough speed not to traverse. The intermediates don't have as many steep drops, but there is more of a sustained pitch. Overall neither are incredibly challenging.
The bottom half of the mountain is where the action is at. Normally its the other way around, but at Montage the goodies are all below the lodge. The lodge is stationed at mid-mountain with the easy stuff above it and the more difficult stuff below it.
The best trails to challenge yourself on is known as White Lightning. Everytime I've skied it, it has been a little different. Sometimes its moguled, other times they groom it. It can be icy or it can be nice. One thing it always is, though, is steep. And in view of the lift, so get ready to hear it if you wipe out.
Next to White Lightning is the other expert trail known as Boomer. It is a fun trail to ski, but the lighting tends to make it more challenging than it should be. Once you get to mid-afternoon and night skiing the lighting tends to make some spots look deceptively less steep and bumpy than they actually are.
Of the three advanced trails the most fun one to ski is the next one over from the expert trails known as Cannonball. There are five nice rollers that allow you to get some air with the added benefit of having visibility to the landing area on most of them so its within the skiers code to jump them--so long as you approach it safely. Otherwise use a spotter to make sure you are clear.
The lifts can be the biggest pain at Montage Mountain. The Long Haul Lift broke down two winters ago in February (I was stuck on it for over an hour and a half when it happened), and has yet to be reopened as far as I know. This creates both positives and negatives. On the plus side very few people want to do the uphill traverse from the iron horse triple so that side of the mountain tends to stay empty. However because of the lack of skiers there it tends not to be in as good of condition as the other parts of the mountain in terms of grooming and snow-making. But when there is natural snow it is the place to be.
In general the lifts at Montage Mountain leave a lot to be desired, but they do get you where you need to go (except the one time mentioned above). Since Montage was taken over from the county a few years ago the skier focused infrastructure has been mostly neglected with the exception of the expanded snow making capacity. The lifts and lodge have remained largely the same with the only upgrades being made to the tourist areas (rental and food service areas) instead of the skier amenities (lifts and lodge capacity).