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.
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.