Laurel Mountain Ski-Resort

skiericon.pngThis resort guide is maintained by EpicSki Ambassador: Laurel Hill Crazie




Construction crews are on site as of October 2015 with targeted opening for the 2016/17 season.
March 30, 2015

Mr. Robert Nutting, President of Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Ogden News, and the Pittsburgh Pirates hosted a meeting that included his management staff, officials of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), local press and supporters of Laurel Mountain who wrote letters to advocate a speedy opening of their now closed winter sport resort. Mr. Nutting began by thanking all in attendance with a nod to all the DCNR official that drove from Harrisburg. Mr. Nutting compared the slow often frustrating process moving this Pennsylvania state park project along to the equally long and frustrating rebuilding of his Pittsburgh Pirate Major League Baseball franchise. He stated that he hoped that Laurel would soon see the success that the Pirates have achieved most recently. Mr. Nutting told his personal stories about his young daughter skiing Laurel's challenging Lower Wildcat and portrayed his as a skiing family. He repeated that he was deeply committed to opening Laurel but also spoke of the need to get it right and of his commitment to excellence. He went on to say that he and his family are not motivated by quarterly reports but rather by doing business by what interest them and doing it right. Mr. Nutting said, "Our goal is to be there for a long time." Mr. Nutting then began a power point presentation of the state funded six and a half million dollar infrastructure rebuild plan for Laurel Mountain. I repeat them here not necessarily in the order presented:


Maps flipped from original.Top of map is the top of the mountain:



 Rework and relocate Innsbruck to eliminate the switchback turns at the top. Innsbruck will still have a somewhat "out and back" character but it will be less  hairpin and  more  gradual, more "round the bend" than "out and back". The trail will be widened its entire length and the start of the trail will begin at the  bottom of Tamecat just to  skier's left of the  beginning of Broadway. There will be 16 snow guns added to Upper Innsbruck and 13 added to Lower  Innsbruck. This should make it the novice  friendly, top to bottom trail as  Laurel has always lacked.










 Deer Path will be widened and snowmaking renovated, again with the goal of making a top to  bottom easy trail. There will be 23 to 30 guns on the trail. Deer Path was once a rope tow line  before Laurel's first true top to bottom lift, a T-bar, was installed in 1955. 










   Snowmaking ponds will expanded to ensure all snowmaking trails can be totally recovered twice, an 11 million gallon expansion of holding capacity from 15 to 26 million gallons. 





















\ Broadway will get some trail work too. The pinch point known to locals, especially the ski patrol, as the chute will be graded and widened.  The lower pitch below  the Midway Cabin will be re-graded as it will be the connector between Innsbruck and Deer Path.








A new fixed grip Quad will replace the current double and be realigned to begin near the site of the Wildcat warming hut and end at the top of the old tubing hill. That will take the end point closer to the lodge and a little higher on the mountain creating better access to the lodge and the trail network on skier's left side of the mountain. This lift should exceed the capacity of the 2 lifts it will replace. 


The old quad will be removed. When Mr. Nutting was questioned about the possibility of making snow on that lift line trail (named Lincoln Highway) he said the thought occurred to him when he hiked the mountain. There are no plans to equip the trail with air and water lines and hydrants but the new snowmaking on Innsbruck as well as existing lines on Broadway will make snowmaking feasible on Lincoln Highway. If this happens it will give Laurel another long top to bottom intermediate trail with consistent snow conditions.












 Any additions or improvement to the trails on skier's right of the mountain will depended on the success of Laurel's new design (skier visit count to justify expansion) .  The major trails on that  side of the mountain include Snow Bowl, Laurel, and Dream Highway.













The yellow shaded areas on the map below indicate planned trail grading.








That about covers all of the improvements being made by the PA DCNR's PA Bureau of State Parks. On hill construction is targeted for July 2015 but actual earth moving will probably begin in August. The timeline is set by established procedural policy applied to all state funded projects. This process was spelled out in some detail by the Assistant Director of the PA Bureau of State Parks, John Hallas. Mr. Hallas and other DCNR department heads answered many questions from the assembled guests concerning details about the project including lift placement and trail and snowmaking improvements but the question on everyone's mind was when will Laurel Mountain be open? That answer came with the caveat, if all things go according to plan Laurel will open for the 2016/2017 winter season.


