When temperatures dip, it’s tempting to hide under a blanket and hibernate until spring arrives. Who can say they’re looking forward to bitter cold mornings spent trudging through slush-covered streets?

Yes, Pennsylvania winters can feel never-ending, and that feeling is not going anywhere. So, what if you could learn to appreciate the colder months or even ― dare we say — love them?

Ask anyone who actually loves this time of year, and they’ll tell you the key to embracing winter is finding an outdoor activity you can only enjoy in the snow — like skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, or snowshoeing. And luckily, the Poconos are within a few hours of Center City, making the ski resorts and snow-covered mountains ideal for a day trip or weekend getaway.

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Getting outside and moving, regardless of the season, is a great way to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. And it’s a way to unwind and hang out with others outside.

“It’s very zen and it just kind of lets you relax while not relaxing,” said Gregg Pambianco, president of the Eastern Pennsylvania Ski Council. “There’s times when you’re on the mountain and you’re not going to have [internet or phone] reception and it’s nice to not be able to be reached for a certain amount of time.”

Hitting the slopes is also a great opportunity to travel and make new friends, especially if you join a club, explained LaVern Brown, president of Blazers Ski Club, a Philadelphia-based organization that hosts year-round activities and provides development opportunities with an aim to foster diversity and inclusion across winter sports.

“Winter, summer, spring, or fall, what I found best about the Blazers is the interaction with people, the ability to travel, to participate in a sport that is non-traditional for African Americans and establishing some long-lasting friendships,” said Brown.

“Participating in skiing changes you, almost like going to college or getting a job, because it opens up a whole new world for you, one that you didn’t know was there. It’s an eye-opening experience,” Brown said.

We’ve got tips on how to get started, save money, and a list of great hills to explore.

Jump to an activity:

Skiing and snowboarding

Skiing and snowboarding on a budget

For those looking for more of a thrill, skiing and snowboarding are great options, but they often come at a much higher cost. But there are several ways to save a few bucks or even hit the slopes for free. Skiing is “very often criticized as being very expensive and it doesn’t have to be,” said Pambianco.

Here are four ways to save money, according to Pambianco:

  • Buy lift tickets ahead of time.

  • Rent equipment from a local ski and snowboard shop, not from the hill.

  • Find beginner packages offered by resorts, which typically include a lesson, lift ticket, and equipment rental.

  • Go on weeknights when the lift ticket prices are typically much lower.

Through their affiliation with the National Brotherhood of Skiers, the Blazers club also makes winter sports accessible to people of color, with a focus on Black communities, through the club’s learn-to-ski and development programs.

“The Blazers’ ability to fund-raise allows us to supplement the cost of a day of skiing or a season of skiing for a child or an adult who may not be able to afford it otherwise. We help with the transportation, lift tickets, and we have clothing and equipment they can use,” said Brown.

Skiing with kids

If you have kids in tow, several resorts also offer discounts for children.

  • Spring Mountain in Montgomery County offers a $25 season pass to fourth- and fifth-grade students, which can be applied for in person on any weekday or non-holiday throughout the season. The pass comes with one free Learn to Ski or Snowboard lesson package that includes a beginner lesson and rental equipment.

  • Shawnee Mountain offers three free midweek visits and rentals for fourth-grade students through its Fourth Grade Snow Pass program. Advanced enrollment online is required and the child must be accompanied by a paid adult.

  • Blue Mountain has a $25 child’s season pass for children 5 and younger. It’s available online; you just have to show proof of age upon pickup.

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a great option for those who want to get out and explore without having to go too far out of your way or break the bank. It can be done almost anywhere, as long as there’s snow on the ground.

Many state parks offer snowshoe loaner programs which offer free daily use of snowshoes and poles. And some local parks, including Wissahickon Valley, also offer snowshoes for the day at no cost.

“That’s the awesome part about state parks, there are amazing opportunities out there most people aren’t aware of,” said Christine Ticehurst, Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks recreation and interpretation program coordinator, who said the program was developed in order to help people enjoy the parks year-round.

“It’s a chance to explore the trails during a very magical time,” she said. “You have a different perspective and appreciation for that space through a different lens. The snow helps emphasize the beauty of our trails in Pennsylvania. And it’s a relatively accessible opportunity to get out and recreate.”

Snowshoeing tips:

  • Wear appropriate footwear, such as waterproof or insulated boots, to stay warm, dry, and comfortable.

  • Dress in layers, ideally with wearing moisture-wicking outerwear, and pack a hat, gloves, sunglasses, sunblock, a headlamp, snacks, and a water bottle in order to make the most of your day out on the trails.

“Dress for the weather and let someone know where you’re going and what time you should be back,” said Ticehurst.

Snow tubing

Another fun and affordable way to enjoy the snow is by snow tubing. Many of the local ski resorts offer snow-tubing packages, and you don’t need much more than your snow pants, winter coat, boots, a hat and gloves, said Pambianco.

