As told by Tricia Matsko, Director of Marketing & Sales
Chances are, most residents of the Blue Mountain area have spent a winter or two on the slopes. Those who come to ski, snowboard, or tube have had a heavy hand in building Blue Mountain Ski Area into what it is today and will continue to help it along as it finds new footing in an ever-evolving future.
Founded 38 years ago by Ray Tuthill as Little Gap Ski Area, the local landmark was renamed in 1987 to take the name of the very mountain it inhabits. Tuthill’s vision was “to bring outdoor recreation to the Palmerton area,” according to Director of Marketing & Sales Tricia Matsko. Back then, it offered just a couple of ski runs and a warming shack at the summit. After Tuthill’s passing in 2007, his daughter Barb Green took over as President and CEO.
“She’s seen that, for sustainability, you really have to put money back into it,” explained Matsko. “She expanded the summit lodge, added more ski runs, the chair lifts, the restaurant [Slopeside Pub & Grill, right] and its expansion. She’s also seen the benefits of adding more than just skiing to try to make it a four season resort.”
Their first step was expanding into the warm weather months with the unveiling of their brand new Summit Aerial Park last August. A three-level high ropes course 30 feet in the air, thrill-seekers can channel their inner Tarzan with 37 elements.
“You’re basically swinging through the trees,” said Matsko. “It’s self-fulfilling. You feel empowered; you get to say you conquered it.”
Groups from all over have come for team-building, friendly competition, and even date nights with their offering of a Climb, Zip, & Dine package.
“Traffic has really picked up. We have three laser tag fields that are hugely popular. The lasers even work during the day. There are three disc golf courses. We get a ton of birthday parties, bachelor parties, Army groups come in; there are really a lot of people taking advantage of it,” said Matsko. “The downhill mountain biking is also growing. People get really into it; they camp out and race with such a great energy.”
The popularity of their new ventures is already proving that year-round attractions are going to be what helps Blue Mountain become a destination people flock to in all seasons, not just when the snow hits. In addition to being popular with customers, it’s going to help the business model as well.
“We’re basically farmers,” laughed Matsko. “We can’t control the weather. We can make snow if it’s cold enough, but if it’s warm or rainy, if we have a bad winter, we still have to pay the bills and the staff. A strong green season in addition to the winter is important so that we don’t have to depend on one or the other.”
“Now that we’re growing, we’re balancing out,” said Matsko. “Locals are becoming more involved and really taking ownership of the mountain. Most of our festivals are new, but October’s are going into their fourth or fifth year. 20,000 people came out for our Spartan race over the course of just two weekends this past July. So our name is out there. We’re doing really great from Little Gap to what it’s evolved into today.”
There are no plans to stop that evolution any time soon. They have more than enough land at their fingertips to support their growth. Their next plan is to create a combined heat and power plant so that they can produce their own energy. Their second largest expense is electricity. By producing their own, those costs could be reduced up to 25-50%, which will allow them to do even more.
Such as? “We want to build a waterpark,” said Matsko. “There’s already 11-17 acres staked out for that. We also want an outdoor ice rink, hot springs, and a hotel. We’re definitely headed in the right direction.” A new ski trail and more tubing lanes are also in the works.
“It’ll be more relaxing; less concrete and slides, more spa and lazy river,” explained Matsko. “We really want it to have a resort-type feel to it. Less “thrill,” more ‘let’s go play disc golf and then cool off by the pool.’ We really want that woods-y, lodge-y feel to it as opposed to industrial waterpark.”
Matsko says the hotel in particular is the key to so many doors they haven’t yet been able to open.
“Right now, we’re more of a daycation and we’re really looking to become more of a one-stop vacation destination for families,” she said. “Last winter season we had 377,000 visitors—there are just so many amenities right in our own backyard that we want to share them with others.”
The hotel will also help along their wedding and banquet capabilities. “Our venue is wildly popular for weddings, but there’s nowhere for people to stay,” explained Matsko. “Adding a hotel will rectify that, our conference offerings, and our availability as a vacation spot.”
Not only that, it’ll offer more jobs, as will the waterpark. “Ask anyone in the area and chances are that they’ve worked at the mountain at some point or another,” said Matsko. “They were a lift operator or a ski instructor. They’ve had some part in growing it into what it is today and we want to continue to employ the community.” Blue Mountain has 60 staff members year-round which swells to 1,200 during the winter months.
They support the community in other ways too, with charitable events and partnerships with local nonprofits. “We joined Carbon County Family Promise for a Father’s Day 5K this year. We’ve also worked with Second Harvest Food Bank; if people brought a canned good to Oktoberfest, we made a donation. We’re always getting requests to work with people. It’s great exposure and we like to support our local organizations—they’re the bread and butter of our business, the driving force.”
The recurring theme at Blue Mountain is that “there’s always something to do at Blue” and Matsko says that has never been more true:
“It’s accessible, family-friendly, there’s something for everyone, and we’re always keeping it new and fresh. With our new green season amenities, it’s just so much more encompassing. Slopeside is now indoor and outdoor and it’s always packed. There are two grand fireplaces. It’s absolutely beautiful. People just want to come for the view. We have a great relaxing atmosphere, with outdoor fire pits and real wood for you to use. It’s like a big extention of your own backyard—just good times and fun.”
WHY BLUE MOUNTAIN?
164 (acres of fun) + 39 (ski trails) + 22 (tubing lanes) + 21 (bike trails) + 16 (lifts) + Adventure Camp, weddings, team-building, corporate meetings, reunions, special events & more!
- Highest vertical drop in PA
- Only family-sized tubes in PA
- Only big air stunt bag in PA
- Most advanced snow-making equipment
- Only two trails not covered by snow guns
- All lighted trails = night skiing
For more info, visit www.skibluemt.com.
All photos provided by Blue Mountain Ski Area.