The powdery slopes at Laurel Mountain Ski Resort near Ligonier have remained untouched by ski or board for eight years. For at least one more season, its lifts will dangle uselessly as winter winds kick up, according to state officials and resort spokespersons.
The resort, which opened in 1939 and officially became a state park in 1964, is still pending redesign and has remained closed since 2005. Seven Springs Mountain Resort, which recently acquired Hidden Valley Four Seasons Resort, signed a 10-year lease to manage the park in 2008.
Representatives of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said a design had been submitted but returned by Seven Springs to accommodate changes that would better serve those who faithfully run the slopes.
“The design had included a tubing park and they asked that be eliminated to concentrate on the ski structure,” said Chris Novak, department spokeswoman.
Among those upgrades Novak detailed are additional water resources for snowmaking, improvement to the snowmaking infrastructure, slope grading work and electrical upgrades. Part of the land, including the lodge, is owned by Seven Springs. In this partner ownership, Novak said both the state and the resort operator are responsible for their shares.
Novak said in the time between the previous owner relinquishing the property to Somerset Trust bank, the park closing and the bank landing, eventually, on Seven Springs as the new operator, the infrastructure became outdated and required improvements.
“The infrastructure is vast,” said Alex Moser, director of marketing for Seven Springs and Hidden Valley. “We are hopeful that we can get Laurel Mountain online some day, and we are doing what we can to cooperate with the state to help them.”
Novak said money for the project already has been committed in the state’s capital budget. And $6.5 million was earmarked under former Gov. Ed Rendell, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
It’s just a matter of working through the process, according to Novak. Proposals still have to go through the state Department of General Services and bidding must be opened.
“There’s some unknowns at this point,” Novak said. “The timeframes are uncertain.
“We hear fairly regularly from folks who are anxious about it opening,” she said. “We’re still moving. I hope we get there soon.”
Moser said the area’s resorts get more visitors from Johnstown than Cleveland or Columbus.
He said dual-mountain passes and lift tickets for both Seven Springs and Hidden Valley will be unveiled in the coming weeks.
“That’s going to be an amazing experience,” he said. “The one-night stay’s going to turn into two, and man, that’s going to be awesome for the region.”
The Seven Springs human resources team is now gearing up for a busy winter. The resort’s job fair is set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 9 in Festival Hall. Between Seven Springs and Hidden Valley, nearly 1,000 employees can apply and interview for part-time seasonal employment, according to communications manager Anna Weltz.
Ski and snowboard instructors, slope maintenance personnel, childcare attendants, terrain park staff, snowcat operators, resort security, front desk agents, massage therapists, servers, bartenders, cooks and lifeguards are just some of the positions to be filled at the resorts.
According to an official press release, Seven Springs Mountain Resort is Somerset County’s largest employer with more than 1,800 employees during the snow season and 1,000 in the summer.
For more information, applicants can go to www.7Springs.com/careers or call (800) 452-2223, ext. 7930.
Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/JustinDennis.