Many shivered as temperatures dipped into the low teens Wednesday in Northeast Pennsylvania, but others rejoiced: Some ski resorts in the Poconos and Lehigh Valley are having earlier openings to take advantage of the weather.
“This is uncharted territory for us,” said Gary Kline, manager at Bear Creek Mountain Resort & Conference Center in Macungie, in the Lehigh Valley.
Kline said the resort had never opened this early in the 20 years of its current ownership. Bear Creek was formerly Doe Mountain, which first opened to skiing in 1967.
“That’s the plan — to open 4 o’clock p.m. on Friday,” Kline said. “The previous earliest ever was Dec. 1.”
The temperature at Mount Pocono dropped to 13 Wednesday, breaking a record of 15 set in 1976, representing a plunge of 20 degrees below normal for overnight lows. It dropped to 22 in Allentown, just 1 degree off a record and 12 degrees colder than normal.
Kline said snow-making machines have been running around the clock this week. He said he’s “98% sure” they’ll have the mountain ready by Friday.
The plan is to operate Saturday and Sunday as well, then close on Monday.
“Each week, we will have another evaluation to see if we can reopen,” Kline said.
Lehigh County is considered just outside the Poconos, which includes parts of Carbon, Monroe, Pike, and Wayne Counties. It’s been even colder in the Poconos, with Blue Mountain and the twin mountain resort Jack Frost Big Boulder also planning to open.
Resort managers say low overnight temperatures have set them up for establishing a base of snow.
The National Weather Service is calling for temperatures to drop to 17 overnight Thursday, with a high of 41 during the day. Temperatures will drop into the mid-20s again into Friday, which should see a high of about 47 before again dipping into the 20s overnight into Saturday.
Jim Dailey, general manager of Blue Mountain, in Palmerton, Carbon County, said his crew “was scrambling a bit” from preseason to in-season mode but would be ready for the weekend.
Traditionally, he said, the resort aims to open by the day after Thanksgiving to take advantage of skiers with the day off. Last year, it opened on Nov. 23. So this opening will be one week earlier, and the earliest ever for the resort.
Blue Mountain is about 90 minutes from Philadelphia in Little Gap Valley within the Poconos. It has 39 trails, five of which will be open Saturday, Dailey said.
“The snow-making system is pounding away,” Dailey said. “We are confident we will have some of the best snow coverage in our region. I’m looking out my window now and can see the piles of snow growing.”
He said the resort started making snow Tuesday.
“This Arctic pressure that’s come along is just outstanding: cool and dry,” Dailey said.
Mostly, Dailey expects the early opening will attract about 3,000 skiers Saturday and Sunday, with most of them intermediate or advanced.
The resort will close again during the week but plans to open the following weekend.
Dailey said he’s looking forward to the early opening. “Opening weekend is always a very festive atmosphere,” he said.