Camelback Mountain Resort: A Family Weekend in the Poconos
Those in the know, know Camelback Mountain Resort is the premium ski destination in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. But even if you're a total beginner, or don't ski at all, it offers active families a variety of winter adventures: a large snowtubing park, mountain coaster, 34 ski and snowboard trails and the soon-to-open indoor water park. With so much to do, Camelback is a great winter weekend getaway destination for skiiers and non-skiiers alike.
My family, as all novices to snow sports, recently enjoyed a fun-filled weekend sampling many of Camelback's winter activities. About a two hour drive from both New York City and Philadelphia, Camelback makes for an easy getaway sure to please all levels of winter sports enthusiasts.
With 42 tubing lanes and two magic carpet lifts, Camelback operates the largest snowtubing park in the U.S.. My family had a fantastic first experience and loved that tubing required no advance skill — just hop on the inflatable tube and go! Other guests that day ranged from preschoolers to senior citizens and everyone was having fun riding down single or linking up in chains with multiple riders.
Waits can be long, although admittedly we visited on a Saturday afternoon with ideal temperatures, so expected crowds. Camelback offers lower rates on weekend mornings and unlimited tubing sessions on non-holiday weekdays, when crowds are smaller. Another tip we discovered while waiting in line was to walk all the way to the end lanes. While the first few lanes had up to 10 people in line, if we walked down to the last lanes, there were usually only two people ahead of us. An attendant confirmed to me that this is frequently the case.
Another first for my family was riding Camelback's 4,500 foot steel track mountain coaster (the only one in Pennsylvania). At $9.99 per rider, this can be a pricey seven minutes, but is certainly a unique and thrilling experience. Guests choose to go single or double and enjoy a slow scenic ride up the mountain. On the way down, you control the speed of your car and can race through the turns (like my 10 year old) or ride the brakes at snail speed (like me).
Since it was my children's first time skiing and my husband and I hadn't skied in many years, we all took advantage of the lessons offered at Camelback. The terrain-based program allows beginning ski or snowboarders to control their speed and make small turns on a custom-shaped course. My kids were placed in small groups by age and skill set and came out of the 90-minute class with basic knowledge of balance and control, as well as confidence to test out the bunny hill.
Camelback Mountain has 34 trails, all illuminated for night skiing and snowboarding, with 39% rated as beginner. Even on a crowded weekend, we never experienced much of a wait to get back to the top with the 16 lifts and magic carpets that were available.
There are nine different eateries on site, but our favorite Camelback edibles were definitely the warm sugar-coated waffles drizzled in chocolate. The two Waffle Houses on the resort are easy to find - just follow the tempting scent and ski right up to the counter.
After a long day of outdoor adventures, we enjoyed a fun meal at Desaki, a family-oriented Hibachi restaurant about 15 minutes from Camelback. This large venue offers plenty of entertainment for kids. While waiting for a table, Xbox stations can keep kids busy, and on our weekend visit, a magician and face-painter occupied the young diners. Desaki even has a dance floor complete with a bubble machine.
We ordered the traditional Hibachi dinner, but there is a large menu with sushi and other options. The chef was really engaging, making the entire table laugh out loud with his performance. While we all had a delicious dinner, you're paying for the experience as well as the food. Children's meals average about $15 and adult Hibachi entrées range from about $25 - 40. We were served plenty of food for the price (edamame, soup and large entrée), but other less expensive restaurant options are also available near Camelback.
Located about two minutes from the ski area, The Chateau Resort and Conference Center boasts picturesque views of Big Pocono State Park. We enjoyed a full buffet breakfast at the hotel restaurant before hitting the slopes for the day.
The guest rooms at the Chateau Resort were clean but rather dated. The Wi-Fi in the hotel was very slow and spotty and the hot tub was out of service at the time of our visit. There is a small indoor pool and fitness center, as well as a game room for the kids. Overall, the hotel is in definite need of some upgrades but offers tremendous convenience to Camelback.
In April, 2015 Camelback Lodge and Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark will be opening right at the base of the mountain. With 13 water slides, seven pools and multiple play structures covering 170,000 square feet, this will be the largest indoor waterpark and family entertainment center in the Northeast. Snow-making will continue through April 12, so visitors can experience the ski-in, ski-out bar as well as the indoor fun.
For more great ski resort reviews, be sure to visit the Mommy Poppins Ski and Snow Sports Guide.