Laurel Mt., PA
I skied here in the 60's before the "antiquated double" was installed! While I'll probably never go back, it is wonderful to see that it is coming back to life. Pittsburgh area skiers will have another area to enjoy. Seven Springs already owns Hidden Valley, it will lease Laurel Mt.
Restoration of Laurel Mountain advancing
A ground-breaking ceremony to mark the beginning of the yearlong $6.5 million restoration of state-owned Laurel Mountain Ski Area fell victim to the Pennsylvania budget stalemate in Harrisburg.
Instead of state, local and resort officials digging into pre-softened dirt with ceremonial spade shovels last month, Ligonier Construction Co. of nearby Laughlintown started the work with growling yellow bulldozers biting into the rocky topography.
A traditional ribbon-cutting “still may happen — if we get a budget,” said Terry Brady, spokesman for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Bob Nutting, Seven Springs president and principal owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, signed a 10-year lease with the DCNR in 2008 to operate the area after the state completed improvements. He plans to market it with Seven Springs and Hidden Valley, the latter of which his company bought in October 2013.
Laurel Mountain, 10 miles east of Ligonier via U.S. Route 30, has been closed since the 2004-05 season. It has a 900-foot vertical drop and 18 slopes and trails served by a four-passenger chairlift, a double chairlift and three handle tows.
Mr. Brady said DCNR officials had their initial job conference on Oct. 14 with the companies that submitted the lowest responsible bids for general construction -— Ligonier Construction ($5,158,000) — and for electrical work — Merit Electrical Group ($369,800) of Oakmont.
The contractors have set up their job trailers and have started clearing, grubbing, surveying and layout. Their contracts require them to complete the project by Sept. 29, 2016. “But, as is often the case, actual conditions and events may impact the schedule,” Mr. Brady said.
Still, the beginning of the project “is great news,” he said. “We are where we want to be right now; and, hopefully, skiers and snowboarders should be back on the slopes at the start of the 2016 season.”
The area’s parking lot has taken on the appearance of a logging operation as Shaffer Timber Co. of nearby Boswell cuts, trims and stacks dozens of trees.
The ski area, part of Laurel Mountain State Park, overlooks the picturesque Ligonier Valley in Westmoreland County. It’s known as an upside-down area because its lodge and related buildings are at the top of the mountain instead of the bottom.
Plans call for increasing the size of the area from 63 acres to 72 acres by re-grading and widening two intermediate trails, Innsbruck and Lower Broadway, and doing the same to Deer Path.
Skiers and snowboarders will use Deer Path to traverse from the bottom of Innsbruck and Broadway to the base of a new standard-speed quad chairlift.
Innsbruck will receive 29 new snowmaking towers along its top-to-bottom length and Deer Path will get 23 new snowmaking towers to assure adequate snow coverage.
The new quad, capable of carrying 2,400 passengers an hour, will replace an antiquated double chairlift more than 50 years old. The ponds that feed the snowmaking system will be nearly doubled in size — from 15 million gallons to 26 million gallons. Although more water is needed, it’s a start.
Mr. Nutting announced the specifics of the projected improvements at an invitation-only meeting March 30 at Seven Springs. He said the meeting was prompted by numerous supporters of Laurel Mountain, especially Alicia Hoover’s Save Laurel Mountain Ski Resort campaign.
“We look forward to seeing the mountain come alive again,” said Mr. Nutting, an accomplished skier. “The resort teams and I are committed to making the region a top destination for snow sports enthusiasts and Laurel Mountain is part of this commitment.”
Ligonier Mayor Butch Bellas, who learned to ski at Laurel and was a ski patrolman there, said the reopening will mean jobs — at least 50 full and part time — and a much-needed boost to the valley’s winter economy.
Lawrence Walsh writes about recreational snowsports for the Post-Gazette.