Pittsburgh is in a unique position as a city because you can pick any direction, drive 30 to 60 minutes, and be out in nature.
Head southeast on your route and you'll end up in the Laurel Highlands, a region that is often referred to as Pittsburgh's backyard. And what a backyard it is! With many activities available throughout the year, this is one part of Pennsylvania that has us returning on easy day trips time and time again.
This past winter we had a goal, and that was to get out and check out some of the region's ski resorts. Our first instinct was to look to the Laurel Highlands and check out their three resorts all operated by Seven Springs (perfect for a weekend multi-park lift ticket!).
What did we find? Well, they're each tailored for various skill levels!
Hidden Valley – A Ski Resort for Beginners
Hidden Valley is known in many ski circles as being a resort for families, especially those who are wanting to learn how to ski or improve their novice skills. There are a decent number of trails here, and the resort itself is less crowded when compared to neighboring Seven Springs (below), which gives it a bit more spacious feel while also having several enjoyable, if not smaller, slopes.
We classify Hidden Valley as a ski resort for beginners because the bulk of the trails are rated green and blue, and some of the blues are on the easier side of the spectrum meaning that they can be tackled by novices that want to try to improve and become intermediate.
One of our favorite things about Hidden Valley is their bunny hill (we're not kidding) as it uses a trademarked learning technique that includes a mini half-pipe and embankments that let you practice turning at speed without the steep drops that you'd find on proper slopes. I coupled my visit with a lesson here, and the training area really helped drive home some of the techniques that would've gone over my head on a standard bunny hill (or a steep ski slope).
Check out more information on Hidden Valley by clicking here.
Seven Springs – A Ski Resort for Intermediates
Out of the three resorts featured in this guide, Seven Springs is by far the most popular, and with good reason- the property is huge!
This resort has something for everyone, be it several dozen ski slopes for all skill levels, a large lodge full of many amenities, restaurants, and activities, one of the best courses for snow tubing in PA, and numerous other outdoor activities for both winter and summer alike. Suffice it to say, you could easily spend a week here and barely do it all, and that is exactly why we love it.
We classify Seven Springs as being intermediate, despite having a number of easy to navigate green slopes, for two reasons. First, the resort is home to many blue and black diamond trails that those who have greater skills will be able to appreciate (including the north face section which is a bit more advanced as well). Second, this park is the most popular of the three featured on this list, which means if you are there during busy hours you'll have to spend some energy navigating away from other skiers. This is second nature to those who know what they're doing, but maybe not so much for beginners and is important to note.
Check out more information on Seven Springs by clicking here.
Laurel Mountain – A Ski Resort for Experts
Odds are good you fall into one of two camps when it comes to Laurel Mountain Ski Resort. Camp #1 includes those who have no idea what this resort is. Camp #2 includes those who are die-hards who dream of the resort.
You see, Laurel Mountain was a local favorite ski resort that closed in the early 2000's and was re-opened for the 2016/2017 ski season after many years of work and campaigns from the locals who love this small hideaway in the mountains. Talk to anyone in the lodge who is a local, and you'll quickly understand their intense love of this property and how happy they are that it is finally operating once again.
This resort is the smallest of the three featured in this guide, but what it has it does exceptionally well. The resort is an inverse mountain with a completely renovated chalet-style lodge at the top, and all trails merge at the bottom where the park's one and only ski lift ferries you back to the top. Beyond this, there is no infrastructure on the property as it is located on state property that is leased to Seven Springs for skiing.
It is just you, the mountain, and the small but stunning lodge. Intrigued? You should be.
We classify this one as being for experts as the roughly one dozen or so trails are not easy in the slightest. The few greens are more like easier blues (with quite long runs, too), and the trails get progressively harder from there. In fact, the resort's double black diamond, Lower Wildcat, is said to be the steepest slope in the state of Pennsylvania, just to give you an idea on what we're talking about.
If you can handle blue trails with ease, or tackle black diamonds without hassle, we are confident you will absolutely adore this resort. You may not be able to do all the trails, but if you are willing to tackle most you are going to have a fantastic time and maybe even make a few friends with the locals along the way.
We are not avid skiers, and this park is still beyond our skill level for sure, but we can appreciate a beautiful property and amazing slopes when we see them. This is one of those places that only encourages us to get better so we can return.
You'll understand why when you get there.
Check out more information on the Laurel Mountain Ski Resort by clicking here.
Stock Up on Your Winter Gear Before You Go!
Now that you have an idea on which resort you want to visit for your next ski trip, we need to take a moment and make sure you're equipped with the right kind of gear for the trip.
You see, during my visit I felt a bit unprepared despite having a number of layers from my time working outside in harsh winter conditions. But for skiing you may want to go a little bit further and pick up some clothing that is designed specifically for the environment (and at the Laurel Highlands, which can get especially cold and have weather completely different than in Pittsburgh even on the same day, this is a must). We recommend the following to start:
Now that you have your gear, what are you waiting for? Get down to the Laurel Highlands to ski!
We'd like to thank the Laurel Highlands Visitor Bureau for inviting us down to experience these three epic ski resorts in the Seven Springs family. As always, all opinions are our own.