Seven Springs reaches agreement to buy Hidden Valley

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The new owner of Hidden Family Resort in Somerset County said it will continue to be "a great family-oriented resort," an "ideal place" for children and their parents to learn how to ski and snowboard, play golf and pursue other outdoor activities.

Bob Nutting, chairman of neighboring Seven Springs Mountain Resort, recalled the joys of improving his skiing as a youngster at Hidden Valley and then watching his three daughters polish their snow-sliding skills at the resort.

"We are committed to the long-term success of Hidden Valley as a family destination," he said. "We look forward to upgrading the resort, offering additional programs and adding employment opportunities."

Mr. Nutting said both resorts "are strong and important establishments with long histories and bright futures. We will work to ensure that [they] grow and thrive as family destinations."

During an interview at Seven Springs yesterday afternoon, he said the two resorts have worked together in recent years on ski/snowboard and golf packages. The former enabled season passholders to sample the snow at each resort and also at Blue Knob, Wisp, Md., and Snowshoe, W.Va.

PG graphic: Resort comparison
(Click image for larger version)

Mr. Nutting met with members of the news media after announcing that Seven Springs had reached an agreement with the Buncher Co. of Pittsburgh to buy Hidden Valley for an undisclosed price. The closing will occur by Sept. 30.

The agreement covers Hidden Valley's 1,200 acres, including 28 slopes and trails for skiing and snowboarding and an 18-hole golf course.

So what will the acquisition mean for the employees, homeowners and guests at the respective resorts?

Mr. Nutting and Buncher president Tom Balestrieri had a private meeting with Hidden Valley employees Tuesday. A spokeswoman said Mr. Nutting "greeted them, welcomed them and expressed his excitement for this new chapter." He also met with Seven Springs' directors and managers.

Mr. Balestrieri thanked the employees for helping Buncher's Resort and Hospitality Group rescue and revitalize a rundown resort.

Buncher bought Hidden Valley for $12.4 million on Aug. 31, 2007 -- the asking price had been $36 million -- and then went about performing long overdue maintenance, including new roofs on almost all the major buildings.

Skiers and snowboarders have used social media to praise Hidden Valley's snowmaking system, especially its ability to recover its terrain after warm weather events.

Still to be decided for the upcoming season is whether Hidden Valley and Seven Springs season passholders will have lift privileges at both resorts, whether single lift tickets can be used at both resorts and whether a shuttle bus service will be operated between the resorts, which are 13 miles apart.

Seven Springs signed an agreement with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in 2008 to operate the 63-acre Laurel Mountain ski area that overlooks Ligonier. That agreement is contingent upon the state making an estimated $5.5 million in improvements, but progress has been slow.

Although postings on some social media sites have raised questions about Seven Springs creating "a monopoly" on skiing and snowboarding in the Laurel Highlands, statewide and nationwide mergers and acquisitions have been part of the snowsports industry for more than 20 years.

Snow Time Corp. owns and operates Ski Liberty, Ski Roundtop and Whitetail in central Pennsylvania, and Peak Resorts has enjoyed success with its Big Boulder and Jack Frost resorts in the Poconos.

The Aspen Skiing Co. owns and operates Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass, all in Colorado. Vail Resorts owns and operates the Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone resorts in Colorado and Heavenly Mountain Resort, Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Northstar California in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada.

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Lawrence Walsh covers recreational snow sports for the Post-Gazette. First Published September 3, 2013 4:00 AM


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