Petition to reopen Laurel Mountain
The following is a post by Laurel Hill Crazie in the Hiking and Biking section of this forum:
The right question is what do you want the DCNR to do with Laurel? You've said it here , tell it to the State Parks. E-mail DCNR at:
Tell them why you think the PA. State Parks should operate Laurel Mountain.
Contact your local State Senator and Representative and ask them why the State is allowing a turn-key asset to sit idle.
Did you know that the DCNR owns the double chair and the snowmaking? Yep that includes the HKD towers.
I think that the DCNR is looking at their declining state budget and seeking revenue sources within its system and Laurel is sitting right there.
The DCNR is involved in fostering community and business co-operation in a project branded Pennsylvania Wild in the northern tier of the state and has invested millions there yet Linn Run Road is pot holed and patched despite the fact the funds for repaving were approved in DCNR capital budget the last couple of years. Where did the money go?
The easiest thing to do is comment at askDCNR in this link. Tell your skiing buddies who live here in PA to do the same. Ask the folks here at DCski and through-out the mid-Atlantic to contact the DCNR and tell them why you've skied Laurel and how you love to bring your family back. I'll link contacts here at DCski and other message boards.
I don't think anything will happen at Laurel unless we start to shake the trees.
So here is a list of email addresses for the PA state reps & senators who represent the areas that surround Laurel Mountain and Linn Run State Parks.
Bob Bastian firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Yewcik email@example.com
Donald White firstname.lastname@example.org
Jess Stairs email@example.com
If you care about Linn Run and Laurel Mountain, please contact these gentlemen. Maybe with enough emails, they may take notice.
Thanks for posting this petition, Dave. I would also urge all State residents to contact their local State Senators and Representatives. Laurel Mountain is a State Park and therefore a state-wide issue.
I really do believe that with some pressure the DCNR will free the money to provide start up funds for this season if there is a ground swell of public support.
There are a number of reasons that Laurel should be State operated the best reason, and the reason often cited as Laurel's downfall as a private investment, is the restriction imposed on overnight lodging by the DCNR because of the agreement with the Mellon family when they gave the ski area to the State.
This restriction alone keeps many potential developers away. In my view, this is an asset for Laurel. With no slope side development beyond the Lodge, Laurel is much more a natural outdoor experience instead of a 'Disney' on snow. I think that the retro feel provides for a better family atmosphere too.
Laurel has 493 acres within its borders, only 70 acres are trails. Most of this acreage can be open to skiing and half of it is expert terrain.
The State already owns the 3 most important pieces to operate Laurel; the land, the double chair, and the snow making system.
It would be a real shame if the millions that have been invested in Laurel over the last 6 years were to sit idle and left to rot.
Laurel must be opened.
Here's a link to find your local PA State Representative and Senator: PA General Assembly
Move the cursor to House or Senate and click on Who's my?
Tell them to ask DCNR why Laurel Mountain isn't open.
Here is the email "conversation" between Senator Don White's representative & myself.
Hi Mr. White,
I was wondering about the status of Laurel Mountain Ski Resort. I think it's a shame that such a beautiful, family oriented place, with great skiing is going to sit idle again this winter. It is a turn-key operation, and with the right ideas (i.e. marketing geared towards the family, hours of operation, etc.), there is no doubt in my mind that it can, at the very least, break even financially. The other benefit is the jobs that LM creates in Ligonier Township and Jenners Township (probably close to 60) as well as the tourism $$$ brought in to the local economy.
Also, I have several ideas (with little or no capital outlay) that I think would help make LM fulfill its potential.
Thank you for taking the time to write Senator White. Your email was forwarded to me to handle as I cover the Westmoreland Co. portion of Senator White's district. I followed up w/our contact @ DCNR as to the current status of Laurel Mtn. Ski Resort. Based on conversations with Doug Finger of DCNR, negotiations are ongoing with the current leaseholder of the resort (Somerset Trust) and both are hopeful in finding an operator as soon as possible.
By copy of this email, I'm forwarding your contact info on to Mr. Finger whom you may wish to contact for further info or possible discussions about your ideas. I'd be happy to facilitate a meeting between you, Mr. Finger & myself to review your ideas in person. I'm in Ligonier (@ Town Hall) the 1st Wednesday of every month for office hours. Please contact me if you wish to set-up a meeting.
Again, thank you for contacting Senator White with your concerns."
Thanks for your quick response. I have corresponded with Doug on several occasions (he is very helpful & hopeful that LM will open, however there is little he can do on his own). I know that he is doing his best.
However, without a push (incentives) from the state (i.e. Mr. White and other state reps), I fear DCNR and Somerset Trust will never reopen the resort. The lodge is aging and the longer LM sits idle, people will forget about it and the less viable the operation will become in the future.
Mr. Smail ~ you're welcome. Again, feel free to contact me if you wish to set up a mtg. either w/Doug, myself and/or both of us. I'd be interested to hear any ideas you may have. I'm available to meet @ our Murrysville office as well.
I will forwarding her some of my ideas today. I know the the Friends of Linn Run & Laurel Mountain meet monthly with MR Finger, but if anybody is interested in a meeting with Miss Jones either the 1st Wednesday in Sept or Oct, please let me know (PM).
It might be a good idea to invite all of the state reps and senators to a Friends of LR & LM meeting... quite possibly the interest shown there would be helpful.
Oh by the way, all out the 4 reps listed, this is the only response I have received.
