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Firsthand Report: Return to Seven Springs
By Matthew Graham, DCSki Columnist
March 9, 2009

Wow! I had forgotten how big it is at Seven Springs! My wife, Karen, and I hadn’t been to the central Pennsylvania resort in ten years, maybe longer. Over the last decade they’ve added slopes to the North Face, installed new high speed six-pack lifts, built countless mountainside homes and condos, updated the hotel rooms and restaurants and added a plethora of new winter activities. And the main lodge is HUGE! There are rows of shops and cafes, plus an arcade, bowling alley, roller-skating rink, indoor mini-golf course and a swimming pool. We got lost several times trying to find our way from the hotel to the main lodge to the other additional, yes additional, ski lodges. Like I said - HUGE!!!!

As there are so many new activities at Seven Springs, we decided to start our weekend off-piste with a UTV tour. UTV stands for Utility Terrain Vehicle; it’s basically an all terrain vehicle with a roof. The tours start out from the new shooting center lodge a few miles from the main entrance. Shuttle service is available. However, we drove there directly because we were running late on a Saturday afternoon. After being fitted with full face motorcycle helmets, our guide told us not to go too fast around the corners to avoid flipping. Otherwise, drive it like a car. Karen and I shared a UTV with me at the helm.

UTV’ing at Seven Springs. Photo provided by Karen Carra.

We somehow ended up at the back of a chain of a half dozen vehicles. The un-muffled engines roared of power. I gunned the accelerator and followed the convoy across the windswept top of the mountain and then down into the woods. We bounced around tight corners, over logs, through ditches and up snow covered hills. Vroom! Vroom! It was like driving a Go-Cart on steroids. After a couple of circuits in the forest, we emerged onto a flat summit and raced full out across the tarmac of an abandoned air strip before returning to the starting point! What dumb fun!

Our next adventure used a different type of horsepower - real horses. Two of them: Becky and Pearl. After a brief pit stop at our hotel room, Karen and I zigged and zagged through the maze of roads to the stables on top of another mountain within the resort. The stable offers trail rides in warmer months and sleigh rides in the winter. We boarded the sleigh for a beautiful sunset ride pulled by Becky and Pearl. The sleigh held at least six passengers. But it was just me and Karen. So the driver, Johnny, let each of us take turns at the reins. Karen and I have each ridden horses for years and years, playing polo in the summer, going on equestrian vacations and riding in the occasional fox chase. However, neither of us had driven a cart or sleigh. It was a little trickier than I had imagined. You really had to indicate left and right to keep the horses from veering off the path - even when the route was straight. And on bends you had to keep the horses from turning too early so that the sleigh wouldn’t cut off the corner

Becky and Pearl provide some horsepower. Photo provided by Karen Carra.

The ride lasted about a half an hour. Then we spent the next hour on a tour of the barn, getting to meet every horse. Anyone wanna buy a bombproof mare for a thousand dollars??? The barn is also home to the fattest goat I’ve ever seen. The Billy Goat is renowned at the resort for sneaking aboard the shuttle busses and ending up down on the slopes, in the lodge and even in the bars. For dinner, we met up with an old friend, his wife and teenage daughter, in nearby Somerset, PA at the Italian Oven. The portions were big and the food was… filling. If you like zest-free pasta sauces, much like at the Olive Garden, then this is that type of place. Still, the service was good and it was great to catch up with friends we hadn’t seen in years.

A hotel room at Seven Springs. Photo provided by Karen Carra.

We returned back to the hotel and arrived just as the skies opened and snow began to fall. We slept late the next morning and ate breakfast in the room. The newly refinished rooms are superb. They have two sinks, one inside the bathroom and one outside. There is also a row of hooks on the wall across from the bathroom. I’ve lost count of how many ski resorts I’ve gone to that have NOWHERE TO HANG UP ALL OF YOUR STUFF! Obviously, an actual skier was involved in refurbishing the rooms. There’s also a balcony, couch, table, coffee maker and flat screen television. A small refrigerator would have been nice. We used the balcony as a fridge!

Hooray for hooks! Photo provided by Karen Carra.

We left the room at 11 am for an 11:30 snowshoeing tour. I’m glad we gave ourselves extra time: this was one of the instances in which we got lost while walking through the numerous corridors of the hotel and lodge. Similar to the sleigh ride, Karen and I were the only ones signed up for the tour. We had our own snowshoes (that we get to use maybe once a year!). Our guide, Brad, escorted us to a shuttle that took us to a trail at the top of the mountain. We made tracks in six inches of fresh powder as the sun shone over clear blue skies. The forest was cool and silent. There are almost a hundred miles of trails at the resort. Brad led us up to a few of the mountaintop lakes, really ponds, where the locals swim in the summer. We climbed up hills for fantastic views and trekked though a forest so quiet I could almost hear my heartbeat. I thought the tour only lasted an hour. When I checked my watch it was already 1:30 pm. Brad noted that we were almost back to the trail head. He radioed the bus and it met us there just as the skies darkened, the wind picked up and a snow squall blew in.

Snowshoeing at Seven Springs. Photo provided by Karen Carra.

Matthew snowshoes back towards the base. Photo provided by Karen Carra.

