Blue Knob
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johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
one month ago
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,990 posts

Interesting podcast on BK.

https://www.stormskiing.com/p/podcast-174-blue-knob-pennsylvania?utm_source=post-email-title&publication_id=7871&post_id=145278290&utm_campaign=email-post-title&isFreemail=true&r=2crho1&triedRedirect=true&utm_medium=email

JimK - DCSki Columnist
one month ago (edited one month ago)
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,986 posts

Thanks for sharing John.  Apparently, Stuart from StormSkiing caught some fine conditions on his lone visit to BK in January 2024.  He sure got religion because he repeatedly called BK the best skiing in PA and perhaps the whole Mid-Atlantic.  And he makes several generous comparisons with other good ski areas farther afield.

The BK group in the podcast sound earnest and intelligent.  It's just that, and we all know this, the place needs a sugar daddy to bring an infusion of cash to upgrade the lifts and snowmaking system.  Fingers crossed that it can hang on until then.

Denis - DCSki Supporter 
one month ago (edited one month ago)
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,341 posts
I loved Blue Knob.  In the 80s and 90s it was my go to spot.  IMHO it had, and still could have, the only honest expert terrain in the east south of the NY/PA line.  Extrovert in particular.  That old double had a midstation unload such that you could lap the 800 vert of bumps with maximum efficiency with very little run-in at the top and run-out at the bottom.  Bumps in the spring were my nirvana in those years.  I’d watch the predicted temp. in DC and when I saw 55 that meant Extrovert Day.  I once did 28 telemark runs in one day.  The infirmities of age have caused me to one by one give up, bumps, my original knee and hip joints, ibuprofen and alcohol.  But I’ll always have the memories.  
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
one month ago (edited one month ago)
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,990 posts

JimK wrote:

Thanks for sharing John.  Apparently, Stuart from StormSkiing caught some fine conditions on his lone visit to BK in January 2024.  He sure got religion because he repeatedly called BK the best skiing in PA and perhaps the whole Mid-Atlantic.  And he makes several generous comparisons with other good ski areas farther afield.

The BK group in the podcast sound earnest and intelligent.  It's just that, and we all know this, the place needs a sugar daddy to bring an infusion of cash to upgrade the lifts and snowmaking system.  Fingers crossed that it can hang on until then.

 I interviewed Scott Bender way back in the day when he was at Seven Springs. Good guy, but I agree that this ownership group may not have the capital to bring the mountain to the level of Timberline (not mentioned) or Wachusett (mentioned). It’s more than lifts and snowmaking (which has been improved), but issues with the access road, labor shortages, etc.

They were circumspect about the Vail acquisitions and Epic. I think they feel (and rightly so) that people are desperate for an alternative to Vail owned resorts in this region, and like Timberline, hope to fill this growing niche.

One interesting note was the discussion at the end about the microclimate. They mention prevailing southeast winds that often hurt snowmaking efforts there. I always thought that BK, like Timberline, benefited from being west of the Allegheny Front. Is it actually west or on the  wrong side of the great divide? Note: I have never skied BK.

As an aside, I really love what Stuart Winchester is doing with the Storm Skiing podcasts—lots of unique information found nowhere else. He also loves small hills, trees, slow lifts, etc. Great guy.

Laurel Hill Crazie - DCSki Supporter 
one month ago (edited one month ago)
Member since 08/16/2004 🔗
2,040 posts

I too love the terrain at BK. I've been to BK only once since Laurel reopened. Although the winch cat has tamed Laurel's Wildcat it still is as steep as Extrovert.  I do hope that the weather cooperates with their snowmaking. I'm not sure about the state of the infrastructure on Ex, but they could cover Ex and Stem once upon a time. Please correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think they made snow on Ex since 2017. A few of my fondest memories of BK were the winter of 2010 snowmageddon. I'm sure JimK has some pictures of the DCSki/EpicSki gathering we had that year. The entire mountain was open and even the closed glades were skiable if you didn't mind the saplings.

I hope the BK team can find the cash to do the upgrades they need. Talk about upgrading the access road or installing a detachable lift struck me as peculiar. The money would be better spent on snowmaking.

johnfmh, Blue Knob is on the Allegheny Front, it is on the mountain range that is the eastern continental divide.

Here's a link to JmK's 2010 article about Blue Knob. https://www.dcski.com/articles/1244 

  

JimK - DCSki Columnist
one month ago (edited one month ago)
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,986 posts
Blue Knob gets less natural snow than Timberline/Canaan Valley, for sure.  Also, I heard the podcast talk about uncooperative weather for snowmaking; warmer temps, inversions, wind, etc.  There's probably some truth to that, but it can't be any less cooperative than many other local ski areas.  Look at what Massanutten is doing in an even warmer environment!  The real issue is BKs inadequate and out of date snowmaking system.  If they fixed that and put in a new top to bottom chairlift it would do wonders for their visitation.  I realize these are big asks for their current situation.
Denis - DCSki Supporter 
one month ago
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,341 posts

Here’s an interesting article on the Allegheny Front and eastern continental divide.  DCSki readers will recognize many places named here

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
one month ago
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,990 posts
Jimk, I basically agree but after listening to that segment again, the point he seems to be making is that 7 Springs, which lies further west of the Allegheny Front, has a more favorable microclimate because it does not get those SE wind flows. I suspect Timberline’s also does not get those flows. This is the first time I have heard of these wind flows. Anyway, I completely agree that improved snowmaking is necessary and might help compensate for this issue. BK is a great alternative for folks who are not on Ikon or Epic. BK is on Indy.
JimK - DCSki Columnist
one month ago (edited one month ago)
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,986 posts

Didn't mention this above, but I first skied BK in 1967.  Folks owned a cabin a mile from it and I was a pass holder there throughout the '70s and 80s.  Love the place, outstanding terrain.  Wish them all the best.

