Mountain Creek's new approach is family values

VERNON, N.J. -- With a different name and $5 million in improvements, Mountain Creek opened as a water park in mid-June, targeting a new type of visitor. "We've changed the nature of the park. Our typical appeal used to be to roving gangs of 14-year-old boys with tattoos and too many earrings.

The wave pool at Mountain Creek Water Park. "We're now after the family market," said Sally A. Johnstone, public relations manager at Mountain Creek.

Intrawest, a developer and operator of mountain resorts, purchased what was then known as the Vernon Valley/Great Gorge Ski Area and Action Park in 1998. Altogether, Intrawest spent $20 million on improvements both to its water park and the ski and snowboard portion of the resort. "One of the things we did was to take the wave pool from nine feet deep to six feet deep to make it more family-friendly," Johnstone said.

She said Mountain Creek attracts about 200,000 visitors a year. For the ski portion of the park, Intrawest added an eight-passenger, open-air gondola. The cabriolet gondola whisks skiers to the summit of Vernon Peak in about five minutes. The company plans further expansion and expects to spend $50 million by the year 2001.

Johnstone said Intrawest wanted an older age group for its park in large part because the company generally operates ski resorts that also have housing components.

The water park includes a wading pool, raft rides, tubing and mini-golf. The Lost Island play area is created especially for children. Families can float around the river channel in inflatable tubes or ride new Bumper Boats. For the more adventurous, there are the Vortex and the Vertigo, two high-speed water coaster rides.

There's also mountain biking. Bikers can take the gondola up 1,000 feet to the summit and ride down. Twenty miles of trails range from wide paths for beginners to single-track downhill paths for experienced cyclists.

Mountain Creek, located 47 miles from New York City on Route 94, is open through Sept. 6. Groups can range anywhere from 10 to 6,000. Some groups have booked the entire park, Johnstone said. There's also a separate area for corporations or companies of 50 to 500 to have their own tents and barbecue facilities.

The attraction has an unusual pricing system based on height because, it said, New Jersey regulations for theme parks are based on the same principle. A ticket is $29 for anyone over 48 inches tall, $15 for park-goers 36 to 47 inches tall and free to anyone under 35 inches. Park admission does not include bike facilities. Parking is free and season passes are available.

Mountain Creek offers two- and three-bedroom condominium rentals at Great Gorge Village that start at $71 per person per night.

There are also nine bed-and-breakfasts in the immediate vicinity, including the 1900s Colonial Revival-style Warwick Valley Bed & Breakfast.

Mountain Creek
Phone: (973) 827-2000

Warwick Valley Bed & Breakfast
Phone: (914) 987-7255

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