The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 6, 2013

Downhill delights | Blue Knob, Hidden Valley groomed for skiing, tubing faithful

BY TOM LAVIS
TLAVIS@TRIBDEM.COM

— Snow lovers who relish downhill or cross-country skiing, snowboarding or tubing are fortunate to have several quality ski resorts in the area that provide mountains of fun.

Hidden Valley Four Seasons Resort, near Bakersville, has made improvements and added services to enhance guests’ experiences.

Seven Springs adds terrain park

The resort offers a multitude of activities and amenities, including overnight lodging, skiing, snowboarding and tubing slopes, skiing and snowboarding lessons, a sports club, retail facilities and a spa.

Notable improvements made this summer will enhance the experience of all Hidden Valley guests.

“Successful snowmaking efforts combined with several inches of natural snow have set us up for a great early season of skiing and boarding,” said Scott Bender, vice president of resort operations. “This season, we are bringing back our learn-to-ski incentive programs and very affordable stay-and-ski-free packages so that everyone can take full advantage of Hidden Valley’s winter programs and facilities.”

Hidden Valley’s automated, state-of-the-art snowmaking system, the largest such installation in the United States, has been improved with 20 percent more pumping capacity that will enhance snowmaking on all areas of the mountain. Snowmaking was added on Voyager, Cougar and Charger trails on the North Summit ski area. The Charger improvement allows for more consistently available advanced terrain.

“We increased pumping capacity to better service the entire mountain and to ensure a great experience for all skiers and boarders,” Bender said. “We have had over 2 feet of natural snow this season, but we are continually making snow.”

The snowmaking system ensures the slopes will have great snow cover.

Wintersports U, Hidden Valley’s ski and snowboard school, continues its Smart Start program, a three-step course designed to shorten the learning curve for first-time skiers.

“The Smart Start program and similar lessons will significantly improve anyone’s first experience on the ski slopes by providing innovative options to those just starting their skier lifestyle,” Bender said.

The graduated learning process is designed to take skiers from their first trip through the rental shop to the snow on the new teaching area, to their first chairlift ride and ending with making turns and exploring the mountain.

“We have added a line of high-performance ski rental equipment to the rental shop,” Bender said. “By adding the better quality rental equipment, the more experienced skiers appreciate the upgrade.”

More adult and junior snowboard boots and ski poles, junior snowboard bindings and junior skis and ski bindings have been purchased for the rental shop.

An all-day adult ticket good for skiing and riding from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays is $55, while an adult night-session ticket, good from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, is $35.

Other tickets cost less.

The resort is 2,875 feet above sea level with a 470-foot vertical drop.

There are 28 trails ranging from 11 novice runs to two expert slopes. They are served by five chairlifts and four surface lifts.

Bender estimated the enthusiasts on the hill number 60 percent skiers and 40 percent snowboarders.

“Snowboarding is an ever-growing facet of the resort, and I see more people of a mature age giving it a try,” Bender said. “It’s like snow surfing and enjoyable to all ages.”

Voyager Trail received an extensive face-lift over the summer. Lights were installed and the trail was widened to double its original size to provide for an easier way down the North Summit.

“We also added more snowmaking pumping capacity to make our state-of-the-art system even more productive,” Bender said.

Skiers and snowboarders also will notice new seat pads on the Avalanche quad chairlift.

“Avalanche is one of our longest lifts, and it had hard plastic seats,” Bender said. “They were not very comfortable.

“I’m sure our guests will be appreciative of the added padding.”

To accommodate the growing popularity of snow tubing, the resort has added additional tubes, bringing the total to 280.

“Snow tubing is the perfect opportunity for everyone to enjoy winter fun with the entire family,” Bender said.

“There’s no skill required – just sit back and enjoy the ride down the

tubing chutes while our conveyor lift takes you back to the top in no time.”

The resort continues to improve its overnight guests’ experiences.

Various areas of the ski lodge and restrooms have been updated with new flooring and/or carpeting and fresh paint.

“Several rooms and suites in the Four Seasons Lodge have received bathroom updates and furnishing upgrades,” Bender said.

Information: 443-8000 or www.hiddenvalleyresort.com.

Blue Knob

Blue Knob All Seasons Resort near Claysburg, Bedford County, offers 34 trails with a vertical drop of 1,072 feet.

Blue Knob is the second-highest mountain in Pennsylvania, behind Mount Davis in Somerset County, but it is the state’s highest skiable mountain.

“We offer skiing conditions that match the powder snow conditions you may find in Park City, Utah, to the firm-packed trails that entice many skiers,” said Christine Perkins, resort marketing and sales coordinator.

“We have trails that range from green circle slopes for beginner to double black diamond for expert enthusiasts.”

In addition to downhill skiing, the resort offers snow tubing and groomed, Nordic/cross-country skiing trails.

The resort is unusual because of its inverted design – the lodge is at the top of the mountain and guests ski away from it.

The resort has four chairlifts and one tow rope.

With two miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiers, the resort has become a destination for people from a wide area, including the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area.

“Our focus has been on improving our snowmaking capabilites,” Perkins said. “We have increased our output by more than two million gallons of water, which helps us to produce snow at any given time when conditions are right.”

The ski center features rental equipment and refreshments.

The tubing park consists of three lanes. The park can be reserved on weekdays for groups or parties.

On weekends, the park is open for all visitors.

Lift tickets from open-to-close are $38 for weekdays and $60 for weekends.

Ski rental is $30 from open-to-close, and snowboards are $42 to rent.

Ski rentals include boots and poles, and snowboard rentals include boots.

All rates are discounted for five-hour flex sessions.

When visitors need a break from skiing, they have several options.

“Guests can show up at our Clubhouse Bar and Grill at the Alpine Village in their gear, take a break for some refreshments and return to the slopes,” Perkins said. “Fine dining is available at our Black Bear Restaurant.”

The resort offers lodging packages starting at $69 per person per night on weekdays.

Information: 800-458-3403.

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