As tradition has it, the days after Thanksgiving have normally seen the opening of local ski areas. Thanks to some below freezing nights of snowmaking, Blue Mountain Resort in Palmerton had its earliest opening in years on Black Friday. They were able to open five slopes serviced by three lifts.
This opening also signals a milestone for this Carbon County resort. Blue Mountain is beginning the season celebrating its 40th anniversary on December 22, 2017. It’s a local ski/boarding area that many learned to ski and board there. Count my family and I as some of them.
Melissa Yingling, marketing director at Blue Mountain, has chronicled the history of the Blue that was formerly called Little Gap Ski Area. The name change occurred after a marketing expert, as I was told at the time, convinced Little Gap owner Ray Tuthill that the name conjured an image of a small sloped ski area. Which was far from the truth.
In chronicling its history, Yingling writes, “In 1962, Ray Tuthill, the company’s founder and former President, bought 322.5 acres with dreams of one day opening a ski area to solve a family problem – having to travel long distances to do something they loved. The ski area began its operations in 1977 when Ray’s dream became a reality, opening the doors to Little Gap Ski Area. The ski area offered 4 trails and 2 lifts in its first year of operation and lift tickets were $12.”
“In the 90’s, the ski area finally reached the bottom of the mountain, which is currently known as “The Valley.” This expansion was instrumental in establishing the ski area as a leader in the industry, providing a 1,082-foot vertical for skiing, the highest in the state, and the most varied terrain for guests of all ability levels. After Tuthill’s passing, his daughter, Barbara Green, stepped in as President and CEO of what is now known as Blue Mountain Resort. Her desire to continue her father’s legacy was her motivation and she is proud of the progress the resort has made.”
“It’s exciting to be part of a company that’s been here this long,” Green says. Under her leadership, she has seen three generations of families working at the resort. She prides herself on being able to provide job stability for these families by expanding the resort’s operations from skiing and snowboarding in the winter to outdoor adventures and activities in the summer.
“The green season activities, she adds, fit so well into what we do year-round, offering outdoor adventures in a natural setting. I’m looking forward to doing more of that.
"In the 70’s, there was an average of 40 ski areas in Pennsylvania and 735 nationwide. Today, there are only 20 in Pennsylvania and 481 nationwide,” explains Green. “The resorts that have survived are those that have concentrated on their snowmaking efficiency, are customer-focused, and provide all-season activities.”
“Blue Mountain Resort has grown all three of these areas of focus consistently over time,” said Yingling. “What started with a 269-foot vertical, four trails, two lifts, and one lodge has since expanded to a 1,082-foot vertical, 39 trails, 16 lifts, 39 tubing lanes, five lodges, and a variety of outdoor activities in the green seasons.
In addition to the early opening and to celebrate its 40th anniversary, the resort will be hosting several events and specials throughout the winter season, including:
• 40th Anniversary Birthday Bash at Winter Fest on Saturday, January 27th
• Throwback Thursday Parties – featuring music from each decade. These parties will take place at Last Run Lounge in the Alpine Ballroom, with live music, giveaways, costume contests, and more.
* 1970’s Theme – Thursday, January 4th; 4-hour Lift Tickets will be available for $12 – the price they were in 1977.
* 1980’s Theme – Thursday, February 1st; 4-hour Lift Tickets will be available for $19 – the price they were in 1987.
* 1990’s Theme – Thursday, March 1st; 4-hour Lift Tickets will be available for $33 – the price they were in 1997.
Details on these events and exclusive ticket pricing opportunities will be released on the resort’s website at skibluemt.com.
If you’re preparing to feast on that wild turkey you managed to take during the recent fall turkey hunting season, here are some turkey facts you may not have known about, as provided by The Birding Wire. They could add to the lively talk around your holiday table.
* Thought the only turkey sound is gobble, gobble? In fact, turkeys make all kinds of sounds: fly-down or fly-up cackle; kee kee run; excited yelp and more. Hear them all, thanks to the National Wild Turkey Federation.
* Turkey droppings tell a bird's sex and age. Male droppings are j-shaped; female droppings are spiral-shaped. The larger the diameter, the older the bird.
* An adult turkey has 5,000 to 6,000 feathers – count them! – on its body.
* Turkeys may look off-kilter – tilting their heads and staring at the sky – yet they're fast. In a poultry race, they can clock more than 12 miles per hour, beating chickens by three miles per hour. The eastern cottontail leaves them both in the dust as it zig zags away from danger at 18 miles per hour.
* Tom turkeys aren't the only ones that swagger and fan their tail feathers to woo mates and ward off rivals. Some hens strut, too.
