Seven Springs reportedly wants to buy Hidden Valley, but its top executive has denied any such intention.
Eric Mauck, who visited Hidden Valley before Christmas in the company of one its officers, said he has no interest in purchasing his closest competitor. The two resorts are 3.2 miles apart as the crow flies, but separated by 13 miles via local roads.
But sources in the Laurel Highlands who requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter said Seven Springs "is very interested" in buying Hidden Valley.
Mr. Mauck's "walking around" visit preceded a Dec. 31 visit by Seven Springs Chairman Bob Nutting, an accomplished skier. The Nutting family, which has a 25 percent interest in the Pittsburgh Pirates, bought Seven Springs in June 2006.
Seven Springs has 31 slopes and trails served by two six-passenger chairlifts, three four-person chairs, five triple chairs, three conveyor lifts and one rope tow. Hidden Valley has 28 slopes and trails served by two four-person lifts, two triples, one double and three surface lifts.
The visits by Mr. Mauck and Mr. Nutting triggered an extensive amount of speculation by Hidden Valley employees and passholders as to the future of the 1,500 acre resort.
Scott Bender, the vice president of resort operations at Hidden Valley, deferred questions to Ed Very, a senior vice president for the Buncher Company. Mr. Very, who accompanied Mr. Mauck during his pre-Christmas visit, couldn't be reached for comment.
The purchase of neighboring resorts has become a common practice in the snow sports industry, especially by such giants as Vail Resorts which owns Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado and three others in California.
Buncher, a privately-held company that has developed real estate in southwestern Pennsylvania for more than 50 years, bought Hidden Valley for $12.4 million on Aug. 31, 2007. It has spent millions to upgrade its recreational and lodging facilities.
In November 2007, Buncher announced plans to develop the Village, a 200,000 square foot base lodge/condominium complex that would replace its current base facilities. It was to be completed within three years, but was deferred indefinitely when the economy tanked in 2008.
The Nutting family bought Seven Springs from the Dupre family for an undisclosed price in 2006. It has spent millions on a number of on- and off-mountain improvements, including a six-passenger chairlift, the renovation of its 10 story hotel and the addition of a full-service spa.
The Nutting family has an agreement with the state Department of Conservation and Natural resources to operate the 63 acre Laurel Mountain Ski Area that overlooks the Ligonier Valley.
That agreement, announced in 2008, is contingent upon the state making an estimated $5.5 million in improvements. Although bids are supposed to go out this year, the state-owned ski area may not be ready for the 2013-14 season because of the amount of work that has to be done.
Lawrence Walsh writes about recreational snow sports for the Post-Gazette. First Published January 14, 2013 9:45 PM