Sno Cove Water Park (1000 Montage Mountain Road, Scranton), open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. Full-day general admission, $29.95 ($16.95 night pass), children/seniors 65+ $20.95 ($11.95 night pass). Less than 2, free. Season pass rates also available. Info: www.snocove.com, 570.969.7669.
The smell of chlorine and suntan lotion wafted through the comfortable breeze atop Montage Mountain last Friday. Dozens of bathing suit-clad guests relaxed in the lazy river, took a thrilling ride in the Tundra Tornado, body surfed in the wave pool or caught some rays on one of the many lounge chairs.
Welcome to Sno Mountain’s summer alter ego: Sno Cove Water Park, which officially opened for the season on Friday, June 18. With stone retaining walls and pathways instead of concrete, the $21 million expansion seems almost natural against the lush green ski slopes.
“It wasn’t to slap up a couple slides and call it a water park,” said Nancy Kaminski, Sno Cove’s director of sales and community relations. “It was to make it a real classy, family-oriented, all-ages water park. And you can see by looking at it that we tried to build things into the mountain and really utilize nature.”
Kaminski explained that a water park was “always an idea” when Denis Carlson, president of Sno Mountain LLC, purchased Montage Mountain ski area from Lackawanna County in 2006.
“They were looking at this being a year-round resort, and there was so much to do initially — taking it over from the county, getting it back up to a real top quality, family ski resort,” she said. “So we did that, and we have been physically building this for the last three summers.”
Sno Cove, which had a limited capacity “soft opening” last summer, has 10 water attractions, from the calm Baby Moose Watering Hole and Cross-Country Canal to the Tundra Tornado, a six-story funnel in which riders aboard a four-person tube spin wildly around before they slide into the pool below.
On the 450-foot long Iceberg Alley Luge, riders race each other down its eight lanes. Kaminski shared that “the heavier you are, the faster and farther you go.” The Sno Cove Beach wave pool can provide up to eight different types of waves, from gentle and lapping to large ones that beg for a boogie board, which are available. Montage Mountain ski resort’s original Alpine Run Waterslides still stand, now completely refurbished.
“It’s beautiful,” Ellen Chase of Moscow told the Weekender after she rode one of Alpine Run’s two slides. “It’s 100 times better than any other water park — there’s no lines, and it’s clean.”
Just a short lift ride down the north side of the mountain is the Artic Splash Bumper Boat Pond.
“They’re on a natural reservoir, it’s gorgeous down there,” Kaminski said. “Nobody else does that, and again, (it’s) just to keep all of this natural.”
Unlike most water parks, which may be open a few months out of the year before shutting down completely for the winter, Sno Cove’s attractions must work seamlessly with the resort’s winter season.
“The ski trails affected the water park more than the water park affected this,” said Mark Verrastro, general manager of Sno Mountain. “We just blow snow over everything, but everything has to come out — all the posts and bridges, everything in here we have to make temporary.”
The slides stay up all year and skiers ski around them around because “(the slides) were designed to be put in spots we didn’t utilize in the winter,” Verrastro said. “The changing of the rides to make it work with winter, that kind of slowed things down.”
In addition to its water rides, Sno Cove offers miniature golf, batting cages, beach volleyball and a skate park which are all included in the general admission ticket price. Not included in the admission is the ZipRider, which Verrastro hopes to have opened by July 4. On the ZipRider, riders can speed down a zip-line cable for a 500-foot vertical drop over trees, trails and the water park.
“If I can do it, anyone can do it,” Kaminski said. “It’s a nice, gradual ride where you can control how fast you go.”
Guests can ride the ZipRider for $10 with a water park pass or for $15 without.
Sno Cove employs roughly 250 people, including 120 lifeguards, something that is a big selling point for Ruth Lenahan, a season pass holder who watched her two little girls frolic in the Polar Bear Pond.
“It’s well-guarded and a great diversion,” she said. “There’s lots of activities.”