Blue Mountain Launches $8M Expansion

September 29, 2014

By Brian Pedersen | brianp@lvb.com (Lehigh Valley Business)

Renovations and expansions are underway to meet the growing demand for space at Blue Mountain Ski Area.

The $8 million lodge renovation and expansion is expected to be completed by Dec. 1, in time for the ski season and positioning the resort for growth.

Included is the first of what will be more efforts to make the Palmerton resort a year-round destination, as well as a $3 million children’s ski instruction area.

The first foray is its restaurant, which attracts big business in warmer months but, because of its outdoor seating, had extremely limited seating in bad weather.

“It will be my first year-round business,” said Barbara Green, president of Blue Mountain Ski Area. “We hired a really excellent chef who will be making everything from scratch.”

Serfass Construction of North Whitehall Township has about 100 workers on site who are expanding the Slopeside Pub & Grill at the Summit Lodge to include year-round, indoor dining for hundreds of guests. Also included are a large outdoor deck overlooking the Little Gap valley, multiple service kitchens, elevators, administration offices, new locker areas and retail space, said Matthias Fenstermacher, vice president of Serfass.

“It’s a huge expansion and renovation to the Summit Lodge,” Fenstermacher said. “It’s a new restaurant that will serve over 300 patrons.

“The real key to this project is the huge deck. The entire deck is heated. The observation deck is on the second floor.”

The panoramic views will be seen by patrons from nearly every seat in the renovated restaurant.

“It’s a huge project and it’s high profile,” Fenstermacher said.

Workers recently set the steel for the project, which is about 50,000 square feet, including the addition and renovation, he said.

LIMITED USE IN WINTER

Blue Mountain opened the Slopeside Pub & Grill three years ago. But as an outside venue, it had limitations. As an example, it could not be in used in the rain or snow.

“During the winter, we didn’t have enough space to seat everyone,” Green said. “According to our land planners, we are about 1,000 spaces short on our food and beverage.”

This project should help the resort capture many of those spaces, with 450 new spaces in the restaurant and about 200 on the new deck that overlooks the Pocono Mountains, Green said.

Patrons can see out to the Delaware Water Gap and also to Penn’s Peak, she noted.

The entire courtyard of the restaurant can seat about 800, she said. “We are also expanding because there is such a demand on the wedding side,” Green said.

The Slopeside will continue to operate through October, closing for November as the resort gears up for Dec. 1.

UPGRADES THROUGHOUT

In addition to the restaurant expansion, Blue Mountain is upgrading sections of Summit Lodge, adding two elevators, a prep kitchen downstairs and 4,000 square feet of administra- tive office space, Green said.

“So, it’s a combination of fixing several things that needed to get fixed,” she said.

Besides $5 million to improve Summit Lodge, the resort is spending $3 million for the new Frontier Center area, which will include a children’s ski instruction section for youth 12 and younger. It also is scheduled to open Dec. 1.

The resort will add a second retail location for clothing and ski supplies, with the new site in the Valley Lodge at the bottom of the mountain.

ADDING STAFF

Expansion always has been done in small sections, according to Green. It’s a strategy she said has worked well for the resort, in its 37th year of business.

This marks the third year Blue Mountain has completed significant upgrades to the Summit Lodge. Each time, it has used local firms, Green said, including Serfass, Howard Kulp Architects of Allentown, Livengood Excavators Inc. of Walnutport and Orlando Diefenderfer Electrical Contractors of Allentown.

“The team really knows how to work well together,” Green said. “They really know our property pretty well.”

The upgrades and improvements are designed to prime the resort for future growth.

“I think these improvements will really solidify our food and beverage operation and bring us more growth to bring some more management on board,” she said.

This growth includes more marketing and sales staff to keep the resort growing, Green said.