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Crystal Lake Ski Center History Dates Back to 1971

Dec 30, 2015 11:54AM ● Published by Erica Shames

The summit bullwheel of the poma lift. “The ‘floating’ bullwheel design (not anchored, but suspended from cables) is something I have not seen in my travels before, although I know they are out there,” writes Kevin. Photo provided by Kevin Whipple.

Gallery: Crystal Lake Ski Center - The Early Years [8 Images] Click any image to expand.

This area is near Williamsport, PA on the Lycoming and Sullivan county border in north-central PA, just north of Mapleton Church.

I spoke with Dottie Alford, the administrator of the current Crystal Lake Ski Center, which remains a popular cross-country ski area and mountain retreat. She was enthusiastic and very helpful and gave me the following information about the former downhill skiing operation at Crystal Lake.

The ski area operated from 1971-1996. It had one poma lift that came from the defunct Highland Ski Area nearby, and one rope tow serving a beginner slope. The area had night skiing, snowmaking, and a Thikhold groomer. A summit elevation of 2100’ and a base of 2000’, giving the area 100’ of vertical (although I think this was inaccurate and was more like 200’-250’ of vertical). Originally, the downhill area was going to be the heart of the winter operations at Crystal Lake, but expenses and staffing would end it. The area was forced to rent equipment to keep up with new technologies.

Today, Crystal Lake Ski Center is a beautiful nordic skiing area on 960 acres of mountain woodlands, lakes, ponds, and creeks. It boasts winterized dining facilities, lodging for 180 guests in winter, conference rooms, and recreation facilities. The nordic area features grooming on 30 km of trails and rental skis and snowshoes.

Visiting the area, the trails have not grown in much at all. The poma lift is still in place, as well as the rope tow (minus the rope and drive). The small base lodge and rental building are still standing at the base. I’m unsure, but the area seemed to offer two broad slopes on skier’s left of the poma, and one wide trail and one narrow wrap-around trail on skier’s right of the poma. The learning slope was at the base and descended to a point below the base lodge. The terrain had a nice headwall midway down the mountain which made for some interesting skiing. Although the area is located in a gorgeous mountain area with some worthwhile terrain, it is located in a desolate location (not easy to get to at all) and lacked size and facilities to compete.

Story and photos by Kevin Whipple.

In March, 2009, Ezra Burgess wrote to DCSki with the following information:

“I was particularly interested in your report on the lost ski areas in Lycoming and Sullivan Counties. I am the founder of the ski patrol at Crystal Lake Ski Area in 1986 and, at the time, we had the distinction of being the only Nordic Patrol in the Eastern Division NSP that also patrolled an alpine slope. One thing that was not mentioned about the downhill area was that the slope to the far left was one of the first tubing slopes in Pennsylvania. I don’t remember the exact year they opened it, but if you contact the center I am sure they could tell you.

"It might also interest you to know that one of the primary reasons the alpine ski operation had to close was the oppressive liability insurance premium that was needed to operate. I am sure this is the reason many of the other smaller areas were forced to close. Our increasing litigious society seems to have no idea how much is being lost as a result of more and more expensive lawsuits which have driven up liability premiums to the point where small businesses can no longer continue to operate.”

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