“There’s no equipment to buy, so you can get on the snow much cheaper as a tuber than skiing or riding,” said Pambianco, who strongly recommends buying your snow-tubing tickets online in advance because of limited availability at most resorts.

So, if you’ve decided to give skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, or snowshoeing a try, here are a number of places near Philly you’ll want to check out this winter.

Skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing in the Poconos

Blue Mountain Resort

➡️ Skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing

The largest of the three closest resorts, Blue Mountain has plenty of skiing and snowboarding for people of all skill levels with its 40 trails across 171 acres. Blue Mountain also offers discounts, including $10 day passes for seniors ages 70 and up, and $25 season passes for children 5 and younger. For snow tubing, Blue Mountain offers 46 1,000-foot lanes and the option to choose between single and double tubes.

📍1660 Blue Mountain Dr., Palmerton, Carbon County, 📞 610-826-7700, 🌐 skibluemt.com, 📷 @bluemtresort, 🎟️ Lift tickets $29-$109, tubing rates start at $20

Jack Frost and Big Boulder

➡️ Skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing

One resort with two mountains separated by a 15-minute drive, Jack Frost and Big Boulder will keep you busy all day and night with a combined 35 trails. If you decide to take on both, start at Jack Frost which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., then head over to Big Boulder for some well-lit night skiing or snowboarding. If you are staying overnight, look into vacation rentals at Snow Ridge Village, for the convenience of skiing on and skiing off thanks to connecting trails.

📍 Jack Frost, 434 Jack Frost Mountain Rd., White Haven; Big Boulder, 357 Big Boulder Dr., Lake Harmony, Carbon County, 📞 570-443-8425, 🌐 jjbb.com, 📷 @skijfbb, 🎟️ Lift tickets $46-$78, tubing rates start at $35

Camelback Resort

➡️ Skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing

In addition to its 39 trails for skiing and snowboarding, Camelback is a full-service resort with on-site lodging, an indoor water park, and more than a dozen dining options, making it a very attractive winter destination for out-of-towners. Because of this, Pambianco recommends going on a weeknight when it’s much less crowded and you can save money with a twilight ticket. Camelback also offers skiing and snowboarding lessons for people of all abilities through the Poconos Adaptive Ski Program. Those looking for a snow tubing experience should visit at night when 40 lanes are aglow with colorful LED lights.

📍 193 Resort Dr., Tannersville, Monroe County, 📞 855-515-1283, 🌐 camelbackresort.com, 📷 @camelbacklodge, 🎟️ Lift tickets $50-$95, tubing rates start at $42

Shawnee Mountain

➡️ Skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing

At Shawnee, you will find 23 trails and six restaurants for an enjoyable family day on the slopes. If you have a fourth-grade student in your life, they can get the 4th Grade Snow Pass, with three free midweek visits and rentals when accompanied by a paid adult. Also, seniors ages 70 and up get free lift tickets all season. Snow tubers have the option to choose between single tubes and adult/child tandem tubes.

📍 401 Hollow Rd., East Stroudsburg, Monroe County, 📞 570-421-7231, 🌐 shawneemt.com, 📷 @shawneemountain, 🎟️ Lift tickets $45-$80, tubing rates start at $32

Outside of the Poconos

Bear Creek Mountain

➡️ Skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing

Bear Creek is only an hour outside of Philly, and the 86-acre resort offers 23 slopes, trails, and terrain parks. Those with an appetite for adventure will enjoy the resort’s three terrain parks featuring jumps, rails, and boxes to thrill freestyle skiers and boarders of all skill levels. Make a weekend of it with on-site lodging, dining, and live entertainment.

📍101 Doe Mountain Ln., Lehigh Valley, Berks County, 📞 866-754-2822, 🌐 bcmountainresort.com, 📷 @bear_creek, 🎟️ Lift tickets $29-$55, tubing rates start at $27.

Spring Mountain

➡️ Skiing and snowboarding

The closest to the city, Spring Mountain offers only eight trails but is a great place to check out for those looking to save money and still have plenty of fun, especially on a weeknight. For beginners, there is a Learn to Ski/Board Lesson Package starting at $70 which includes beginners area lift ticket, rental, and a lesson. Other deals include weekly specials, like College Night, which gets college students a lift ticket and rental for only $30. For fourth- and fifth-grade students, there’s also $25 season passes available.

📍 757 Spring Mount Rd., Spring Mount, Montgomery County, 📞 610-287-7900, 🌐 springmountainadventures.com, 🎟️ Lift tickets $30-$50

Montage Mountain

➡️ Skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing

Montage is a hike, but for the experienced skier, you’ll enjoy its three double black diamonds and Pennsylvania’s steepest vertical drop. With LED lighting installed across all 26 trails, you can ski and snowboard well into the late evening. Montage also offers tubing for different ages, with an added kiddie area allowing tubing for guests 31″-42″ tall.