The current lease is set to expire in 2018 but negotiations to extend the lease are in the preliminary stage. When Hallas was questioned about the 10 year duration of the current lease he replied that 10 years was the set time frame for all state owned facilities leased to private operators but there can be exceptions to that with some leases up to 35 years. When I stated that 10 years seems to be too short a time for a private operator to have confidence to make investment in a public owned facility Mr. Nutting seemed to agree with light hearted gestures of encouragement as I put the question to Mr. Hallas. Mr. Nutting did express confidence that an extension will be agreed upon stating that they were in it longer than the two and a half years remaining on the current lease.





Mr. Nutting also said their intention was to market Seven Springs, Hidden Valley and Laurel Mountain as a destination in the same manner that New Hampshire resorts created the Ski 93 campaign for resorts access from Interstate 93 which runs through the state and the Ski The Summit campaign used effectively by the four Summit County, Colorado winter resorts. This will be done through the Highland Pass program that will grant access to all three resorts. This program has been in effect since Hidden Valley was added to the Seven Springs operation. A weekend pass buyer can add the option to include the other resort by paying an additional charge. Likewise, a season pass buyer can do the same and sample the other resort with a nominal upcharge for the pass. To paraphrase Mr. Nutting, the Washington/Baltimore market is the target market for our three resorts with their distinct individual character and terrain variety each has to offer.


With regards to the Seven Springs owned assets on the mountain which are not eligible for state funding, the primary focus of questions were about the lodge which is in need of repair since it was last in operation for during the 2004/2005 season. While acknowledging problems with the size of the Laurel Lodge especially during busy weekends, there are no plans to enlarge facility. Instead, the lodge will be remodeled to create more room for equipment rental area within the existing walls. My guess is that food service traffic flow will also be studied.





When I asked if there were plans to further integrate the resorts by providing shuttle service between them, Mr Nutting paused for a moment then said that he was thinking of a nice way to say no. The consensus is that people prefer to use their own cars to travel between Hidden Valley and Seven Springs. If my memory serves me correctly I believe that among season pass holder only about 25% currently purchase the multi-resort Highland Pass. Mr. Bill Nutting, Bob's brother, told me that so far it appeared that season pass buyer were mostly content to stay with one resort. As a local more inclined to buy a season pass it did not occur to me to inquire about the weekend version of the Highland Pass buyer's use patterns.




Asked about Laurel Mountain Village, a nearby resort community, Mr. Nutting said that while Seven Springs owns many lots in the Village there are no plans for development.





 I was concerned about the preservation of historical structures on the mountain and was assured by DCNR officials that all artifacts were cataloged and the scope of construction would not  disturb these sites. included are Midway Cabin, Laurel's first lodge, the hand laid stone wall upon which ran the first rope tow, and the foundation for the engine house of that rope tow. Mr.  Hallas also pointed out the Bureau's work in presenting and interpreting other historic sites under their authority and assured that no less would be done at Laurel. He mentioned several ways  to present Laurel's cultural history. Please forgive my journalistic shortcomings as I was so intent on listening that I did not take note so much detail is lost as I try to reconstruct from memory  but I believe that he suggested PA Historical Marker Program administer through the PA Historical and Museum Commission, the agency responsible for conducting an historic review of  construction sites.


















When questions turned to history and Midway Cabin in particular, Mr. Nutting expressed his interest in returning Midway to useful condition and making it available for future Laurel riders and visitors. Perhaps I detected from Mr. Nutting an implication that Midway could be a candidate for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places citing his mother in law's membership on board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation? I hope so but at the very least this big part of PA ski history and the significant role of Laurel Mountain in the greater history of skiing should now be preserved and told.


Although plans for Laurel are in the final stage and the project is not yet put out to bid, with the attendance of several ranking officials of the PA DCNR and Mr. Nutting's personal attention, enthusiasm and optimism, the invited Laurel Mountain supporters left assured that Laurel will reopen for the 2016/2017 winter season.






Snow Bowl








Laurel Mountain was originally designed by skiing legend Hannes Schneider. Laurel's founder, financier Richard King Mellon, contacted Harvey Gibson of New York's Manufacturers Trust Company and owner of Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway, NH for help in designing a ski area. Gibson had just secured the release of Schneider from Nazi arrest the year before. Hannes was a renowned ski instructor and developed the Arlberg Method which is recognized as the forerunner of modern alpine ski technique. Beginning in the 1930s alpine skiing in the US was heavily influenced by Austrian ski instructors trained by Schneider. Hannes was arrested by the Nazis because of his opposition to the annexation of Austria. Gibson sent Schneider to Ligonier and in the winter of 1939 the plan for Laurel Mountain Slopes was begun.


Laurel was a noted destination during the 40's and 50's and was served by ski trains from the Pittsburgh and Cleveland area. Laurel's ski conditions were often reported in the New York Times along with other larger Eastern resorts. Laurel was the first Pennsylvania ski resort to install commercially successful snowmaking and the first to use snow grooming machines. The resort enjoyed its heyday under the direction of 10th Mountain vet Ralph "Doc" DesRoches during the 1950s.  Doc became the CEO of the trade association Ski Industries of America and was key to that organization's success. DesRoches was also instrumental in funding the US Ski Team which went on to win the first Olympic Alpine skiing medals for The US Men's team.



Dream Highway


Laurel remains much as it was in Doc's day. There is no private lodging on the mountain, only the ski lodges and maintenance buildings. Midway Cabin, Laurel's first lodge built in 1940, still stands and is located on Lower Broadway, the first trail cut by Schneider. The main lodge, Laurel Lodge, sits at the summit commanding panoramic views of the Ligonier Valley. The trails are classic old school hugging the contours of the mountain offering the skier the experience of skiing through the forest.  Lower Wildcat, named for the tributary of Rolling Rock Creek at the bottom of the trail, was cut before World War 2. It is the steepest trail on the Laurel Ridge also the home ridge of Seven Springs and Hidden Valley.





Lower Wildcat


















arrow_down.png TRAIL MAP arrow_down.png CONDITIONS arrow_down.png TRANSPORTATION arrow_down.png LODGING arrow_down.png DINING arrow_down.png MORE


Trail Map
Trail Map


Laurel Mountain 1947


400-1 47 Trail Map.jpg


Laurel Mountain 1960


Laurel Mountain 2002




Proposed build out circa 1990









Name Description Maximum Occupancy Price Range
















Laurel Mountain Ski-Resort

High atop Laurel Ridge at close to 3,000 feet in elevation, Laurel Mountain State Park features a family-oriented downhill skiing area and beautiful views of the rolling countryside of the Ligonier Valley. The slopes and trails provide opportunities for skiers and snowboarders of all levels and the lodge is a cozy place to eat and enjoy the view. Opened in 1939, Laurel Mountain was one of the first ski areas in Pennsylvania.

Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC


Pros: Terrain has some potential, great lodge area and atmosphere

Cons: Haven't seen all terrain open yet, limited hours, lift ramp condition

I've been to LM twice now this season and enjoyed the throwback feel this place has, especially the lodge area. It has a very cozy feel to it and the Wild Cat lodge is a nice place to eat and have a drink. I'm in agreement with the the previous reviewer (Laurel Mountain Crazie) about the terrain as I think it has a lot of potential, but only if the natural snow is there.
First trip there was on 12-30-2016 and they only a few slopes were open - this was expected though since we haven't much of a winter so I knew what to expect and wasn't disappointed. I saw the potential though and was really excited to get back to ski more of the slopes, especially the longer blue trail (Dream Highway) that runs along the left side on the mountain (left viewing from a trail map).

Went back on 1-8-2017 after a solid week-long cold spell along with the 4-6 inch snow storm we had in PGH. I was a little disappointed to see they had only opened one more green slope with nothing on the left side open! Still had a good day, but was only limited to the 3-4 trails open. Both 7S and HV had opened plenty more terrain so I was a little confused as to why LM only had the one extra slope open.
I'll be back at least one more time this season, but only when I see they have all their terrain open. Not sure what it would take for them to open Dream Highway as they had a solid foot of snow coming into the second week of Feb and it's still not open.
One complaint I'll air out here is the condition of the off ramp area for the lift - it was covered with so many little stones, twigs, and other debris that it was impossible to find a clear path and avoid scraping up the bases of my skis. This would be acceptable for me if it was super early in the season, or late in the season, but late Dec or early Jan? I'm already having to repair my bases with ptex and I don't want to get a stone grind mid-season. I could see plenty of man made snow piles, so it's just a matter of them getting better coverage on the off ramp area. You think it'd be in their best interest to get coverage here since it's got to be tearing up the bases on the rental equipment. Sorry to rant on this, but it's an easy fix for them IMO.


