When it comes to making improvements over the off-season, most ski resorts in the East have one primary focus: snow making. It is the reality of trying to produce skiable terrain in the mid-Atlantic that the amount of snow you can pump onto the slopes has a direct result on opening and closing dates. If it’s cold early in the season, cranking out a solid base not only gets you open faster, but void of an extended 60-degree fortnight, will help keep the snow longer and extend the end of the season. This is why resorts like to spend their cash on more efficient water systems and more snow guns in the summer. Rarely do you find resorts adding additional terrain or expanding their acreage in any significant way. Well, this year is different. Pennsylvania’s Seven Springs Resort is the BMOC in the Laurel Highlands, having reputation as one of the East’s best resorts and the terrain to back it up. It is no surprise to see Seven Springs make significant moves in the off-season, as you have to improve to stay on top, but this summer was on a different level. Forget adding some snow guns or a new hotel, Seven Springs went ahead and added a whole resort. In September of this year, Seven Springs reached an agreement to acquire nearby Hidden Valley Resort. Located only 13 miles away by road – closer as the crow flies – Hidden Valley is a perfect compliment to Seven Springs, says communications director Anna Weltz. “We’ve long had a deep appreciation for what Hidden Valley has to offer; the family experience it offers,” she said. “It’s a perfect compliment for Seven Springs and will provide a tremendous amount of opportunity for families, friends, groups of all sizes and interests to come to either mountain and enjoy amenities at both resorts.”

Dawn patrol at Seven Springs.

Dawn patrol at Seven Springs.

Seven Springs and Hidden Valley have their own identities as resorts and have their own unique appeal to snow sliders. Along with having more acres, runs, and lifts, Seven Springs is known for one of, if not the, best park and pipe scenes on the East Coast. They will again host a U.S. Open qualifier this year as well as a stop on the Revolution Tour. This attracts a certain type of clientele off course, which can be both good and bad depending on your perspective. Hidden Valley on the other hand, is slightly more conducive to the family experience with less vertical drop, more beginner and intermediate terrain, and a laid-back vibe perfect for a range of abilities. While the resorts will stay separate entities on the surface, the joint venture will provide unique marketing opportunities for both resorts, and the consumer will end up the winner. The biggest opportunity to take advantage of the partnership is through the Highlands Pass. This season pass gives you unlimited skiing and boarding at either resort all season and comes in full, midweek, and student versions. You can also upgrade you existing pass for a fee. There is also the new weekend Highland Ticket which gives you unlimited skiing and boarding to either resort from 9am Friday through close Sunday at a discounted rate. Of course the purchase of Hidden Valley dominated the news for Seven Springs this upcoming season, there is still plenty more to report. They will bring back the Burton Riglet Park, a terrain based learning area for the youngsters just getting on snow. There is also snow tubing, snowmobiling, and sporting clays for the non-skier. “A lot of people find out we have sporting clays here – it’s a year round activity, kind of like golf with a shotgun – once people find out that’s open in the winter and they get a taste of that, it’s a pretty popular activity here at Seven Springs,” said Weltz. But the main winter attraction is still the skiing, whether it be at family friendly Hidden Valley or progressive Seven Springs. The consolidation of the two resorts and the ability to combine passes should help both grow in the long run. What we can say for sure is that they are ready for the season to get underway in Pennsylvania. “We’re ready for the snow,” said Weltz. “We’re ready to offer these two mountains, a total of 64 slopes and trails and 395 acres of skiable terrain. We are anxious to get ski season underway, and to welcome everyone to these two beautiful mountains.”