Sale of Wisp, new lodge at Nemacolin are among highlights at local resorts


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New base lodges at Mystic Mountain and Holiday Valley; new terrain parks at Seven Springs, Snowshoe and Peek'n Peak; new grooming machines at Blue Knob and Snowshoe and a possible new owner at Wisp.

Those are just some of the changes and improvements snow sports enthusiasts will find at local and regional resorts this winter, many of which already have experienced their first snowfalls, thanks to the remnants of Superstorm Sandy.

The early wallop of the white stuff is allowing Snowshoe to open Wednesday for the season. This year the resort is offering a snow guarantee -- a free day of skiing or snowboarding -- if it doesn't have more terrain open from Dec. 15 through March 15 than 15 resorts in its region that includes West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina.

The new lodge at Mystic Mountain at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa in Fayette County will replace the two-story wood and glass Sundial lodge that burned in a wind-whipped fire on Feb. 12. A sundial that was designed into the structure was the only feature to survive.

Zelma Kassimer, the resort's marketing director, said the new 25,000-square-foot lodge will feature a great deal of glass -- 40 feet high to the peak at the back of the building that overlooks the slopes.

She said it will contain the ski and snowboard operations, rental shop, store, adventure center headquarters, bowling alleys, arcade games and a year-round casual restaurant and bar.

The lodge, which has a grand opening scheduled for Dec. 24, will be 6,000 square feet larger than its predecessor.

Holiday Valley in western New York demolished its Clubhouse Chalet in March and replaced it with the $12 million Holiday Valley Lodge. It contains a food service area, three bars, a coffee shop, equipment rental and repair shops, locker rooms and day care. It also has reception and conference rooms that will be available year-round.

The 66,000-square-foot lodge has a natural stone and cedar exterior with expansive exterior decks, a 32-foot-high cathedral ceiling with tongue and groove cedar decking, thick wooden beams and a two-story stone chimney with fireplaces on both floors.

Jane Eshbaugh, the resort's marketing director, said the lodge should open on Dec. 15.

Ski magazine readers rated Holiday Valley as the sixth best winter resort in North America, ranking it first for lifts and service and third for lodging, among its assessments.

Seven Springs, which earned a top rating for its terrain parks and half-pipes on the East Coast from readers of TransWorld Snowboarding and Ski magazines, has added a seventh one -- Riglet Park -- in partnership with Burton Snowboards.

Designed for children ages 4 to 7, the park will feature full- and half-day group snowboard and freestyle ski lessons with certified instructors. It will have the look and feel of a baseball field and include fun features, said resort spokeswoman Anna Weltz.

Iwan Fuchs, the director of the resort's snow sports school, said children will have an opportunity "to test their balance and try out some new skills in a specially designed park."

Ski magazine readers have also rated Seven Springs second in access, fourth for family programs, fifth for off-hill activities and sixth for apres ski.

Snowshoe's new freestyle park -- Skillbuilder -- has been added to a section of Cubb Run at its Silver Creek area. Resort spokeswoman Krysty Ronchetti said it will have more family-friendly beginner snow features for skill-building and practice.

Guest feedback prompted the resort to move the Spruce Glades Terrain Park to the Choker trail, she said. It will continue to offer medium and large features and rails and also will be spectator-friendly. Chairlift riders will be able to watch snowboarders and freestyle skiers show their stuff.

The resort has opened a 7-acre section of woods adjacent to the Knot Bumper trail for glade skiing and snowboarding. Undergrowth and deadfall has been removed. The section has defined entry and exit routes and is the first of a series of expansions into the woods within the resort's boundaries.

At Peek'n Peak in New York, Scott Enterprises, which bought the resort last year, has added a terrain park and renovated each of the 108 rooms at The Inn at the Peak

Speaking of new ownership, the owners of Wisp, Maryland's only ski resort, last week asked a bankruptcy court judge to approve a sale of the property to a unit of EPR Properties Trust, a real-estate investment trust in Kansas City, for $20.5 million, according to the Associated Press.

The proposed transaction is set for an approval hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Dec. 4.

Karen Myers, one of the resort owners from D.C. Development LLC of McHenry, said Wisp is moving ahead to hire 350 seasonal staff and prepare to open Nov. 24, weather permitting.

"The goal is to have a seamless transition with no interruptions or changes in guest services, season passes or other reservations or commitments," Ms. Myers told the Associated Press.

D.C. Development, which purchased Wisp for just under $12 million in 2001, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2011 after defaulting on almost $30 million in real estate loans after a planned golf/vacation home development stalled.

EPR Properties, which just changed its name from Entertainment Properties, said its bid does not include the real estate project. It and its subsidiaries own 11 Peak Resort ski areas in Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont. It also has investments in amusement parks and attractions, multiplex theaters and wineries.

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Lawrence Walsh writes about recreational snowsports for the Post-Gazette.


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