By Anna Weltz and Cassandra Rupert
From snow tubing and snowshoe tours to skiing and snowboarding to horse-drawn sleigh rides and more, the whole family will surely love a winter wonderland getaway to Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands. Located just east of Pittsburgh, the Laurel Highlands encompasses a 3,000 square-mile region and is home to the state’s largest cumulative snowfall, highest peak, and four diverse ski resorts.
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“In the Laurel Highlands, winter brings a wonderland of fun and excitement,” said Anna Weltz, Director of Public Relations, Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau. “Snow means more than just shoveling. The crisp winter months are full of activities that the entire family can enjoy. Plan a ski trip or find tons of outdoor adventures to keep you busy this season.”
Skiing and Snowboarding
No matter how you choose to tackle the mountain, on a snowboard or skis, you will find a downhill thrill for every ability level. Mother Nature teams up with some of the best snow making on the East Coast for wonderful ski conditions all season long. Discover winding trails, challenging slopes, glades, terrain parks, and more at four resorts – Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Hidden Valley Resort, Laurel Mountain, and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.
Pennsylvania’s largest ski resort and home of the East Coast’s only Olympic-size halfpipe, Seven Springs Mountain Resort is located in the heart of the Laurel Highlands. The resort offers 33 slopes and trails, seven terrain parks, and tons of winter fun. Whether a winding trail is more your speed or you are prepared for a more intense incline, you will find it all at Seven Springs, with a 2,994’ elevation, a 750’ vertical drop, 285 acres of skiable terrain, 10 chairlifts, and four surface lifts. The first resort in Pennsylvania to host a major international snowboarding competition, Seven Springs is on the cutting edge of terrain park design, making it a “must-do” for snowboarders and free-style skiers.
With slopes and trails for every ability, visitors to Hidden Valley Resort can explore gradual meandering trails and work their way up to a more difficult descent, making this resort an ideal winter destination for families. With 26 slopes and trails, two introductory terrain parks, and a comfortable learning environment, Hidden Valley is the perfect place to develop skiing and snowboarding skills. Hidden Valley has a 470’ vertical drop, 110 skiable acres, nine chairlifts, and two surface lifts to get you all over the mountain for a fun-filled day.
The iconic and revered ski area, Laurel Mountain, originally opened in 1940, is celebrating a grand reopening this year after more than a decade of dormancy. Once an exclusive club, Laurel Mountain was gifted to the state of Pennsylvania in 1964. Seven Springs Mountain Resort has partnered with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to bring this classic destination back to life. Just 72 miles east of Pittsburgh, Laurel Mountain boasts the highest vertical drop and the steepest slope in the state with a 761’ vertical drop, a must-do for the avid skier. Laurel Mountain is the only upside down ski area in the region, with the lodge at the top of the mountain at 2,766 feet.
Consistently rated as a top luxury destination, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort offers a bevy of winter activities including skiing and snowboarding at Mystic Mountain. With seven slopes, three lifts and a terrain park, Mystic Mountain provides a great learning environment for first-time skiers and snowboarders.
Quite possibly the easiest winter activity, snow tubing in the Laurel Highlands takes the days of childhood sled riding to a whole new level of excitement and ease. Simply pick up a tube and hop on a surface lift ride from the base of the park to the top. No need to hike uphill! Then tuck yourself into your tube, hold onto the handles, and feel the crisp winter air on your cheeks and nose as gravity sends you sliding down hill. Look no further than Seven Springs, Hidden Valley and Nemacolin resorts for your snow tubing adventure!
Focus on the Kids
Snow tubing, sleigh rides, and so many downhill thrills make the Laurel Highlands the destination to bring the kids. All three resorts in the Laurel Highlands also have a plethora of other fun activities for the entire family, from indoor swimming pools to arcades and bowling alleys. Looking for a more relaxed family weekend? Spend a classic day at the park sledding. Laurel Hill State Park and Ohiopyle State Park have designated sledding areas. Ohiopyle even lights their sled hill for fun that lasts into the evening hours.
Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoe Tours
With miles upon miles of trails, snowshoers and cross-country and telemark skiers (skiers who use a special type of ski, which allows their heel to lift for a deep lunge style of skiing) flock to the Laurel Highlands each winter. Here visitors can find five Pennsylvania Cross Country Skiers Association ski areas – Forbes State Forest and Kooser, Laurel Ridge, Laurel Mountain and Ohiopyle state parks. Not to mention, the Great Allegheny Passage, open to traditional cross country skiing, Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, and Savage River Lodge.
Unique Winter Experiences
Dog-Sledding – If you’ve ever wanted to lead a team of dogs across a white sweep of open territory, here’s your chance. Book your reservation in advance to experience dog-sledding at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. A team of seasoned sled dogs from the nearby Wildlife Academy will lead the way. All you have to do is hold on and enjoy the cool rush of wind in your face. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
Snowcat Tours – Every night after the skiers and snowboarders have cleared the slopes of Seven Springs, the resort’s on-mountain team uses snowcats or groomers to create smooth and impeccable conditions for the next day. Climb aboard a specially-designed snowcat for a late night ride! On this tour, visitors take in remarkable nighttime views from the top of the mountains and even descend down the steepest slopes.
Snowmobile Tours – Seven Springs’ exclusive snowmobile tours are a thrilling way to enjoy the snowy scenery of the snow-capped Laurel Highlands. Wind along the 15 mile trail for an hour of guided fun for an adrenaline-pumping view of the winter wonderland.
Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides – Oh, what fun it is to ride! A classic winter experience offered at Seven Springs, horse-drawn sleigh rides are fantastic fun for couples and families. Sit back and relax as a pair of horses wind through a winter wonderland of snow-laden evergreens, snow-covered branches, and wonderful views. This romantic and traditional holiday activity is great for couples as well as the entire family.
Special Savings Packages
Save big at Seven Springs and Hidden Valley with the Family Memories Package. With this deal, two kids 11 and under ski for free! Want to hit as many slopes as possible? Check out the Highlands Ski Package. This package includes two nights of lodging at Seven Springs, and unlimited skiing and snowboarding at Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, and Laurel Mountain. This is your one-stop-shop for all things winter fun, with mid-week and weekend package options. Head out mid-week to avoid the weekend crowds and save even more on your winter getaway.
Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands