Bear Mountain Poconos

January 30, 2020
Photo by Neal Palumbo

We have friends who ski here a few times a season, and also stay here a few other times a year just to get away. At their urging, on exactly July 1st we made our Presidents Day weekend reservations (reportedly, that's the first day that ski season hotel reservations are available, and they sell out quickly). For Presidents Day weekend, there was a 3-night minimum stay.

We had a great time. We were very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the hotel property. Amenities. Cleanliness. Friendly service. Everything was superb.

We paid for a huge room, a suite. The room category was "Queen suite - Slopeside south." We had a very large main room that included a kitchenette (fridge hidden in cabinet, sink, microwave, huge counter space, food storage area hidden in a different cabinet), round kitchen/dining table with 4 chairs, desk and chair, large sofa and comfy easy chair, old-school TV in a large entertainment center/bureau, a neat area with hooks (where we hung our ski pants and ski jackets, keeping them out of the way but not interfering with closet space), and sliding glass doors opening to a tiny little balcony (wide, but only about one foot deep) overlooking the outdoor pool below and the entire ski resort everywhere else.

The bedroom is accessed through a door from the main room. Two comfy queen beds, a bureau with a proper flat panel TV on top, a tall bureau, and windows overlooking the same view as the other room has.

The bathroom has two doors, one from the main room and one from the bedroom. In between the bedroom and the bathroom is a large dressing room. The bathroom has a toilet and shower/tub, the dressing room has a sink, large counter, ample closet and cubby space, hair dryer and safe. There is a locking door between the dressing room and bathroom (and one between the bathroom and main room). The dressing room is separated from the bedroom by what I can best describe as a sliding pocket door, except there's no pocket.

We are a couple with a 12 year old and 9 year old. Whenever we travel (several times a year) with the kids, we prefer this type of room, a suite; we all sleep in the same room, but we enjoy having two rooms so we can spread out during downtime and have it be more home-like. The bedroom was about the size of a standard hotel room. The main room was much larger, which meant that we had a HUGE amount of space for the four of us, and I can't tell you how nice that was.

I know that the hotel is relatively new, but it is nice to see that everything is so "fresh" ... no peeling paint, no worn carpets, and so on.

As for the skiing, it's a great place for beginners (my wife and kids) and intermediate skiers (me). But this isn't the place to ski if you are a very very serious skier who wants long and very challenging runs. It was plenty for me and I loved it, but I'm sure that very serious skiers would find the skiing itself lacking.

My son and I had a great time snowtubing on the late-afternoon of our arrival day. This costs extra (as does the skiing, of course) and reservations are recommended. You pay for tubing in a pre-set three-hour block of time. You grab a tube (with handles), ride a carpet lift to the top, and then wait until it's your turn to slide down one of the four straight tracks. Great fun! If you have good snow boots, wear them. The only way to stop at the end is to drag the toe-end of your shoes. By the end of the three hours, the fake suede on the toes of my cheapo hiking boots was peeling off.

My wife and 9-year-old daughter got mani-pedis at the Spa (while my son and I went snowtubing), and my wife said it was just as good as any other spa experience she's had.

The hotel does a great job of catering to its skiing/snowboarding guests. One of the greatest amenities is that the hotel has a private equipment rental shop exclusively for hotel guests. Day trippers, who comprise the huge majority of skiers, rent equipment at the main rental shop at the other end of the complex, which I'm sure can get very crowded at times. In addition, the hotel has an "equipment check" room where you store your skis/boards, boots and poles when you're not skiing. If you are there for several days, you just check your stuff overnight ... no need to go back to the rental shop the next day, and so on. VERY convenient. And no extra charge.

One good tip we got from a helpful front desk clerk: If you arrive the day before you intend to ski (like we did), go ahead down to the hotel rental shop that evening, when it's empty, and get all your equipment then, then bring it down to the equipment check room. By doing this, you avoid the crowds in the morning, when many other people are going to be getting their equipment. Getting fitted for equipment is a slow process, so if there's a crowd you can have a decent wait on your hands. By doing it during a relatively dead time of day, if you can, you save yourself a lot of time when you're raring to get to the slopes.

We ate at all three restaurants. The Mountain Eatery is, technically, part of the ski resort and not the hotel (but you can get there from the hotel without going outside). Cafeteria/food court type of place, decent-enough food given the low expectations you'd have for that type of food. VERY crowded during lunchtime on a ski weekend; most tables seemed "reserved" for the day by piles of coolers and bags, or non-skiing Moms with their laptops. It seemed hopeless to even try to wait for a table, since it looked like most weren't even being actively used but yet were tied up by absentee squatters. It was warm enough one day for us to eat outside at the tables on the deck. Another ski day, we checked our equipment, and my son and I got take-out (on trays) for the four of us and we walked it all the way back up to our room. If you're going to do that long walk, I strongly advise changing out of your ski boots first.

We had two very good dinners at The Grille at Bear Creek, the resort's "nice" restaurant. I was very pleasantly surprised by the sophistication of the menu. It wasn't plain and stodgy and boring, but it also wasn't too artsy for non-foodies (for example, prime veal porterhouse with porcini risotto and asparagus, grilled salmon with clams and chorizo and broccolini in a saffron broth, interesting pasta dishes, blank angus steaks). My 9-year-old was satisfied with the kids' menu. An interesting selection of Belgian-style beers, too. Reservations are recommended (I was surprised that they do their reservations using

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