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Skiing at Seven Springs

In the Laurel Highlands, you’ll find heavenly skiing and an alpine vibe—perfect for families

I’ve never skied in Switzerland. Yet as I zigzag across the Alpine Meadow, my husband a few yards ahead of me, and admire the vast expanse of white snow, studded here and there with dark-green pines, I feel as if I’m in the Swiss Alps and half expect to see a cow loping along or a yodeler in lederhosen or Heidi carrying a basket of goodies to her grandfather’s cabin, two golden braids dancing around her smiling face.

But I’m not in Switzerland. I’m skiing with my family in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands at Seven Springs Mountain Resort—not too far from home, but seemingly a world away. The resort has an Old-World ambiance, perhaps because the original owners came from Germany, bringing their Bavarian heritage to the Allegheny Mountains they would call home. Starting with two and a half acres, Adolph and Helen Dupre began a small vacation resort with simple cabins built by hand and scattered along the mountain slope.

As the family business prospered, Mrs. Dupre decided she wanted to learn to ski, and from that moment on Seven Springs snowballed. Now the resort features 33 slopes and trails, 10 chair lifts, two snowboarding terrain parks, a ski school, and an Alpine Meadow at the top of the mountain that sets it apart from other East Coast ski resorts I’ve visited.

In fact, it’s the Alpine Meadow with its view of snow-capped mountains undulating into the distance that comes to mind when I remember Seven Springs. It’s like skiing in heaven.         

Like the John Mayall Song: Room To Move

Seven Spring’s Alpine Meadow Has Plenty!

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As a beginning skier, one thing I’ve discovered is I need is “Room To Move,” to borrow a John Mayall song title from long ago. If you’re new at skiing or thinking about trying the sport, you’ll discover the challenge is learning to link turns and maintain control as you go down the mountain.

Since snow by nature is slippery, you’re bound on occasion to lose control. Perhaps your skis don’t turn quite as quickly as you asked them to or maybe they turn too abruptly and you lose your balance. The key, of course, is regaining your balance without ending up doing what my son graphically calls a “face plant.”

Regaining your control requires room. If you’re headed toward a stand of trees and you can’t turn in time, you might have a close encounter with pine needles, pine cones, or worse. And once you’ve stopped, you have to figure out how to turn around and point your skis away from the trees and toward the trail. This can be trickier than it sounds.

To make matters worse, many trails, even those designated green for beginner, are often narrow, twisting, and steep. They’re also lined with trees on both sides, thereby offering little room for error. In addition, on a busy winter weekend, skiers and snowboarders, usually younger than you and much faster, appear out of nowhere behind you and zoom by at warp speed leaving you wobbling in their wake.

But the Alpine Meadow is different. Like a big frosted sheet cake, this wide expanse slopes gently downward and offers plenty of room to practice linking turns without trees breathing down your neck or hot-dog snowboarders passing you at breakneck speed. I could play on the Alpine Meadow all day. Who needs thrills? 

What I like about skiing is the feeling of being light and swift, neither of which is an adjective someone would use to describe me in the ordinary world. But on skis you can become someone different, at least for a little while. You can be light, swift, and free.

Terrain Parks & Black-Diamond Slopes

Plus Resort Amenities and Activities

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My husband and I have decided that Seven Springs is a perfect destination for families. Our sons, Ross, 11, and Jasper, 17—who both fall in the hot-dog category, fearlessly zooming down slippery slopes on their snowboards—find the terrain parks and black-diamond slopes challenging and tons of fun. Once or twice I see each boy whiz by, a blur that shouts, “Hey, Mom,” before disappearing around the bend.

Besides skiing, Seven Springs offers a wide variety of resort amenities including an indoor swimming pool, a huge game room, kids’ activity center, a bowling alley, an indoor roller skating rink, a fitness room, shops, and that’s not even counting the amenities available in warmer months.

Accommodations range from hotel rooms at the lodge to luxury slope-side condominiums. Seven Springs also welcomes groups and has rooms with bunk beds available. In fact, the resort can accommodate an amazing 5000 overnight guests. My family and I are staying in the lodge, which offers comfortable rooms at an affordable price. The hallways can be a bit noisy, especially on a busy weeekend. If peace and quiet are a priority, you might prefer to stay in a condo.

One advantage to staying in the lodge is the proximity of the amenities. Everything is connected, so you can walk in climate-controlled comfort from your room to where the action is. Seven Springs has a half dozen restaurants—from downhome to upscale. You can also order pizzas to go at the in-house bakery. My family and I love dining at the Bavarian lounge, which faces a warm crackling fire and offers excellent people-watching possibilities. The food, basic bar fare, is prepared well and served hot.

One evening we give Ross and Jasper some cash and let them loose. They can spend as much or as little on food as they want and then use whatever is left over in the game room. The best part isn’t the alone time Peter and I enjoy, although that is certainly a pleasure. It’s watching Jasper take good care of his little brother.

The two of them have an up-and-down relationship as many big and little brothers do. Most of the time at home Jasper keeps a good distance between himself and Ross, and when they are together, it’s teasing time. Except for the occasional shared video game, their relationship is not exactly close.

But here in Seven Springs, the two boys hang out together on the slopes and off. Ross, as you can imagine, is glowing with happiness to have his “cool” big brother’s undivided attention. And while Jasper’s feelings aren’t exactly reciprocal, he seems to be having a reasonably good time at Seven Springs. And as anyone who has traveled with teens can attest, this is something to celebrate.

Peter and I don’t spend too much time on the slopes with our sons; instead we enjoy our own quality time together. And even though my husband can easily handle the more difficult slopes, he skies the green slopes with me, usually waiting patiently at the bottom of the trail while I carefully link my turns down the mountain.

Riding up in the lifts together gives Peter and me time to talk and enjoy the fresh air and mountain views. Then at the top, the Alpine Meadow spreads like a white blanket before us, glistening in the sunlight. As I descend slowly, gliding across the snowy meadow, my husband an arm’s length away, I feel as if I’m in a fairytale. And this is the happy ending.

For more information, visit www.7springs.com.

This story was previously published in Tidewater Women.

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and co-publisher of Tidewater Family and Tidewater Women magazines. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com

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