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Montage Mountain, PA — 2016 JAN 25 — GreyPilgrim

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

First time at Montage.  I went today Monday 2016 JAN 25 and I had a very good experience.  There were a variety of trails for me to ski down and I thought the snow on the trails was good. It was a spur of the moment trip.  I learned that schools would be closed on Monday due to the 20"+ received by the snow storm (Jonas).  I found a good price ($30) on liftopia Sunday and left Monday morning.

 

Weather:  Mid-teens (~ -10°C) in morning with cloudy skies.  Rose to low 30s (~ 0°C) during the day.  The sun broke through the clouds about 11:15am and remained for the rest of my time there.  Wind was not significant.  No rain or snow at all.  Several snow guns were working on various trails during the morning hours.

 

Open Trails: Most open.  There were some trails (mainly trail on far side – relative to main lodge – of ski slopes) closed due to lack of snow on trail (most people that visit EpicSki are aware that 2015/16 winter has been very slow start for eastern ski areas) .

Closed TrailsEasy Street, Glades, Sidewinder, Snake, Spur, Upper Fast Track, Upper Runaway, Lower Fast Track.

Closed Lift: The Long Haul

 

Crowds:  Light for most of the day.  I never felt crowded.  There were many times that I found myself alone on the slopes. 

 

Lift lines: Less than 1 minute wait at the operating lifts (Iron Horse Lift [IH], Phoebe Snow Lift [PS], Shuttle Lift [SL]).  Unfortunately all the lifts at Montage are slow. :(  A trip on the lifts takes about 7-8 minutes.  A season pass holder told me that a trip on The Long Haul takes about 15 minutes.

 

 

IH primarily servers the blue trails (Whistler, Switch, Spike) & terrain parks (Whistler & Spike) nearest it although one could access the blue trails Snake, Upper Runaway, Sidewinder, Upper Fast Track, Glades, Nordic) and the green trails (Mainline, Highball, Runaround, Easy Street) if needed.

 

SL serves the green trails (Mainline, Highball, Runaround, Easy Street) although one can go to Spike if desired.

 

PS serves the ♦, ♦♦ trails (♦Lower Runaway, ♦Rattler, ♦Cannonball, ♦♦Smoke, ♦♦Boomer, ♦♦White Lightning) and the blue Connection trail.

 

Snow conditions:  Good to excellent depending on the trail.  In morning there were areas of powder on Spike, though this disappeared later in the day.  Corduroy could be found throughout the day due to light crowd volume.  I encountered very little if any icy terrain.

 

I got on the slopes about 9am.  I was able to try my new Atomic Nomad Smoke skis (178cm 125/76/106.5) and Smith IO/X Goggles.  Both met my expectations.

 

The parking lot is unpaved, but it was in decent condition without any potholes worth noting.  I got my boots on at the car and used Skiskootys on the soles.  The Skiskootys worked well, but were a pain to put on or remove.  (I will need to check to make sure I am using them properly)

 

Snow guns were working on several trails. 

 

I started on SL intending to take a green trail to start.  The slow lift changed my mind and I decided to go on Spike instead.

 

I took a few runs down Whistler, Switch, Spike and found the runs to be fun.  I especially enjoyed running into some soft powdery snow on Spike.  That made turning very easy.  These runs had a nice consistent pitch with some steeper (but not too steep) parts.

 

Partially due to the fact that only 3 blue trails were open and partially due to me feeling adventurous, I decided to try a ♦ trail.

 

I went down ♦Lower Runaway and was able to complete run without falling and only minor concern.  (Thanks to those suggesting leaning more forward while skiing.  It helped keep me on my toes while turning to keep from gaining too much speed.)

 

My run was not the very elegant, but I had fun going down the run.  After that run, I became bolder and went down ♦Rattler, ♦Cannonball.  These runs were fun for me.  I did fall once on ♦Cannonball in a spot of low visibility, but I was able to get up and continue my run before anyone could run into me.

