Skiers take to the slopes at Somerset, Bedford resorts | Entertainment

SOMERSET, Pa. – In January, a nationally recognized resort operator completed a deal to acquire Somerset County’s ski resorts.

For $118 million, Vail Resorts Inc. purchased Hidden Valley Resort and Seven Springs Mountain Resort and lease rights for Laurel Mountain from Seven Springs Mountain Resort Inc.

Now, a year later, as skiers take to the slopes, the Somerset County resorts’ general manager, Brett Cook, said it’s been a smooth integration with Vail Resorts’ more than 40 other destinations, including Breckenridge and Vail Mountain in Colorado.

In a December report for investors, Vail Resorts said that pass sales through Dec. 5 for the upcoming ski season increased about 6% in units and in sales dollars over the prior year. Those pass product sales were adjusted to include pass sales for the recently acquired Seven Springs, Hidden Valley and Laurel Mountain resorts.

“What really stands out about these resorts in Somerset now is that they are part of the bigger Vail Resort family,” Cook said. “Season pass holders have access to 41 resorts … The resorts in Somerset are three of eight resorts in Pennsylvania alone, so there’s just so many possibilities now and locations to visit for the guests.”

Anecdotally, Cook said, he’s seeing and hearing about the Somerset County resorts getting more out-of-state license plates in their parking lots since they all opened in December.

“There are a lot of Ohio, a lot of Virginia coming to visit us for the first time,” Cook said, “and I think the same thing will go for the other resorts. They will see more guests coming in from this area because it’s no additional cost to them. It’s part of the pass.”

A lot of behind-the-scenes improvements have been made to the Somerset resorts during the past year. For example, the resorts now offer cashless transactions. In addition, snowmaking lines have been replaced at Seven Springs and the lodge has a new roof.

About 20 snowguns were purchased between Seven Springs and Hidden Valley, Cook said, and a new groomer has been transferred to Laurel Mountain to groom trails more efficiently.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is one of the busiest for ski resorts, which have a vital economic impact on the region’s tourism and travel industry, according to Go Laurel Highlands, the destination marketing organization promoting Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties.

A report by the Pennsylvania Tourism Office and Tourism Economics summarizing visitor spending shows travelers spent more than $1.92 billion in the Laurel Highlands region in 2019, a record high and the fastest rate of growth for the region since 2011.

Neighboring the Laurel Highlands to the east is Blue Knob, which is Pennsylvania’s highest skiable mountain.

Blue Knob All Seasons Resort in Bedford County saw more activity over this year’s snowy Christmas holiday weekend than in the rainy Christmas holidays of years past, Blue Knob marketing director Donna Himes said.

Blue Knob sales of season passes have held steady with past years, Himes said.

Visitors may notice some small upgrades this season, she said. Supplemental water and air lines have been installed for increased snowmaking at the snow tubing park and at the top of the mountain. In addition, diversion ditches have been improved on various slopes and trails to improve drainage.

The Blue Knob Rental Shop is also implementing an overhaul of its rental fleet. Blue Knob has ordered new ski boots, helmets, 130 pairs of new rental skis as well as new snowboard boots and 25 new snowboards.

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