Camelback Mountain Celebrates 50 Years

3-foot-tall kids whizzed by like seasoned pros kicking up perfect East Coast powder. They traversed steep sections and challenging glades with an elusive combination of ease, enthusiasm and grace. The sunshine lasted all weekend giving each adult an opportunity to match the bliss displayed by their juniors—Camelback couldn't have chosen a better time for celebration.

This past weekend Camelback Mountain Resort celebrated their 50 year anniversary and on Saturday guests happily shed their extra layers in the 50-degree heat. Snow conditions remained terrific through the heat wave and into the next 30-degree day, which felt much warmer under the sunshine.

Mountain coaster rides, zip line adventures and snowtubing at the biggest park in the U.S. rounded out the day's activities. Night was just as exciting; the 50th Anniversary Gala began at 6:30 with speeches, then dinner, drinks and a dance floor overflowing with a lively crowd. The night was celebrated out on the slopes with a torchlight parade of alpine skiers, a cheering crowd and fireworks to top it all off. Under the same sky, the first ever Relay for Life Snowtube-A-Thon was a success lasting through the night on the slides of Camelback's snowtube park.

The 50 year milestone was a time for reflecting on fond memories, giving back to the community and ambitious future plans. In their speech at the gala, current owners of the resort, Ken Ellis and Arthur Berry, summed up their experience and hopes for the future.

We got to finish the first 50; hopefully someone else will be standing up here at 100 saying 'man, those guys did a great job.'

Ellis and Berry approached Camelback in 2004 with the idea for a hotel and waterpark combination at the base of the mountain. The past owners sold them the resort in 2005, and after almost 10 years the original plan is underway.

The eight-story, 453-suite lodge and indoor waterpark are expected to open in spring 2015. The lodge will feature 25,000 square feet of conference space, four restaurants (including a ski-in ski-out bar and patio), a 125,000 square-foot indoor adventure waterpark and a 30,000 square-foot indoor dry park. The project will cost $163 million, making it the largest capital improvement in Camelback's history. The indoor waterpark is the largest ever constructed in a single phase in the U.S. and the owners say the additions will make Camelback the most interactive resort in the country.

We think it really sets the stage for the next 5, 10, 15 years of Camelback. We're all about family fun and recreation.

And even for childless 20-somethings (like myself), a family atmosphere makes a difference. Some large resorts attract young crowds, and while the social (read: bar and club) atmosphere can be exciting with younger people; the attitude on the mountain tends to be competitive and unfriendly. In my experience when there are kids around and people are with their families, everyone is simply nicer. But Camelback's fantastic staff does a great deal in promoting that friendly atmosphere, as well.

I would happily take a break from the ritual of overly-intense, serious skiers and boarders taking over the mountain and visit a family resort for another care-free weekend. Camelback seems to have managed a seamless infusion of family fun, quality snow and varied terrain all in a convenient location. It's in the Poconos, an hour and a half from New York City and two hours from Philadelphia.

The most important detail for me was the concentration of skiers and boarders on the slopes. As I've mentioned before, there's nothing worse than a crowded slope, and despite full parking lots and 10-15 minute chairlift lines, the actual slopes were practically empty. The mountain was big enough for everyone, with plenty of trails (34) to keep me occupied all weekend.

Leaving the sun-soaked ski weekend with a beautiful goggle tan, I'm truly looking forward to my next time at Camelback.