The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


September 8, 2013

An avalanche of possibilities | Hidden Valley could be good for region, skiers

JOHNSTOWN — Is it all downhill from here?

We’re taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to Seven Springs Mount Resort’s deal to buy rival Hidden Valley Four Seasons Resort, but we are a little worried about what the lack of competition will mean for skiers in Somerset County.

We’ve always been impressed with Seven Springs, which is owned by the Nutting family. With 33 slopes and trails, seven terrain parks and 11 lifts, Seven Springs offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding opportunities in this part of the country. But it offers more than just that. With golfing, ziplines, an alpine slide, hiking, biking and even fly fishing, Seven Springs has done a fine job of becoming a year-round destination.

But in some ways, it’s been forced to. It’s always had competition from right down the road. Hidden Valley, which is just a 13-mile drive from Seven Springs, is only half the size of its neighbor, but it has always given outdoors enthusiasts another option. Hidden Valley offers many of the same activities as Seven Springs – including skiing and snowboarding, golfing, biking and fishing – often at a lower price than Seven Springs.

“We have a long held  deep appreciation for Hidden Valley and the family experience it offers,” Seven Springs chairman Bob Nutting said, adding the resort’s buyers are “committed to the long-term success of Hidden Valley as a family destination.”

We hope that’s the case. Far too often, a lack of competition can breed apathy. Without Hidden Valley pushing Seven Springs will it continue to come up with new and innovative ideas? Will Hidden Valley remain a more affordable option or will the lack of competition mean a price hike?

We won’t know the answers to those questions for some time, but there certainly could be some negative outcomes from the acquisition.

But there also could be some very positive outcomes. There is the possibility that the combined ownership could be very beneficial to snow sports enthusiasts. It could turn the Laurel Highlands into a must-ski destination, drawing visitors from near and far.

Imagine buying a season pass – or even a one-day lift ticket – that covers both resorts. You could whisk down Hidden Valley’s black-diamond Barracuda and Viper slopes, hop on a shuttle bus and, in a few minutes, test your skills on Seven Springs’ North Face and Avalanche slopes. Take a snowmobile ride in Seven Springs and plunge down the mountain on a snow tube at Hidden Valley. Golf 18 holes at Hidden Valley in the morning, play Seven Springs’ course in the afternoon, enjoy fine dining at Helen’s Restaurant and then make the quick trip back to Hidden Valley to stay at the Four Seasons Lodge.

Like the winter weather here, we really don’t know which way the future winds will blow for the Somerset County ski resorts. We’ll simply hope for the best.

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