Steepest Trail in Pennsylvania - Extrovert, Blue Knob

Extrovert is located at Blue Knob Blue Knob Ski Resort is located in Claysburg, Pa – about two hours east of Pittsburgh, the area is considered an upside-down mountain.  The lodge, parking, ticket windows are all located at the top of the mountain. When the conditions are right, Blue Knob is a strong contender for the best ski area, not only Pennsylvania, but the entire Mid-Atlantic region and while that may not mean much to folks who regularly ski in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Quebec, it should be noted that Blue Knob has some challenging terrain that can be enjoyed by even the best skiers.  Blue Knob is the highest skiable mountain (3,146 feet) in Pennsylvania with a vertical drop topping out at 1072 feet.

The mountain has not always operated as a ski area, quite the opposite, from 1952-1961 the Air Defense Command operated Claysburg Air Force Station at the mountain where members of the 772nd Radar Squadron worked.  The base began operations with the role to guide interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the unit's radar scopes.  However, in 1961, due to budget constraints, the station was shuttered and the radar operations were shifted to Gibbsboro AFS in Pedricktown, NJ, subsequently that site was then shut down in 1992. Due to the height of the mountain, the prevailing idea was to transform the land and buildings from an Air Force Base to a ski area, thus providing a much-needed boost to the local economy that just lost a major employer when the base was relocated.  In 1962, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation created the Blue Knob Ski Area using both leased State Park land and adjoining private land. Trails, including Extrovert, were cut, lifts were installed and skiing began. The former Air Force station buildings were converted to support the ski area which were located at the top of the mountain, because it was a radar site, which is how Blue Knob became and upside down mountain. As noted earlier, Blue Knob is the best skiing in Pennsylvania, due to the relatively high elevation and north-facing slopes.  The downside to this geography is Blue Knob can be frigid and windy. The cold and windy environment combined with the lack of a robust snowmaking system is a perfect mixture for icy conditions, but who cares…Blue Knob has a bowl. While it doesn’t rival the back bowls of Vail, the Stembogan Bowl it is legitimate bowl, completely void of trees. Blue Knob is a skier’s mountain, you will not find a plush “Stein Erikson” type lodge or high speed quad lifts, but if you are looking for some challenging skiing, when you are in or near the 814, then point your vehicle toward Blue Knob.

Blue Knob Extrovert Double Black Diamond.jpg

Extrovert is actually divided into two trails, Upper and Lower, both are rated as double black diamonds.  The trail is steep, narrow, ungroomed and generally contains blue ice moguls, so hard you would need a jackhammer to get rid of them. To compound the situation, sharp edges generally don’t help you in icy mogul fields since carving turns isn’t required. Upper Extrovert turns into Lower Extrovert when the trail intersects with Lower Route 66 and Lower High Hopes which happen to be the three hardest trails on the mountain.  Where these trails merge creates the perfect storm of tight, irregular and titanic moguls that will sink any skier that decides to sit back. Extrovert is a legit double black diamond even by Vermont standards, the trail is the steepest in Pennsylvania (although Avalanche at Denton may have been steeper when Denton was open) and has a sustained pitch (sustained defined as 300 ft.) of 30.98 degrees making it the only trail in Pennsylvania to top out above 30 degrees.  To put that in perspective, there are only 23 trails in Eastern North America with a greater sustained pitch and that list reads like an East Coast Hall of Fame list with trails such as Dynamite (Tremblant), Face Chutes (Jay Peak), Upper Lift Line (Smugglers Notch), DJ’s Tramline (Cannon), and when you combine the pitch with the minimalist width of the trail, which is a scant 69 feet, it becomes evident that this is a difficult trail. However, the Mid-Atlantic thaw and freeze weather patterns compound the difficulty creating ice clods doubling as moguls. When skiing the trail you will need all of your extroversion characteristics to be concerned with the physical environment, even though Extrovert is in Pennsylvania don’t write it off as a “hack” trail, it isn’t!  In fact, the trail is regularly mentioned in conversations as one of the hardest trails in the east.

Extrovert on a rare packed powder day.  Photo by  Jim Kenney

Extrovert on a rare packed powder day. Photo by Jim Kenney

To learn more about Blue Knob visit their website at: https://blueknob.com/