CAMELBACK RESORT, TANNERSVILLE, PA – A drop of sweat peeks out from under my arm, then quickly scurries down the side of my body, a testament to the more than two hours of non-stop labor my legs and hips have just logged on the snow-covered trails on this 50-degree day. I lose track of it as it’s absorbed by my ski pants. A sister droplet slides out from under my goggles, as I forfeit my turns and point my skis straight ahead, gaining the downhill momentum needed to carry me across the straightaway, past the lift and toward the patio in front of the lodge.
Reaching the bottom, I look to my left and extend my right arm out to the beautiful boy sprawled on the ground just in front of the lift, my fingers curled into the universal sign for A-OK, my thumb pointed straight up. A black helmet hiding a head of blonde curls pours over the boy’s wrist, his eyes focused on his stop watch. He pulls himself off the ground and ski-skates his way over to me, calling out a time of four minutes and twenty-one seconds for my entire run. I can’t help but feel a burst of pride with the twenty-seconds I’ve shaved off the previous clock.
As the entire point of this exercise is to track and beat his own time, my 11-year old son is even more pleased with the seven-seconds he has trimmed, far faster than me with his two minutes and twenty-three seconds for the exact same trail.
After sending hearty congratulations his way, I turn back toward the lodge and glide, slide and then skid to a stop just in front of the patio. Another blonde-haired boy is standing an arm’s length away, one sneaker-clad foot firmly planted on the stone and the other raised and supported by crutches and separated from me by a rock boulder barrier. This 11-year old handsome face showcases a smile only pre-orthodontia can deliver at this age, an outward expression I interpret as pleasant and spurred by my arrival.
I pop my boots out of my skis, lean them up against the fence and join both 11-year old boys at a table outside – facing the mountain we had just skied.
I can’t lie – I’m most in love with this vibe out of all of the activities traversed during our three-day winter break vacation. A fire blazing, jackets hanging over the backs of chairs, skiers entering and exiting the outdoor seating area with drinks and appetizers, some in t-shirts, the exhilaration of a solid day of skiing casting a rosy glow over relaxed faces.
We are at Camelback Resort in the Poconos, PA, less than a 4-hour drive from our own Saratoga. Though it is only the end of February, it is spring skiing at its finest with 50-degree temperatures and well-groomed terrain. Those 11-year old blondes are my twins and as a single mom, my partners in crime, travels and all things fun and challenging and invigorating and stressful and… well, you get the picture… it’s just the three of us most of the time. Basically, for a trip like this, that gives me the responsibilities of trip planner, bag packer, driver, referee, life coach, dietician, etc.
Both boys have been skiing since they were five years old, products of Willard Mountain’s trusty ‘Lil Colonel’ ski program, and definitely lacking the fear my forever-39-year old self carries around like a nagging Achilles heel.
Unfortunately, on this vacation, and for half the ski season, Cameron is on crutches with a bone bruise after a tumble in the snow while playing with friends at his father’s. This has added a unique challenge to our trip, trying to accommodate him and his injury while not detracting from his twin brother Jordan’s experience.
Lucky for us, Camelback is a delightful mix of fun all year round, a paradise for families with kids of all ages, bursting with a plethora of stuff to keep kids of all activity levels busy for DAYS! It’s a 453-room hotel offering Aquatopia (indoor and outdoor) water park; Arcadia (indoor) Adventure Land complete with an arcade, adventure course, rock climbing wall, mini golf, and laser tag; Forty lanes of snow tubing with its own separate lift; and of course, a 36-trail ski mountain with thirteen lifts and 20-feature terrain parks… and that’s only detailing winter months!
As the boys review menus and stare out at the mountain, I ski-boot walk my way into the lodge and place an order for drinks and nachos at the Trail’s End Restaurant, one of Camelback’s many dining areas, sitting comfortably on the bottom floor of the hotel, connecting it to the ski mountain.
Trail’s End is also located in front of another of my favorite things about this resort, the ski valet. Upon arrival, the bellman checked our skis and boot bags. When it was time to ski we literally just walked out of our hotel room, rode the elevator to the bottom and requested our skis from the valet service. Several steps later we were on the patio, within a short walk of the lift. As easy as can ever be! Phenomenal!
After a pleasant evening dining under the stars, both boys beg for re-entry into the water park. A short elevator ride later we are in our room, quickly changing into our bathing suits.
Back downstairs on the other side of the hotel – we skip through the doors leading into Aquatopia. I stare longingly at Fly Boys, the swim-up bar, as we quickly pass by on our way through the park.
I join my boys in a few exhilarating and fear-conquering trips down the water slides. Next is the lazy river. As Cameron is injured, I ride double with him while Jordan lounges in his own private tube.
Crutches by his side, Cameron sits and snaps pictures as Jordan and I submerge ourselves in the world of pretend surfers, enjoying semi-private lessons at the park’s Flowrider attraction. While Jordan and other riders conquer tricks and cool poses, I’m satisfied with playing it safe. I proudly meet my goal of simply remaining on the board, fingers gripped tightly to its sides, narrowly escaping a rather large-sized fear of tumbling into the surf head over heels.
My favorite part about this land of aquatic fun is the huge indoor-outdoor hot tub, a level of activity that meets my 9 pm needs. It’s also a confined area, perfect for facilitating conversation and providing a much-needed reconnect with my boys. We reminisce over a successful two days, looking forward to one last day running around the water park and arcade.
Back upstairs in our cozy room, showered and dry, the boys enjoy creative cookie cake and s’mores sundae takeouts from the Trail’s End. They are a sweet tooth’s dream! I sneak out onto the balcony in shorts and a sweatshirt and relax onto one of the patio chairs, savoring the magical view. The mountain is glowing, its trails clearly defined by hundreds of flood lights sparkling and beckoning and highlighting what are now precious family memories.
My gaze drops and turns toward the giggling on the other side of the glass, 11-year old heads thrown back and etched with wide smiles, brighter than every single mountain light combined, a moment worth every single trial single parenthood entails – crutches and all.
Cyber Camelback HERE.
Carrie Rowlands Johnson
March 11, 2018