* Young turkeys – poults – scarf down insects like candy. They develop more of a taste for plants after they're four weeks old.
* Move over, American bald eagle. Ben Franklin called the wild turkey a "bird of courage" and thought it would make a better national symbol.
Gobble, gobble .... enjoy your Thanksgiving Day dinner.
While we were sleeping, the crew at Blue Mountain Resort in Palmerton were busy making snow for their Black Friday, November 24, skiing and snowboarding opening.
According to Melissa Yingling, marketing director at Blue Mountain, “Our snowmakers have been working diligently over the past couple of weeks, taking advantage of prime snowmaking conditions, to provide the earliest opening the Resort has had in years.”
The Resort will be open this Friday through Sunday, will close for the week, then reopen again on Saturday, December 2ND. Hours, ticket prices, and available open trails are as follows:
• Friday, November 24th – 8:30am – 10pm
$29 – 8-hour ticket ?
$25 – night ticket (4pm – close) ?
• Saturday and Sunday, November 25th and 26th – 8:00am – 10pm ?
$39 – 8-hour ticket ?
$25 – night ticket (4pm - close)
• Trails open: ?Easy Out, Vista, Midway, Come Around and Lower Main Street
• Lifts operating:?Vista, Main Street and Burma
All tickets will be sold out of the Summit Lodge located at the top of the Mountain. Only True Blue Retail will be available in the Valley. There will be no service or shuttles from the bottom to the top of the Mountain.
In addition to the exciting news of opening weekend, the Resort will also be celebrating Black Friday Weekend with $29 off-peak and $39 peak lift tickets. There are no limitations and tickets can be purchased on www.skibluet.com. The deals will run through Monday, November 27th.
Blue Mountain is also celebrating 40 years in business. We’ll cover that in an upcoming column.
The first day of Pennsylvania’s statewide bear season resulted in a harvest of 659 black bears, according to preliminary totals released Monday by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. This is about half of what was taken during the 2016 season when 1,297 bears were taken. The reason for this decrease was rain and in some areas sleet and fog which drove hunters out of the woods and into their vehicles.
The PGC says that the archery-bear and other early-bear season harvest data is not included in this preliminary harvest for the statewide four-day bear season, which runs from Nov. 18 to Nov. 22.
Bears have been harvested in 49 counties during the statewide season so far. The top 10 bears processed at check stations by Monday were either estimated or confirmed to have live weights of 535 pounds or more.
The largest of those bears – a male estimated at 700 pounds – was taken in Oil Creek Township, Venango County, by Chad A. Wagner, of Titusville, Pa. He took it with a rifle at about 8 a.m. on Nov. 18, the season’s opening day.
Other large bears taken in the season’s opening day – all taken with a rifle – include: a 648-pound male taken in Dreher Township, Wayne County, by Joseph D. Simon, of Newfoundland, Pa.; a 609-pound male taken in Abbott Township, Potter County, by Michael R. Neimeyer, of Spring City, Pa.; a 595-pound male taken in St. Marys Township, Elk County, by Stephanie A. Siford, of North East, Pa.; a 595-pound male taken in Charleston Township, Tioga County, by Zachery L. Martin, of Wellsboro, Pa.; a 586-pound male taken in Oil Creek Township, Crawford County, by Brian K. Baker, Titusville, Pa.; a 576-pound male taken in Homer Township, Potter County, by Kirby R. Kornhaus, of Jonestown, Pa.; a 561-pound male taken in Ross Township, Luzerne County, by Richard B. Kollar, of Shickshinny, Pa.; a 536-pound male taken in Dean Township, Cambria County, by Matthew J. Lidwell, of Dysart, Pa.; and a 535-pound male taken in Blooming Grove Township, Pike County, by Bradley S. Delikat, of Telford, Pa.
The overall 2016 bear harvest was 3,529, the fifth largest is state history. In 2015, hunters took a total of 3,745 bears – the fifth-largest harvest all time. The largest harvest – 4,350 bears – happened in 2011, when preliminary first-day totals numbered 1,936.
Other previous first-day statewide bear harvest totals were 1,508 in 2015; 1,623 in 2014; 1,320 in 2013; 1,751 in 2010; 1,897 in 2009; 1,725 in 2008; 1,005 in 2007; 1,461 in 2007; and 1,461 in 2006.
