The line for the Polar Bear Express, a six-passenger chair-lift at Seven Springs, started to form at 7:45 a.m. Friday well before the official 9 a.m. start of the 2013-2014 snow sports season at the resort.
It was a perfect opening day — sunshine, blue skies, temperatures in the mid-20s. Hissing towers 40-feet high propelled freshly made snow onto terrain that might be opened today or tomorrow.
From his vantage point on the deck outside the Foggy Goggle bar, disc jockey Andrew Joseph “AJ” Stack, the resort’s 23-year-old entertainment manager, had the growing line grooving in place with music in decibel levels that could be heard in the next county.
Joined by a colorfully clad chorus of more than 100 skiers and snowboarders lined up at the lift, Stack counted down the last 10 seconds before the first passengers boarded. When they got off at the top, they had their choice of six groomed slopes and trails and two terrain parks with 14 features serviced by three chair-lifts and one surface-lift. The base depth was 18 to 28 inches.
Although it appeared other terrain could be opened, Eric Mauck, chief executive officer of Seven Springs and Hidden Valley, said he repeatedly reminded his managers that he wanted “quality over quantity” in terms of snow conditions.
He got it. The snow conditions at both resorts were in midseason form in terms of quality and grooming, and the conditions would have been even better had it not been for a midweek rain.
Marketing director Alex Moser said Seven Springs welcomed between 3,200 and 3,400 guests Friday. Hidden Valley, its sister resort, greeted between 800 and 1,000 guests.
Hidden Valley opened four slopes and trails and one terrain park serviced by two chair-lifts and one surface-lift. For some reason, the Continental slope is identified as Upper Continental and Lower Continental on the trail map and counted as being two slopes. It isn’t. It’s one top-to-bottom slope. Period.
Both resorts will be closed Monday through Thursday or Friday next week while snowmaking, grooming and other preparation work is done so that more slopes and trails can be opened next weekend.
Meanwhile, both resorts should reconsider the price of their lift tickets when they only have limited terrain open. Lift tickets for adults and children (6-11) at Seven Springs this weekend are $51 and $48. The regular Friday through Sunday weekend rates are $75 and $58.
That means adults and children are being charged about 66 percent and 80 percent of the regular rates to ski or snowboard on less than 20 percent of the resort’s 285 acres of terrain.
Hidden Valley’s lift-ticket rates for adults and children this weekend are $28 and $25. The regular Friday through Sunday weekend rates are $57 and $46. That means adults and children are being charged about 50 percent of the regular rates to ski and snowboard on less than 20 percent of the resort’s 110 acres of terrain.
Cyber Monday specials
Seven Springs and Hidden Valley are offering money-saving Cyber Monday specials that have to be booked online Dec. 2 — unlimited skiing/snowboarding from 4 p.m. the day you arrive until close of the day you check out and one night of lodging.
The Seven Springs special, available Jan. 5-9 and Jan. 12-16, starts at $88 per person, double occupancy, and includes a breakfast buffet.
The Hidden Valley offer, available Sunday through Thursday over the entire season, starts at $65 per person, double occupancy, and includes a Continental breakfast.
Information: www.7springs.com, www.hiddenvalleyresort.com.
Larry Walsh writes about recreational snow sports for the Post-Gazette.