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Help from the PA folks?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Sorry if this doesn't belong here, not sure where else to put it...

This year my girlfriend and I are taking a turn with her family for Christmas. With my family being in MI with us being in CT, travel eats up a lot of the time between xmas and NYE that we can get together with my family.

So... I suggested us renting a house near a ski resort in PA and just meeting them there. The idea was well received, but I'm not really sure where to go. The skiing is actually kind of secondary, as I'm really the only regular skier. But my GF, brother and sister would all ski as well. (So a place where beginners might be happier wouldn't hurt either)

Does anyone have any suggestions for areas that have not only decent skiing, but things to do other than ski? The west side would be preferable as that is more of the midway point, but I think we'd be open to the eastern end of the state as well.

Thank you very much for any help you can give... now, let's just hope I'm not too late for planning a holiday trip.
post #2 of 26
A little out of your way, but Ellicottville is a real nice town with lots of shopping, bars and restaurants and a Casino near by. You can ski at Holiday Valley or Holimont on a weekday. Lots of Condo's or Chalets to rent.
post #3 of 26
Hidden Valley or Seven Springs is your best bet in Western PA. Hidden Valley is more laid back, less of a party atmosphere. The hill isn't tall but there are a lot of trails and is an excellent place for beginners. Hidden Valley was bought by a large development company last year and tons of money have been invested in the mountain. Snowmaking is excellent and amenities have been improved and the price is less then the big neighbor nearby.

That would be Seven Springs, which rates #1 in the Mid-Atlantic in Ski magazine's reader survey. The hill offers more challenge, greater vertical and longer runs. The hotel complex at the bottom of the mountain offers several dining options, some boutique shopping, bowling, hot tubs, outdoor heated pool, roller skating, video arcade for the kids and a wide variety of lodging options. You will pay for the experience.

Both resorts are within about a half hour from each other allowing you to find the best lodging deal locally and try both resorts, if you don't mind the drive.

Here's their web sites:

Hidden Valley

Seven Springs

Here's a google link for off mountain lodging options:


Also check out for more detailed trip reports and other updates.
post #4 of 26
If I were you, I'd go for New York State over PA. Both for proximity to MI / CT and the larger probability of good early season snow.

In western NY, Elicottville is a cute little ski town with two ski areas. Holiday Valley has lots of beginner friendly terrain and some mildly amusing steeper stuff. Holimont is a private ski area that is open to the public during the week, but probably not over Xmas.

Mid-state, I've heard good things about Greek Peak near Syracuse, but have never been. Here's a good mapping interface you might want to play with:

For western PA, your best bet is 7 Springs which has slopeside lodging and slopeside bowling (really, you walk past the bolwing alley on the way to the lift) but not much else to do there. It could be dicey snow-wise that early. I would plan to go elsewhere.
post #5 of 26
For totally out of the box thinking, how long would it take your relatives to drive to Lake Placid?

Total winter carnival atmosphere and heaps of things to do.
post #6 of 26
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by comprex View Post
For totally out of the box thinking, how long would it take your relatives to drive to Lake Placid?
Hmmm... I like the way you think, but I don't think that would be doable. Google maps says 11 hrs. When you consider the fact that my dad's driving speed is inversely proportional to his age, it might take even longer.

Thanks to everyone else for both the PA info and also pointing out western NY has some options available. I'm going to start looking into this and hopefully I'll be able to come back with an *actual* trip report.
post #7 of 26
If your Dad's willing to drive 10 hours or so, you could meet him at Tremblant - it's actually closer to Michigan than Iceface. Plenty of things to do there....
post #8 of 26
there's good beer in ellicottville.
post #9 of 26
go to hv and holimont. best option. great little town,
post #10 of 26
If you decide on Western PA, make sure to spend a day at Blue Knob. !,000 ft, and some gnarly terrain.
post #11 of 26
Just curious about all those that have recommended western NY, have any of you skied Western PA?

You're right about the edge NY has for natural snow but there is 100% snowmaking at both Hidden Valley and Seven Springs, well 90% because there are some glades and chair lift lines that require natural snow. I don't think NY is immune to rain and after one freeze/thaw, you might as well be on machine made snow. Seven Springs alone has over 200 acres under the guns and all of that terrain could be open this weekend.