Overall, I would say it's worth checking out especially if you want a more laid back ski experience. With more of the crowds going to 7S and HV, this is a great option for avoiding the 10-15 minute lift lines at the other resorts.


Pros: Good snowmaking, One of the steepest trails in PA ready opening day, Nice lodge, good food, nice selection in the bar. Scenic, long, tall trails.

Cons: Only half of the terrain covered (but what a half!). Limited to upper mountain beginners trail and handle tow for first timers.

Laurel has long been my favorite ski area in Western PA. It is small, 75 acres total in cut trails, 35 acres covered in a modern, efficient snowmaking system that had one of the steepest trails in the Mid-A ready on opening day. Please note I call Laurel a ski area, not a ski resort. It is a true skier/rider's hill. No onsite lodging, no tubing hill, no video arcade. Also, no terrain park yet but I think they will build a small park. Laurel Mountain is in fact a Pennsylvania state park and the bulk of the skiing infrastructure was funded by PA tax money. A big part of the appeal to me is the lack of resort amenities beyond the basic. Laurel is a place were enthusiasts come to ski and ride in a natural environment. Laurel, like most ski areas, is best with natural cover, Laurel more so. When fully open Laurel offers some of the best advanced terrain in the state, that's why I rated terrain on the high side. I will concede that Blue Knob's Extrovert is a more difficult trail to ski due to its intersecting trails and the inability to groom but Lower Wildcat is just as steep but is groomed. If you look at Laurel's Trail map you will see a lot of undeveloped terrain between the trails. I'll leave it to your imagination what might be found there. Just make sure there is good natural coverage before you explore and remember it has been a decade since Laurel was last open. Please obey closure signs. 


The operation is leased to nearby Seven Springs Mountain Resort, PA's largest ski resort and a resort in every sense with more amenities than most. Laurel is about 40 minute drive from Seven Springs. You can buy a Laurel lift ticket or a 3 resort pass called the Highland Ticket that will get you access to Laurel, Seven Springs nearby Hidden Valley which is also owned by Seven Springs. The Highland Ticket is a full weekend pass beginning Friday at 9 am, or for less money, 4 pm and goes to close on Sunday night. That gives you 79 slopes and trails, over 465 acres of skiing (HV & 7S have 90%+ snowmaking), 9 terrain parks (rated as one of the best in the nation) with over 100 features. Here's a link for price details:


Laurel is located on the Laurel Ridge between Ligonier on the west and Jennerstown to the east. It is accessible from the same I 76/70 PA turnpike exits as Seven Springs but a slightly longer drive from the Somerset or Dongeal exits. 


Laurel was built prior to WW 2 and designed by Hannes Schneider the year after his 1939 arrival in the US. Schneider developed the Arlberg Technique which is the basis for modern ski teaching. His contributions to the sport can be found here: The lodge, which sits at the top of the mountain along with parking, was totally refurbished with carpeting, new tables, and adorned with historic photos and equipment from Laurel's heyday back in the 1940s and 1950s. Basic food service is available upstairs, nice portions, better than average and not totally unreasonable prices. Downstairs in the Wildcat Lounge is a full service bar and the food selection is a little more upscale. There is usually live music in the bar so I did give a slight nightlife rating. Both floors offer a nice view of the Ligonier Valley.


So what does 35 acres of snowmaking mean? Well, as I stated above there is one of the steepest slopes in the region, groomed so it is skiable by more aspiring experts and about 2000 feet in length. Two intermediate trails in Broadway and Deer Path and upper novice/low intermediate Innsbruck, Both Innsbruck and Broadway empty on Deer Path and when combined with either you will be gliding for about a mile and a half. All trail utilize Laurel 760 vertical foot drop. There is also Tamecat, the beginner hill and a few over side trails and connectors. Half of Laurel's terrain must depend on natural snowfall.


If you looking for long rambling trails or a steep expert pitch and a throwback vibe in a less commercial setting then give Laurel a try.