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Identity & Community

Laurel Mountain Ski Resort Aims For 2016 Open

After years of waiting, avid skiers in western Pennsylvania may finally see their wishes come true. The Laurel Mountain Ski Resort will finally reopen in 2016.

Hopefully.

Terry Brady, deputy press secretary for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the bidding process for Laurel Mountain’s $6.5 million renovation project will begin in the next 2-3 weeks, after which construction is set to begin this fall. If all goes according to plan, the DCNR aims to have it complete by fall 2016.

Many local residents and ski enthusiasts have grown tiresome of waiting for the renovation to begin. The start date has been delayed a year, mostly because they want to make sure they’re getting input from all involved parties, said Brady.

“Yes, there were some change in plans and yes, they’ve been moved back a few times, but there was no intent ever to just deliberately drag this out,” he said.

The historic resort has been around since 1939, initially built as a private ski resort for members of the prestigious Rolling Rock Club, a country club in Ligonier, Pa. owned by the Mellon family. The Mellons turned the resort over to the commonwealth in 1964, and it remained open to the public until 1989, when it closed for a decade because of mild winters and financial trouble. The state reopened it in 1999, closing and reopening once more until its final closure in 2005.

Seven Springs purchased a 10-year operating lease for the resort in 2008 with the intent to renovate and reopen it. After years of collaboration with the DCNR and the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, plans for the renovations of Laurel Mountain finally surfaced in 2014. Since then, they have been finalized and are ready to go to bid this summer.

The plans were most recently discussed at a meeting held by Seven Springs in March. DCNR representatives, Ligonier officials and Seven Springs executives, including owner Robert Nutting, held the meeting as a sort of “meet and greet” for Ligonier community members after they wrote to Seven Springs to express their hopes for the reopening of the resort, according to Director of Marketing and Communications at Seven Springs and Hidden Valley, Alex Moser. The meeting included a slideshow that discussed the renovation plans, as well as the opportunity for attendees to share their personal memories of Laurel Mountain.

The DCNR renovations include the installation of a new ski lift and snowmaking equipment to revive the ski run.

“It was really well-loved and really sought-after by certainly dedicated downhill skiers and with these improvements, that can only get better,” said Brady.

Seven Springs’ plans to renovate the guest areas will include updating the old ski lodge, installing a rental shop, and creating a ski school, according to Moser.

Seven Springs acquired local ski resort Hidden Valley in 2013, and the two currently have a season pass that allows visitors to ski at both sets of slopes. With the opening of Laurel Mountain, the owners hope to give visitors an even more expansive skiing experience.

“Having three resorts be an option and for somebody to be able to literally ski three different ski areas in three different days, we see that as a great opportunity for us to draw more people to the region,” said Moser.

Though it’s taken a while, Seven Springs is committed to opening and operating the beloved ski resort.

“We took over Seven Springs and then we acquired Hidden Valley, you know, we’re not going anywhere,” said Moser. “We are very, very much dedicated to enriching the Laurel Highlands and making it a premier destination, especially in the winter.”