State Looks to Revive Long-Dormant Pa. Ski Resort

Mon December 15, 2014 - Northeast Edition
David Hurst - The (Johnstown) Tribune-Democrat




JENNERSTOWN, Pa. (AP) Laurel Mountain Ski Resort’s slopes have been quiet for a decade.

But that could change soon, The Tribune-Democrat has learned.

Redesign plans have been drafted for $5.1 million in upgrades to the dormant state-owned resort. The work could be out for bid by spring for 2015 construction, Pennsylvania Department of General Services Spokesman Troy Thompson said.

“We’re taking an aggressive schedule to get that ski area up and running,” Thompson said. “And if all goes as planned, it could be ready for visitors for the next Christmas holiday season. We’re making progress.”

Pittsburgh-based Moshier Studio has been handling design work, he said.

Current plans call for resort-wide ski infrastructure upgrades, which include replacing Laurel Mountain’s large lift with a new one, Thompson said.

Slope paths would be cleared, widened and realigned while new ponds and snow-making equipment would be added to increase skiing opportunities throughout the winter ski season.

Lighting and electrical upgrades also are planned, he added.

“Adding ponds will allow them to increase snow-making abilities and extend the use of Laurel Mountain’s slopes,” Thompson said.

A smaller, shorter lift that remains at the resort will not be put back into use, he added.

The new plans differ from an earlier one that called for a snow tubing park at the Laurel Mountain resort, located approximately 25 miles southwest of Johnstown. Efforts will instead focus on bolstering ski and snowboarding opportunities, state officials said.

Laurel Mountain’s slopes have been closed to winter sports enthusiasts since the 2004-05 season.

Located on Route 30 inside Laurel Mountain State Park near the Somerset-Westmoreland line, the 84-acre resort was once a private getaway for the region’s wealthy.

Richard K. Mellon’s family donated the land to the state in the 1950s — and the resort became a major winter destination in the two decades that followed before crowds began declining in the 1970s, Tribune-Democrat archives show.

By the late 1980s, financial issues and mild winter weather forced the resort into short seasons and closures.

Laurel Mountain eventually closed permanently a decade ago.

While an agreement was reached in 2008 to have Seven Springs Mountain Resort manage the property, it quickly became clear that infrastructure upgrades needed to occur to get the site back in order, state officials noted.

“After all this time,” it’ll be a welcome sight to see the resort going next winter, said Dennis McVicker, whose Laurel Manor motel sits just three miles from Laurel Mountain’s slopes.

McVicker fondly recalled Laurel Mountain’s better days. A steady flow of winter traffic flocked to the resort, with skiers often stopping, staying and shopping in the Jennerstown and Ligonier areas, he said.

“It definitely will make a difference,” McVicker said. “Anytime you add something like that, that is drawing people in six or seven days a week, it has an impact.”

Officials with Seven Springs, which remains the site manager, referred questions about the project to the General Services office.

Thompson said a few steps remain before contractors can get to work on the mountain slope. Between now and that point, proposed construction documents must be reviewed by the state to ensure any deficiencies are addressed, he said.

After that, improvements can be cleared for bidding, he added. The entire project is estimated at $6.5 million, including engineering, design and construction, Thompson said.

Ligonier Township approved a modification to the project’s original site plan Nov. 10, township Manager Terry Carcella said.

“We’re looking forward to seeing that project move forward, too,” Carcella said.