 

Lower Runaway – Starts off  with a relatively easy slope, but it has 2 or 3 steep sections and a more sustained medium steep slope.

 

Rattler – A relatively narrow trail that connect from ♦Lower Runaway to ♦Cannonball. The pitch is not too steep (not gentle, but not super steep either), but I needed to make frequent turns to stay out of the trees.

 

Cannonball – Starts off a relatively easy slope, but it has 3 or 4 steep drops with medium slopes in between the drops.

 

The more runs I took the better I became at taking the steeper parts with some speed.

 

After several Expert runs, I decided to try ♦♦Smoke since I wanted to push myself more and I liked the name.

The first drop, while steep, it was not much steeper that steep parts from ♦Lower Runaway or ♦Cannonball.

The second drop was what I would consider insane. I stood there looking at the drop, planning my attack.

I decided to try and take it by going across the grain to minimize the speed I would gain if I went down the slope more directly.

I made it to the side of the trail.  While I was able to pass the steepest part of the slope, I was on the side of the trail without an easy way to turn myself to the other direction. I slide about 10-15 feet backwards to give me room to make a turn.

I did not feel comfortable on ♦♦Smoke so I did not even attempt the other 2 ♦♦ trails.

 

I spent most of the rest of my time going down ♦Lower Runaway, ♦Rattler, ♦Cannonball.

At one point I did take the 2 lifts PS and IH to the top and timed myself going to the bottom via Whistler and ♦Lower Runaway.

It took me about 5 minutes to make my way down after taking about 15 minutes (via lifts) to go to the top.

 

My last run of the day was down ♦♦Smoke.  (My second attempt at ♦♦Smoke) I went to one side of the trail and side stepped down part of the way down the "insane" (for me) steep drop.  When I felt comfortable enough I proceeded to tackle ♦♦Smoke just like the other single ♦ trails. Except for that one super steep drop, I would consider ♦♦Smoke easier than ♦Cannonball.

 

Montage is an interesting mountain.  Beginners and intermediates on the top half while the experts are on the bottom half.

 

Although it has a total vertical of ~1000 feet, the trails are on the short side.  There is not a single trail that goes from top to bottom.  One would need to combine a blue trail from the top half of the mountain with a black trail from the bottom.

 

Lifts that only serve the top (or bottom) half of the mountain is good for those that wish to focus on trails of a certain difficulty. (It is also good since the lifts are so slow.  I would hate to sit on a 15 minute lift ride (ala Long Haul).  Only good I see from slow lifts is time to talk and rest up between runs.

 

Montage would be a nice home mountain, but I do not think it is worth the time it would take to get there (from my home) due to slow lifts and better alternatives (Belleayre, Elk, Blue Mt., Camelback, or JF to name a few) available.

 

I'll add a few photos when a get a moment.

===============================

IIRC, this was the View of Highball from SL about 9:30am

IIRC, this was the View of Switchback from IH about 9:45am

Me at top of Spike.

View from IH with the sun out.

View from IH of someone going down Switchback.


Edited by GreyPilgrim - 1/26/16 at 6:00pm
post #2 of 24

Grey Pilgrim

 

Thumbs UpThumbs Up on a very extensive review of Montage. I think you captured the experience there very well. Nice that it was not crowded, I passed on skiing yesterday and today due to schools being closed.

 

It's a very good thing that you did not go to Blue......crowds were massive, staffing was unable to cope.

post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 

Living Proof,

 

Thanks.  Based on your crowd report, I am glad I did not go to Blue Mountain. 

 

Even though Blue has a high speed lift do you think the lines would result in a longer time up the mountain than the slow (~7-8 min) lifts at Montage?  (Realize that this is not a complete apple to apple comparison since the High speed lift at Blue Mtn. covers the the entire 1000+ feet elevation, while the Montage lifts cover about half that elevation)

 

I wonder how the crowds were at other Pocono locations such as Shawnee, Camelback, or Jack Frost?

post #4 of 24

If you thought Smoke was steep, then it's very good you did not try White Lightening.  The top part is nothing more than a blue, but the last pitch would probably look like an elevator shaft.  No kidding, I can't argue their claim it's the steepest trail in PA.

