Spring Awakening at Seven Springs, PA

I spent the day Monday watching the NWS radar in total disbelief: a huge, swirling, stalled storm was dropping snow on western New York and Pennsylvania. It was hard not to think, “why couldn’t this have happened in February?”

Seven Springs PA

But something was different about this “after the bloom” storm; there were shades of blue, grey, and white over the higher terrain, and up to 24″ was expected when things were said and done.

Seven Springs was tweeting that they were going to spin the lifts. My skis and boots came out of the closet in the afternoon, but I still wasn’t sure would drive west towards the snow. For years I’ve ranted about ski areas closing with perfectly good snow on the ground, and I felt the need to put my money, time and fuel where my mouth is.

Seven Springs is a long ridge of 500 vertical feet on the main chair, in a hidden valley in Pittsburgh Steeler country. Towns in the surrounding area are pretty charming, with an active dairy industry and more billboards than people. The region doesn’t look like ski country, but looks can be deceiving, and when I arrived at 9am the lower lot was almost full. Note to ski resort operators: if you spin it they will come!

While waiting for first chair I struck up conversation with some locals. One was being celebrated as a hero for his appearance on the front page of the Washington Post. Everyone knew each other. Most people had made the trip from West Virginia and Pittsburgh, and no one could believe I drove from Queens at 3:30am.

The liftie couldn’t help but comment on my equipment, “What are those, two snowboards?” But I didn’t mind, I’ve found that the skinny ski crowd cares less about chasing down fresh lines in the woods. I befriended one local named Garlin, who couldn’t believe the crowd. I was happy to share first chair with him because he was good company and I knew he was going to rip after hearing his stories about Utah. The third person on our chair was the youth mogul team instructor, Ben. He pointed out that the liftline was going to die down soon because partying came before anything else at Seven Springs. We looked over at the Foggy Goggle and sure enough the crowd was already filling the deck to capacity.

I spent the afternoon pushing my way under a closed rope working further from the chair to farm fresh turns and walk back to the lift. Eventually Ben suggested we take a drive to see the real terrain on the backside. We drove in his truck on an emergency access road and parked at the bottom. We started to boot up on a snowmobile track some happy sledder had put down for us. The view from the top was great. Pittsburgh was in the distance, there was a blue sky above, and 750 feet of untracked lay below us.

After a few hours temps had warmed and my legs were done. Besides, it was time to check out the now legendary partying at Seven Springs PA. With free hot dogs on the grill, a deck looking at the slopes, and a friendly crowd, it was easy to see why people stuck around. Everyone was facing the slopes watching those who still had the legs to ski.

People seemed to have a hard time saying goodbye to each other, and I heard people making plans to try other sports together. It was my kind of crowd: they were all hoping for one more storm and one more opportunity to say goodbye to the ski season.

20 comments on “Spring Awakening at Seven Springs, PA

  1. I can’t decide whether you are wicked hardcore or just sick:-) Anyway, your report put a smile on my face.

  2. Way to go Matt! I thought about it, for a minute, five hours to ski 750 ft, on a weekday, just wasn’t happening. Sounds like you had a great day. Kudos to Seven Springs,(never heard of them before), for reopening after the dump. Have a great Summer, I’ll be hitting Jay this weekend to end my year.

  3. So awesome. way to get after it. the backside can be a ton of fun with decent-excellent conditions. plus seven springs terrain park is always voted top 5 to 10 in the nation. another place to check out in PA is http://www.blueknob.com highest vert in pa at ~1100 feet and known for its ungroomed bowls, steeps, and glades. amazing after a big dump. it’s about 45 minutes from 7 springs.

  4. Good for Seven Springs.

    They suffer from the same “little brother” syndrome as so many of the Mid Atlantic ski areas I ski these days since moving south.

    North Eastern skiers say “who?” when you talk about 7Springs, Timberline, Canaan, even Snowshoe, which is pretty big by any standard.

    Seven Springs is no Whiteface, but offers good skiing to Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Maryland skiers, who can’t justify a 12 hour drive to Vermont or upstate NY.

    It is also a throwback to the 1980s: trail layout and a resort feel that reminds you of the old Grossingers Resort or the movie Dirty Dancing: base lodge connected to hotel connected to a bowling alley connected to…you get the idea. Lots of old connecting hallways and places to discover inside.

    As long as you can get over the Pittsburgh Steelers – Terrible Towel decorations that hang over the place (yeah, I’m NOT a Steelers fan) its a fun place to ski.