Unless Holiday Valley has changed dramatically, it skied small when I was there. Although they list 750 vertical, same as Seven Springs, I don't think all of the vertical is accessible off any one lift. It skied like the front side of Seven Springs.

Really, not meaning to flame or promote PA skiing, just curious as to your reasons.
post #12 of 26
ny has ellicottville, which is supposed to be a fun town. i don't like fun, so i can't really comment much on that, but ebc makes good beer. and there are lots of decent restaurants in town so you don't have to eat crappy overpriced ski resort food, which the valley has plenty of.
post #13 of 26
Well, I've skied both, and find your comments to be pretty accurate.

My reccommendation of NY is based mostly on the higher liklihood of good coverage (snowmaking is great, but you need low temps to do it - NY is well north of south PA last I looked) and the town of Elicottville. Since the OP was asking about good diversions for his non-skiing relatives, the fact that 7Springs has better terrain than HV counted for less than the fact that 7Springs is in nowheresville.

Seriously, what's there to do around Somerset? I remember checking into the hotel, and the brochure for "things to do" listed four:
  • Ski
  • Visit the site of the Jonestown Flood
  • Visit the field where flight 93 crashed on 9/11
  • Visit the site of the 2002 Quickcreek Mining Accident

Unless his family is keen to go on some kind of death tour, there won't be much to do at 7 Springs other than hang around the resort and rollerskate & bowl.

Agree that Holiday Valley does ski small for it's vertical, and yes it reminds me of the front side of 7 Springs. One correction is that I believe it is possible to ski the entire vertical at HV by skiing the trail under the HS Quad. Unfortunately, just like 7 Springs, doing laps on the HS quad means skiing some pretty boring stuff. (as an aside, why do resorts do this, i.e. put in a HS chair that's mostly horizontal with nothing interesting to ski while doing laps? Crystal Mt MI has the same problem)

Holimont, OTOH, skis as large as it's stats would indicate.

When the backside of 7 springs is open, it edges HV on terrain. No question. The thing is, how often is the backside open at XMas? I drive by that way every XMas and most years it's not worth stopping. (my recollection, anyway)

If I was planning a weekend trip, I'd wait until the day before and hit 7 Springs if the backside is open and the conditions look favorable. But I have different agenda than the poster, and he doesn't have the luxury of waiting til the day before to decide. NY is the better bet. YMMV.
post #14 of 26
Ellicottville is a fantastic little town. The skiing there is also very good.
post #15 of 26
Yes, the weather here has been sketchy in recent years and point well taken about lack of social apres ski options which Seven Springs tries to address. I was tempted to suggest they stay in Ligonier as an option but that would put skiing over a half hour away. Too bad Laurel Mountain isn't open this year.

Good points, Walt.

Oh, there is now a high speed six on the backside of Seven Springs.

Perhaps what we failed to consider is Christmas crowds. I suspect that Hidden Valley would be less crowded then Holiday or Seven Springs.
post #16 of 26
Just another vote for NY from a PA person.
post #17 of 26
I think you Pa. folks need to take another look at the HV trail map. Doing laps on Mardi Gras can get old, but there are many other areas on completly different fall lines. Eagle chair never has a line and pretty steep over there. Tannebaum is a HS and there is a new chair over there too. The runs are not long but it is well laid out.

I have not skied 7S, but would like to some time. I did ski with a 7S skier at the Valley last year, and he said he liked it!
post #18 of 26
Huh. So both 7 Spring and HV have put in HS chairs since I was there last. Interesting stuff you learn on this board....

Originally Posted by Skiboats View Post
I have not skied 7S, but would like to some time. I did ski with a 7S skier at the Valley last year, and he said he liked it!
Terrain wise, there's not a huge amount of difference between 7S and HV, so it's not surprising he liked it. Anybody who likes either one should like both. The backside of 7S has longer black cruisers than anything at HV, but not by a huge amount. HV is going to have better snow on average. With a HS chair servicing the backside of 7S now, a trip east is sounding inviting...
post #19 of 26
Skiboats, my comment was that you couldn't ski all 750 vertical off one lift and Walt said that you could from the HS quad down the spine. I liked HV when I skied there but the terrain is really a lot like Seven Springs. I think Holiday has some steeper stuff but not by much.

