Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on January 4, 2023.
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We were hosted by Seven Springs when visiting for this story; however, all opinions are our own.
Much like everything else in 2020 (and onward into early 2021), the current environment has resulted in a number of changes for experiences throughout the region. The ski season at Seven Springs in the Laurel Highlands is no different.
While skiing is inherently an activity that can be enjoyed at a distance, the ski resorts in the Laurel Highlands have made many changes for the 2020-2021 season to ensure guests are safe when off the slopes. Naturally, we wanted to see what it was like towards the start of the season and share some things you can expect if visiting Seven Springs this year!
Seven Springs Looks a Bit Different This Year
Normally when we visit Seven Springs, we can make a day or weekend out of it by hitting the slopes, warming up inside with a beer at the Foggy Goggle (although a Foggy To-Go window is available), and eating dinner at Helen's (a stellar restaurant all-around) before retiring to our room for a slopeside view. For the 2020-2021 season, a lot of that has changed as Seven Springs has employed a number of social distancing protocols to keep guests safe.
First, the number of lift tickets on any given day are limited and only available for advanced purchase up to 14-days ahead of time. Season pass holders, Super 7 Passholders, those signed up for private lessons, and guests who stay at the lodge are not affected by this, but those who wish to visit on a day trip may find that tickets could sell out ahead of time. Likewise, the resort is also not offering twilight ski tickets and is only offering all-day options this season.
During our visit shortly after the start of the season, only nine of the slopes were open which is normal in mid-December. This made for a bit of congestion at the main ski lifts, but we appreciated how the resort was using “ghost” boarding lanes to maintain side-to-side distancing.
While we felt that the lifts were a bit more crowded than we'd prefer, the spacing worked out quite well (and the line moved fairly quickly all the same). Those who do not wish to ride a lift with people outside of their group can also request not to be paired with others, although we had no issue having a single rider join us (spaced away) on the larger lift as they move quite fast.
Once you're on the hill, skiing in and of itself is a fairly easy activity in order to social distance- which is why we visited the resort in the first place. It is when you get off the slopes that you'll notice some of the bigger changes as many of the on-site restaurants and bars are either closed or open for takeaway only to help guests minimize their inside time- something we fully appreciated.
The biggest concern visitors to Seven Springs may have, however, is at the rental shop as this was the only spot we spent any appreciable time at.
The Rental Office May Be the Only Concern
While it may be pretty easy to socially distance when out on the slopes, it is worth noting that those who need rental gear will need to spend a fair amount of time inside the rental office (particularly when checking out gear).
During our visit, we arrived at Seven Springs about 30 minutes prior to the opening of the slopes and noted a pretty decent line outside of the rental office. An employee was regulating the max number of people inside at any given time and once inside there were many stickers for distancing, dedicated movement routes, as well as hand sanitizer stations.
While these help keep guests apart from each other, it is still worth noting that with a sufficient number of guests around resort opening, you may end up spending upwards of 20-30 minutes inside the building in total (with somewhere between 20-30 others). Depending on who you are around and how strict they wear their own masks, this could be a concern depending on how risk-averse you are. This is, of course, not as much of a concern for those who have their own equipment but is worth highlighting all the same.
That being said, later in the day when we returned our equipment, we noticed that the rental building was virtually empty beyond employees. As such, it is entirely likely that the opening rush subsides after a short period of time and may be a better alternative if you wish to avoid groups.
Beyond this, we spent nearly all of our time at Seven Springs out on the slopes and only briefly came inside to access our locker and use the facilities. While we maybe did not get the full resort experience like we have had in previous years, we were there to visit the slopes, and getting a few runs in made us forget about all the rest, even for just a few moments.
So if you visit Seven Springs this winter for some skiing, expect things to look a fair bit different from previous years. If you are risk-averse with groups, plan your arrival time accordingly (unless you own your own gear), upgrade your cold-weather gear to allow you to stay warm outside longer (hand warmers are a must), and be sure to mask up.
Overall, we had a great afternoon out at Seven Springs to go socially distant skiing. Although some of our favorite aspects of the resort were closed due to the new restrictions, it was still pretty easy to get in, grab our gear, and get out on the slopes all the same.
To read more about Seven Springs operation plans for the 2020-2021 season, click here. As mentioned above, all ticket sales must be purchased online and in advance up to 14 days ahead of time. As tickets are limited, they are likely to sell out- especially for prime days.