Last year Pennsylvania was set to begin soliciting bids for a rebuild of Laurel Mountain Resort which sits within Laurel Mountain State Park. The process was halted when it was decided to eliminate a planned tubing park. This forced a redesign of the construction project. In the most recent press release from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA State Parks) spokesperson Chris Novak stated that although the redesign concept has been agreed to the actual redesign work has just been started. The design work is being done by an unnamed consultant for the State.
The redesign was done at the behest of leaseholder Seven Springs Mountain Resort which now owns or controls all three existing ski resorts on the Laurel Ridge east of Pittsburgh. Actual work to replace one of Laurel's chair lifts, improve snowmaking and trail redesign might not begin until 2015. Funding for this project has been available since 2008. There is a reported $5 million remaining from the original $6.5 million allotted. Shortly after tax money was released for the rebuild, Seven Springs entered a 10 year lease to operate the facility. The extent of Seven Springs capital contribution is not known beyond the $1 million Seven Springs paid for the privately owned assets of the resort which include the lodge, a quad chair and the snowmaking and grooming equipment. As I understand the agreement, the lease will not begin until the resort is operational. The major cause for the redesign is Seven Springs' decision to not include a tubing park that was a provisional element of the first design. In all press releases since 2008 concerning the progress or lack thereof on Laurel, the tubing park was always said to be included only if the projects funds were available. There never has been an explanation of how eliminating what has always been identified as a provisional feature would force a redesign of the entire project.
Laurel Mountain was built during the country's first wave of lift served Alpine ski resorts before World War II. In late 1939 Laurel's owner, Richard King Mellon, conceived the idea and sought assistance from Mt. Cranmore NH, owner Henry Gibson. Gibson had just secured the release of skiing legend Hannes Schneider from Nazi imprisonment. Hannes was dispatch to Western Pennsylvania and designed the first trials of what would come to be know as Laurel Mountain Slopes. The ski area opened for the 1940/41 season. Laurel enjoyed its greatest success after the war with the arrival of 10th Mountain Division veteran Ralph "Doc" DesRoches. In 1963 Mellon gave the resort to the State to operate. Since that time the resort has been leased to private operators with varying success.