The preliminary first-day bear harvest by Wildlife Management Unit was as follows: WMU 1A, 1 (9 in 2016); WMU 1B, 11 (24); WMU 2C, 18 (90); WMU 2D, 32 (37); WMU 2E, 5 (27); WMU 2F, 65 (145); WMU 2G, 129 (303); WMU 2H, 31 (45); WMU 3A, 43 (7); WMU 3B, 74 (95); WMU 3C, 44 (39); WMU 3D, 101 (105); WMU 4A, 29 (83); WMU 4B, 14 (51); WMU 4C, 20 (44); WMU 4D, 26 (102); WMU 4E, 14 (25); and WMU 5A, 2 (1).
The top bear-hunting county in the state on the first day of the season was Tioga County, with 58. It was followed by Pike County with 55.
Opening-day harvests by county and region are:
Northwest (90): Warren, 22 (41); Clarion, 17 (19); Venango, 16 (35); Jefferson, 14 (29); Forest, 12 (38); Crawford, 7 (8); Butler, 2 (5);.
Southwest (23): Somerset, 8 (40); Fayette, 6 (21); Armstrong, 4 (6); Cambria, 4 (10); and Indiana, 1 (10).
Northcentral (263): Tioga, 58 (76); Lycoming, 47 (106); Clinton, 41 (97); Potter, 31 (65); Elk, 28 (43); Cameron, 20 (43); McKean, 16 (39); Clearfield, 12 (46); Centre, 5 (34); and Union, 5 (9).
Southcentral (57): Huntingdon, 16 (37); Bedford, 12 (42); Fulton, 9 (25); Mifflin, 5 (14); Franklin, 4 (10); Juniata, 3 (22); Perry, 3 (17); Adams, 2 (0); Cumberland, 2 (3); and Blair, 1 (15).
Northeast (211): Pike, 55 (34); Wayne, 32 (27); Sullivan, 24 (19); Monroe, 18 (27); Luzerne, 15 (37); Wyoming, 15 (8); Lackawanna, 14 (16); Susquehanna, 13 (20); Bradford, 10 (28); Carbon, 9 (12); Columbia, 4 (12); Montour, 1 (0); and Northumberland, 1 (1).
Southeast (15): Dauphin, 9 (16); Berks, 3 (1); Schuylkill, 2 (12); and Northampton, 1 (1). So far, no bears have been taken in Lehigh County.
The traditional after Thanksgiving firearms deer hunting season opener (Monday, Nov. 27) has, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), the largest turnout of hunters who harvest about a quarter of the season’s bucks. But the agency says this season has the potential of seeing a buck harvest increase for the third straight year.
The reasoning behind this, says PGC Executive Director Bryan Burhans, is due to last year’s massive acorn crop and mild winter that paved the way for big bucks to get bigger and for more young bucks grow into legal racks.
Said Burhans, “There’s no doubt something special is happening. For the past few months, hunters have been sending us trail-cam photos of amazing bucks, maybe even new state records. Our field officers are seeing plenty of bucks from farm country to the big woods. Some are real wall-hangers.”
The PGC says that larger racked older bucks are making up more of the deer harvest with each passing year. Last year, 149,460 bucks were taken, making it the second largest buck harvest in Pennsylvania since antler restrictions were started in 2002.
Chris Rosenberry, PGC deer biologist, says that in 2016, 56 percent of the antlered buck harvest was made up of bucks 2 1/2 years old and older, with the rest being 1 1/2 years old.
Rosenberry goes on to say, “Older, bigger-racked bucks are more of the norm in the forests of Pennsylvania than they have been for at least a couple decades. There’s no doubt antler restrictions paved the way. It was a big step forward 15 years ago, and today we’re seeing the results for protecting young bucks.”
That statement on antler restrictions drew a lot of flack from sportsmen back then when Gary Alt, former famed bear biologist turned deer manager, proposed the restrictions. In retrospect, it appears Alt did the right thing.
As for the conditions, Dave Gustafson, PGC Forestry Division chief, said there were regional bumper crops of red oak acorns last year, the deer’s favorite food. But despite cyclical years, field officers are seeing decent red-oak acorn crops this year too. And areas that didn’t see red-oak acorns last year, have a better-than-average crop this year. He surmises that hunters who find acorns beneath white and chestnut oaks are likely to find other oak trees that are producing acorns in numbers.
“Hunters seeking deer feeding areas need to look for beechnuts, Crabapples and other soft mast. Deer make a mess when they eat, so hunters should look for raked-up leaves, droppings and partially eaten mast,” Gustafson suggests.
Added to this, and because of the warm fall we experienced, the rut may still be on for at least the first week of the season. According to Bob Danenhower, of Bob’s Taxidermy in Orefield, when the weather is warm like we had during the archery season, doe (antlerless deer) may not go into heat as quickly. So if the rut continues, it should make for an interesting start to the firearms deer hunting season.
