- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

TANNERSVILLE, Pa. — As night falls, the bar scene is absolutely hopping. Women dance wildly in front of the stage as a five-piece cover band blasts tunes from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Clash. The air is heavy with cigarette smoke. It’s hard to move around.

It could be any popular bar on a Saturday night. The fact that this bar’s patrons are wearing ski pants is the first clue that we’re someplace a bit different.

At Camelback Ski Area, the Poconos’ largest ski resort, there are two kinds of people who hang out after dark: those who ski, and those who apres-ski.

Whether you enjoy the challenge of skiing and snowboarding under the lights — or prefer kicking back with a beer after a long day on the slopes — the mountain is a happening place at night.

To Lexi Oliveri, 29, of Long Branch, N.J., who is dancing her head off to local favorites the Maybabies, nighttime means having fun with friends and “blowing off steam.”

“Party, snowboard, party, snowboard, then back to the house and go to sleep,” chimes in her friend Jim Alvarez, 28, of Bradley Beach, N.J.

Christine Miltenberger, 24, a bank teller from Lancaster, Pa., skis every Saturday night. “It’s more fun because it’s dark and you can’t see anything,” she says.

Her friend Chad Young, a 30-year-old mover, says he prefers night skiing because there’s no sun glare, slush or lines.

Nationwide, night skiing accounts for only about 7 percent of total annual skier visits, according to statistics compiled for the National Ski Areas Association. After-dark skiing is more common in the Midwest and Southwest — where nighttime temperatures are comparatively moderate — and at smaller resorts everywhere.

In the Poconos, whose resorts are a fraction of the size of the big ski areas in the Rockies and New England, night skiing offers operators a way to make the most of what they have. Every major resort in the Poconos stays open at night.

• • •

But it can take a certain amount of skill and bravado to take the plunge.

Although Camelback’s high-pressure sodium lights provide more than enough light to ski, nothing can substitute for the sun. So it can be difficult to spot icy patches and fluctuations in the terrain, making spills more likely. And it’s colder.

“It’s not the best visually, but I have to practice,” said Jason Christel, 22, a competition snowboarder from Denville, N.J., who often comes at night, after work.

On the plus side, lift tickets are relatively inexpensive (about $15 to $25 cheaper than daytime tickets, depending on the resort). Crowds thin out, allowing for more runs.

For teenage buddies and dedicated night skiers Coty Everitt and Ryan English, there’s nothing better than flying down an empty slope at top speed, not knowing for sure what lies ahead.

The less-than-optimal conditions provide “an adrenaline rush,” says Coty, 16, of Watsontown, Pa. “There’s a lot more at stake.”

“There’s an element of risk,” agrees Ryan, 17, of Turbotville, Pa. “It almost plays off that fear of darkness you had when you were a kid.”

• • •

Coty and Ryan are taking a break in Camelback’s cafeteria — too young to hang out at the Main Lounge, the resort’s largest barroom, where the Maybabies are playing to hundreds of people.

At dusk, the bar serves primarily as an apres-ski hangout for people like Deb Pyle, 49, of Wilmington, Del., and her friends, who have been fixtures there for years.

They disdain night skiing.

“The last time I skied at night I wound up with a concussion. Some knucklehead knocked me down. That’s why I consider it beginner’s night,” Ms. Pyle yells over the din.

The band quits playing around 7 o’clock, and the day-trippers filter out of the bar, leaving a smaller group of night skiers.

Outside, the lights cast an eerie bluish-white glow over the mountain.

“For nine months, there’s not a person in this bar,” says Arthur B. Berry III, Camelback’s owner. “And then it comes alive. You see the mountain, you see the lights and it does something to you.”

Hitting Poconos’ slopes

Go north, young man, if you’re looking for snow and the colder temperatures that consistently guarantee the machine-made stuff. And go at night, too, if what you want is lower-priced lift tickets and shorter lift lines.

Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, where every resort but one offers night skiing, are a good bet. They’re four to five hours away via I-95 and I-476, farther than Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail or Wisp, but a snap compared to the drive to Snowshoe.

Here’s a brief guide to what you’ll find there.

1. Alpine Mountain: Route 447-North, Analomink. 4 p.m.-9:30 p.m., 21 trails, terrain park, snowtubing, three lifts including two quads. 570/595-2150 or www.alpinemountain.com.

2. Big Boulder: Route 903, Lake Harmony. 4 p.m.-10 p.m., 13 trails, three terrain parks, snowtubing, eight lifts. 800/468-2442 or jackfrostbigboulder.com. (Big Boulder’s sister resort, Jack Frost, does not offer night skiing.)

3. Blue Mountain: 1660 Blue Mountain Drive, Palmerton. 4 p.m.-10 p.m., 30 trails, two terrain parks, snowtubing, 10 lifts including hi-speed quad. 610/826-7700 or skibluemt.com.

4. Camelback: Exit 299 I-80 (Camelback Road), Tannersville. 4-10 p.m., 33 trails, two terrain parks, snowtubing, 13 lifts including two high-speed quads. 570/629-1661 or skicamelback.com.

5. Elk Mountain: RR2, Union Dale. 4:30-10 p.m., 27 trails, terrain park, six lifts including quad. 570/679-4400 or elkskier.com.

6. Montage Mountain: 1000 Montage Mountain Road, Scranton. 4 p.m.-10 p.m., 21 trails, terrain park, snowtubing, six lifts including quad. 570/969-7669 or skimontage.com.

7. Shawnee Mountain: Hollow Road, Shawnee-on-Delaware. 4 p.m.-10 p.m. 23 trails, terrain park, snowtubing, nine lifts including quad. 570/421-7231 or shawneemt.com.

8. Ski Big Bear: 192 Karl Hope Blvd., Lackawaxen. 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 18 trails, snowtubing, five lifts. 570/685-1400 or ski-bigbear.com.

— Michael Rubinkam and Cathryn Donohoe

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