Montage Mountain is the closest ski area to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region. With a 1,000 vertical drop and some of the steepest trails in Pennsylvania, it is a popular choice for expert skiers.
Aerial view of the slopes with expert trails and Phoebe Snow Quad in foreground (Photo Credit: Montage Mountain)
Montage Mountain Ski Area
Montage Mountain, just outside of Scranton, is one of the largest ski areas in the Poconos. Originally owned and operated by Lackawanna County, the ski operations were licensed to a private operator who ran the resort as "Sno Mountain" for a number of year before going bankrupt. New management has reverted to the "Montage Mountain" name and invested heavily in upgrading and modernizing what was becoming a tired resort.
With a 1,000' vertical drop and excellent expert skiing by regional standards, Montage is a popular choice for both Scranton locals and skiers in the NY/NJ/PA region. A railroad motif, paying homage to Scranton's heritage as "Steamtown USA," pervades the ski area. All of the trails and lifts are named after things in the railroad industry. Trails like "Smoke," "Highball," and "Fast Track" all fit nicely into this theme.
More than perhaps any ski area in the East, Montage is split into top and bottom sections. The top portion of the mountain is home to all of the blue and green trails, while the decidedly steeper lower mountain is an expert's playground. Experts enjoy this layout as it keeps the intermediate and beginner skiers on the upper mountian. However, intermediate and beginner skiers can feel penned in and are unable to ski the resort's full 1,000' drop. Stuck on the upper mountain, these less skilled skiers have access to only around 400' of vertical.
Montage is popular with school groups and busses make up a large percentage of the resort's traffic. This can lead to the slopes, and particularly the base lodge, being crowded on weekends and even some weeknights as Montage offers night skiing.
Given its proximity to Elk Mountain, comparisons are inevitable. Both resorts offer a 1,000' vertical drop, but Elk's is skiable by skiers and snowboarders of every ability level, whereas Montage's full vertical can only be skied by black diamond skiers. Elk's summit and base elevation are also about 1,000' higher than Montage's which ensures better snow conditions. Moreover, Elk is slightly farther from New York City, which tends to lessen the crowds. In Montage's favor, its expert runs (particularly White Lightning) are steeper than Elk and it's limited upper mountain intermediate terrain offers wide slopes perfect for improving intermediates learning to carve.
Skiers should be aware that the main lodge is located at midmountain. Montage does an excellent job maintaining the road to the lodge and 4WD is not necessary except during the worst of blizzards.
Montage Mountain Beginner Skiing
Unlike many resorts, Montage's beginner skiing is actually found at the top of the mountain. The Shuttle chairlift services three main green runs (Highball, Mainline and Easy Street). A magic carpet provides first timers with an easy uphill lift and access to a short practice slope. However, more seasoned beginners will quickly tire of Montage's small beginner area. There are no top-to-bottom green runs or even an interesting trail from the top of the mountain back to the midmountain area. These three main green slopes comprise the entirety of Montage's beginner offerings.
Montage Mountain Intermediate Skiing
As discussed above, intermediate skiers at Montage are confined to the upper mountain. Montage's dozen or so blue slopes run parallel to one another on the top 40% of the mountain. They are wide and a pleasure to carve when the snow is good. There is a sameness to the runs, however, that makes them somewhat boring to ski all day.
Strong intermediates will find that two of the single black diamond runs (Lower Fast Track and Lower Runaway) are likely within their grasp. Blue skiers also have an incentive to progess onto these two runs because it will allow them to ski the full 1,000' vertical drop.
Montage Mountain Expert Skiing
Montage boasts some of the steepest skiing in the region. All of Montage's black diamond and double black diamond trails can be found on the lower mountain. Served by the Phoebe Snow Quad, there are three main black diamond trails and three main double black diamond trails. Working from looker's left to right, the runs step up in difficulty. Lower Fast Track is the easiest and White Lightning the most difficult.
Montage alleges that White Lightning is the steepest trail in the East. While we find this claim to be somewhat dubious, it is a genuinely steep trail that requires the attention of even solid expert skiers. Unfortunately, the "steepest in the East" claim seems to attract as many novice high school skiers looking to prove their mettle to their schoolmates as it does qualified experts. This can lead to the trail becoming incredibly skied off and icy. We highly recommend the more low profile Boomer and Smoke trails to avoid some of the inevitable carnage on White Lightning.
On the whole, the expert skiing at Montage is quite good and some of the best in the region. Experts will love that the terrain is serviced by its own quad chair, which due to the steepness of the runs leading to it, rarely has a liftline.
Montage Mountain Restaurants & Bars
Montage's midmountain base lodge is home to a traditional ski cafeteria and the newly updated Slocum Hollow Bar. Slocum Hollow serves homemade American bistro cuisine in an urban-contemporary bar setting. A wide selection of craft beers and wine are available.
Montage Mountain Village
Montage does not have a base village. The closest city to Montage is Scranton, approximately 10-15 minutes distant. Downtown Scranton has a number of excellent restaurants and is home to many railroad heritage sites, including Steamtown USA.
Montage Mountain Accommodation
Unfortunately there is no on-mountain lodging at Montage. The closest lodging is in Wilkes-Barre or Scranton. Clarks Summit is also an option and is a popular choice for weekend skiers looking to do a two-day trip at Elk Mountain and Montage.
Getting to Montage Mountain
Montage is approximately 2 hours from New York City and Philadelphia. From Philadelphia, follow I-476 North to I-81 North. From New York City, take I-80 West to I-380 North and then turn onto I-81 South.
Montage Mountain Resort Statistics
Top: 1,900 ft
Bottom: 900 ft
Vertical: 1,000 ft
Skiable Area: 140 ac
Annual Snowfall: 60 in
Lifts: 9 (7 chairlifts, 2 surface lifts)
Montage Mountain Pros and Cons
+ steep expert runs
+ expert runs serviced by dedicated quad chair
+ wide intermediate slopes
- no true beginner or intermediate trails (slopes only)
- intermediates and beginners cannot ski the full 1,000' vertical drop
- blue and green runs tend run parallel and are quite similar
Updated for Winter 2014-2015 - David B. Cronheim