Walt, wait until next season to ski Western PA. Seven Springs is poised to re-open Laurel Mountain and Lower Wildcat is steep, about 28 degrees with about 600 vertical. Laurel will be a trip to the past with narrow trails that follow the contours of the hill. It'll be a nice compliment to the fall line cruiser at Seven Springs. If you drive from Somerset to ski Seven Spring stay in Ligonier instead. I don't know if there is a whole lot more as far as traditional apres ski and since Laurel closed, not even a ski shop in town but if your a history buff there's the rebuilt Fort Ligonier and museum. It's the best recreation and interpretation of French and Indian War military campaign that I've seen.
post #20 of 26
Originally Posted by Laurel Hill Crazie View Post
Skiboats, my comment was that you couldn't ski all 750 vertical off one lift and Walt said that you could from the HS quad down the spine.
Well, the Mardi Gras chair may not cover every last vertical foot of the place, but it's close. Google Maps terrain feature basically confirms this.

LHC, I've been eyeing Laurel for awhile. The on-again-off-again nature of it's operation has kept me away, but if it opens next season I'll try to come out to give it a try. Blue Knob is also on the short list, as well as a return to 7 Springs.
post #21 of 26
Have never been to Holiday Valley, but could add a few comments about Seven Springs and Hidden Valley area. Seven Springs has a pretty significant "village" at the base of the lifts with more non-ski activities right there on-site than many large ski areas in New England. LHC mentioned Fallingwater (Frank Lloyd Wright designed house) in another thread. It is not too far from SS and HV and is worth a one day visit by nonskiers. Really cool place, I saw it for the first time this August.
Personally, I'd go for Lake Placid or Mont Tremblant, but I don't mind road time to get bigger hills.
Western NY and PA is off to a good start, but normally you'd have to watch ski conditions. Sometimes conditions are marginal at Christmas time and that might give Holiday Valley NY an advantage.
post #22 of 26
I was not dissing 7 Springs, but if you have not been to Holiday Valley in a while, they have expanded significantly over the past 3 or so years.

Ellicottville is a big plus. Good beer, yes that is true and important!
post #23 of 26
I'll throw my $.02 in here on the basis I'm very fond of both areas, have skied Seven Springs now for 29 years , but as a kid grew up skiing at HV and try and return at least once a year. Both areas have had significant upgrades the last several years, with 7 Springs really starting to pour it on with new ownership. Here's the thing I think from an on snow skier's perspective that separates the two areas.

The front side of Seven Springs is under 400 vertical. The Northface backside is 750 now serviced on the far side with a high speed 6 pack. The 750 vert runs at Seven Springs are a bit steeper than Mardi Gras at HV , but these same runs at Seven Springs have a shelf half way down that compromises the length of the run. If we compare the frontside steeper runs at Seven Springs (Avalanche&Goosebumps)to Yodeler, Eldelweis, Chute, these runs at HV are probably 100 plus additional vertical feet. I would guess they are 500 ft or more vertical.

Snowmaking is very good at HV and I believe last year's natural snow fall topped 200 inches (too bad it has to rain on that). Seven Springs probably half the natural snow, but Seven Springs has a primo snowmaking system (they can flow the water from their snowmaking lake ontop of the hill versus having to pump it all over. HV built a huge snowmaking lake a couple of seasons ago so its likely their snowmaking capaicty has increased. Looks like they use the HKD snowmaking guns that were developed by Herman Dupre of Seven Springs. Facilities on the hill are better at HV (lodge cafeteria etc)

If it comes down to choosing, I have to go with HV. Love Yodeler.
post #24 of 26
I can tell you that seven springs and holiday valley are pretty much in the middle of nowhere when it comes to hotels (except for the overexpensive hotel); there are no decent restaurants, etc.
They also won't have enough terrain open.

If you're doing the CT<-->MI trip, I wouldn't venture that far south. I'd consider Ellicottville NY, or even sleep in Erie/Buffalo, maybe Niagara falls to ski at Holiday Valley.
post #25 of 26
Any idea if 7springs are eventually going to light up the new north face quad so they don't have to close it at 4pm?
post #26 of 26
I don't know about that. I like the idea of another high speed on the North Face which is lighted. I heard this weekend that Seven Springs is looking at new lifts and a new lift configuration for the front side. Anybody in "the know" on this?
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