 

I was at Camelback on Sunday, crowds were lighter than usual, probably because many people were still digging out.  Not surprised Blue was over crowded, it does get that way.  When I first started skiing there (when it was Little Gap) it was relatively unknown and therefore uncrowded.  

post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NJskier164 View Post
 

If you thought Smoke was steep, then it's very good you did not try White Lightening.  The top part is nothing more than a blue, but the last pitch would probably look like an elevator shaft.  No kidding, I can't argue their claim it's the steepest trail in PA.

 

I was at Camelback on Sunday, crowds were lighter than usual, probably because many people were still digging out.  Not surprised Blue was over crowded, it does get that way.  When I first started skiing there (when it was Little Gap) it was relatively unknown and therefore uncrowded.  


At this point I was happy to ski the ♦ trails without much difficulty.  No reason to push my good fortune too far on even steeper terrain. :eek

 

The season ticket holder I spoke with mentioned the "steepest trail in PA." comment regarding ♦♦White Lightning.  Fortunately for me the steep part of ♦Smoke was not very long.  Otherwise I would have had an interesting time side stepping down the slope. I even saw someone walk up the first drop of ♦Smoke.  I guess he thought he made a mistake going down ♦Smoke in the first place.  He was fortunate to eventually climb up the drop.  While riding PS, I saw him slide down the drop after he climbed up 5/8ths of the way up.

 

Here is a photo of ♦Cannonball trail.

post #6 of 24
I was at Montage on Sunday and White Lightning had the best snow on the mountain.

I like the place for a short day because their snowmaking is pretty good, it does have some steep trails (or at least short sections) and its never been crowded when I've been there. The downsides are the terminally slow lifts and the less than spectacular views of the Scranton metropolis.
post #7 of 24

Nice trip report!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NJskier164 View Post

 

I can't argue their claim it's the steepest trail in PA.

 

I suppose it really depends on how you define "steepest trail". I.e. does it have to be over a certain length or vert? If it can be short, then the top of Gunbarrel at Roundtop appears to be steeper than White Lightning, though over a shorter distance. I've skied Gunbarrel, and never been to Montage, so I can't really compare. But Gunbarrel is really steep (for me) at the top!

 

Here are the Hillmap traces though. Gunbarrel hits about 35 degrees, but only for a couple of turns. White Lightning at Montage is about 31 degrees, but looks like a bit more sustained pitch. ("Smoke", for reference, tops out at 26 or 27 degrees for a short duration.)

 

 

post #8 of 24
Denton used to claim they had the steepest trail in PA. Forget the name. It was a mess of ice and rocks when I was there. I left it alone.

Oops, they've closed. http://www.post-gazette.com/life/travel/2014/11/16/Ski-Denton-decides-to-close-for-season/stories/201411160007
post #9 of 24

I've heard the name Denton, but since it's a such a long drive for a small hill it was never on my radar.  Sounds a bit like Belle Mountain in southern NJ.

 

dbostedo: I have skied both, you may be right that upper Gunbarrel is steeper, but it's a very short stretch and you can circumvent it by going down upper Ramrod and cutting over under the lift.  White Lightening is an easy trail for the top 1/2 or so, then you come face to face with a good length of steep, looking right down at the lift.  No exit unless you walk up or down. And you're in full view of the liftline  LOL  The first time I went down it, I was like "this is stupid, no way it's as steep a they claim".  Then it was like..."ooo...this is steep"  LOL

 

It's a great run when there is good snow on it, I can imagine it was very good on Sunday.  But I would guess that they did not get anywhere near the snow they had just a bit further south.

post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 

NJskier164,

 

I have not heard of Belle in years.  I remember going there once while attending college. It was fine for being a small hill off of Route 29, but it was a real small hill IIRC.

