To buy or not to buy ... ski season passes

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As Hidden Valley and Seven Springs reopen Saturday for one last weekend of limited skiing and snowboarding, it’s an appropriate time to discuss season passes.

They’re a mixed blessing.

They save the buyer money, especially if they’re purchased in March or April. But, for the most part, they restrict pass-holders to the slopes, trails and terrain parks of one resort.

Fortunately, there are some exceptions to that restriction.

For example, season pass-holders at Blue Knob can ski or snowboard free for one day and for half-price for any additional days of the season at Hidden Valley, Seven Springs, Snowshoe and Wisp. Season pass-holders at each of those four latter resorts can do the same. It’s a great sampler.

Those who buy the Highlands pass can enjoy the terrain at both Hidden Valley and Seven Springs.

Adult (ages 18-64) season passes are now being sold for $399 at Hidden Valley and $489 at Seven Springs. Junior/Senior (12-17/65-69) season passes are $349 and $439, respectively. And season passes for children (6-11) are $319 and $409.

Those who pay with cash or check before April 30 will receive a five percent discount. Eligible purchasers also will receive a gift card.

Let’s do some math to determine if a season pass is worth it.

Adult weekend lift tickets (Friday through Sunday) will cost $60 next season at Hidden Valley, an increase of $3 from this winter. It will take seven weekend days to cover the cost of an adult season pass, six weekend days to cover the cost of a junior/senior pass and seven weekend days to pay for a child’s pass.

Adult weekend lift tickets will cost $77 next season at Seven Springs, a $2 increase. It will take seven weekend days to pay for an adult season pass, a junior/senior pass and a child’s pass.

It’s a win for the resorts — they get their money up front — and a win for their customers who have the convenience of skiing and snowboarding when they want for as long or as little as they want.


Snowshoe reconsiders

Snowshoe had planned to re-open Saturday for one more weekend of skiing and snowboarding, but last the rain last weekend and a five-day forecast calling for temperatures in the mid-60s compelled it to reconsider and close for the season this past Sunday.

“We know that our guests travel, on average, [more than] four hours to reach Snowshoe,” said spokeswoman Krysty O’Quinn Ronchetti. “We want the best experience waiting for them when they get here.” The weather outlook for this weekend “fell well short of that.”

Snowboarders sue

Four snowboarders have sued Alta Ski Area for refusing to allow snowboarding at the 75-year-old Utah resort, most of which is on national forest land. They said the ban violates their constitutional right of equal treatment under the 14th Amendment.

Alta officials said their skiers don’t have to worry about being hit by snowboarders whose sideways stance leaves them with a blind spot that can make their wide, sweeping turns a danger to others.

Deer Valley, also in Utah, and Mad River Glen in Vermont also ban snowboarders.

Laurel Mountain update

The re-opening of the state-owned, 63-acre Laurel Mountain Ski/Snowboard area eight miles east of Ligonier continues to be an extended work in progress. It has been closed since March 2005.

“The redesign concept has been agreed to, but the actual redesign work [by a consultant for the Department of General Services] is just getting started,” said Christina Novak, press secretary for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Construction probably will not start until 2015.”

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

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