This response is from the DCNR:
Thank you for your e-mail of inquiry regarding the slopes at Laurel Mountain.
We hope to find agreement on conditions with a new operator. We do not want to see Laurel Mountain go by the way side, and we are doing as much as we can to see that it opens with a long term commitment. We remain hopeful that we will see Laurel Mountain re-open under a proven operator.
Thank you for your continued support.
Brian Flores - Park Manager
Park Operations Training Coordinator
DCNR State Parks
P.O. Box 8551
Harrisburg, PA 17105
This reply is directly from representative Jess Stairs himself:
Unfortunately, Seven Springs and the bank are unable to negotiate terms to open the resort this year. However, I will be working to get the state to open the ski slopes in some form for skiing this season.
Laurel Mountain is important to our area, and I do not want to see our residents miss out.
Thank you for contacting me, and please do not hesitate to do so again in the future.
Rep. Jess M. Stairs
59th Legislative District
Why not suggest that they do what West Virginia does? Put the lease out for bid. Thats how Canaan is operated as well as other WV state park facilities.
I talked to Doug Finger today and the DCNR is definitely hearing us and Doug Referenced Sen. White too.
Snowsmith, Somerset Trust owns the lease and it is really up to them to find an operator. There is no overnight lodging on the mountain and because of the way the ski area was acquired, no lodging can be built. George Mowl was the last developer to win the bid from the State and he defaulted on loans hence a bank now owns it.
What I'm hoping happens is the State buys back the lease and operates the area through the State Park system. I know Laurel can turn a modest profit as is and has potential to make a lot more as more terrain is opened with snowmaking.
I received a direct phone call today from state representative Bob Bastian. He stated that 7S will most likely not open LM. He did tell me to call Somerset Trust directly to let them (Henry Cook, Tyson Cook) know of any ideas I/we might have that would enable LM to reopen and make money or break even.
I guess the point I'm making here with this list of conversations I have had either via phone or email is that our (PA) state representatives and senators are hearing us. So if you haven't contacted them yet, please do so. The small amount of time spent letting them know about LM may pay off.
Here's a copy of the letter I've sent to the DCNR's John Norbeck and Brian Flores in addition to various PA politicians:
Laurel Mountain ski area sat idle last season and if action isn't taken soon will lie dormant again this season. There has been several million dollars invested in this facility. As it now stands it is a turn-key operation. If private developers aren't found soon the State should step in and operate the facility this winter. In fact, the DCNR should consider taking permanent control and oversee development and operation of the entire facility.
As I'm sure you are aware, Laurel Mountain was re-opened for the 99-00 winter and has a failing history as a private development. Currently Somerset Trust is holding the lease and has acquired deeds in nearby Laurel Mountain Village by foreclosing on previous leaser, George Mowl. Somerset Trust has been seeking a private developer as well as negotiating with Seven Springs Mountain Resort to again operate Laurel. Last winter Seven Springs didn't operate Laurel and there is no word forthcoming on prospects for this season. It would be a real disservice to the residents of this State if Laurel Mountain was to lie dormant and the recent investment there falls into disrepair.
The foremost reason for Laurel's failure as a private development is the agreement that no overnight accommodations be built within the ski area. This stipulation was made upon receiving the land from the Rolling Rock Club and Richard King Mellon in 1964. No doubt this agreement discourages potential developers. Without convenient lodging or the possibility for real-estate development, the prospect for profitable operation of a traditional resort is severely diminished. For this reason, I believe only the State Parks can run the ski area and in so doing generate revenue for DCNR, create an economic engine to the region as well as provide a service to snow sport enthusiasts throughout the mid-Atlantic. Some sort of financial settlement should be reached with Somerset Trust for the ski area while leaving the deeds in Laurel Mountain Village for private development. The State Parks should maintain the facilities and operate the lifts, make snow and groom and maintain trails. Food and beverage, equipment rental and the snow sports school can be concession out.
Laurel Mountain can position itself as a family centered winter sports area highlighting a natural setting with both excellent beginner and real expert terrain. Hidden Valley and Seven Springs cannot offer the steepness or the tall vertical drop which translates to long beginner and intermediate trails that Laurel possesses. Without the pressure to turn a huge profit Laurel can keep the cost to users low and keep winter sports opportunities open to a greater number of citizens. The State could also foster an adaptive snow sports program and offer winter recreation to people with physical limitations. There is a large niche market that Laurel Mountain can fill and, if done properly, will create a consistent revenue stream that can be used to improve the ski area as well as the nearby State Parks or add to the DCNR's general budget.
Laurel should also emphasize its place in the early days of ski area history. Laurel Mountain was the first ski resort in Pennsylvania. One of the signature trails, Broadway, was designed by ski industry pioneer Hannes Schneider. Hannes fled Austria under Nazi threat in the 1930s and is regarded as the father of modern skiing. Richard King Mellon hired Hannes to lay out ski trails at Laurel and this story has been chronicled. A copy of the account was available at the Linn Run State Park office. The original lodge, now called the Midway Cabin, is on the State Historic Register and has been in use recently but is in need of repair and preservation. This structure dates back to the late 1930s and is probably one of a few original lodges standing from the industry's early commercial era. The details of this story and Laurel's physical facilities should be preserved, interpreted and presented to the public under our State Park mission.
There are a number of compelling reasons for the DCNR to assume control of Laurel Mountain ski area. A business plan should be commissioned to test my assersions and if proven feasible, the State must act before this valuable asset is lost through neglect.