PGC PHOTO CONTEST
The PGC is sponsoring their first Beyond the Hunt Photo Contest, that offers hunters an opportunity to win a generous price package.
But unlike the typical grin-with-deer photo, this contest encourages a photo of the landscape or wildlife surrounding your favorite hunting spot, the person sitting bedside you in the stand, the meal you share after a successful hunt or any other special moment of your Pennsylvania hunting experience.
To enter, submit a photo showing an aspect of hunting other than the harvest and provide a short explanation about why it’s meaningful to you. Hunters may enter multiple submissions to email@example.com using “BTH” in the subject line.
There’s also the Buck Harvest Photo Contest that does allow including your trophy buck taken in Pennsylvania during the archery and firearms seasons. Again, multiple entries may be submitted but they must be sent in by Dec. 17 to the above PGC email address. These winners will receive trail cameras.
With the fall turkey hunting season coming to a close Nov. 25 in the state, perhaps you were one of the lucky hunters to bag a bird. If you were, that turkey could save you some money for your Thanksgiving Day dinner, especially if was a hefty bird.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 32nd annual price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table, the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 people is $49.12, a 75-cent decrease from last year’s average cost of $49.87. The Farm Bureau says the big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at a total of $22.38 this year. That's roughly $1.40 per pound, a decrease of 2 cents per pound, or a total of 36 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2016. But you can realize even greater savings when you consider the wild turkey cost is built into your $20.90 annual hunting license fee. The wild turkey is a tiny percentage of this fee if you factor in harvesting a deer as well.
"For the second consecutive year, the overall cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined," AFBF Director of Market Intelligence Dr. John Newton said. "The cost of the dinner is the lowest since 2013 and second-lowest since 2011. Even as America's family farmers and ranchers continue to face economic challenges, they remain committed to providing a safe, abundant and affordable food supply for consumers at Thanksgiving and throughout the year."
The shopping list for Farm Bureau's informal survey includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.
Consumers continue to see lower retail turkey prices due to continued large inventory in cold storage, which is up almost double digits from last year, Newton explained.
Foods showing the largest decreases this year in addition to turkey, were a gallon of milk, $2.99; a dozen rolls, $2.26; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.45; a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.52; a 1-pound bag of green peas, $1.53; and a group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), $2.72.
"Milk production has increased, resulting in continued low retail prices," Newton said. "In addition, grocers often use milk as a loss leader to entice consumers to shop at their stores."
Items that increased modestly in price were: a half-pint of whipping cream, $2.08; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.81; a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.21; a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, $2.43; and a 1-pound veggie tray, $.74.
"Whole whipping cream is up about 4 percent in price, due to increased consumer demand for full-fat dairy products," Newton said.
The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks with the government's Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home. But while the most recent CPI report for food at home shows a 0.5 percent increase over the past year, the Farm Bureau survey shows a 1.5 percent decline.
After adjusting for inflation, the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner is $20.54, the lowest level since 2013.
A total of 141 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 39 states for this year's survey. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey.
Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75.
The AFBF Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau's survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.
With an 89 percent success rate during the latest Pennsylvania elk hunting season, and with bulls weighing over 800 pounds, why would you spend your hard-earned money paying for an expensive elk hunt out West or New Mexico.
Yes, those are some of the numbers reported by the Pennsylvania Game Commission of hunter success during the latest elk season that ended Nov. 4. The PGC said that 104 elk were taken by hunters during the regular one-week season. And for those licensed to hunt antlered elk, also known as bulls, the success rate was 100 percent.
The 2017 harvest included ten bulls, each were estimated to weigh 700 pounds or more, with three of them going more than 800 pounds. The heaviest bull taken in this year's hunt was estimated at 833 pounds. It sported an 8-by-7 rack, and was taken Oct. 30 by Shawn Latshaw, of Franklin.
Missing that one by a pound, Robert Cook, of Earlville, NY, managed to down an 832-pounder with an 8-by-9 rack. Close by was an 803-pounder with a 6-by-7 rack shot by Alfred Hake, of Manchester.
Not all of the bull elk taken in the hunt were measured and green-scored by rack size, said the PGC. But Cook's bull had the highest green score at 431 6/8 inches, according to Boone & Crockett big-game scoring standards.
Official measurements of bulls taken in the hunt cannot be taken and recorded until the antlers have air dried for at least 60 days after the animal was harvested. This holds true for antlered deer as well.