By the time we returned to the base of the mountain, the snow was coming down thick and hard. Karen and I were scheduled to go clay target shooting at 3 pm. However, we were now running late and the whiteout conditions didn’t look so great for shooting. I used a courtesy phone and called the shooting center. A young woman flatly informed me that “yea, it’s not really so good for shooting right now with all the wind and snow.” Thus we grabbed a late lunch at the Slopeside Dining Room. The dining room and the adjacent Timberline Restaurant have a variety of sandwiches and lunch entrees for seven to ten dollars. And the food was excellent. For less than twenty dollars we had a wonderful meal at an elegant sit-down restaurant. I was shocked! Usually at a ski resort, twenty bucks won’t even buy you a soda and a slice of cardboard pizza.

Fine dining. Photo provided by Karen Carra.

With clay shooting out, we arranged to get massages at 4:30 pm at the spa. The spa “was” tucked into a few rooms next to the swimming pool. I say “was” because the spa is being relocated to a new building. The new Trillium Spa includes eight treatment rooms and a full range of spa services. Karen and I each opted for a deep tissue massage. Couples massages are offered. But Karen prefers individual treatments because I ANNOY her whenever we’ve had couples massages. I fall asleep sometimes and snore during the treatment. I also ‘ruin the mood’ by answering any question from the therapist in a normal speaking voice, not a hushed whisper that apparently you are supposed to use… so says Karen. Anyway, it was a pretty good massage. The therapist helped work out a kink in my left bicep. And I only fell asleep once. Hooray for me!

We returned to the Slopeside Dining Room for dinner. I had a French Onion Soup and a Roasted Vegetable Portobello Mushroom. Karen had the Butternut Squash Ravioli. Again, the food was excellent. In fact, it was the best dinner either of us has ever had at a ski resort restaurant. Then we capped the night off with a visit to the tubing hill. It was freezing, and windy and snowing to beat the band and only a couple of other people were there for the last session of Sunday night. Hence, AWESOME! We rode up the conveyor (magic carpet lift) and zoomed down the hill. We linked tubes and yanked the lanyards on each others tube to create yo-yo boomerang effect. We raced each other down separate lanes. We spun uncontrollably and got airborne over the whoop de whoops. And we laughed and laughed and laughed like little kids.

We arose Monday morning to find an empty mountain full of freshly groomed trails covered by an inch of fine powder. Seven Springs boasts 35 trails and a vertical of 750’. The longer slopes are on the North Face. Karen and I trudged out to the Polar Bear High Speed Six-Pack lift and made a run down one of the shorter intermediate slopes on the front face to warm up. We then headed over to the expert terrain on the North Face. Winds out of the North were forecast to pick up and become gusty in the afternoon. Temps were in the low teens. While the vertical isn’t much to brag about, the runs seemed fairly long due to a couple of flatter sections between the steeps. We made multiple runs down the expert slopes of Gunnar, Yodeler, North Face and Giant Steps and tried the blue Giant Bolder and green Lost Girl. Lost Girl faced directly into the wind and the bone chilling breeze nearly stopped us in our tracks. Brrrrr!

Karen enjoys the empty slopes. Photo provided by Matthew Graham.

We took a break for a hot chocolate at the Tahoe Lodge on top of the mountain and then returned to the North Face to get in a few more runs before the winds became even stronger. By lunch time it was like skiing in a wind tunnel. We jumped onto the green Deer Pass Trail back to the front and ate, once again, at the Slopeside Dining Room. Afterwards, we stayed out of the wind, zooming down the blues and one black (Avalanche) on the front face. The front face also has a double black, Goosebumps. The bumped up shear slope looked a bit too icy for our tastes. Thus, we finished the afternoon on the very fun beginner trail Boomerang and a couple of more runs down the intermediate slopes of Wagner, Stowe and Tyrol. With another snow storm predicted for that evening, we packed up and left while still having a couple hours of daylight left. We successfully avoided the storm and got back to DC in 3 hours and 15 minutes. With Seven Springs being so close, it should be easy to make it up there again. Hopefully it won’t take another decade.

Seven Springs has plenty of snow for Spring skiing. And with their March Stimulus Package, starting at only $129 per couple for lift ticket and lodging, now is the time to go. And on March 13 - 15, the resort will host the Monster Energy’s Homecoming featuring the Kristi Leskinen’s invitational ski and snowboard event. Top female skiers and snowboarders, including several Winter X-Games Medalists, will join Kristi in an all-girls ski and snowboard slope style event and rail jam.

For more information, call 800-452-2223 or visit www.7springs.com.

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Connie Lawn
8 years ago
Nice going guys. Great story and photos! Wondered what adventures you have been having this year. As you can see, we’ve been fortunate enough to do a ton of travelling. Yours, Connie and Charles
ggnagy/midatlanticlost
8 years ago
“we emerged onto a flat summit and raced full out across the tarmac of an abandoned air strip before returning to the starting point”

When did 7SP close? It was still listed with the FAA, current 1-15-2009.
Matthew
8 years ago
Don’t now when it closed. But it’s closed. There are concrete barriers across the runway at several spots. The PR Director mentioned that it was closed because there are several easily accessible nearby airports.
Iwan Fuchs, Snowsports School Director
8 years ago
Great article Matthew,

As you know I work at the springs and still get losed. The airport is closed and I believe it will be for good.

Iwan
Snow reason not to share.
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