📍1000 Montage Mountain Rd, Scranton, Lackawanna County, 📞 570-969-7669, 🌐 montagemountainresorts.com, 📷 @montagemtnpa, 🎟️ Lift tickets $35-$89, tubing rates start at $30

Elk Mountain

➡️ Skiing and snowboarding

While it’s the farthest north into the Poconos, Elk Mountain is worth the trip, according to Pambianco. He said it offers a traditional ski experience similar to New England destinations, shying away from the more large-scale business approach as more local ski resorts are bought out by corporations. “Elk has resisted that type of change and a lot of people just like it because they’re less crowded. It’s less about the dollar and more about going out there and having fun,” he explained.

📍344 Elk Mountain Rd., Union Dale, Susquehanna County, 📞 570-679-4400, 🌐 elkskier.com, 📷 @elkmountainpa, 🎟️ Lift tickets $22-$85

Snowshoeing in Philadelphia

Wissahickon Valley Park

Start at the Wissahickon Environmental Center, where you can borrow a pair of free snowshoes for the day to explore the park’s robust trail system.

📍300 W. Northwestern Ave., 📞 215-247-0417, 🌐 fow.org

Pennypack Park

Stretching nine miles across more than 1,600 acres, yYou can follow the Pennypack Creek using the park’s trails, which are both paved and unpaved and stretch nine miles across more than 1,600 acres.

📍8500 Pine Rd., 📞 215-934-PARK, 🌐 friendsofpennypackpark.org

Tacony Creek Park

This park offers a 3.2-mile paved trail that winds its way from Juniata Park to East Oak Lane, giving snowshoers a chance to stop and enjoy some bird-watching along the Tacony Creek.

📍Crescentville Rd. & E. Cheltenham Ave. 📞 215-744-1853 🌐 ttfwatershed.org

State parks where you can snowshoe for free

Each of the following state parks provide free snowshoe rentals, along with basic instructions to get you started. Be sure to bring a form of ID and stop by the park’s office at the start of your visit to get set up with a loaner. Snowshoes are available on a first come, first serve basis, but it’s a good idea to call ahead to confirm hours and snow conditions.

Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center

Located just 15 minutes outside of Easton, Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center offers a mix of nature and history with its 1,168 acres of creeks, fields, and forests along with the Jacobsburg National Historic District, which features a self-guided trail to explore the town’s colonial roots.

📍 400 Belfast Rd., Nazareth, 📞 610-746-2801, 🌐 dcnr.pa.gov

Nescopeck State Park

Enjoy views of Lake Frances, Mount Yeager, and Mount Nescopeck, as you trek out onto one of 15 relatively flat trails crisscrossing through pristine forests. Along with its snowshoe loaner program, Nescopeck’s visitor center also offers cross-country ski equipment at no cost.

📍 1137 Honey Hole Rd., Drums, 📞 570-403-2006, 🌐 dcnr.pa.gov

Promised Land State Park

Keep an eye out for bald eagles while exploring 50 miles of hiking trails in Promised Land State Park and the surrounding Delaware State Forest. Bruce Lake Natural Area and Conservation Island are particular favorites for snowshoeing.

📍100 Lower Lake Rd., Greentown, 📞 570-676-6010, 🌐 dcnr.pa.gov

Lackawanna State Park

Located 10 miles north of Scranton, Lackawanna State Park offers several winding trails tucked alongside nearly 1,500 acres of forests, fields, streams, and Lackawanna Lake, which is open for ice skating and ice fishing when conditions permit.

📍 1839 N. Abington Rd., North Abington Township, 📞 570-945-3239 🌐 dcnr.pa.gov

Other state parks for snowshoeing

While these parks don’t offer free snowshoe rentals, their consistent snow depths make for great snowshoeing in the wintertime. Be sure to call ahead to confirm snow conditions.

Hickory Run State Park

This nearly 16,000-acre park in Luzerne County offers 25 trails covering more than 40 miles for all levels of snowshoers. Many of the trails, created by the Civilian Conservation Corps, were old roads from the towns of Hickory Run and Saylorsville.

📍 3613 PA-534, White Haven, 📞 570-443-0400, 🌐 dcnr.pa.gov

Ricketts Glen State Park

Discover waterfalls, streams, and lakes as you snowshoe your way through Ricketts Glen, which spans more than 13,000 acres across Luzerne, Sullivan and Columbia Counties. Make it a weekend by renting one of their 10 modern cabins, two of which are ADA-accessible.

📍695 PA-487, Benton, 📞 570-477-5675, 🌐 dcnr.pa.gov

Worlds End State Park

Located in Sullivan County and surrounded by Loyalsock State Forest, Worlds End State Park offers more than 20 miles of trails to enjoy its rich woodlands and more than 200 species of birds. Wind your way past scenic mountains and valleys carved out by the Loyalsock Creek.

📍 82 Cabin Bridge Rd., Forksville, 📞 888-727-2757, 🌐 dcnr.pa.gov

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