The PGC points out that there also were some large antlerless elk taken in the harvest. Nine of of the 79 cows taken by hunters during the one-week season weighed over 500 pounds.
There were 59 elk taken on the Oct. 30 opener, and consisted of 12 bulls and 47 cows.
To participate in the elk hunt, hunters must submit an application, then be selected through a random drawing and purchase a license. The drawing annually attracts more than 30,000 applicants.
Pennsylvania’s statewide, four-day black bear rifle hunting season gets underway Nov. 18. And as with big elk, Pennsylvania also harbors some very large bears. In fact, the Keystone State has become known nationwide as a big bear state and ranks No. 2 among all states and Canadian provinces in number of black bear entries in Boone & Crockett Club records. Ten percent of those bears, boasts the PGC, were taken in Pennsylvania.
Last season, 3,529 bears were harvested (typical success rate is between 2-3 percent), and it ranked as the state’s fifth best. Keep in mind this is out of an estimated population of 20,000 bears with 170,000-175,000 licenses sold. The state’s all-time largest harvest occurred in 2011 when 4,350 bears were taken and this was during the first four-day season format.
During the 2016 season, 60 bears topping 500 pounds were taken. The largest was shot by Dusty Learn, of Home, whose bear tipped the scales at 740 pounds. He took is with bow-and-arrow.
But there are still bigger ones out there according to Mark Ternent, PGC bear biologist, who claims 800-pound bears have already been taken. He explains that it takes about nine years for a bear to reach 500 pounds, so 800-pounders are older, wiser bears.
And this season, Ternent says there’s an abundance of fall foods and with warm weather stretching into the first week of November, bears will be on the move (like the one spotted going into Cementon Playground a few weeks ago). The uncommon warm weather, he went on to say, have given bears reasons to stay out of dens.
In 2016, bears were taken in 58 of the state’s 67 counties with the largest bear harvests occurring in Lycoming County (243); Clinton County (220); Tioga (169); Potter (149); Warren (131) and Somerset (116).
If you’re lucky and bag a bear, don’t forget to have it checked at a check station that are listed on the agency’s website www.pgc.pa.gov. The PGC also recommends having a plan to get your downed bruin out of the woods. It's a tough job to do by yourself, especially if you bag an 800-pounder.
With colder weather oncoming many boaters and paddlers pack it in for the winter. But there are those who don’t let the cold bother them and continue to fish and paddle throughout the winter months. For those die-hards, BoatUS, the organization representing the boating sports, has these suggestions if going on-water during cold times, or even on warm winter days.
BoatUS says that it’s wise to know when to wear thermal protection be it with a dry or wetsuit. However, a long-assumed guideline meant to help paddlers make the right decision is sometimes known as the “120-degree rule,” that may put paddlers in danger.
The 120-degree rule, according to BoatUs, is a formula that adds together the air and water temperatures to determine when thermal protection is required. It assumes that if the total is above 120 F, that no dry or wetsuit is needed.
“Using this formula, says Ted Sensenbrenner, BoatUS Assistant Director of Boating Safety, a paddler could mistakenly believe that if air temperature is in the low 70s and water temperature is hovering around the low 50s, that thermal protection is not necessary. That could not be father from the truth.”
Sensenbrenner says that warm fall spring days give paddlers a false sense of security. “Water temperatures have plunged, but the sun on your face hides the reality that accidentally going overboard at this time of year could quickly lead to trouble,” he opines.
According to BoatUS research, sudden cold-water immersion can kill in several ways: involuntary gasp reflex and hyperventilation, cold incapacitation and immersion hypothermia. Not wear a life jacket compounds the drowning risk.
“A word to the wise. Always wear a life jacket when in an open boat or on deck and especially in a canoe or kayak. And consider water temperature when dressing for your next boating adventure,” says Sensenbrenner.
And if you haven’t as yet winterized your boat, the organization recommends doing the following before stowing it for the winter.
1. Check your fire extinguisher to ensure it’s charged.
2. Pull the vessel’s drain plug and dry and clean the hull. Doing so helps prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
3. Make sure propellers are free or dings, pitting, cracks and distortion and that they’re secured properly. Also inspect the hull for blisters, distortion and cracks.
4. Check the fuel system for any leaks or damages, giving special attention to fuel lines and connections. Damaged fuel hoses could be cracked, brittle or soft. As with fuel lines, check all belts, cables and hoses that may have been damaged during the season. Ensure belts are fitted tightly and that there are no cracks on the outer jacket of the throttle, shift and steering control cables.
For more information, go to BoatUS.org.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.