After an excellent day at Timberline the previous day, my buddy and I decided to try out another new mountain. I had heard really good things about Blue Knob, so thats where we decided to go.
Since it had snowed 3-4" at my friend's cabin followed by some rain, I decided not to take the Subaru down the driveway the previous night. We woke up at 5:45, shut down the cabin, and headed out to the road in order to dig out the entrance for my friends 2 wheel drive Accord. I had called another friend who lived at State College and told him to meet us at Blue Knob at 9:30, but due to the wet snow, we couldn't get the car out of the driveway for nearly an hour. Around 8:45 we finally freed his car and got on the road.
The roads were pretty clear all the way to the Blue Knob access road which is where it got interesting. Blue Knob is an upside down mountain, so you have to go to the top to park. They had received about 8" of heavy wet snow, and the access road, which is on the side of the mountain, is windy and has steep drops on the side. It was reduced to about a lane and a half, so when somebody came the opposite direction, you had to go to the side and wait for them to pass. I thought that section of the road was bad, but once you got to the resort/hotel area, the road was completely snow covered and hadn't been plowed. We arrived in the lot below the lodge around 10:45 and booted up.
The mountain is definitely rustic. It hasn't seen large scale capital expenditures in many years. The lodge is a nice size, is fairly well maintained, especially on the inside, and is modeled after the old school Swiss looking chalets. We scored a 5 hour flex ticket for $50 and waited for my friend who had just pulled into the lot. We were surprised at how many people were right outside the lodge, but that didn't translate to much traffic on the slopes. The only major downside at the top is that the terrain park is right in the middle of the mountain and once you pick a side you are pretty much stuck there until you get to the bottom of the lift.
Overall, conditions and crowds were really good. The triple at mid mountain had about a 2-3 minute line when we first got there, so we went to the very bottom via the moderately flat runout and there was no line. The lines would flip flop from lift to lift, so we did as well. Although Blue Knob has only seen slightly less annual snowfall than Timberline, the off piste difference was radical. Although coverage was decent, and even very good on the flatter woods, I was hitting lots of obstacles in the steeper stuff and scraping bottom. Also, their "glades" are very open trails without snowmaking and some trees. Unfortunately, when they were cut, they were cut too open and they have experienced a bunch of dead loss which has made them more like trails with a couple trees instead of glades. The ditch glades had few trees, but it was a gully that was basically a fast chute and it was a bunch of fun.
The bowl was open and was in pretty good shape. the drop in was scraped off, but the rest of it skied pretty well as did the double lift line, even if it got a little thin in some places. The bump runs were scarce and they weren't shaped well at all, so I stayed out of them most of the day. The groomers were phenomenal and there were definitely some fun cruisers.
Blue Knob only has slow lifts, but they do have a very rare lift in that the double has a full service mid station that can load and unload. That also happens to be where the trail leading to the bowl is, so thats very convenient for running laps over there. The lifts are also unique in that they actually go above and below each other and use the same tower for both haul ropes.
Overall, it was a fun day. I think Blue Knob was the unfortunate casualty of coming a day after an epic experience at Timberline, but I would definitely go back. It was another mountain that wasn't crowded on the weekend and had a great laid back vibe to it. It's in the middle of nowhere, but its definitely worth a trip every once in awhile. Furthermore, the trails on skiers right off the bowl area are pretty challenging, and when they have good snow, would make any expert skier smile.