Besides the post LHC linked, here are some more photos from Feb 2010, amazing time at BK:  here

swoop
29 days ago
Member since 11/30/2017 🔗
66 posts

I listened to the podcast twice and while I absolutely adore Stuart and the work he is doing and marvel at how good some of his interviews are, his thirst for knowledge and how much he actual retains, this, to me, was one of the more disappointing and soft ball interviews I've heard.  To me, he hinted at the lack of investment, but did not push or challenge the team for any firm commitment for new snowmaking or a time-line for any significant improvement.  All you heard from supposed leadership was we got dealt a bad hand 7 years ago and we are still trying to play that hand, replace some pipe... hire college students to provide a conceptual design for hope of an automated  system one day, blablabla.  This frustration manifested itself on social media recently with skiers asking for an ownership change.

I take interest not having skied there, but seeing what it was and could be is truly promising.  Yes the ROI is probably 10 + years for $15M infusion, but until that Sugar Daddy comes along, go see Lasz at Platty and at least scrap and claw like they do.  What about ownership restructuring and setting up a coop? Could this happen with leased state land being part of the equation?

JohnL
28 days ago
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,554 posts

Blue Knob’s biggest problem is that it is horribly undercapitalized with infrastructure maybe in worse shape than TM, pre-Perfects.

We’ve had so many poor winters in the Mid A lately, that I don’t know if I trust snowfall stats. But, from imperfect memory, Blue Knob generally got less snow than Seven Springs/LM, and much less than Wisp/TM.

It is further east than the Laurel Highland areas, so less lake affect snow? And I’m pretty certain it is just east of the continental divide (even though a bit taller than the divide). So, you may have some blocking to the west of it, cutting down on snow? Sorta guessing, but consistent with what I recall when I used to ski that part of PA more often.

It wouldnt surprise me if their microclimate causes some snowmaking challenges, but that is a bit of a cover for poor infrastructure and funding.

JohnL
28 days ago
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,554 posts
Back in the Fred and Tracy days, I used to say Blue Knob out Timberlines Timberline.
JohnL
27 days ago
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,554 posts

Re Vail - Blue Knob had all the same issues (and positives) decades prior to Vail’s presence in PA. So, I think that theme was a red herring and not sure it was a good structure for the podcast.

I really don’t see anyone putting 10-15 million into BK. The state forest lease issue would be a big risk to investment. I would much rather deal with the US Forest Service, than a single state’s bureaucracy. USFS does a lot more of these leases, and you get more potential from your lease out West. 

It’s also tough to determine what BK’s prime market area could be, if loads of cash was put into it. TM, the old Snowtime Resorts, Massanutten are all more convenient to the DC market and Snowtime to Baltimore. The Laurel Highlands for Pittsburgh. If Altoona is your primary market, you’re not gonna attract a lot of investors. And road access is another big hurdle.

One of the BK team members made a great point about possibility of putting in a quad high speed lift - it would require widening - and regrading - the underlying slopes. That would take away part of the old school feel and skiing that is a big plus for BK. And I don’t see them ever attracting enough skiers for the guesstimated 8-10 million investment.

Biggest current need is upgraded snowmaking and maybe some TLC for the slopes and glades to remove erosion/brush issues. Better surface would make things more skiable with less snow. The great terrain is not useful if you can’t open it for lack of snow. 

bob
25 days ago (edited 25 days ago)
Member since 04/15/2008 🔗
762 posts

BK was my go to place on weekends when I  lived  4 miles south of the PA stateline in the early 90s. My go to place at night was Roundtop, but I lived at BK on weekends.

I was still new enough to skiing that I wouldn''t (couldn't safely?)  ski the blue ice bumps on Extrovert, but Stembogen was my place to be.

My fondest memory of BK was the day I drove there in rain. At the roadway entrance it as still raining. I remember thinking "this is a mistake," but it was snowing heavily at the ski area. It turned out to be a great day. Altitude cures many evils, and BK has more altitude than any other area in PA.

I miss the place. Haven't skied it in 30 years since I moved from the area. I wish it well.

RodneyBD - DCSki Supporter 
yesterday
Member since 12/21/2004 🔗
260 posts

Just listened to the podcast. Too bad Scott Bender is retired, he clearly has the managerial talent to get BK back in gear.

I subscribe to Storm, and Stuart Winchester generally does a good job drilling down on the intricacies of each resort.  But the focus on Vail and 7S competition is misplaced.  Wisp is farther from both Pittsburgh and DC.  Timberline even further. They both attract lots of skiers and sell lots of tickets.

I've been to BK at least once each of the last three winters. Yes, BK has lots of deferred maintenance. But this group hasn't made much progress, especially with snowmaking. My takeaway is they could have been a bit more upfront and forthcoming. Blaming temps for their snowmaking woes is disingenuous (see: Roundtop and Liberty). The ops guy seems dialed in, cited the 70k of pipe that needs replacement, the mobile compressors they need, etc.  But then he said there is snowmaking on Extrovert. That equipment is ancient and hasn't made snow in 5+ years, so huh? They talked about the glades and was surprised they didn't mention the logging, which certainly isn't their fault. Then Stuart flat out asked "do you have a border to border policy".  They didn't have an answer because they don't know.  Earlier in the podcast the younger family member had a cagey answer about "staffing shortages" but otherwise sounds capable. Perhaps there is hope.

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