El Nino weather is helping a Westmoreland County ski resort stay on top of its $6.5-million renovation schedule.
Laurel Mountain Ski Resort, about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, has been closed since 2004. The property is owned by the state, but Seven Springs Mountain Resort has a contract to operate it through 2018, according to Seven Springs Marketing Director Alex Moser.
“Unfortunately for the resorts that are ready to open, the weather has not cooperated," said Moser. "However, that has made it possible to get a lot more done for Laurel Mountain for next year.”
A local construction company is widening slopes, adding a ski lift and expanding a water retention pond to 27 million gallons. Moser said that project is crucial to making snow.
“In past history, the last time it was operated they only had 15 million gallons at their disposal. We had to make snow in gradual steps," Moser said. "So we’d make snow in one place, then we’d wait for the water to refill in the ponds, then we’d make more snow, this will give us the ability to get more coverage faster.”
The resort encompasses 60 to 70 skiable acres and is home to Wildcat Slope, the state’s steepest ski slope. The property was once part of the private Rolling Rock Club, but was handed over to the state in 1962 by Richard King Mellon, the conservationist chairman of Mellon Bank. Moser said locals have been looking forward to Laurel Mountain reopening.
“You know, skiing is not only about being on the snow, a lot of memories come with all that comes with skiing. We have a very, very, very passionate group, especially people in Laughlintown/Ligonier area, that are very eager to see this resort open.”
Laurel Mountain is scheduled to reopen in fall of 2016.