 

Not bad if one just wanted to move on their skis/snowboard, but there are learning areas that are bigger and/or steeper than Belle Mountain.

 

From the lift line ♦White Lightning looked like a wall of white.

post #11 of 24
looks that way from the top too. lol
post #12 of 24

Yeah White Lightning is steep. A few places have claimed the steepest trail in PA thing. I believe Extrovert at Blue Knob is thrown in that conversation as well as one at Denton (although the trail at Denton was very short). White Lightning is really fun when it's bumped over and has a bit of snow. When it's solid ice, forget about it. I was on a school trip there a while back and still remember one HS junior who wiped out. We watched in terror from the bottom has he slid head first a good 100 feet before disappearing into the woods. Thankfully a dislocated thumb from a failed pole arrest was the only injury. 

post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by SKI-3PO View Post

The downsides are the...less than spectacular views of the Scranton metropolis.

Wow, this actually surprises me. I'd say that the views at Montage are stunning. Particularly during golden hour, during sunset, and at night. I love seeing the city lights in the valley below. It's one of the things that make Montage unique as a semi-urban ski area. I always felt a sense of awe looking out over that.





This picture shows a dirty parking lot on a warm day and a ski lodge with a bland 80's facade. And still, those mountains in the distance. Those taller mountains shaded grey even further in the distance. The gradient of that sky. Just beautiful.







Quote:
Originally Posted by tylrwnzl View Post

Yeah White Lightning is steep. When it's solid ice, forget about it.

Last week on White Lightning, my dad actually broke his neck. Crazy. He walked away with a concussion, fractured C2 vertebrae, shortened ski season, and, most importantly, his life. His helmet saved his life. Luckily his prognosis is good and no surgery is required so far. They're seeing if it heals on its own.
post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 

Nice pictures.  I really like the second one with sun setting in the horizon.

 

Hope all goes well for your dad. Broken bones (and especially neck) does not sound good regardless of how it occurs.

post #15 of 24

I live about 15 min from Round Top and used to hold a season pass to Montage....Gun barrel is not in the ball park of White Lightning.

You zip right over the steep headwall of Gun Barrel. White Lightning is much more sustained. I have skied all of those mentioned here...including Lower Wildcat at Laurel Mt. That is a good steep run.

post #16 of 24

Seeing this thread pop to the top just got me even more excited for the upcoming season - too bad it's basically 80 degrees in Philly today!
Montage always brings back memories from our township bus trips up there as kids in the late 80's/early 90's. It was always the "scary" mountain back then... lol
I still enjoy it, was there 3 times last season. It never really gets too crowded, even on the weekends- huge plus. Upper Fast Track through Lower Fast Track and Upper Runaway through Lower Runaway is fun to bomb at speed. Not bad lengths for the area...
Two seasons ago when we had a decent amount of snow they had their "Glades" open- that was a nice change of pace too. It never opened last season.
Not a huge fan of Smoke- seems like there's always funky shadows/flat lighting. The rest of the North Face has pretty impressive steeps for PA, although the runs are short.
Nice lodge improvements too- I'll be back at least a couple of times this year for sure.
I have a feeling the guys/gals who named the trails on the North Face were probably really fun to hang out with back in the day ;)

post #17 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willyum215 View Post
 

Seeing this thread pop to the top just got me even more excited for the upcoming season - too bad it's basically 80 degrees in Philly today!
Montage always brings back memories from our township bus trips up there as kids in the late 80's/early 90's. It was always the "scary" mountain back then... lol
I still enjoy it, was there 3 times last season. It never really gets too crowded, even on the weekends- huge plus. Upper Fast Track through Lower Fast Track and Upper Runaway through Lower Runaway is fun to bomb at speed. Not bad lengths for the area...
Two seasons ago when we had a decent amount of snow they had their "Glades" open- that was a nice change of pace too. It never opened last season.
Not a huge fan of Smoke- seems like there's always funky shadows/flat lighting. The rest of the North Face has pretty impressive steeps for PA, although the runs are short.
Nice lodge improvements too- I'll be back at least a couple of times this year for sure.
I have a feeling the guys/gals who named the trails on the North Face were probably really fun to hang out with back in the day ;)

 

Have you ever tried skiing it at night? It's terrifying the first couple times because you can't read the terrain at all. Once you know what's there the lighting isn't too much of an issue, but it definitely has a weird combination of fall lines and lighting effects. 

 

I once went over the roller one one of my first runs (night skiing) at the top at a decent clip because it had been groomed. As soon as I dropped over found out they only groomed up to there. It was bumpy (not really moguls yet) and icy. Basically had to just hold on for dear life as I got bounced everywhere because I couldn't stop. 

post #18 of 24
Went to Montage for the first time last year on a bus trip. Unfortunately, I was still recovering from a knee injury and only worked up to the black trails, not the double black. Pretty sure I'm not ready for White Lighting. Boomer and Smoke looked fun from the chair, so I'd like to revisit this year. The problem is that if I go that far past Blue and JFBB, I skip Camelback and Montage and head for Elk!

I don't like night skiing, something about the quality of light really bothers my eyes when I've tried it at Blue.
post #19 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by XLTL View Post

Went to Montage for the first time last year on a bus trip. Unfortunately, I was still recovering from a knee injury and only worked up to the black trails, not the double black. Pretty sure I'm not ready for White Lighting. Boomer and Smoke looked fun from the chair, so I'd like to revisit this year. The problem is that if I go that far past Blue and JFBB, I skip Camelback and Montage and head for Elk!

I don't like night skiing, something about the quality of light really bothers my eyes when I've tried it at Blue.

 

Can't blame you for heading up to Elk. I don't 'like' night skiing it just happened that a lot of the time when I was either in school or working when I lived in PA that night time was when I had the most time available for skiing. 

post #20 of 24

I tend to go to Elk myself as well, definitely my first choice but you can often find really good deals on tickets at Montage and it's nice to mix it up and try to hit all the spots in a season.

I don't night ski much at all anymore but I used to when I was younger. It is kind of odd on the eyes, takes a few runs to get used to for sure!

post #21 of 24
Don't get me wrong, I wish I had a place like Montage in my backyard. I live on the PA/DE border (literally, DE is across the street from my house in PA), and drive a little over 2 hr for day trips to Blue Mountain.
post #22 of 24

Oh yeah I'm not against Montage either. Other than Ski Sawmill, Montage was the closest mountain for me (about an hour and a half). Elk was closer to 2.5; in fact recently I've gone to Blue Knob if I'm going to drive that far instead of Elk. 

post #23 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylrwnzl View Post
 

Oh yeah I'm not against Montage either. Other than Ski Sawmill, Montage was the closest mountain for me (about an hour and a half). Elk was closer to 2.5; in fact recently I've gone to Blue Knob if I'm going to drive that far instead of Elk. 

 

The terrain at Montage is good.  For me, the biggest negative are the lifts (very slow).  However, if Montage was less than one hour drive, I could tolerate the lifts.

One day, I'll make the trek to Elk.  It is about the same time as Montage (within 15-20minutes) and if the reviews are accurate has some of the best terrain in PA.

 

Blue Knob is a place of interest to me, but it is about a 5hr drive from my house.  I could be in central VT or upstate NY skiing similar to better terrain than Blue Knob.

post #24 of 24

Once you go to Elk, if it's only a matter of 15 minutes, you'll probably rarely go to Montage except as a "change of pace".  That's about my feeling on the place, especially after one trip there where they had the snow guns going on open slopes, and the stuff coming out was mostly freezing water.  After making a complaint to management and getting what was basically a shoulder shrug in response, I'm not in a real big hurry to go there.

Elk kicks the butt of any ski area in the Pocono region, plain and simple.  The biggest negative of the place is the ride on the back of the shuttle truck from the parking lots to the lodge...it's brutal on a cold morning!

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