    And don’t forget it was the birthplace of the HKD snow gun, now an industry leader. Not so backwards after all.

    Good for them.

  5. Nice report. You should get extra credit for the drive. The PA Turnpike west of Harrisburg is a 2 lane disaster. Did you drive back after skiing?

  6. Ok, the trip report was nice, but isn’t a little foolish, to drive 12-13 hrs, spend $100 in gas to ski 10 inches of slop on zero base..

  7. I love it. I would have been there with you, had I been aware! A friend sent me a text at 11:30am….duh, where was he at 5:30. I could easily have taken the day off, skied and then visited the folks who live 30 mins away. Total brownie point day. I did search their website hourly and at 6am the next day…hoping for a second day. I then felt hope that Kmart would reopen not to be outdone by a pimple hill in Western Pa. No luck.

    For those that don’t know. If you want groomers and lots of them…they have a super speed 6 pack that moves people. Its like 2 minutes, no kidding. Then on the “back side” a HS either 6 or 4pack…about 6 minutes to get 1100 vert and it can be quite good. NO ONE skis that back side during weekdays, my experience. Then there is the party… I have heard ski management on a microphone telling the crowd they were not drinking enough, doing toasts…straight up 1970s. Plan to see lots of jeans and snow plows on weekends. A few fights too.

  8. Jason, If it’s just a question of money, than there isn’t even a question. I KNOW I’m not going to be thinking about that $124 in gas/ticket in July. I will have a smile plastered on my face from skiing some really nice snow until my legs gave out, at just about the same time the sun did its damage. Plus I got to ski in a new state, met great people, and generally had a blast.

    So, maybe it’s foolish but I would be parted with my money again tomorrow if another 18-24 storm rolled through and smacked them again!

  9. “If it’s just a question of money, then there isn’t even a question” ml242, I love it! Some things rise above the cost and time and this sounds like one of them. I was on my way home from a music fest in Florida and had to drive thru the beginning of that storm. If I had a clue so much snow was going to fall and hadn’t just drove 19 hrs straight I would have thought about it. It’s about 6 hrs from my house. My son went to school in Pittsburgh and skied there. I never made it. Sometimes those quick day trips can turn out to be the most memorable. Although I’ve done several day trips of 7-8 hr drives by myself I have to say 12 hrs is hardcore!

  10. Guys, I’ve enjoyed your TRs this season and am very jealous… you seem to have unlimited free time to drive all over the place. What kind of jobs do you have?

  11. There is nothing foolish about making an effort to ski when there is not skiing anywhere else nearby. Sounds like it was well worth the cost and effort. Mark, Sparks and I did a day trip to Killington. I have never done Kton in a day, but was definitely worth it. 5 hours of driving each way for 5 hours of skiing was worth the time and energy. The cost wasn't so bad because we split it between 3 of us and the lift tix from Liftopia were reasonable.

  12. I guess one man’s passion is another man’s foolishness. We all make our choices in life, and it makes sense that those choices would be as individual as each of us. Re carbon footprint, IMO it’s not what you do on one day that matters but how you structure your life. I’ll bet a city dweller’s one bedroom apt and regular use of mass transit in NYC is pretty efficient compared with daily commuting from a multi-bedroom house on an acre in the burbs, regardless of who skis where.

    Nice report ML – really enjoyed it.

  13. Hey, thanks Harv… but this is getting way too personal.

    In some ways, I’m reminded about the Batman movies. Who is this Batman, really? How does he have money for these toys? Why would he risk great personal expense, injury, and death when that’s what the cops are there for?

    Well, Bruce Wayne had a passion for kicking ass… and a light that would shine in the sky that bring him into action.

    I have my own light too, it’s the white of the radar from the NWS and I’ve been strategically placing webcams all over the Northeast and using a mass hypnosis to get other people to pay for it (one of my super powers)!

    All I need is a headlight to drive by, reflecting a few flakes, or the sun to set just late enough as a lawn gets covered and I’m monitoring the situation.

    No hater can stop Batman. Not the Penguin (My fave villain by the way), The Joker, Cat Woman, Poison Ivy, you get the picture. So unless my GF says we have plans, and one day if I choose to have what will certainly be ski day ruining kids (for a few years), a few inches on grass is all I need to go kick some ass!!!

    … to be continued.

    *editors note, this is all a joke, I suck at skiing and certainly have no super powers except being able to sit behind a computer for many hours. Thanks to everyone for the support and comments over the season. I had a great time and hope to keep writing for this blog for seasons to come!

    Hell, I hope to ski this week at least once and write about it.

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