Each year, DCSki chronicles some of the newest enhancements at Mid-Atlantic ski resorts. These upgrades typically consist of snowmaking enhancements, renovated lodges, a new fleet of rental skis, or even an occasional chairlift upgrade. But announcing a new resort? Well, that’s almost unheard of. Until now. Sort of, anyway.
This winter, Pennsylvania’s historic Laurel Ski Area will re-open for the first time in over a decade. This isn’t the first time the ski area has re-opened: dating back to the mid-1930s, the resort was first operated as a private resort by the Mellon family. In 1958, the Mellon family made the ski area public. The ski area was turned over to the state of Pennsylvania in 1962, which operated it using various concessionaires for the next 27 years. However, mild winters and a constrained water supply caused the resort to shut down in March of 1989.
A decade after that, efforts to re-open the area were successful: the Laurel Mountain Ski Company obtained a long-term lease with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to update and re-open the ski area. In 1999, Laurel Mountain re-opened its doors with a rebuilt lodge, new and upgraded lifts, a tubing park, a snowboard halfpipe and terrain park, enhanced snowmaking, and lighting.
But warm winters hit again, and the newly-reopened resort was unable to make ends meet. Laurel Mountain was placed on the auction block in the Fall of 2003. Virginia-based HomeSpan Financial Group began to purchase the resort in November, 2003, hoping to open the resort for the 2003-2004 winter season. However, tragedy struck when the president of Home Span suddenly died, preventing the area from opening that season.
In October, 2004, Seven Springs announced that it would operate Laurel Mountain for the 2004-2005 winter season under the name The Springs at Laurel Mountain. That only lasted one season, though. Seven Springs announced that it was taking a year to study potential improvements to Laurel Mountain with the hopes of re-opening it for the 2006-2007 season, but Seven Springs itself was sold to a new buyer in the summer of 2006, which kept Laurel Mountain on the sidelines.
Things were looking fairly bleak for Laurel Mountain fans at that point. Three attempts to revive the ski area had failed. But fans of Laurel Mountain are a hardy bunch, and they continued to lobby state officials in Pennsylvania to invest in re-opening the ski area. And no wonder: Laurel Mountain is known as a skier’s mountain, with some of the steepest terrain in the Mid-Atlantic. The Lower Wildcat trail is legendary with its 72% grade, and located within 493 acres of Laurel Mountain State Park, the ski area offers some of the best views in the region.
Fast forward to the present: On January 26, 2016, representatives from the Pennsylvania state legislature, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Ligonier Construction, and Seven Springs met at Laurel Mountain for a ceremonial groundbreaking. Over the past summer, aggressive efforts were made to revitalize Laurel Mountain once again with an aim to open for the 2016-2017 winter season. Recently, Seven Springs announced that a multi-year renovation project at Laurel Mountain has been completed. Laurel Mountain will re-open this winter, providing a chance for a new generation of skiers and snowboarders to experience the ski area.
This past summer, a modern SkyTrac fixed-grip quad chairlift was installed at Laurel Mountain, capable of transporting 2,400 skiers per hour. The snowmaking system was overhauled, and 52 new snowguns were added. The water supply for snowmaking was doubled in capacity to 26 million gallons, which will help snowmaking efforts when Mother Nature gets skimpy with the natural snow. Several slopes were also regraded and widened.
Seven Springs now operates three nearby ski areas: Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Hidden Valley Resort, and Laurel Mountain.
“We are commited to our guests and to our role as a leader in the industry,” said Eric Mauck, CEO of Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, and Laurel Mountain. “This is an exciting year for our resort family. With these new improvements and initiatives, we will continue to provide our guests with legendary experience in the beautiful Laurel Highlands.”
M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.
Nice write up Scott. Let's hope Laurel is a sucess.