Skiing the three mountains of Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Laurel Highlands PA
I am a horrible skier. I snowboarded for about eight years while living in Seattle, but I was pretty terrible at that too. It all goes back to my fear of uncontrolled speeds. It’s why I don’t like roller coasters and have panic attacks whenever I try to zip line. The key to being a good skier or snowboarder is to control your speed. It can be done. I just haven’t figured it out yet. Seven Springs Mountain Resort was on a mission to do just that in less than three days.
Yeah. Ummm… let’s see how that worked out.
Getting to Laurel Highlands PA
Seven Springs Mountain Resort is it’s own Pennsylvania ski resort, but they also operate Hidden Valley Resort and Laurel Mountain, which is located in a state park about 45 minutes from Seven Springs. There are many local skiers who make the hour drive from Pittsburgh to ski for the day, but there is enough space for overnight guests and day-trippers to spread out and enjoy time with their friends and family. It is only about a three to four hour drive for those living in the DC-metro area.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort
The mountain boasts a 750-feet vertical drop, 285 acres of skiable terrain, and chair lift capacity can move more than 30,000 people per hours on the ski, snowboard and tube lifts. This may seem like an odd number, but when you have a number of people on the slopes, especially on the weekends, you don’t want to spend 20 minutes in line waiting for a lift back up the mountain.
Seven Springs Ski School
Although I didn’t have time to take an adult lesson at Seven Springs Mountain Resort, my 4-year-old son who was traveling with me did spend the morning at Kids Corner and received a lesson while I was at the spa. He loved his “super cool” college age instructors who got down to his level and made sure he had fun. Seven Springs is known for their fun-based learning programs, and that starts at the kids level and goes all the way up to adults.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort
The resort can accommodate more than 5000 guests per night in a 414-room hotel rooms and nearly 1200 condos and townhomes, 11 cottages and 15 chalets. Even though it can house so many people, you don’t feel like this resort is crowded. Rooms are comfortable, especially a two-bedroom suite with slope views for families looking for a little space. Although most people come for the skiing and snowboarding, even nighttime slope time, the resort has a bowling alley, mini golf course, arcade and pool for guests to enjoy throughout their stay.
Every parent deserves a break when they are on vacation, but it is really hard to do, especially for mom. This is why I always book a spa appointment. I am a mom wherever I am in the world with my kids, so downtime alone is a must. For one hour I took care of myself at Trillium Spa. If I’d had more time I would have gotten a massage and then sat in the steam room for an hour. Instead, I got my tired muscles worked on by a knowledgeable massage therapist.
I’m usually hesitant to get massages at resorts, as not all massage therapists are equal. This is not the case at ski resorts though. People come to a ski resort spa with tired and broken bodies that need to be put back together. Having someone who can dig into those knotted muscles you just threw down the mountain is key. Trust me. I was able to drive home with relaxed shoulders and kneaded legs that had worked hard the entire weekend.
Hidden Valley Resort
Hidden Valley Resort, about 20 minutes from Seven Springs Mountain Resort, is home to 26 slopes and trails and a terrain park on 110 acres. There is an 80-room resort on property for those looking to make a weekend of it on the mountain. What really impressed me was the ski school instructors though. I was paired with three novice skier friends (although they swore they were beginners), and two senior ski instructors.
From the get go our lesson started fast because we all knew how to get on our skis and get on and off the lift. I was feeling good, and then we went up on the lift. I was ready to turn right down a quiet winding green I had already been on. Everyone turned left. No matter what my friends said, I knew this was a blue level decent into a green. I instantly panicked.
Panic at Hidden Valley Resort
My instructors and friends saw me shut down. Tears started to form as I thought about trying to keep up. Dan, one of our instructors saw my panic take hold and paired my three friends with our other instructor, Johnnie G. He shuffled over to me and assured me it would be OK. We were going to take this hill one turn at a time. I was going to make it, despite my panic, the ice on the slopes and the single digit temperatures.
And you know what? I made it down. My tears dried up (or froze to my face as I went down). Dan was patient as I slowly gained confidence. Sometimes taking a turn so slow I had to shuffle a bit more because I hit a flat spot. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill my friends were all cheering me down.
This is the difference in fun-based learning. I was not made to feel inferior. My instructors were patient and gave me the time I needed to feel confident. They cheered me on even when I knew I was doing horribly. I never felt embarrassed. I only felt the small successes and milestones I hit throughout the day.
Hidden Valley Resort ski school
Private and group lessons are available through the Fun Based Learning Snowsports School. Beginner programs will take advantage of the easy terrain park that naturally helps you turn and stop as you learn the basics of a new snow sport. Children can take part in the full or half day ski school program at Rippers Adventure Club, which is a great way for mom and dad to get some quiet time on the slopes.
Laurel Mountain is inside of a state park, and quite possibly the prettiest mountain in the area with nice, long runs. The lodge, which is managed by Seven Springs Mountain Resort, is located at the top of the mountain. As soon as you park you can strap on your skis or snowboard and hit the runs. You get on the lift at the bottom to head back up the mountain.
There are several winding green runs, some challenging blue runs and one wicked double black that will have adrenaline junkies rushing down the mountain just to get back to the top and do it again. (Seriously, a friend did the Lower Wildcat Slope, one of the steepest verticals in the state, 15 times in one afternoon and still didn’t get enough.)
Private lesson on the greens
I was able to get a private lesson with an instructor who had taught on the slopes of Colorado in true powder and who was comfortable on the ice terrain of Pennsylvania ski resorts. Beginning at the top of the mountain on a very cold and windy day felt like I was pushing a sailboat against a strong headwind. My cross-country ski skills came in handy as I shuffled my way to the first vertical slope.
The drop looked steep, even though it was definitely a green, but again, that fun-based learning all Seven Springs Mountain Resort properties are known for came to my rescue. My instructor gave me practical advice as I slowly made my way down the winding green trail we had picked. He let me go at my own pace. The man literally picked me up when I fell down. I was encouraged every step of the way until I was excited to get on the lift and go again. I fell multiple times, but was never made to feel like a fool or inadequate in any way. We just kept going and had fun.
Laurel Mountain ski school
There is no formal ski school for kids, but private lessons are available. Adults can join a group lesson or get a private guide to take him or her down the mountain. He or she will start with the basics, or if you are past the very basics, the instructors can give you tips as he or she sees you ski down the mountain.
Highlands Season Pass and The Highlands Ticket
Not everyone wants to ski the same mountain all weekend. Seven Springs Mountain Resort created the Highlands Season Pass and the Highlands Ticket so individuals and families can hit all three mountains that they manage throughout the season or over the weekend. This is a great way to stretch your dollars and hit multiple mountains.